The latest Newsweek cover story is causing quite a stir: it features a hand reaching up to the sun, with the headline "HEAVEN IS REAL: A DOCTOR'S EXPERIENCE OF THE AFTERLIFE."
Here is my first reaction to this story: just because the dude is a neurosurgeon, that doesn't mean he knows any more about Heaven
than the rest of us. This story is hitting the "neurosurgeon" angle pretty hard, as well it might. Can you think of anyone more respected than a neurosurgeon? What a reporter's dream.
Should we value the opinion of a neurosurgeon more than some random person off the street? When it comes to cerebrospinal surgery: yes. But that expertise doesn't translate across all fields. Are all neurosurgeons master-level painters? Expert-level guitarists? Accomplished architects? Race car drivers? Gardeners? Knitters? City planners?
Once you think about it for a minute, it becomes clear that a neurosurgeon is no more credible on the topic of Heaven than anyone else. You might think "Well, a homeless guy could be having a schizophrenic episode or something." But let me assure you, neurosurgeons suffer from schizophrenia, too.
Neurosurgeons are only human. And as human, they are qualified to comment on the human condition and the human experience. But so are you and I. And yet, you and I are not getting Newsweek covers.
I'm not saying that Dr. Eben Alexander, who describes himself as "a faithful Christian," did or didn't see Heaven. I'm not qualified to make that call. But guess what? Neither is he.
Heaven is the great unknowable. It's tempting to search for evidence of its existence. But that's the entire point of Heaven. If it was proven to exist, then you wouldn't need faith in order to get there.
Dr. Alexander's story makes for an interesting and engrossing read. You will have to decide for yourself what you think about it. But as you decide, I urge you to set aside the red herring that is his credentials. In the third sentence the dude points out that he teaches at Harvard Medical Center. Anyone who puts his unrelated credentials that far forward is - if you ask me - trying a little too hard to convince you that he knows the answer just because he's smart.