I’ve never gotten caught up in some of the major controversies of the day involving faith and belief. Take evolution, for example. I’ve read about evolution and creation science; years ago, I took a seminar in “Science, Creation Science and Pseudo-Science” as part of my Master’s program at Washington University. I learned there that science was never likely to accept any part of creation science, and I also learned that one major definition of science was “what scientists say it is.”
But I never engaged the subject with passion. A lot of my friends did.
I’ve also never needed proof of the afterlife. I know there’s been a spate of both religious and secular books about near-death experiences, and what people actually experienced. I’ve read a few, but I can’t say I was overwhelmed by this “convincing proof” that heaven exists.
Perhaps I’m being willfully blind. Perhaps it’s simple faith. Or some of each.
Gary Joseph’s Proof of the Afterlife: The Conversation Continues is different than the other “afterlife” books I’ve read. Joseph is Catholic, and the subject is seen through the lens of his Catholic faith. More significantly, Joseph spends less time on the near-death experience and more on what happens as a result, what changes, and how he understands the important relationships in his life.
In 2005, Joseph had what his doctors said later was a heart attack. What he remembers is getting up in the middle of the night, and then falling into a kind of sleep. For a short period of time – some hours – he lay unconscious. And in that time he experienced what he describes as a revelation of heaven.
That experience begins to shape is life, and becomes interwoven in his family and spiritual relationships – his mother and father, the old brother who died of AIDS, the cousin (also a business partner) who died of cancer, then Jesus, God, Mary and Joseph, and then the poor and homeless.
It’s not the account of a near-death experience I expected. Many of these stories seem to resemble some version of William Young’s novel The Shack, but not this one. This is more about how a spiritual experience becomes understanding, love and direction. The experience itself is important only as a starting or reference point. What matters is what happens as a result.
Proof of the Afterlife makes its case for heaven, but it’s ultimately a statement of Joseph’s faith and how faith is supposed to work in the world.