John Burke was an engineer who was immensely skeptical about God thirty-five years ago when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but after reading a book about near death experiences, all that changed.
“I was not a follower of Christ. I was not a Christian. I didn’t know what I believed,” Burke told TheBlaze on Tuesday. “My dad was dying of cancer and someone gave him the first book on near-death experiences, and I picked it up off his dresser one night and read it cover to cover.”
That book was “Life After Life,” a 1975 text by psychologist and philosopher Raymond Moody that is credited with helping to ramp up interest in near-death experiences — a term that Moody first coined in the bestselling book.
“I remember sitting there that night and being like … ‘This might be real — and if that’s true I want to be there with [God] if I die,’” Burke recalled thinking after he read the book in 1979.
He not only converted to Christianity and began studying the Bible the next year, but “Life After Life” eventually inspired him to do his own investigation of 1,000 near-death experiences.
Burke covers that very subject in his new book, “Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You.”
Previously an engineer with a “very analytical mind,” he later decided to go into ministry and founded Gateway Church in Austin, Texas, where he currently serves as pastor to a flock of 4,500 members.
“I did a lot of searching [and asked], ‘Are there reasons to believe?’” Burke said. “And found lots of them.”
He’s hoping that “Imagine Heaven” will help those who are skeptical as he once was, as he’s spent decades studying the Bible and closely examining near-death experiences in an effort to try and find commonalities.
Estimating that one in 25 people in the United States have had near-death experiences based on Gallup data from the early 1980s, Burke believes that these purported occurrences are too prevalent to be made-up or to simply be anomalies.