Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven

When I was checking my Kindle to see if a book had become available in this format, Don Piper’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, came up as suggested reading.

Since it seemed like a great value and I like reading about case studies involving NDEs, I decided to give it a chance.

I really liked the way the book is written.  The tone is sincere and personal, and Piper seems to provide a credible account of the afterlife, as spectacular as he makes it sound.  Like any person who tries to find words to describe a near death experience, language seems to be inadequate.  Even the brilliance and the intensity of the colours he witnessed are difficult to describe, and, understandably, he struggles to convey existence without the constraints of time.

To go from his depiction of an afterlife to his suffering in the hospital is traumatic even for the reader.  His pain is intense and drawn out, with no end in sight.  You can really appreciate the resistance he experiences when people try to help him, and how he comes to the conclusion that denying others an opportunity to do something nice for him is ultimately selfish on his part.  I found myself relating to this kind of pride, and I think the message is transferable to our own lives.

There are couple big question marks for me.  Don believes he was given his life back because of prayer, which seems reasonable from his perspective.  First, there’s the heartfelt prayer of a pastor who felt compelled to join him in the car when he was already declared clinically dead. Then there were the prayers of family, friends, people in the church, and even strangers who had heard of his accident that he believes helped him survive his injuries.

I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to the power of prayer and its influence on God, but I’m a firm believer in the placebo effect.  But in all fairness to prayer in this particular case, Don had no desire to return to life and he was indifferent to those who prayed for him in the hospital because he wanted to die anyway. His recovery is, indeed, a miracle.

The second question mark is something that is rather disappointing to me.  Don is a baptist minister who has this incredible taste of the afterlife, and yet he comes back to life just as convinced as ever that some people are meant to experience heaven and others hell.  To me, this is the most discrediting part of his story: his theology didn’t change.

When I finished the book, I found myself thinking about John 3:16:  “. . . that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Is it a coincidence that the most popular verse in the New Testament is one of the most polarizing?

The danger is that the verse makes it easy to reduce salvation to a matter of belief.  To someone with Don’s theology, it makes perfect sense that you have to believe a certain way or you won’t be permitted to experience life after death as he describes.

If Don would have had this incredible experience and came back to life prepared to change his fundamentalist ways, I would have an even higher opinion of his book.

So, it’s with a grain of salt that I recommend 90 Minutes in Heaven.  If you fear death, I imagine it can be of comfort to you.


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