HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life
Author: Don Piper, with Cecil Murphey
Cover Illustrator: Edward McCain
Publisher: Revell, republished in 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0800723231 (anniversary edition)
ISBN-10: 0800723236 (anniversary edition)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Mature teens and adults
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Piper, Don, with Murphey, Cecil. 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life (published in 2004 by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, P. O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516). I think that this book came to me as a free gift with an order from a religious bookstore. It tells how that on Jan. 18, 1989, Don Piper, a Baptist minister, was driving home from a minister’s conference, collided with a semi-truck that crossed into his lane, and was pronounced dead at the scene. For the next ninety minutes, Piper claims to have experienced heaven where he was greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually, heard beautiful music, and felt true peace. However, back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference was led to pray for Don who then says that he miraculously came back to life and faced a long and painful recovery. The information about his accident, medical treatment, and progress in healing is quite interesting and might be very encouraging to someone who has undergone a similar event, especially in dealing with depression. However, while I have no desire to cast any aspersions on what Piper believes that he experienced, I still find that anecdotal assertions of people who allege that they died, went to heaven, and then returned still leave me unconvinced for several reasons.
First, I am not sure that “clinical death” is the same thing as Biblical death, of which Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once.” Notice “die once.” Apart from genuine resurrections recorded in the Bible, God’s decree is for a person to die only once, so if one ends up “coming back,” he wasn’t really dead, at least Biblically speaking. God created the human body with some amazing capabilities, some of which are beyond our current understanding. Second, I have read of similar “death experiences” of even atheists who say that they felt the same overwhelming sense of light, love, joy, and peace as believers have reported. Piper even deals with this. “Many times I’ve watched people on TV who say they’ve had near-death experiences (NDE). I confess to being fascinated, but I also admit to being skeptical. In fact, I’m highly skeptical…Despite my skepticism—even today—of many of their testimonies, I have never questioned my own death.” The human mind is also capable of some unusual things. Instead of interpreting the Bible by our experiences, we need to interpret our experiences by the Bible.
However, the clincher for me is 2 Corinthians 12:4, where a man (probably Paul himself) was caught up into the third heaven, and when he returned he said that he had “heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” Yet Piper wrote a whole book describing, in great detail, what he saw and heard during his ninety minute trip to heaven. For example, Piper heard no hymns about Jesus’ sacrifice and death but only praises, which is odd because in Revelation chapter 5 the angels sang, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…” (v. 12). There is also talk about miracles occurring today and God speaking directly to people now with which many believers will disagree. I do agree with Piper’s conclusion. “Until some mere mortal is dead for a lengthy period and subsequently returns to life with irrefutable evidence of an afterlife, near-death experiences will continue to be a matter of faith or, at the very least, conjecture.” Some may find the book inspirational, but many others will likely consider it, well, just conjecture.