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Afterlife expert takes issue with Hereafter movie

October 30, 2010

Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter Doesn’t Measure Up, Says Bestselling Author on the Afterlife

Even with an understated entrance into the box office, acclaimed director Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, “Hereafter” is holding ground with critics. Yet James L. Garlow, PhD, bestselling author and theologian, disagrees with them — and his reasons may surprise most.

“The glimpses of the hereafter in the movie were virtually non-existent” said Garlow, author of “Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife.” “This is where ‘Hereafter’ fails us all: It tells viewers nothing about the life after this one.”

And Garlow’s critique holds weight. For the last three years he has been studying the afterlife, the paranormal, and the supernatural, collecting stories, analyzing research, and observing society’s near-obsession with all of it. He has even published two books with his findings and the stories he’s encountered.

“There is overwhelming collective human experience about the afterlife — and there is much more to be known about it than most think,” he said, noting how Eastwood’s movie sidestepped the very topic its title promises.

With a culture preoccupied with the hereafter and a movie that doesn’t deliver, it raises a question: What can people really believe about the afterlife?

In his books, Garlow helps readers sort fact from fiction, explaining the afterlife in terms of heaven and hell. As a Christian and an apologist, he points people to the Bible for real answers. Yet he also gives readers the true stories of people he interviewed, letting readers make up their own minds.

“There is an afterlife,” said Garlow. “And on that point, the movie ‘Hereafter’ gets it right.”

About the Author:
James L. Garlow is the coauthor of “Heaven and the Afterlife,” “Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife,” and “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code,” with a half million copies in print. He is the senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, chairman of Renewing American Leadership, based in Washington, DC, and a nationwide speaker. Jim has master’s degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Asbury Theological Seminary, and a PhD in historical theology from Drew University. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX, and NBC. His daily radio commentary, The Garlow Perspective, can be heard on nearly 850 radio outlets. Jim and his wife are the parents of four children and live in San Diego, California. For more information, visit:

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Discuss this article

jaslaw October 30, 2010

Dr. Garlow makes a point about “Afterlife” because “The glimpses of the hereafter in the movie were virtually non-existent”. His PhD is in historical theology, not in storytelling. This wasn’t a sermon of other hermeneutic about (presumably Christian view of) the hereafter. “Hereafter” is a wonderful piece of storytelling. Clint Eastwood is not a theologian. He is one of the best storyteller of our generation. Dr. Garlow both missed the point, by apply his “academic findings” to a skillfully told parable. If he was true to the theology in his historical theology training, he would gladly jump on the opportunity to use this parable as a starting point–using Jesus’ example of not adding a ‘moral to the story’. but moving into hid particular (academically-based) understanding of the Christian afterlife. Damon’s character’s words, “If you’re worried about being on your own, don’t be. You’re not.” I haven’t heard more theology in twelve words for a long time.
I have been present at the death of perhaps 100 people, and what continues to amaze, and assure, me is the quiet faith of most of those. Those at peace have discovered, in this life, that they are not worried about being on their own. Rarely, if ever, is there a “glimpse of the afterlife”. My experience is that that is the least of their ‘concerns’. Perhaps Dr. Garlow’s research starts observing after the important formation has taken place. Perhaps we need more faith and less ‘research.
Worried, Dr. Garlow? Don’t be. be.

RichFet October 30, 2010

I’d have to agree with Dr Garlow somewhat on being a little let down on the glimps into the ‘hearafter’. While jaslaw mentioned that he was in the presence of 100 people or so that have died he only notes that those who had peace, had peace but yet… I do appreciate jaslaw’s exacting and to the point quote of “If your worried about being on your own, dont be. You’re not.” That, along with the Clint Eastwood story telling are very good observations.
For those of us that have ‘been there, done that’ – this movie does present some very exacting reality and brings back memories of that very rare occasion. And so with this said… I would have liked to have seen more of the actual ‘afterlife’ experiences – but that in itself might only be a selfish position. Mr Eastwood is a fantastic director and as such he could have been very keen on what exactly he would and would not want to share in his movie of the actual ‘afterlife’. Although my own desire was not met to the fullest, I know that those who have never had an experience, and are skeptical to say the least, will be able to understand that there is more than just a final breath.
I have several daughters, all of whom would have loved to have worked on this movie in their own capacities – one would like to be an actress at age 21 but… another is currently in clasical animation at age 18, and the 3rd creates hundreds of short fantastic videos. It would be wonderful if I could document the various stories that people have shared about their own supernatural experiences and a fantastic director/storyteller could weave them into a something similar that would help many people understand that… no, we are not alone.

Michael October 30, 2010

Mr. Garlow didn’t understand this is a fictional movie, not a scientific documentary! It surprises me someone with a PhD would not figure this out AND regard the afterlife in terms of hell and heaven. Where in hell this man was award a PhD?
As someone who had “mystical” experiences, I do not discard the possibility that these experiences are just a chemical phenomena in the brain.
Said that, “Hereafter” is an excellent, fun movie.

Rev. A. Edward Moch D.D. December 22, 2010

I think you miss the point. In my opinion… I think the movie “Hereafter”, is not so much on the ‘Afterlife’, but various ‘Real Life Based’ character experiences,having to deal and cope in their own ways with their understanding or mis-understanding of the afterlife.
Let me know when you have another afterlife moment?


Rev. A. Edward Moch D.D.

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