A few decades before Dr. Robert Dowell, Ph.D., Professor of English, ever invested in the brilliance of a fresh crop of starry-eyed students fidgeting in their seats at East Texas State University, he was simply twelve-year old “Bobby,” fidgeting himself in a sticky church pew. It was a sweltering August night that left even the flies too hot to “Buzz.” Bobby and his pals packed the pew as they had every night for the annual two-week revival which took place at the end of July and the beginning of August each year. The small rural church was ablaze with passion for souls as the fervent evangelist pled with the lost to come to the altar and surrender their darkened hearts to the light of Christ. Trembling with conviction, the preacher’s voice ached for those who didn’t know the Lord to escape the fiery judgment awaiting Satan and his angels, and all those who rejected God’s gift of love in Christ.
As the revival wore on, one by one all of Bobby’s friends came forward to answer the altar call, but Bobby himself; reluctant to commit his life to the Lord, hesitated. “My friends had all gone to the altar and they were saved,” Dowell recalled, “but the preacher kept focusing on our pew because I hadn’t gone down. My friends would whisper, ‘The devil’s gonna get you Bobby!’ For sure, I was going to go to hell.”
Suddenly, midway through the revival, the tentative twelve-year old was struck by stomach pain so severe he had to be rushed to the hospital. An acute case of appendicitis requiring emergency surgery brought the lad a whole new perspective on going up to the altar and surrendering to Christ. And as the mask was placed over his face to administer the ether as anesthesia for the operation, the evangelist’s warning about the wages of sin and the fires of hell rang in his ears and echoed through his heart. “All I could think about when they gave me ether, was that I was really afraid of dying and I was particularly thinking, ‘I’m going to hell. This is an awful thing,’” said Dowell. “That’s what I was thinking when they put the mask over my face as I lost consciousness.”
Bobby trembled in terror at the thought of dying in his sin. And as the ether took effect and he drifted off, he suddenly realized that he was falling, falling, falling… into a blazing lake of fire where Satan seized hold of him as he found himself on the wrong end of a terrifying out-of-body experience (OBE). Continuing he adds, “Then I felt pulled away and I regained consciousness. It was a horrifying experience, which I could never get out of my mind. Immediately after I recovered, I went to the preacher and I was saved. For the rest of my life, this pushed me to want to witness.”
“After I started writing, all this came back,” explains Bob. “This loss of consciousness and out-of-body experience, it was very short. The falling, the flames, Satan himself — and I could just feel him saying, ‘I got you.’ In my breaking away, I’m threatening to go to the altar and him saying, ‘There’s no altar here. I’ve got you.’ That sounds corny, I guess, to an unbeliever, maybe even to a believer. But in my mind, it’s real. Did it happen? In my consciousness — it happened!”
The book follows Dowell through this watershed experience and then takes a surprising turn. His OBE not only made him a passionate believer but an animated Bible enthusiast as well. Thus fortified, he is always prepared and eager to defend God’s Word against any antagonist, including Satan. And, behold, much to his surprise and delight, it happens. At age seventy, this same “Bobby,” now known as “Old Man,” undergoes a second out-of-body experience in which he engages Satan in an intense debate over who is winning the divine battle of good versus evil. Satan argues that he is triumphing, while Old Man argues that God is prevailing. Both Satan and Old Man support their stances with biblical references as their dialogue takes the reader through the Old and New Testaments citing examples from each as they both argue their position.
In crafting the narrative, Dr. Dowell is able to summon historical illustrations drawing the reader into past interactions between time and eternity. Bringing the reader up-close-and-personal with issues such as why Satan hates God, why he tempted Eve, why there was a war in heaven, why the war shifted to earth, why Satan claims he’s winning, and why Old Man claims otherwise, the net effect is deeply impacting.
“We had a debate and he tells me about the war in heaven and how Satan was kicked out of heaven and that the war that began in heaven was continued on earth and Satan was winning,” Dowell explains. “We go through the Bible and he gives an incidence of how he has bested God in this situation. I argue with him because of things that were written in the Bible and we go through the Bible and I come back to the first part of the experience when I was a child and I really did go to hell for a short time.” Dowell adds, “That’s what the book is about, the debate with Satan is more fictional than non-fictional but the first part was real, as far as I’m concerned.”
Born in 1932, the 85-year old father of three is a great-grandfather, and has been married some 60 years. His tenure as a Ph.D. anchored him at the University of Texas in Rio Grande Valley. “I worked there from 1967 to 2000,” reflects Dr. Dowell, “I was a Professor of English and also set up an honors program there.” Additionally, Dowell was Director of Honor Studies as well as the Dean of their School of Humanities. From there he ran his final academic lap as a school professor, teaching, and then retired at the end of 1999.
While “Satan and Me and OBE” is his most recent literary offering, it is not his only one. “There was one course I taught that got me to writing about the Bible and that was ‘The Bible as Literature,’” he says. “Colleges and universities have that kind of course and it’s particularly in the English Department.” His prior works include, “Understanding the Bible Head and Heart,” a three volume set that uses prose and poetry to provide readers with multi-interpretive summaries. “Papa, Tell Us About the Bible,” instructs and entertains through an engaging dramatic framework in which the narrative is filtered through the characters’ dialogue. And then of course, there is “Satan and Me and OBE,” his current release.
The various elements of literature weren’t the only themes he taught, “I’ve been very prone to witness and interested in the Bible, as I’ve always studied the Bible over and over again,” Dowell says. “I taught the Bible and I taught Sunday School and I’ve written about the Bible — I attribute that to this experience I had when I was twelve.”
Dr. Bob (as he is affectionately known), has made his books available through www.Amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com both in paperback and e-book format. For more information or to order any of his writings, visit either of those websites.