Let me begin by saying I have not read the book Heaven is For Real nor do I ever intend to. The fact that this book has gained such fame seriously troubles me. Not because I think that this book will have catastrophic effects on the church, but because it is a silly attempt that circumvents the role of Scripture.
Tim Challies, writes in his review that this is just following a fad.
“Embarking on a short tour of the afterlife is all the rage, it seems. Don Piper got it started with 90 Minutes in Heaven, a really bad book that sold millions of copies. Then there was 23 Minutes in Hell, another bestseller and another awful book. And now hot on their heels comes Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. It’s currently sitting atop the New York Times list of bestsellers and has over a half million copies in print. I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it a mite suspicious that now that these books are selling like proverbial hotcakes, more and more people find that God wants them to tell their stories of heaven and hell. Probably not.”
I can understand why certain people would gravitate to this sort of book; it’s warm and fuzzy and it speaks to the things we like to hear. But what I can’t comprehend is why mainline evangelicals are attaching themselves to this ridiculous notion of a little boy’s experience from heaven. I’m talking about the people that would never believe in speaking in tongues and the supernatural gifts or the end time proclamations of Harold Camping, but they somehow seem to be looking for images of Jesus in their chips and grilled cheese sandwiches. I guess I was most troubled to find out that people close to me were reading this book and recommending it to me.
There is no doctrinal support for this four year old’s claim that he went to heaven and back. There are, however, plenty of reasons to discredit his story.
1. The book suggests Colton died, went to heaven, and was sent back. Where in Scripture is there any evidence that this is likely? Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, suggest nothing from a vision of heaven. You’d think that Lazarus would be better equipped to give a book about Heaven’s validity, he was dead for days not minutes. Paul, who was caught up into heaven was told to remain silent about everything. And the Apostle John who had a vision of heaven was not tasked with a diminished message of, “Heaven is for real guys.”
2. Why would God send a four year old boy back and not Lazarus in the story of the rich man? The reason God didn’t send Lazarus back was because they had the Law and the Prophets; meaning that those were enough, they didn’t need a miraculous vision. We not only have the Old Testament, we have the New Testament. Why would we need a vision from a four year old child to confirm what the Bible already says? Here is where the real problem lies; this book circumvents the authority of the Bible as the primary source of God’s Word to us.
3. The burden of proof rests on the person who had the vision. If I told you that I saw God, would you believe me? I hope not. But because this boy has a ‘vision’ and his father confirmed it, then it must be true. Here’s how situations like this work, it’s called confirmation bias and speaking to our values. We want to believe the story so we fill in the details as they are needed to continue believing. Whether or not Colton and his father actually believe the story or they are flat out lying is debatable, but the burden of proof falls on them.
“…we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” Ephesians 4:14-15 nkjv
4. Name one legitimate theologian who would give credence to this book. Go ahead, name one. I couldn’t find any and I doubt you’ll find one either. They don’t even bother to comment on the book because it’s so silly. Surely, if it was credible and because it is a best seller, at least one qualified theologian would have given it a thumbs up.
5. Why, of all the doctrines that need support, would anyone think that the realness of heaven and the love of God were issues requiring miraculous intervention? In any statistical pole, those are the two most likely positions people would believe. Why would God, who hasn’t used a miraculous event of this caliber in the last 2000 years, all of a sudden feel compelled to do so in such a poor way? The reason was prophesied by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” esv
The reason this story has gained so much approval is because it says exactly what people want to hear, and it confirms their biases.
Christians are not aware of the catastrophic implications of a book like this. No, it won’t cause millions of believers to be led away by a lie like the Pied Piper, but it does cause some very significant problems.
1. It just ads to the already shallow theological positions that many Christians hold to today.
2. It circumvents the authority of Scripture and suggest people can have a fast-pass to doctrine instead of doing the due diligence of actually studying God’s Word.
3. It imitates cultish religions like Mormons, Je**vah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science rather than the historical traditions of the evangelical church. In a day where distinction is so important, it is vital that we distance ourselves from these institutions, but this book only brings us closer in kind.
You may have enjoyed the book without thinking twice about it. If so, I encourage you to do a spiritual double-check on your own life and ask why you were so easily convinced of something that has no biblical credence. Then I would recommend that you pray to God, repent of your foolishness, and ask God for wisdom and discernment. Finally, you may need to seek counsel to start building your theological foundation before you are duped by the next “Wind of Doctrine” to come itching at your ears (Eph. 4:14-15, 2 Tim. 4:3-4).
If you haven’t read the book; DON’T! For heaven’s sake, don’t read the book (Pun intended). If you come into contact with someone who recommends the book to you, don’t be rude, just politely tell them that you’re not interested and suggest this review or at least a credible reviewer like Tim Challies.
Challies concludes his review by saying…
“If you struggle believing what the Bible says, but learn to find security in the testimony of a toddler, well, I feel sorry for you. And I do not mean this in a condescending way. If God’s Word is not sufficient for you, if the testimony of his Spirit, given to believers, is not enough for you, you will not find any true hope in the unproven tales of a child. This hope may last for a moment, but it will not sustain you, it will not bless you, in those times when hope is waning and times are hard.”
Tim Challies’ full review can be viewed here.
Here is another review from The Cripplegate.
Here is a video from Stand to Reason.