It seems like well over a year now since I first heard about Colton, the boy who supposedly visited Heaven at the age of 4 while undergoing an operation, and whose father decided to put the story into print. I dismissed it at the time because, well, I'm a Christian. I don't need some random child to come along and prove Heaven to me. I have the Bible, and that is more than enough for me. If Paul wasn't allowed to detail his visit to Heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-3), why would I choose to listen to this child's story (or the stories of others who make the same false claims)? And if I choose to put my hope into the story of a mere human, a child no less, then I have some serious issues with my faith, and I better be on my knees repenting rather than reading light-hearted tales of people walking around as perpetual 30 year olds with wings.
Lately, though, this story has seen a resurgence. Todd Burpo, Colton's father and author of the book Heaven is Real has been making the publicity circuits and self-professed Christians, true to form, are latching onto this thing like they do with every new rage that comes along. Whether its bold beauty queens, child pop stars, or the latest trip to the great beyond, "Christians" today will promote just about anything. They did it with Don Piper and his supposed trip to Heaven as detailed in his
I've been a little surprised, and extremely disappointed, in the response of many self-professed believers to this latest claim. "But it's so biblical," I hear. Really? If that's true, then why do you need this book? If this book matches up with the holy Word of God, then why isn't Scripture enough for you? Where did God go wrong in writing His book that makes this story so much better? Why would you rather build your idea of Heaven on the claims of a child than on the words of Jesus Christ? And while you're at it, could you please show me the Bible verse that says that we will all have wings in Heaven? Because I can't find it.
Admittedly, I've largely ignored this latest fascination, but I was still glad to see Tim Challies, Mr. Book Reviewer himself, post a review today about Heaven is For Real. Below are just a few excerpts.
Now, what do I do with a book like this one? It seems to me that there are only a couple of options available to me. I can accept it, agreeing that this little boy is legitimate—he went to heaven and is now telling the tale for our edification. Or I can reject what this boy is saying—he did not go to heaven and this book is fictitious. If I go with this second option (which is exactly what I am doing) I now have two choices before me: either the boy (and/or his parents) is a liar or he genuinely believes he experienced something that he did not actually experience. I know which way I would lean, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.
[T]he Bible gives us no indication whatsoever that God will work in this way and that he will call one of us to heaven and then cause us to return. It is for man to die once and then the resurrection. To allow a man (or a boy) to experience heaven and then to bring him back would not be grace but cruelty. The only biblical example we have of a man being caught up to heaven is Paul and it’s very interesting that he was forbidden to tell anything about it. And the reason he even mentioned this experience was not to offer encouragement that heaven exists, but to serve as a part of his “gospel boasting.” He saw heaven and was told to say nothing about it. This was a unique experience in a unique time and for a unique reason.
If hope is to be found in any person, it will be found in the person of Christ. It is the Spirit working through the Word who will give us confidence in our faith. And what is faith? It is simply believing that what God says in his Word is true. We do not need tales of heaven or stories of those who claim to be there.
Read Challies' entire review here.I think Challies hits a bullseye in his brief review of this book, and I encourage you to visit his site and read the rest of it. The bottom line is, in whom does your confidence lie, God or man? With that, I'll leave you the final words of Challies' review:
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.
So reject this book. Do not read it. Do not believe it. And do not feel guilty doing so.