Posted on : 08-13-2011 | By : Andy | In : books, news, pop culture, religion
Tags: colton burpo, heaven is for real, salvation, visions
I had a few people angry at me for dissing on Heaven is for Real, that oh-so-popular book by a kid’s dad where he talks about his trip to Heaven. Why was I dissing it? Because I’d read the first chapter, lost all interest, and decided that the review Tim Challies had posted must be right (he calls it “not a good book.”).
I really needed to read it to assuage the offended individual, to stop being a punk who judges something he hasn’t experienced, and because I happen to be affiliated with a church where I live: in North Platte, Nebraska, where the miraculous visions took place and everyone in town knows about the book.
Again, the first chapter turned me off immediately, because Lisa and I had been reading The Lord of the Rings immediately before this, and the difference in writing quality was like stepping from the classical art of Rembrandt to the slapstick entertainment of Ingrid’s poo adventure…and I’m not saying that the book should be compared to poo. My point is that the poo video is funny, fun to watch–it’s entertaining and people are more likely to get a kick out of it than looking at a Rembrandt. Such it was with Heaven: from the minute you begin reading you realize there’s going to be a lot of flowery language and emotional fluff. It’s “heartwarming.” If you want something deep and challenging to be enriched by, look elsewhere.
I will say though, if you’re going to knock on this book, you’d better read it first. But for those of you who just want to know “should I read it?” or need to hear what a youth pastor thinks about it, here we go:
1) I have problems with his description of Jesus as a guy with blue eyes who wears a purple sash and has holes in the center of his palms. Sounds rather Americanized to me, rather like the Sunday School Jesus we’ve all seen all over the place. (Maybe that’s ‘cuz Jesus has shown himself to so many people that the got it right…or maybe Colton’s memories are suggestible [pdf link]).
2) The whole deal with people fighting with Jesus against Satan is a bit questionable. (Page 136) Revelation chapters 19-20 describe Jesus with an army, but all who are killed are killed by the sword coming out of the rider’s mouth or consumed by fire from heaven. Nowhere do we get the picture that this is even close to the type of hand-to-hand combat Colton speaks of. Let’s face it, while our fight here and now might be against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 6), God is supremely sovereign, Christ has already won, and Satan doesn’t even really have a chance.
3) Perhaps my biggest gripe: Todd talks about people needing to be saved to go to heaven, and how that’s Colton’s greatest concern for those dying. But in this book there is no clear, straightforward explanation of the gospel. There’s no primer on sin, atonement, repentance, and salvation by Grace alone through faith. Heck, there’s not even the shallow “just repeat these words to be saved” prayer in the back. All you find is Colton yelling “he had to have Jesus in his heart!” (Chapter 11) To a non-Christian reading this, what does that even mean, anyways? There are blurbs in the back to explain the timeline and to tell you more about the Burpos…but nothing about knowing God.
4) Read the review by Tim Challies that I already linked to above. He says a lot more that I don’t feel the need to repeat.
Bottom line: do I think Colton is a despicable liar? No. Do I have a good way of explaining everything in this book in a completely rational way (eg. miscarried sister and “Pop”)? No. Do I think that much of what Colton experienced could have been suggestible or distorted memories? Likely. Is it good to read this book and ask yourself where you’ll end up after you die? Yes. Does that mean I think you should read this book? No.
If you want to know about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, heaven, and eternity, read your Bible or ask a Pastor, elder in your church, or someone who knows the Bible better than you do.
Of course Heaven is for Real. We’ve known that for 2 Millenia. How much of Colton’s story is for real? I guess you’ll just have to ask God someday–assuming of course, that you know Him. You don’t? You need to hear the Gospel. (Read the Romans Road if you’re not feeling the other link or need more info!)