Friday, October 07, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

As I said earlier, I am trying to stay more up to date with what is going on and with what others are reading. To that I have read a lot of good little philosophy books that teach philosophy using modern culture. The Philosophy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Philosophy of the Matrix, of Lost, of Star Trek and of Star Wars. It is a great series that I recommend if you are brushing up on Philosophy. Someone ought to do something similar with theology . . .

But the real reason I am writing is to discuss the popular book Heaven is for Real. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a book that tells the story of Colton Burpo, a 4 year old (I am not going to double check his age, it is young) who claims to have gone to heaven. Now, it is not a near death experience. He never died or stopped breathing or anything like that. But he was in the hospital after having appendicitis, which burst and poisoned him for 5 days. His father is a pastor in Imperial, NE and writes the book from the view point of he and his wife discovering what Colton experienced through their questioning of him off and on for the next year and a half or so.

The book is well written and anyone with a child will be emotional pulled in as the parent pray for God to spare the life of their child. Seriously that part will make you think about your own kids. Rev. Burpo tries very hard to make Colton's story seem like it would line up with Scripture, and reminds us that there is no way a 4 year old would know this even one who attends Sunday School. At times this will make you think Rev. Burpo should find better Sunday School material, but the point is well taken. At first the claims of Colton do seem to line up with Scripture. But by the end of the book, you can't even pretend that anymore.

Which leads me to a real critique. . . Colton ought to be considered a prophet if you believe everything he says. He speaks to Jesus and the Spirit (who is blue in heaven according to Colton). This book brings up all sorts of canon is closed issues that Rev. Burpo never addresses.

Another point is that Colton says he was in heaven for 3 minutes, but he did a lot of stuff like meet his long dead grandpa, speak with Jesus, learn stuff, pet Jesus's horse, and watch the end of the world battle. He also seems to have some sort of run in with Satan, but maybe that was part of the end of the world battle. Colton always clammed up when they asked him about Satan. Rev. Burpo tries to quote Scripture to make us think that time works differently in heaven, but it is a stretch.

Yet another problem is that a lot of this stuff is extra Scriptural. The dead saints have wings of differing sizes. Colton had them too although Colton was not dead. The final battle included monsters and people, not Jesus coming and winning as Revelation would have it. There are animals in heaven too.

Again, logical problems pop up that Rev. Burpo ignores. Colton says he watched the final battle and it included his father fighting on the side of Christ while women and children watch. My first thought was did Colton see himself fighting on the side of Christ? If not why not? Does Colton dies as a child and therefore has to sit and watch? Well, it is never addressed.

We are supposed to believe Colton's story because he knew things he could not know. He knew that his father was praying and his mom was on the phone while in the operating room. Guessable. But he also knew the dead grandpa, who he rightly identified when he saw a young picture of grandpa. Yes, we all look young in heaven with no glasses. And he also knew about the sister who died in utero before Colton was conceived. He met her in heaven. She did not have a name because the parents never named her. They could not agree on a name.

All of the evidence is emotional, and so is the whole book. I kept coming back to the verses about Lazarus and the rich man in my head. They have Moses and the Prophets, they won't believe a person coming back from the dead. This book will captivate a lot evangelicals, but it will not do a thing for an unbeliever.

Heaven is for real, but don't take Colton's word for it, take God's.


trishpickard said...

The book, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL was a fascinating read for me. For many it has given them hope for eternal life. To me, this is a far too important a subject to put my hope in a little boy’s experience. I wanted to see what God had to say so I went to the Bible. I have written a Bible study about heaven. I would be delighted to send you a free copy. Email me at and I will email you a copy. Trish Pickard

Micaella Lopez said...

As a Christian, it gave me a new perspective on heaven and God's abundant Love for us. It brought tears to my eyes...Amazing!
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