The newly-released film Heaven is for Real is based on the preposterous story of a young boy who supposedly died for a short while, came back to life, and told his family about what he had seen in heaven and the people he met.
You would think that a film that hits all the buttons of religious belief would be welcomed by the faithful. But no. Apparently there is some carping about its feel-good message that heaven is for everybody, and that it “celebrates an unabashed “God is love” view that goodness in this life gets you, your friends and your family a crown and wings in the next.”
This upsets those Christians feel that their god is not such a pushover and you need to made of sterner stuff to get your heavenly reward.
For conservative Christians, however, it’s the theological equivalent of feasting on marshmallow Peeps and calling it Easter.
“I don’t want to impugn the motives of the filmmakers who made this with good intentions as something helpful for the church at large. We just come down on the side that it’s not really that helpful,” said Chris Larson, president of Ligonier Ministries, which publishes and broadcasts traditional Christian teachings from a Reformed Protestant perspective.
Such a “convenient heaven” is a dangerous thing, says Pastor Tim Challies of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, who shredded the book’s theology in his blog. He has no plans to see the film, although if his children wanted to go, he’d let them — providing they discussed the film with him.
Challies knows he’s up against a cultural tide that celebrates “the heaven we want, the Jesus we want, not the Jesus we’ve really got who is worthy of worship and won’t allow unholiness in heaven.”
But we know one person who is absolutely certain that he’s good enough for heaven, and that is former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said recently, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
He should be a little more cautious though. His opening caveat of ‘if there is a God’ may anger Yahweh by implying that his existence is in doubt. Or maybe the billionaire feels that he can buy his way in.