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Apr 21 2014

Reactions to Heaven Is for Real

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.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    I have earned my place in heaven.

    Matthew 19:24

    And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    Led Zeppelin 1971

    There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
    And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
    When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
    With a word she can get what she came for.
    Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

    Bloomberg is arguing with all the wrong people, if he believes in heaven. Indeed, what Matthew allegedly said was specifically aimed at oligarchic assholes like lord Bloomberg.

  2. 2
    machintelligence

    We are the saved — the chosen few,
    and all the rest are damned.
    There’s room enough in hell for you;
    we don’t want heaven crammed.

  3. 3
    robb

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
    He makes me down to lie
    Through pastures green he leadeth me the silent waters by
    With bright knives he releaseth my soul
    He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places
    He converteth me to lamb cutlets
    For lo, he hath great power and great hunger
    When cometh the day we lowly ones
    Through quiet reflection and great dedication
    Master the art of karate
    Lo, we shall rise up
    And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water.
    –Pink Foyd from the song Sheep on the album Animals

  4. 4
    Scr... Archivist

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to identify these critics as Calvinists, rather than Christians? They seem to prefer the jerkier J.C.

  5. 5
    astrosmash

    “We just come down on the side that it’s not really that helpful”
    -
    Oh, so if it’s not specifically helpful to your specific group of christians then it’s not ‘helpful’ to anyone…Um, we don’t make movies for preening self-righteous jerks like you reverend. There aren’tAenough of them around to cater to (thank someone?)

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to identify these critics as Calvinists, rather than Christians?

    Calvinists are a subset of christian, so identifying them as christian is correct but less precise.
    Calvinists would laugh out loud at the idea of a guy with a name like “Bloomberg” going to heaven. While Calvin was one of the least anti-semitic of the reformers, he still was filled with christian love:

    Their [the Jews] rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone

  7. 7
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    “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.”

    Pffft. More like he told his family what he knew they expected to hear, as they’d already poisoned his mind with their “beliefs”.

  8. 8
    Timothy

    Following Marcus:

    I have earned my place in heaven.

    Matthew 19:21

    Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

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