I had heard of Colton Burpo, a young boy who claimed that he had gone to heaven and returned, and whose book Heaven Is For Real (written with his father) became a best-seller and also a film. In it, he describes meeting his grandfather and the other usual stuff people believe about heaven. His co-author father happens to be an evangelical pastor and the fact that the heaven described coincides with his beliefs did not seem to strike people as suspicious. The other co-author was Sarah Palin’s co-author, which didn’t help much.
It turns out that there was another best-selling book by another child who said he also went to heaven and returned, showing that there is an almost insatiable appetite for people who want to be reassured that heaven actually exists. This book was called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven and was by the unfortunately named Alex Malarkey and his father Kevin and was published in 2010.
This boy’s story is quite sad, actually. He was in a car accident that put him for a while in a coma and later left him paralyzed. The book purported to describe his trip to heaven while in the coma but now he says “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven… I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.” The book’s religious publisher is withdrawing all copies.
What is interesting is that it is not just us heathen who think these books are nonsense. Even other evangelicals say that these books should not be believed because the descriptions of heaven that were provided by Burpo and Malarkey are contradictory to Biblical teaching. Apparently the Bible is very clear that going to heaven is a strictly one-way trip and you never come back. Phil Johnson is angry about the way that believers are being misled by the claims of these books.
No true evangelical ought to be tempted to give such tales any credence whatsoever, no matter how popular they become. One major, obvious problem is that these books don’t even agree with one another. They give contradictory descriptions of heaven and thus cannot possibly have any cumulative long-term effect other than the sowing of confusion and doubt.
But the larger issue is one no authentic believer should miss: the whole premise behind every one of these books is contrary to everything Scripture teaches about heaven. [Emphases in original-MS]
I do not expect this revelation that the book is all made up to dampen in the least people’s appetite for such nonsense, even if the Burpo family also admits to making it all up. People are so frightened of dying that they will grasp at any story that suggests that they will live forever in some form.