Heaven Is for Real – Still

I ran across this interesting National Public Radio blurb about another boy who wrote a book (not the boy who wrote the book in the title – a different one) about his alleged experience of heaven.  Only in this case, the boy is retracting his statements and the publisher is pulling the book and related merchandise.  But the brief article only raises a billion tantalizing questions.

The boy claims that he made up all the stuff that went into the book, which is co-authored with his father.  He claims that five years ago, when he made the claims, he had never read the Bible but made the stuff up to get attention.  However his statements point to a change in him – that he has read the Bible now (or at least some of it) and considers it to be true.  I’d love to hear more about this story.  Was the boy not a Christian before?  A typical Christian raised apart from the actual Word of God?  Fascinating!

As an aside, NPR’s math is confusing.  Just based on the numbers in the story, Alex (the boy) should be 11.  But apparently there was a delay between his accident and alleged experiences, and when his book was published and became a best-seller.

His parents are divorced now, the story says, implying that they weren’t when the accident and alleged events occurred.  Were they married when the book was being put together and published?  How does the divorce factor into things?  Curious.

His mother asserts that Alex knows that his claims contradict Scripture.  How?  Do I have to go and read another book just to figure out what he said that contradicted Scripture?  Ugh.  I think I’ll just skip it.

At the end of the day, this story shows the danger of placing too much stock in personal accounts of spiritual/divine experiences.  It isn’t that these experiences may not be real, and that they may not be very inspiring indeed.  But as Alex’s mother and Alex himself make clear, the real source of truth and hope is the Bible itself.  I don’t know what’s going on in the head of a six-year old kid.  I’m not in a position to authoritatively declare his story to be a crock or to be true.  All I can do is compare it to Scripture, which I believe is the inspired Word of God, and see if it matches.  If it doesn’t, there are problems –  either in what is being claimed as an experience, or in how what was experienced is being communicated.

These memoirs are helpful only insofar as they aren’t fabricated (obviously), and insofar as they place themselves in an appropriate context historically and literarily.  In other words, I would never tell someone to believe in God and heaven on the basis of what a child experienced – or any other single person experienced.  There are too many variables.  But I could point to the evidence for God based on the experiences of LOTS of people across history and geography as an argument – albeit still a weak one by modern standards.

Telling my story of faith is a wonderful thing.  Is it as wonderful when it becomes the means for generating income – whether for myself or a company?  That’s an interesting question.  Is it different to be a paid minister of the Gospel than to be a person publishing a memoir of their spiritual experiences?  I think there is, but obviously I’m not fully objective (being a paid minister of the Gospel!).  I didn’t set out on the road to the ministry in order to make money.  There were other points in my life where I made more than I make now.  I could have continued to work in various other fields to make a living while sharing my faith with others.

What would motivate a child – and the story clearly hints that the child was coerced or encouraged in this, presumably by the father – to make up a story like this?  Was there pressure because of the medical costs and the desire to find a way to pay for them?  Did the child have an interesting experience that he was forced to expand and elaborate on in untruthful ways?  So many questions here.

If you read these books, read the Bible first, and alongside them.  Read them not in place of Scripture.  Not as evidence in and of themselves, but as pointing to the evidence of Scripture.  We should expect that there will be fraudulent books alongside the sincere ones.  Knowing God’s Word first and best will help us to evaluate these other books and make sense of what they are trying to tell us, and whether we should listen.

One Response to “Heaven Is for Real – Still”

  1. Heaven Is for Real – Still II | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] a month ago I blogged about a best-selling book about a child’s alleged visit to heaven.  The boy has been […]

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