Little Colton Burpo, aged four at the time of his vision, went to Heaven and when he came back told his parents about what he saw there. Then seven years later, Todd Burpo, his father, wrote everything down, it gets published by one of the biggest Christian publishers and becomes a best seller.
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Heaven is for Real
by Todd Burpo
At the time of this review, nearly two years after its publication, Heaven is For Real is #4 in the best sellers list on Amazon. For Theology! And number 7 for Christian Living, number 27 for Religion and Spirituality. While it could be that Christians just don’t publish enough good books to knock older and/ or inferior books off of top seller lists, the real issue here is that Christians don’t know how to tell if something is good theology or not. Bereans we modern day Christians are certainly not.
That Colton has a dream or vision I accept. That he dreamt about Jesus I accept. The rest I – charitably, at best – suspect may have either been hopefulness, misremembering or creative thinking. Consider what Colton says about Heaven: it has a gate made of big pearls, gold streets, everyone (even humans) have wings of various sizes, everyone has halos around their heads, everyone wears white robes with colored sashes, Jesus has glowing green/gold eyes for just a short list. What do all these things have in common? American cultural bias. Especially, small town flannel Jesus on a wall in the nursery bias. Colton is a pastor’s kid, who understands Heaven in an amazingly literalistic way (the use of valuable stones and metals in describing Heaven is a way of conveying what Heaven is like, not what Heaven looks like.) Wings and halos? Colton’s Heaven truly is a wonderful life. [groan]
There were times in the book that I was emotionally moved by the story. When Colton talks about his little sister (lost to a miscarriage) I felt the pain and recognized the beauty in the promise of restoration to family. But emotionalism can’t override theology and truth.
We Christians have a responsibility to test all these kinds of stories in light of Scripture and to hold fast to what is true and toss out what is not. This book has a lot of what is not and very little that we can verify from the Word. As such, I cannot recommend it to you. Instead, I recommend a good book on how to read, interpret and understand the Bible, like Gordon Fee’s [[ASIN:0310246040 How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth]] or Hank Hanegraaff’s [[ASIN:0849919703 Has God Spoken?: Proof of the Bibles Divine Inspiration]].
A note to Thomas Nelson: Zondervan broke with Rob Bell over his theologically “interesting” possibly heretical take on Hell, but you had no issue publishing theologically “interesting” possibly heretical takes on Heaven. Use the same standard that the Bereans used when deciding to believe Paul: test manuscripts in light of Scripture. If they don’t match then pass on them – no matter how much money you can make on it. Your publication mark is like a stamp of approval for Christians who trust you.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.