A few years ago, a book claiming that six-year-old Alex Malarkey had gone to heaven and returned to tell about it rose to best-seller status. In my 2013 book review “Been to Heaven Lately?” I noted the opposition to the book by Alex and his mother, Beth. Now Alex has released a letter of his own, appealing to publishers to pull the book. In his letter, Alex says that his stories weren’t true. He tells what really happened, what his stories about heaven really were. Read about it on the blogs at the links below.
The fact that heaven tourism books become best sellers shows how fascinated Christians are with the mystical and the awe-inspiring. Who doesn’t like the thrill of awe? Besides, if someone claims to hear from God how dare anyone nay-say? The trouble is, they are lies. They exploit Christians financially and theologically. It’s even worse when children are involved. When adults publish as truth children’s stories of seeing heaven those adults are A) not taking into account childish imaginations and B) exploiting their own children. So are the publishers.
Lifeway Christian Resources and other book sellers have knowingly participated in the scam. Despite repeated appeals of both Alex and his mother, Beth, they published The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, promoting it as truth. It lists Alex as a co-author, yet he receives no royalties from the sales and has expressed opposition to its publication for several years. (As of Thursday before this posting, Lifeway pulled the books and soon after Tyndale stopped publication.)
The issue underlying the writing, publication, and then Christians’ purchases of these heaven tourism books is the sufficiency of Scripture. If asked, what Christian would say, “No, I don’t believe the Bible has all the truth I need for living the Christian life”? Rather, Christians claim the Bible as their authority. Well then, how can heaven tourism books become best sellers among Christians?!
The only way out is to put off our fascination with the “miraculous.” We need to study the Bible to compare what we hear, and our own experiences, with Scripture and believe the Bible even without a rational alternative explanation for the seemingly miraculous. Scripture is sufficient.
For example, according to Revelation 22:18-19 and other verses, the canon is full. It is closed. If there is no new revelation being given, then stories revealing details of heaven CANNOT be true.
What other explanation might there be? In this case, Alex has shown that childish imagination used to comfort himself in the midst of tragedy is one. But we don’t need another explanation to believe the Bible. Before we heard his explanation we already had biblical teaching that his story could not be true.
These books present us with a simple choice: believe the Bible or believe the words of men. Where we put our money, what we choose to read, expresses our true belief.