I know I’m going to be seen by some as a party pooper in this review – but bear with me. I think this little book raises from serious questions we DO need to ask.
That said – let me plunge on into it.
Heaven is For Real, is the (supposed) account of Colton Burpo – son of Todd Burpo, a pastor in Imperial Nebraska. When I use the word “supposed” in parentheses above, I do not wish to imply that there is any kind of fraud being perpetrated in this story. I use it only because a lot of what is reported in the book (beyond the verifiable historical facts), is all dependent upon what may or may not be the genuine experience, or dreams, or hallucinations or combinations of these – of 4 year old Colton Burpo. I do not use it either to impugn the sincerity of the Burpo family in any way. I use it because “experiences” are tricky things. And how we interpret our experiences may or may not be accurate. And herein rests a key problem with this little -quick reading and fun book.
The story line is pretty simple, and there appears to be no question regarding the general circumstances themselves. Due to an undiagnosed (for 5 days) burst appendix in little Colton (who by all accounts seems to be an utterly charming and normal little guy), the lad nearly lost his life. Sometime later, after his (by all accounts) miraculous recovery – Colton begins to let slip certain facts about an experience he relates as having had while so gravely ill. The experience ultimately being uncovered as some indeterminate (though by Colton’s reckoning – 3 minutes, be it Earth or Heaven time) amount of time spent in Heaven. I will not labor the reality that much is made of Colton’s high fever issues during his illness – but nothing of how such things effect dreams and perceptions.
As the next several years unfold, Colton relates to his parents how he saw his long deceased grandfather there (ending long speculation on whether or not he ever became a Christian), his miscarried older sister he presumably knew nothing about until he saw her there and wrestled with why she had no name (but whom later he has a very emotional sense of missing), Jesus, Jesus’ horse, lots of other children and animals and even (inserted with special reference by Todd for his Catholic friends) the Virgin Mary, assorted animals and lots of people with wings.
The book goes on to catalog the blessing all of this has been to Todd, his wife and many others. Why? And please – I need to say this firmly, but completely without malice: Because Colton’s “revelations” seem to meet some need in them, that God’s own Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit cannot or does not. They seem to need categories of information God does not seem to have found necessary to reveal previously. And this makes me ask a lot of other questions.
Now I read a lot of books. I do so for various reasons. Some I read just for personal enjoyment. Others because I think they are important to the ministry. Still other because they simply interest me – but quite a number because people either ask me about them, and/or I think they may be books which will become part of the Evangelical landscape and thus need perused and analyzed somewhat given my own pastoral role. Heaven is for real fits this last category. I had no interest in the book personally, and would have passed it over but that I’ve been asked by several people what I think about it. It is a book also that is gaining a lot of pop-Christian attention, and thus it seemed prudent.
To be honest however, I come to books like this (dealing with near-death, death or supernatural experiences) with a load of skepticism. Why? Simple. Because the only authoritative book on these subjects – especially Heaven, has already been written – by God. And if we needed something more on this topic, the proper way to proceed (on safe ground anyway) is to carefully study what the Scripture has already revealed on it. I would suggest something like Randy Alcorn’s “Heaven”; or drawing from an earlier age – Richard Baxter’s “The Saint’s Everlasting Rest.”
You see, we are never to draw our theology from experiences. Instead, it is God’s Word, and the theology in it which is to be used to interpret our experiences. Whenever the experience cart gets in front of the Scriptural horse – speculation, rather than revealed truth rules the day. And when that happens, we slowly undermine the authority of Scripture, and will inevitably undermine our own faith. How so? Because faith, real, Biblical, saving, soul-affirming faith, can only be a by-product of the revelation of God and His character, or trust in His promises IN His Word.
This then is THE primary problem I see with this (in and of itself) innocuous little tome. The problem is NOT whether Colton might have had some genuine sort of experience of Heaven or not. The problem is (as is evidenced both in the book itself several times – AND by one or two people I’ve spoken with personally) that we are willing to find more comfort and encouragement about the reality of Heaven and some of its supposed features – from the subjective experience of a gravely ill little boy – than we are from the Bible and God’s own revelation of these things. It is as though the Holy Spirit’s revelation is inadequate for us.
The problem isn’t as much with the book and its material itself – the problem is what it reveals about us! That we know so little of what the Bible teaches about this subject, and are so little interested what God has to say about it – or are so little comforted by it – that we will find our hope rather in Colton’s experience.
So, if you have read the book, and have found your “faith” bolstered by it or your soul encouraged by it, my question to you is – Why? Why not the Bible? Why this story – and not the authoritative one? What does this say about your own attitude toward Scripture? What does it say about your understanding of Scripture? What does it say about your approach to truth – and how it is found, discerned and processed? Why does this strike a chord with you when God’s own Word to you does not?
So, would I recommend the book? Not really. But neither would I say one shouldn’t read it. While it is truly light on the Gospel (especially in light of its declaration that the meaning of the Cross – indeed the gospel is summarized by Jesus saying “I had to die on the cross so that people on earth could come see my Dad” – true enough but notice how it side-steps the sin issue altogether) – I reiterate that it is not its content I find disturbing. That is – IF – one takes it for what it is – just a 4 year old’s subjective experience. Perhaps a fever, or medicinally or physiologically induced experience. Who knows?
The BIG question one must ask themselves is HOW do I respond to this – and WHY?
I just address this issue today on my Blogger. And I added our article. Thanks it was very good.
Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting Charles. I read yours as well. Good stuff!
Glad to see your review. I felt similarly concerned while reading the book. I posted a review here: http://momsinneedofmercy.blogspot.com/2011/03/heaven-is-for-real-astounding-tale-of.html
I contrast Colton’s claims with what the Bible expressly says about those claims to see if his experience matches what Scripture tells us about those issues (i.e. everyone has wings and flies in heaven).
Disagreeing that this book is not theologically sound is not too popular 🙂
Thanks for stopping and commenting Cheryl. And I thought your own review was really well done. Great job. I recommend it to others who might stumble upon mine. Keep up the good work!I left the link her ein the comments for others to follow. Reid
Actually, I found the story refreshing and very similar to the one I had. When I was three I had polio, was in an iron lung, both legs crippled and left arm crippled. Because of the high fever, the doctors believed I would be mentally retarded. I remember being very little, and having a large being hold me in His arms, and then me walking on a street that was pure gold. It was awesome, I remember seeing Jesus, but do not remember what He looked like. I remember Heaven is innocent from all evil. Colton is trying to share from his experience when he was three almost 4 years of age. That is so difficult. I applaud him for sharing. It takes lot of courage to tell his story. Only a could of times have I shared my story in 58 years.
Dear George – thanks for writing and sharing. While I cannot say for certain the exact nature of either your experience or Colton’s – which I can say is the experiences are subjective – and must always be tested by Scripture. The Apostle Peter was so guarded over his own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, that he made sure his readers were re-directed to the Scripture as “more sure” – so that their faith was not anchored in any way in his own subjectivity, but in the objectivity of God’s Word (2 Pet. 1:17-19) My only concern is that our faith rest in what we KNOW from God’s revelation, rather than from our own subjective experience – for I may not even have the tools to interpret my own experience accurately.
I disagree with you and I would recommend this to friends. I think that scripture is important and I agree with you that that’s what people need to stick to. But I think people who are on the fence or who haven’t quite picked up a bible or are regular christians who have yet to read it could gain that extra push to start reading scripture after reading this book!
Jesus said we must become like children, humble and loving. He died for all. If one doubts, one does not know the mind of God,Romans 11;33.
Women who have lost children or aborted children who have turned to Christ may well see them again. This book is about helping people seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, fall in love with Jesus and find God.
Thanks for stopping and commenting Melissa. It is always appreciated. I guess we’ll just have to disagree on the merits of recommending the book. Because it “might” draw someone more by accident than the actual articulation of Biblical truth simply isn’t compelling enough for me to endorse it – but as I said, I would not tell them not to read it either. My concern was what people draw from it. And the comfort we really need, isn’t based upon Colton’s (or anyone else’s) experience, but on what God has spoken in His Word infallibly.
Thanks for stopping and commenting Mary. I certainly do understand that affirming a Believer who has lost a child is very important. I have no doubt whatsoever that a Believer who has miscarried will see their child in Heaven one day. I take that from the Bible though – and not what may or may not be a genuine experience of an ill 4 year old. Take a look at John MacArthur’s excellent work: “Safe In The Arms Of God” as an example of how that hope and joy can be approached Biblically – and with assurance, rather than hope in a child’s possible reality.
I’m afraid this book (in my opinion) does not in any way help people seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (which is in the Word) nor make them fall in love with Jesus – since what it given to us is speculative at best – where what God’s Word gives us divinely reliable.
I think Colton was given divine revelation of the essence of Christianity and Salvation History in a way a 3-year old is able to understand – that is why it side-stepped the issue of sin, as the reason why Jesus died on the Cross, because a 3 year-old will not have a concept of sin yet. I agree we should not draw theology from experience, and I don’t think that this is the author’s purpose of writing this book. The Burpo family has experienced a gift of divine personal revelation, and they are serving as witnesses of God’s Love and of Heaven. Isn’t that what we are all called to be? I recommend this book as it will encourage people to read the Bible and get to know their faith more.
Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment Christine. Ultimately, whether or not I may think they had a “divine revelation” I must give ultimate authority to the Scripture. What if Colton’s “revelation” contradicted Scripture? And in some places it IS questionable. We have no reason to believe Christians gain wings in heaven, that is an angelic attribute – and nothing in the Bible’s descriptions of the resurrection would give any indication whatsoever of such things. This is where it starts to get sketchy. We are called to be witnesses of Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection – not of our subjective experiences or “revelations.” The Gospel cannot be confused with such things – or the Gospel becomes subjective itself. The Gospel must be rooted in the historical Jesus living and dying to pay the penalty for human sin, and make a way for the Holy God to forgive sin without violating His own holiness and justice – NOT – in anything else. This is why the whole issue becomes slippery. I do appreciate the dialog!
Just wanted to let you know I am adding a link to your review on my review as well! Thanks again for standing strong for Scripture!
Wow. Um, Prof. Buzzkill, I presume.
I woudl like to expound on the scriptural soundness of Coltons experiences. I have been in Children’s Ministry for 14 years and have a strong sense of being able to discern a story being spun boy both a child or adult. I have read many an article and book on this type of expereince and his innocent account that backs up scriture is what I found fascinationg. I strongly believe that not only was his experience real, but I count this book amongst the top 5 “Faith Builders” for me. For those “doubting Thomas’ out there, I adavise you look back to the book, highlight those areas that were mentioned to be scripturally correct and look it up for yourself to see if it lines up.
thanks for stopping and sharing Rebecca. It will come as no surprise that I disagree with you – especially when you say this is “faith building”. It may seem encouraging to some – of that I have no doubt – but Biblically – faith does not exist in a vacuum – it must be related to who God has revealed Himself to be in His creation, Word and finally in Jesus Christ – or something he has promised. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ – that is the Biblical construct.
That Coulton’s “accounts” are mixed with some Biblical factuality is OK. Some of what he says is clearly not. And thus as a source for faith – it must inevitably fail.
Again – whether or not I or anyone else believes his experience was real is in the end – irrelevant. The final question must always be: What does the Bible say? Coulton may agree or disagree – but I will be judged on whether or not I believe God – not Coulton.
I’m a catholic and I read scripture regularly as well as pray, and use the teachings of the church to clarify my understaning. I’m so hungry for the word of god my heart is naturally drawn to the bible and i resist delving into the afterlife because I’m one if those Christians who doesnt need to see it. Since God lives outside of time and exist in every time therefore I’m already united with heaven through the church. I can feel it in my soul and in my body. I don’t need proof because the proof is in my heart. I just KNOW and feel heaven around me. Like you said, it is the WORD that’s the key. You have to read scripture everyday, like Jesus said to in the bible. But for those who are on the fence and it helps them point to the bible and more prayerful life, then I don’t see the harm. Only time will tell whether this book produces good fruit or bad fruit. Good fruit is that you become more devoted to scripture, prayer, and spending quite time with the Lord. Bad fruit is you become obsessed with the afterlife and abandon scripture and prayer all together and rely on others personal revelations, mediums, etc. vs. The revelation from Christ.
This review really nailed it if you ask me! I feel like you perfectly articulated everything I’ve been feeling/thinking about this book in the last month.
I hope it’s ok if I link to this in my blog post about the book … and possibly even quote you?
Thanks for stopping and commenting – I appreciate your kind words. Yes, of course you can link to it or simply re-post it. Use it as you see fit if you think it might be helpful to someone.
I have not read the book just YET, but i heard about it through a customer of mine who is blind. I was going thru a lost and his kind words and his recommendations about this book, is what pushed me to find out more about it. I respect your point of view, but my thought is that when you believe completely in God, anything is possible. My sister died 11 years ago of cancer and before her passing she would tell my mom how she saw angels around her, and God speaking to her. She even was confronted by the Devil. now that I will NEVER say she was making it up or dreaming it because maybe she wasn’tin her 6 senses, I know it happen. I’m a strong believer that God can do the most outrageous things, even those we think are impossible or unreal. If you i suppose read the bible often (or at least more than me) you should know that God speaks to you in many ways. Having a 4yo go through the experiment of seeing Jesus,shouldn’t be something taken as a genuine experience, or dreams, or hallucinations, if we belief Jesus is real, why should think the boy had is a dream.Lets just say. I understand where you say that books like this shouldn’t be taken as a way to accept Jesus Christ or have faith right? but I ask you this. How did you find Jesus? did u just get a bible and start reading it?? I think that if this book is a way to have people believe in God and that there is a heaven, and that if we allow God guide us thru his son Jesus, accept Jesus as our savior than why not read it? I can’t wait to read the book and recommend it.
Thanks for the post. I am a Christian of the reformed persuasion and found many of your reader’s posts unsettling. My wife just miscarried a couple weeks ago and half a dozen people recommended this book and two people bought it for us… All Christians.
I was disappointed in my friends for they know me to be opinionated and reformed. They know I love and read my Bible. I did not find this book helpful especially in my situation. I would recommend the Bible however.
I end with this, I do not exegetes personal experiences, only scripture. God can do what He wants. I praise the Burpo family for their courage in telling the story of their hardship but wish they would have left it at that. The historical accounts of Jesus Christ are worth boasting about, not personal experiences per se.
I am so very sorry for your loss Joe. I am certain this must be a very great grief to you and your wife. And if could imagine myself in the same place, I too would be far from comforted from this book. But when my Savior breathes through His book – though the storm rage, I know Him in the boat with me. And what I cannot explain – He can meet in me when I find His completely trustworthy in every way. Not only sovereign, but inviolably good. Thanks for stopping and commenting. May you see Him in His mercy and grace all the more in the days ahead.
I find it odd that you would write a negative review of this book, and then just rant about how mankind is suppose to NOT experience God? You never really addressed the boy’s experience other than it was an experience.
It seems to me that the question that has to be answered is, “Did this really happen?” If it did then WOW. If it didn’t then it’s a book full of lies.
Do you believe this happened, Yes or No? Don’t worry about if my theology is built on some of my experiences, which it is…… as is yours.
I’ll tell you what a disturbing trend that is developing in our Christian circles today and that’s the fear of a divine miracle. I am shocked at how many people are simply afraid to believe. It’s sad to think about “believers” living in this world and professing to know such a wonderful God and then living such explainable lives. Can God not do something in our life that has no explanation other than the fact that God did it?
I enjoyed this book very much, however, I believed in Heaven long before this book came out. I love having the freedom to believe in such an awesome experience and a God that graciously allows these experiences.
Thanks for stopping and commenting Kenny. I’m sorry you saw my review as a “rant” – that was certainly not the spirit in which it was offered. But to respond to your conclusion that THE question to be answered is: “Did this really happen?..Do you believe this happened, Yes or No?” is NOT the questions. The little guy may have indeed had some real experience – as do many Hindus in trances, etc. The question is – how do we measure this by Scripture? If Peter would not rely on his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration – but said “we have the more sure word of prophecy” – we see the need for some source of objective truth by which we interpret experiences. We are not denying genuine Christian experience at all – but what we ARE saying is that experience is not the measure of truth – God’s Word is. As the Bible demonstrates over and over – truth is not left up to our experiences and our interpretation of those experiences left to ourselves. We use God’s Word. And unfortunately – in this book, there is an attempt to insert knowledge (in an authoritative way) which shoots beyond Scripture in some places, and contradicts it in others. And for that reason, we do not look to it as authoritative in any way.
Thank you for this sound review. I have been seen as extrememly critical by friends when I pointed out the ways it “added to” scripture. It seems very clear that the example of Paul would be enough to tell us we should not be looking for experiences that give us an opportunity of boasting. When we in the Christian world can’t rejoice in The Word and in real experiences from the Holy Spirit—say perhaps not responding out of our flesh when provoked—and we are constantly looking for extra biblical manifistations we are in a sad state. I was prompted to look for some reviews of this book when I discovered that my state convention (southern Baptist in OK) is having Mrs. Burpo speak at the State Evengelism conference. Where are our leaders????
Thanks for stopping and commenting Nor. I had no idea the SBC in OK would do that. We need some sound leadership indeed. A good place for us to be in prayer. Keep up the fight! Christ’s kingdom WILL come in all of its fullness.
The following was sent to me by Ennis Pepper. Apparently there was a problem which would not allow him to post directly.
I appreciate your preliminary remarks safeguarding the Burpo’s integrity but I don’t understand the hesitation to accept his testimony. And to me that is what the book is, just a detailed testimony of Colton’s experience. I didn’t get the idea he was trying to rearrange theological traditions.
There are a few details we might question but that shouldn’t prompt us to throw the baby out with the bath water. He was a kid recollecting – over a few years – an experience that had several twists. Must the details be absolutely accurate for the event to be considered genuine?
As I understand it no human reporting of any event is absolute so his testimony is as accurate as the retelling of a complex event can be. He doesn’t claim inspiration or perfection. The questions we have about a few of the details shouldn’t cancel out the reality of his experience.
Actually, I would question the testimony more if it had been carefully shaped to accord with fundamental thinking, like Alcorn’s books.
If this type of thing can happen, and there is no Scriptural evidence that it can’t, then we should embrace it as genuine and use it for good where possible rather than cast “doubt.”
And for the record, I have an ultra conservative background but have come to believe that ideas about “experience” are over cooked in the extreme.
“Experience” is respected in the secular realm and treated like an illegitimate step child among conservative Christians. To apply for a job you need to have it but to be accepted into fellowship you can’t mention the word.
Lance Armstrong had cancer and survived it. His experience has been an encouragement to countless numbers of others. Writing about it didn’t diminish the reality of cancer or cast doubt on professionals who treat it. What is true in the temporal realm is also true in the spiritual.
I have written several posts discussing the topic. You can find them here: http://nowthinkaboutit.com/about/search-results/?cx=016407140664787037896:lpietwbuy8k&cof=FORID:11&ie=UTF-8&q=heaven&sa=Search&siteurl=nowthinkaboutit.com/#1273
Thanks again for stopping and posting Ennis. I appreciate your thoughts. However, I think you may have missed my main thesis. As I said in my review – the authenticity of Colton’s experience is not the problem – the importance we give it or the stress we may lay upon is.
Let me cite the key paragraph on this once again here. I wrote: “This then is THE primary problem I see with this (in and of itself) innocuous little tome. The problem is NOT whether Colton might have had some genuine sort of experience of Heaven or not. The problem is (as is evidenced both in the book itself several times – AND by one or two people I’ve spoken with personally) that we are willing to find more comfort and encouragement about the reality of Heaven and some of its supposed features – from the subjective experience of a gravely ill little boy – than we are from the Bible and God’s own revelation of these things. It is as though the Holy Spirit’s revelation is inadequate for us.”
This is the issue as I see it. We may well continue to disagree.
My thoughts, nothing extraordinary, but I would be careful about putting our God in a box. If this boy was brought to Heaven- which only God would know- then who are we to say that it didn’t happen? Perhaps the Lord wanted Colton to experience Heaven to share with others for a purpose that you or I don’t understand. By heavily spending so much time refuting this experience, we may be going against what God wanted to use it for. Remember, He is a LIVING God, and can use anything in any way that He pleases for the good of those who love Him. He is greater than our understanding and the Holy Spirit could possibly use what Colton has said for a greater good, could he not? I would just be careful in taking such a hard line response and instead ask the readers to ask the Holy Spirit reveal to them what He would about the book. Just my thoughts.
Thanks for stopping and commenting Kerry – but let me reiterate what I stressed in my original review – and what I repeated above to Ennis. The problem is NOT the book itself, nor whether or not Coulton had a “real” experience – the problem is what IMPORTANCE we may attach to it.
If we work by your reasoning – Can’t put God in a box – so if he had the experience, its real, let’s accept it, then we are hard pressed to make some other necessary distinctions. For instance: Joseph Smith had a “real” experience, and since we can’t put God in a box – we have to accept the revelations of Mormonism are true? Can we really go there? Mohammed had some real experiences, and since we can’t put God in a box, we have to accept his revelations as authentic and acceptable – right? I am reasonably certain you would not go that far (I certainly HOPE not) – but I use the extreme to prove the point. Whether or not the experience was real is in the long run totally irrelevant. What truth do we base our hope and faith upon? Biblical truth – or the subjective experiences of others? If it rests in the experiences of others – we can be led down almost any path, for we have no mechanism by which to measure truth. Truth is ever changing and up for grabs – dependent upon who has the most convincing (or attractive) experience.
This is one of the kinds of things Paul warns us about in Colossians 2:18–19 (ESV)
18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Going on in detail about visions is problematic. When we buy into them, we put ourselves in jeopardy of actually disqualifying ourselves from genuinely fruitful Christian service.
We cannot put God in a box, but WE must restrain ourselves to the limits HE has put in His self-revelation – and to go beyond that is unspeakably dangerous.
I appreciate what you are saying. I have read and understand in all of your replies that the issue is not whether this child experienced Heaven, but why we need his book to be a revelation to us- when we should in fact be looking into the Bible- the word of God.
I would merely suggest that this continued hard stance and rigid argument that is continuously argued in the blog may be at this point just defending a stance that was taken. When you say by my “reasoning” we could also “have to accept”… This sounds like Theology at it’s finest. But we who believe know that the LIVING God cannot fit into the simple human reasoning. That is why I would think it would just behoove us to bring up concerns about the book, but then suggest to the readers to ask the Holy Spirit for discernment on it. When we are offered a job, we can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in deciding which job to take. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Kerry, you should take this job” or “Kerry, you should take that one.” But I believe having a relationship with God, he can guide us to answers that are not going against His written Word. Has anybody ever said something to you that you knew was from God, even though that person had no idea they were doing so? I grew up with rigid Catholic theology before, by grace, I came to KNOW Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I think your points are well taken, and I think the Holy Spirit can also use what He wants from this book for the good of those who love him. These experiences are described from a small child, so just ask the readers to have the Holy Spirit show them discernment as we have to do in every other aspect of our lives. Who shall we vote for? I don’t see George Bush or Barak Obama’s names in the Bible. Yet our Lord can still speak to us about such leaders, can He not?
Thanks again for the conversation Kerry. When you say ” by my “reasoning” we could also “have to accept”… This sounds like Theology at it’s finest.” – I have to disagree – that is just plain common sense. The Bible is rational. That does not mean we understand it all – that there are not transcendent matters we cannot fully grasp. But the Bible is written to be understood. God is not ill-logical, though His logic transcends ours at times. The Bible is written coherently, and is meant to be understood – especially with the Spirit’s illumination. Its main thoughts and doctrines are rational and argued for by the writers. Romans is a wonderful example of how many times simple, straight forward logic is used to prove a point – as even Jesus does at times. None of this denies genuine spiritual experience. But it does give us the tools to examine and analyze our experiences and to enable us to see if we are interpreting them correctly.
In most matters of life – the principles laid out in Scripture preclude needing special guidance. Proverbs for instance is aimed at this very idea. Does God give subjective guidance at times? Certainly. One must always ask in the paradigm you suggest “how do I know it is God speaking, and how do I know I’ve heard and understood properly?” This is so vital, that Hebrews reminds us Moses acted precipitously in killing the Egyptian because he supposed the Jews knew he was to be their deliverer. The problem was – he was 40 years too early! This is why we do not depend upon such subjective things – but ask the Spirit to bring His Word to bear on matters, rather than leaving it to feelings and impressions. Many a good person has gone way off the beam or defeated their own faith because God didn’t seem to come through on something they had the impression the Spirit told them would come to pass. The Word alone is sure – and how we measure everything else.
Can and does God still speak? Yep. Through His Word. The way I know the true from the false is to compare it with the Word – by the Spirit.
Thank you for this review! As a pastor (in the Presbyterian Church (USA)) I have been asked repeatedly about my thoughts on this book. I honestly ahd no intention of ever reading this book as I often shy away from “pop” theology bestsellers. But the questions were so great and I was tired of the look of disbelief when I admitted I hadn’t read this “great work of Christianity” (as one person describe it to me), I broke down and read it.
I admit that the story captured me and I wanted to keep reading to see what happened next. However, by the end, the book had done nothing for my faith – neither strengthened it nor shook it! In fact, at the end I was left with more questions than answers.
Perhaps because I don’t (and have never) doubted the existence of heaven; perhaps because I don’t doubt God’s ability to comfort us and come to us in our time of need; perhaps because I believe in Christ’s ability to reveal himself and the truths of God in miraculous and remarkable ways; and perhaps because I beleive in the ecclesial (and scriptural)tradition of visions and dreams – this book was to me just a good read with the issues that often come with being a good read.
I longed to hear from Colton’s pre-teen voice rather than his father’s 7-8 year old recollections. I longed for a deeper digging into the scriptures – to show both continuity and conflict within Colton’s experieince. I longed for things to NOT be tied up with nice, neat, and tidy bows.
I really wish (and hope and pray) that people would read the Bible with as much passion and gusto as they read these books which purport to proclaim the truth of God. And yet, even through the scriptures we “see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.” Whether the experiences and claims of this book are “true” or not, we will not know until we stand before the throne of God. (And at that time I DON’T beleive we will have wings nor halos!)
With respect, please allow me to quote you: “To be honest however, I come to books like this (dealing with near-death, death or supernatural experiences) with a load of skepticism.”
Sir, I come to the Bible with a load of skepticism.
Salvation comes in many forms. For a select few, perhaps this book brought Christ to life.
And as for the so-called dedicated Christians who turn to this book for comfort….this is simply because Christians are human, too, my friend. They come with doubts, insecurities and faults just like everyone else.
It is my belief that God understands this about our human nature. He created us after all?
Thanks for stopping and commenting Beth. I appreciated your many reflections. I have agree pretty much across the board. And I am humbled by your kind words. May the Lord be pleased to use you in ministering to others in moving folks away from what is often a more superstitious approach to Christianity that a Biblical one. Stop by any time.
Thanks for stopping by Jaclyn, and for leaving your comments. The fact that you come to the Bible skeptically is honest. And I would rather have you coming to the Bible period – even skeptically, than avoiding it or refusing to interact with its claims at all. The Bible is more than able to withstand the scrutiny. Keep at it.
Does God understand our nature? Absolutely. Not only as He created us, but also the impact of our rebellion against Him and its effects. To say that “salvation comes in many forms” – I would simply ask – how have you arrived at this? Is is merely your opinion? Or is there some objective source from which you’ve derived your conclusion? For myself, I use the Bible as that objective source being God’s own revelation. Barring that, we’re left wholly to the myriad of humans opinions – which may be conflicting or even completely contradictory. It does bring its own problems.
Good article. Thanks for your review.
You are most welcome.
If there is one thing I have learned about God it is that He is totally ‘Other’ than
us. He made is in His image but we are still creatures who are limited.
God cannot be put into anyone’s box…..’He is this….not that….’ God can do
anything He wants to. He gave us scripture to tell us about Himself…..but it
has been made quite clear that Sola Scripture is wrong.
This is about a little boy who had an amazing experience……many of our Saints
had amazing experiences.
I am dissapointed with your review of this book. I agree with Kevin….it is a rant.
You need to have your own experiences that can not be clearly explained by our
I appreciate your comments Dorothy, but (as you might image) must respectfully disagree in places. While God cannot be “put in a box” – He does have some objective and real attributes which cannot be denied or modified or fabricated. The Bible does speak in certain absolutes regarding Himself. For instance, Hebrews 6:18 says it is impossible for God to lie. He cannot NOT be God. He cannot cease to be 3 and one. He cannot sin, etc. He cannot deny Himself. There are places (He has revealed to us) which are unchangeable and incontrovertible. He has indeed given us the Scripture to tell us about Himself – but as to your statement that “is has been made quite clear that sola scriptura is wrong” – I would have to ask: a. How are you defining sola scriptura? and b. Just HOW has it been proven wrong?
Joseph Smith had some amazing experiences too – ones that contradict the Scripture record – do we accept those too? Or how about the occult experiences of those involved in demon worship, or those in Hindu trances? Experience can never be the measure of truth. The Apostle Peter made this abundantly clear when he wrote about his own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration – but rather than using that as authoritative said: “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21. If Peter taught us (by the Holy Spirit) that scripture was to be received above even his own experiences – I’ll go with that.
Sorry to Trish: I cannot leave your link until I’ve read your study. It is my blog after all. If you would like to email it – I will read it. Thanks.
Sorry to John (jneff) – But some of your comments were a bit incoherent and have been deleted. You are free to write me off line if you would like to respond.
Thanks. Tired of the undoctrinally sound sentiments of evangelicalism. I’ve had three conversations with young college agers and they have no conviction whatsoever about God’s Word (sola scriptura); and I wonder why they lack any passion about TRUTH. Praying for our pulpits right now.
Grace be with you,
Thank you so much Pastor. Your words are an encouragement indeed. I am most grateful.
God works in mysterious ways. Who knows how many people this “little tome” will bring to Christ? The Burpos are only relating what their innocent little boy experienced. Adults have tunnel-vision and reject so many testimonies that don’t match their biblical understanding. Children are most loved by Christ because they enter His Kingdom with joy and without complete understanding, because they trust Him and love Him without restrictions. We have so much to learn–the Bible is the best book we have about Christianity. But, God has not tied it up with a ribbion and gifted us with complete knowledge. He works in the lives of people every day but not necessairly within the confines of what we have been taught about Him. He is an awesome, loving, understanding, forgiving, and peaceful Heavenly Father. Let’s not allow anyone to claim to have all knowledge–He has many, many insights to reveal to us as we ask, seek, and knock at His door.
Thanks for stopping and comment Kate. I appreciate it. Unfortunately, Scripture itself shows us how to draw the line on such “revelations” in Isa. 8 – “Isaiah 8:20 (ESV) “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” We weigh everything by what God HAS said in His word. And if they do not speak in full accordance with that – it is because “they have no dawn” – no real light. Thus we cannot receive their testimony as in any way authoritative.
I don’t understand the need for a book like this. It is a book that give false hope to people that don’t study the scriptures. I don’t know why we are hearing about this story know. This has been many years since this happened. Scripture doesn’t support this book.
Kate, I agree with you. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your review of this book and especially for your careful, respectful replies to those who disagree with you. I have learned a lot just from reading your response to your critics.
Another worrisome thing is that the only artwork that supposedly looked liked the real “Jesus,” based on Colton’s experience, was the one painted by the young lady named Akiane.
Though this is not a popular stance, I should say that Akiane is spiritually deceived, and that she has a view of God and Christ that is more inclusive that that presented in the Bible. In other words, after perusing her writings and artwork, one can see more of a New Age Christ and spirituality at work in her. This leads to the idea that the road to heaven is not the only one, narrow way that goes through faith in the work of the genuine Jesus Christ on the cross. I’m referring to the faith in His exclusive blood-bought salvation of sinners by His death on the cross and His resurrection.
All sinners who get to heaven, get there by having their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. Those saved sinners are saved by placing their faith in the Person and work of the genuine Jesus Christ, as carefully exhibited in the Bible.
There are other (false) gospels and many so-called Christs. There is only one who can save. Now I am not saying that all who like Burpo’s book or like Akiane’s art are all automatically going to hell. No. But I have to ask why Jesus (when we have almost nothing in the Bible about his physical form) would indirectly endorse the artistic rendition of “Jesus” by a New Age artist.
Some people, who are not grounded in Scripture could read the Burpo book and then really get into Akiane and her beliefs, since now we know that she painted an “accurate” painting of Jesus. Since we have two witnesses, Colton and Akiane, about the likeness of Christ, shouldn’t we also drink deeply of the many other revelations and insights Akiane has had?
No. Give me the Bible! Give me Jesus!
I would LOVE to visit with georgie szendrey who left a reply earlier in this post. Is there a way to get in touch with someone through this site? I had a similar experience to his and have also told only a few people. After I read the book, I felt a little bolder in sharing my experience, but did not receive the support I was anticipating, so will probably not tell others unless they have experienced it for themselves. No offense to the author of this blog/review, as God’s Word is the Truth,and we must hold it and our faith sacred.
Dennis: Thanks for stopping, reading and writing. I will have to check out Akiane as you have – that sounds like a worthwhile follow up.
Tonya – So sorry, but no, there is no way to interact with Georgie on this site. If a commentator does not include their address in the body of the comment – I do not reatina them. But thanks for stopping by and leaving a note.
I have to agree with Melissa… and counter that while I HAVE read the whole Bible – cover-to-cover, reading this book only reinforced my faith… and could certainly help someone who sees “reading the WHOLE Bible” as intimidating to perhaps make that leap, especially with all the Biblical references.
I also find it interesting that you state “Because the only authoritative book on these subjects – especially Heaven, has already been written – by God.” My daughter JUST came home from Sunday School with a big “debate” on the subject matter: Who wrote the Bible: God or humans? With the bulk of the OT passed along for generations and the bulk of the NT written by Paul (guided by God, of course!), why do you say the Bible was written “by God”? Why are any of these new revelations and experiences less spiritual because they weren’t written 2000 years ago? Are new, current authors – by default – “always” a farce? I certainly think God is alive and active in our lives, and wonder why his day-to-day interactions with us are criticized if people choose to write and share about them…
Just something to ponder: when the apostle Paul was caught up to heaven, he related that he heard things that men were not permitted to speak about and experienced great revelations, he made it very clear that he was prevented from exalting himself because of what he had seen and heard. If this mighty man of God was kept from sharing this with the believers that he ministered to, so that he might not somehow draw the attention to himself and not God, then why would it be different now for this child or all the many others who claim to have been to Heaven and back (or Hell for that matter)? I’m thankful for your discernment in this, sir! May we be as the Bereans were, “examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”. [scripture references: 2 Cor. 12:1-7 and Acts 17:11]
Spot on Amy. That is it precisely.
Very glad i found this review, and thank you. i was secretly unsettled about the book and some people talking about it with such affirmation of their faith. I agree it may not be a great tool for faith building the way my walk has gone and the abandonment of self and the faith portions which carry on with unseen quality that makes the journey with Christ and the grace and truth true God so incredible and irresistible. That within my own wretchedness and failure the Lord still grabs me and carries me and without the filthy rags of the world and its view which is a constant pollution or seduction which hinders His ultimate plan and promises. That within the midst of that plan and the promise we are walking through paganism and deceit and wastelands. And by faith the Lord brings the streams in the desert and that is what the great awakening becomes, that we are in need of Him because something is wrong with such an elegant kind of life of evidence but everyone is regularly turning from God and turning from the Way because people made in His image know not what they do and are plagued with sin.I have played the political correct card for now not wanting to really create a division and an argrument, fiction can inspire and I was afraid to ignite an “evil” rant. But there is so much I read in the Word and say and people , even Christians who seemed genuine got this bad taste in their mouth over how Jesus created quite a stir and a clear division. And in the OT there are confrontations that are simply opposing the wide road, though I read and know the Lord breaks tradition regularly clearly the Lord and the true prophets of Israel ( i have Elijah in my mind right now) have called out His character as that which boldly confronts these practices of needing some magical sign or spiritual seductions. The new age is full of them and I was deceived by many. The amazing thing about grace and the way one gets saved is the way it is unlike what you would pre suppose. And it is very much not a vision or a spiritual revelation as much as it is recognizing your complete blindness and death inherited transgression. I love to paint and sometimes get glimpses and visions, but I have to be very careful not to wrongly represent or try to spiritualize the message. I usually end up telling the story of what the painting is about and when it is a form of worship I feel it only really genuine when I say that at one time I was vain and conceited yet was saved and the the Lord will use my past for His glory. the paintings eventually come to a place where my old life is full of dark and dead but
now that Christ comes in with the advocate Holy Spirit it transformed me. the painting or writing about it is symbolic, to be able to visually or conceptually convey the story, but ultimately it only will evangelize because of the great redemption it may express and that I must add in my own words in addition to someone looking at the work that when Jesus entered my life and i received the gift realizing my own weakness and blindness and great need it was not quote like this depiction of my experiences, Im trying to tell the story and maybe God is using me to tell His story more now that i submitted to Him, He knew me in the womb before I was conceived so He probably has a good idea how He made me, but I feel my efforts to convey what is changing in me through salvation can be futile if I only show a
nice piece of colorful art . ( ancient peoples painted on caves, people see art all the time and it does not always give them a sense of needing God or believing necessarily).Im quite shocked how many people(Christians I presume are mature) need something else other than the redemption they claim they have received or are misreading in the scripture. I get miracles and gifts a lot along the way and I sometimes share them but people still do not believe it or they forget quickly and then they want to know what they can get from God when i praise Him and say it was not me at all but rather through praying in Christ name
and adding my testimony. Maybe we are conditioned to see something packaged and because it gets published we more are inclined to believe it. I mean look at the tabloids at the supermarket, as long as it sits there we still speculate on its truth. i agree with the author of this review, as soon as I start going into whether Elvis or Buddy holly was seen alive a few months ago, or the word will end in 2012 , or Nostradamus predictions, etc, etc. it leads me to no solid ground quite like the scripture does. Also to think that Satan is not diligently looking to make almost Christs or false Christs tirelessly also shows the ignorance of so called followers of Christ or laziness( and Im guilty often of not reading enough) . When we are saved Satan has no power of us really , but we must recognize the subtle little ways he can entice us into something “close”. I do not think this book is evil it is fiction and sold as such, maybe it will plant a seed and stir someone to consider afterlife more, but by golly i mean ghosts and spirited and books and religions are plastered all over our existence, and many lead people astray by needing a tangible grasp on something and then turning anyway to go back to a darker choice and a life of sin, even after knowing the Lord and experienceing miracles.
All religion is severe Delusional MENTAL ILLNESS! A delusion that there is an imaginary MALE Diety who judges and punishes and rewards us for proper or improper behavior is insane!
Humans are the only creature that can contemplate their death. They fear death and cannot cope with the thought of it.
Humans cannot deal with their animal instincts and SEX, so they make up rules to cope with them and call this Religion.
Humans wrote the Torah, Bible, Koran and other holy books.
How can GOD have gender. always referred to as a MAN–HE, HIM, HIS, KING etc.? Why would god who created the sun, the earth, and formed man out of dust –need a human woman Mary to create a son? Why would god allow the torure of his son to forgive bad actions of people thousands of years later? Belief in this fantasy/fable is a delusion and total insanity!
Where was god during –Hiroshima Bomb, the holocaust? The WTC attack? On vacation?
Thanks for stopping by Ellen.
I do not what precisely led to the need to lash out as you did against all religion – but I know hurt when I hear it. I doubt that a public arena like a blog comments section is a fruitful place to dialog about that, but if you’d like to write me off line, I would love to talk with you about it. I am so sorry for whatever it is you experienced that would generate this amount of pain. Anytime – email@example.com
From one of the previous messages:”I would like to request that the gentlemen consider that many of those women who respond negatively to their chivalry have been deeply wounded by other men” – that is the attitude which I was trying to criticise. So when women respond negatively to chivalry, often by verbal abuse, it’s again some man’s fault! They are just victims of evil men! By the same logic, a man abuses his wife because he was once deeply hurt by a woman so that we must really understand him and treat with all respect.
I don’t go to church. I have been so detached from church and anything religious. In the last year and half, I lost three babies. One at 16 weeks, 11 weeks and the most recent one, a month ago, at 11 weeks.
In your review about the book, you asked why people have founded their faith through this book and not the Scriptures. Well, someone gave me that book to help me through what I was going through with my latest lost . Chapter 17 brought me to tears and made me wonder about so many things. I wondered not only about heaven but about God himself. Does he really exist? is Jesus really the son of God? I disllike going to church. I have met so many hypocrite people who go to church including my grandmother. She goes to church and right after she is talking bad about other people or criticizing every one. She judges everyone. I want to believe in heaven. I want to believe there is something more after dying. I grew up a catholic and learned a lot of the stories mentioned in the book, but stopped going to church at 14 or so. I have heard people say god has spoken to them. I always wondered how is that even possible or how god’s voice sounds like and why he would not talk to me specially when I lost those 3 babies I so badly wanted. This book has giving me an excuse to maybe get closer to god and to have faith. Maybe I will. I wonder if I pray will god listen to me. Would he? I am not sure.
I liked what you wrote here and for what I can see you are a believer. Maybe I can be too.
Forgive me for I am not a good writer and English is my second language.
An interesting viewpoint. However, I am currently in the process of reading “Heaven is For Real” and have been given a much-needed lift to the spiritiual side of my life. The Bible is not an easy read for everyone, and the good Lord does work in mysterious ways. So I ask this… If a simple book, with a simple message, delivered from the experiences of a four-year old boy help to spark religion into those that need it, or crave it… don’t you think that is a good thing? I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that however someone would find and welcome Jesus into their hearts and into their lives… would go questioned… as long as it happened. As I’m sure you know, it happens differently for everyone.
Thanks for a thoughtful piece. I love the bible and am so excited to get to heaven (and the millenium) because of all I have learned about it through the Word and good teachers of the Word. I put off buying this book because of some of the concerns which you have expressed and I feared it would be another cultish Rick Warren book. However, it is easy and entertaining to read and highly encouraging, I did find it to line up with what I have learned very well except I was bothered by 1) that we all get wings (this seems out of line considering Jesus is the first fruit and I feel our bodies will be more like His as opposed to the angels, 2) there are differences in the ages of those living in heaven (this is only my perception but again I feel like God would not saddle some with being a child for eternity so not sure why this is in Colton’s experience). That said–I feel like what happened here is no different than any other person who has experienced heaven due to a near death experience. The difference is — Colton spoke about it over time and his dad had the foresight to write it into a book which I am sure will be a blessing to many people and likely be another seed that brings them to faith. When my neice died it was a terribly sad but profound experience for those who witnessed and heard about it….while she passed to the other side over the course of a day, in her unconsious state, she was speaking to various loved ones who had already passed on–some seemed to be in her room. One theme we saw repeated was reconciliation and resolution with both people from heaven and this life. It was amazing. She also spoke of events that were occuring within the household of which she could have no knowledge (as if she were viewing it from a perspective outside her body) and sometimes before they occurred. She also spoke about heaven (and its beauty) and most amazingly, kept indicating she needed to leave by 3:15. At the moment she died (which was 3:15) she sat up in bed and excitedly exclaimed, “hello mama” before expiring.
The point is: as long as it is truthful and lines up with scripture, I personally am thankful for this book as long as it reaches those who have not yet read the word but have heard it anecdotally or once or twice a year. They are missing the word and its wonderful benefits but hopefully they are experiencing Christ in the little they encounter — enough to believe and be saved.
With respect, I would offer you another view of the book and it’s purpose. I believe that God speaks through his creation, in the words and actions of people that are divinely inspired. I do not believe that those who purport to be “Messengers of God” truly are, nor do I believe in people who offer a connection to our Father for money. A certain popular psychic comes to mind…..
HOWEVER, I do believe that there are experiences and stories written by men through divine muses. You note that the bible is the word of the Lord, though it was written by man, so why is it so hard to believe that God has continued to speak to us? The bible was written thousands of years ago and is filled with wisdom, enrichment and parables meant to help us lead a worthy life. Some people have a hard time relating with the vernacular or the phrases that have been translated from prior translations to a point where they no longer carry the same meaning.
Why is it an impossibility that God could be speaking to us through the words of little Colton or the story he relates? I don’t mean verbatim, but rather, like in many chapters of the bible where we are given hope and have our faith fostered by the experiences related by others. We speak to God every day and I believe he speaks back to us through tales like this one and the random kindness of others we experience through our daily lives. If the Burpo family was telling us their child was the new messiah, that would be a completely different issue. Instead, they’re offering the innocent words of a child as hope for a generation that seems lost and desperately looking for direction.
There are scores of people who were never introduced to God as a child and if this book gives them the introduction into Christianity, then how can that be a bad thing? Heaven is For Real is no substitute for the bible, but it never claims to be one. At the same time, perhaps it will bring people back to the bible or cause them to search it out and read it for the first time.
Consider what the bible says about God speaking to us-
Acts 13:14-15 But they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.”
Acts 7:38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.
Jeremiah 17:10 I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.
Colossians 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Like I said earlier in my post, God spoke to us through the words he inspired men to write in the bible. Why is it such a stretch to think that God could have inspired this boy to tell his story and this father to have it published? Have you ever considered the chances of a small town pastor with no literary connections, writing a book and getting it published, then having that book become a huge bestseller. There must be a reason and I implore you to have faith. God knows Heaven is For Real and he wants us to know too, the church goers and the simple man who was never taught any better. He also wants to reassure people that he is still there, listening to prayers, answering them and speaking to us.
It comes down to a matter of faith. If we were to have some definitive sign that this book is 100% authentic and true, then we couldn’t have faith in the story it tells or the biblical stories it corresponds with indirectly. With proof, there can be no faith and without faith, we are lost.
Ben, Trudy, YT and Jason – my apologies for not giving some reasonable responses as of yet, but I promise I will interact with each of you. I am about to enter into a 6 month medical leave of absence from my church due to exhaustion. In the meantime, I have been away on a vacation which has not allowed me good Internet access nor the time to sit and write back in a satisfactory way. I will do so at my first opportunity.
By way of giving Ben, Trudy and Jason something to think about (YT I wish to respond to you separately because of the obvious pain out of which you write and not by way of the broader discussion) – bear in mind that “faith” as defined in Scripture is not something we conjure up and simply “put” in something at our personal discretion. “Faith” is never a generic concept like that in the Bible. Hence, idolators and those of other religions are never spoken of as having faith in the Bible. That is a modern construct foreign to the Bible.
In the Bible, faith is always located (without exception) in believing what God has revealed about Himself and believing what He has said. It can rest only in inspired revelation, and not in impressions and experiences and personal feelings. The very fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden is the result of not believing what God had said, and giving in to the testimony of some other. This is why being sure that it is God that has spoken is absolutely essential. This is why the Jews we so careful in what they allowed into their canon – rejecting tons of other Jewish & even religious literature (e.g. They never accepted the apocryphal books as inspired) just as the New Testament church had rejected tons of non-inspired literature trying to weigh very carefully so that what we have could be properly integrated with the balance of Scripture, and had some tie to apostolic authority.
Whatever Colin’s little book may incite in anyone, it is not faith, unless it is Biblical truth. Are there some BiblicL truths reiterated in the book? Surely. But also many mythical and unverifiable elements. As such, it must be read with much more discernment, and the readers must be careful not to let pleasant or curious ideas take on the authority of Scripture, and that we do not have “faith” in such fancies – but reserve our faith for God’s Word alone.
I hope that clarifies some.
Blessings to you all.
Mr. Fergson (if it’s Pastor, I apologize, I am not sure),
First, let me wish you good health and peace as you embark on your leave of absence. No apologies are needed for a delay in responding. You get better and take some time to yourself.
With regard to your reply, again, I respectfully disagree. Is not the bible filled with “many mythical and unverifiable elements?” You would reply that the bible is different from this book, because we were told the bible was divinely inspired and the bible tells us it’s the only book that is divinely inspired. However, consider how long ago it was written and the fact that up until that time, it was the only divinely inspired book. It does not say that God will never again speak to the world through divinely inspired, written words of others.
In fact, it says in Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” God speaks to us every day, through inspired words of others, simple gestures of kindness and other instances that we chalk up to mere coincidence. We ask for help for our father, for direction and for signs that we are on the right path. I believe that God answers those prayers, indirectly, using others as vessels of his word.
Consider the 1917 Fatima phophecies and how they have been embraced by the Holy Father in Rome, and subsequent Popes. Why would someone who has access to so many historical religious text and relics that we will never know of (in the Vatican achives), take those phophecies seriously? And how about their implications? http://americanvision.org/1750/pope-john-paul-ii-fatima-visions/
Again, I wish you peace and good health. Please reconsider your view that the bible is the only way God speaks to his children on Earth. Verily, that isn’t so.
Having already read the book I really appreciate your review as it is good to know what other people think about it. I can also see from reading many of the other comments that you are a very grounded man with a strong faith, and I respect that greatly. Continue to love and serve the Lord and others around you.
Your response is interesting. I see where you are coming from, but I feel like your argument can be a little weak at times. Your reason for not liking the book (and that is because it takes away from the bible) is flawed. This is because every single time something that would “take away” from the importance of the bible occurs, that occurrence is backed up with biblical proof and a biblical reference.
Regarding your argument about the book being a source for belief that should be from the bible – Yea, this is very true, but a) if you already have a solid faith, then why not? What’s so bad about it? and b) if it “bolsters” someone’s faith who is a nonbeliever, then what is the wrong in this? Faith has to originate from some place, so why can’t it start here? The account of the baby sitter whose faith was strengthened by her experience with Colton, even though it wasn’t based off of an experience with the Lord’s Word, nonetheless is a strengthening of faith. If that was her way of coming to accept Christ, then so be it. God works in different ways through different people, why can this be no exception to that?
Dear Ben – thanks for replying, and again I apologize for the length of time on my end to respond. I’m afraid health issues have been challenging.
As you respectfully disagree with me – so I with you. A presuppostion I DO hold to is the inspiration and thus authority of the Bible, So I would reject the idea that it contains “mythical and unverifiable” elements. What is useful is that where we have timelines, individuals and events which CAN be verified – it stands up. We have the changed lives which give testimony to its transforming truth. And when we know what we CAN test is reliable, we rely on the rest. All of which finds its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis’s old rubric works well here. Jesus claimed to be God – and that no one could get to God except through Him. He was either lying, telling the truth or deluded. We do not have any more options. And if HE appealed to the Bible as true, as God’s Word – I will believe Him, even over myself.
If we do not have an objective source of truth in the universe – then all truth is up for grabs. Truth is only what I or you or anyone else deems to be true. And this, was exactly the problem which brought chaos into the world as recorded in Genesis. Man was unwilling to take God at His Word, and believing a lie, rebelled in attempt to de-throne God by becoming our own arbiters of truth. And all of human history shows the sad, tragic, grotesque results. If left to ourselves to determine truth with absolute objective standard, then nothing fences us from the depravity of man on any front. So – to use an extreme – a Hitler can decide genecide is acceptable. And if it is only your truth versus my truth – who’s to say?
The passage you cite from Jeremiah is a wonderful one – but it must be understood in the context of God calling His people to repentance for their sin – not carte blanche for all knowledge in general. It is not NEW revelation being appealed to in the abstract – but in terms of the redemptive wonders of the coming Christ.
As for the apparitions of Fatima, etc., I reject them. And I do so mainly because they fail the test of pointing people to Christ and Him alone for their salvation – but to dreams, visions, Mary, etc. They spring from a religious point of view which puts others things on par with Scripture, and obscures then the single source of the eternal truths we need for fallen human beings to be reconciled to the Living God through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone.
Galatians 1:8 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Isa. 8:20 “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
Thanks for the comments Matt. I will only reply to one aspect of your note since I think I covered other parts of it in my response to Ben.
The part I would address is your statement that faith must start somewhere. BINGO! Absolutely. And the Bible is clear on how it is faith is created or how it begins: Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
You see, the Bible has no category for generic “faith” – like hopeful feelings or a positive outlook. It isn’t that those things do not exist, it is rather they are not faith in the Biblical sense. Faith in the Bible always has a ground (see: Hebrews 11) – it isn’t plucked out of thin air, nor worked up the mind – it is the by-product of the Gospel. It is ALWAYS connected with God’s revelation of Himself in His promises, culminating in Jesus. If I could put a definition on it it would be: Faith is believing what God has said is true, and ordering my life accordingly. But it must always begin with what I know GOD has said – and not from any other source. When someone preaches God’s Word, then faith gets created in the heart. But apart from that – simply having good feelings toward God or the world irrespective of what God has revealed, is in the end a false faith and cannot save anyone. This is why we must be so careful to be diligent to seek out God’s revelation of Himself which has stood the test of time and can be confidently trusted in as passed down by those who knew Him.
I hope that helps some.
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does it REALLY matter where someone obtains faith from? whether it be the bible or this book, at the end of the day, they were saved. that’s all that matters. let God sort out the rest.
Thanks for stopping and commenting Jon. Respectfully, I must reply that it surely does matter where someone obtains from – or better, what they place it in. The Bible never represents faith as a generic kind of belief. Faith, true faith, Biblical saving faith is always anchored in the revealed character of God and/or in His specific promises to us in Christ Jesus. So it is in the book of James, when people claim to have faith, but it is not backed up by their actions, the Apostle rhetorically asks: “can that faith save them?” The obvious answer being – no. Faith does not work magically on its own – Biblical faith must be IN something, someone. And the Bible reserves that idea for God alone. We must have faith in who and what is true – and based upon His own revelation of Himself. 2 + 2 = 4 is true – but it saves no one. And simply because people may feel better about some issue or feel encouraged because of something in the Burpo’s book doesn’t mean faith is actually built up. Rather, the Scripture states it for us in its simplest form: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ Romans 10:17. And we need to get it right on such a point, because the Bible also asserts that we are justified by faith – we obtain right standing with God through it. So getting it right has eternal ramifications.
Greetings Sir, I read your review and appreciate your opinion. I have read this book and many, many others, in an effort to find some answer for what happened to me. I have been turmoil for over six years now since it happened to me. First, let me state that I am a Bible purist, a member of the Church of Christ, I have taught Bible classes for over twenty years and never in my life would even dream that something like this could happen to me. Here is my take on Colton’s story. First, his age would preclude him just making this stuff up. That does not dismiss the possibility of his parents somehow involved in mischief; however, I have watched many different appearances of the parents and see no detectable signs of deception. They seem to be telling what happened to them. Todd Burpo, the preacher that he is, cannot help himself, and feels compelled to rationalize his son’s story into a teachable tool that he feels others might accept. I felt like I was sitting in a pew listening to him from the pulpit.
Here’s the kicker, because of his little book, I finally found a striking painting of the man I met during a simple knee operation. It came from a 12 year old girl who should have no reason to be able to replicate such a master piece in such striking detail that matches so very closely to the man I met. That’s all I have to say on my ordeal. You can imagine the thoughts that been expressed toward me from others who have heard my tale. My own wife does not believe me, why should others?
In closing, here are my thoughts. The Bible is all sufficient to save a man’s soul, read that, believe and obey. But also, this story comes to my mind about what you have written. It’s something to think about.
New King James Version (NKJV)
27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
Thanks fpr stopping, reading and sharing Ricky. There is no question that there are inexplicable experiences we might have. Some of them even divinely appointed in blessing us. My only concern – and the one I hope I made in my review is that we cannot use those experiences as tests of truth, nor to determine doctrine. That God uses and orchestrates wonderful and serendipitous events is beyond question. What we draw from them however is to be determined as we sift them through the filter of Scripture – and not read into them significance that isn’t there.
Enjoy that picture to the fullest. But rest in God’s Word.
I totally concur with you here. The Bible stands alone and needs no such support. But I do find it fascinating that the Burpos had the courage to come forth and tell their story, fantastic as it is. To me in my situation, it is 100% believable. I would wish it were possible for everyone to see what I saw, without the circustance that got me there of course. Would I ever preach a sermon on this? No way, not in a million years. But I cannot express how it feels to have seen something and know what is coming, yet no one will listen and they all look at you with this slight smile that says it all, you nut job.
That’s why I only talk of this with my closest confidents, even the wife who is supportive, in a dis-believing way. Thank you for being so understanding in your response. For me it has moved from believing to knowing. There is zero fear of death in me now. I look forward to when calls me home.
Well sir, I guess I’m not finished. You seem to be a reasonable person and I would like to hear your response to something I ran across this afternoon. I read another argument this afternoon against the Burpos. It was an article in the Berean Library site. Lady who wrote the article was Biblically flawless in her percision with scripture. I could not have done a better job than she did with her defense of the scriptures. The issue I have was the tone and demeanor used aginst this little boy’s story, or more acurately, against the father Todd Burpo who wrote the story down. I thought about responding to her directly but decided based on the way she wrote the article I believe I would not do any good reasoning with her.
Her command of scripture is not in question, but the lack of compassion toward a family who under went a trauma is. There is not the slightest little sign of kindness coming out of her toward a family who continued to experience a trauma that did not end when Colton got well. Dealing with this issue is dramatic, I can tell you it has been for me. It’s fine to be strong in your conviction but unless its tempered with love, the cymbol only loudly clangs.
Just in case you are wondering, I have no new revelation to give. The thing I know for sure is coming is that you are drawn directly to him. Whether you believe or not, ready or not, whether you are atheist or christian, pagan, or whatever, you will go to him. I had some sort of conversation with the Lord, but the only thing I can remember was “Hello, I’m the Son of God.” After that, I cannot remember a single thing. No big thing huh, just a little conversation of the King of Kings. Try to get over that.
Was It a dream or hallucination? Perhaps, but try and remember what you dreamed about last night. I’d bet dinner that you can’t do it. I on the other hand remember in fine detail what he looked like and that was six years ago.
Thanks for writing back Ricky. Having not read the review you mentioned, I cannot speak to the reviewer’s tone etc. Sometimes, issues like these can become very emotionally charged. And if the reviewer sees a more serious threat in the Burpo book than perhaps you or me, then maybe some of the zeal that loves others and cringes to see them deceived in any way rises up in them and states the case in ways we would not.vI don’t know.
What does occur to me in all of this is two things.
1. We must be careful not to let these matters become an unnecessary diversion. We are called to seek first His kingdom and righteousness. If a prolonged engagement in this topic robs us seeking to have His kingdom extended within in sanctifying holiness, or in my fellow believers by building them up in the faith, or by bringing others to Christ in evangelism, then we are being drawn off task and need to set it aside.
2. However we might understand either your own experience, my own, young Mr. Burpo’s or anyone else’s – even if we make them absolutely excellent in every way – we can turn them into something bad through a wrong focus. Remember how Moses was commanded to make the brazen serpent on a pole in the wilderness in Numbers 21. Well many many generations later, when Hezekiah was king, he had to have that same instrument made by God’s direction and for their good – destroyed (see 2 Kings 18). Why? Because they gave it a place in their worship to God it was never designed to have – they we’re burning offerings to it.
Thus, I would say we need to set these things aside, and stick with what we do know and can rely on. Remember the words of Peter in 2 Peter 1 when he recalls seeing Jesus glorified on the mount of transfiguration, and says that he does not rely on that experience, but rather resorts to the “more sure word of prophecy”. Memories and experiences can fade,Chet distorted, etc. But God’s Word remains ever steadfast. So it Paul can recount his being caught up to the 3rd heaven, but we only hear about that when he is admonishing others not to rely on visions and experiences others may have related to them.
Whatever you experienced, rejoice in it and move on. Take your truth from the Word and not from that. Remember Deut. 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Leave the secret things with Him, and stay in the Word.
Good words. I think your right and I’m done. I am going to stop trying to figure it out and stay with what I know. Reading about this and the reactions about it, from both sides of the fence, is extremely aggrevating. Sometimes there is more understanding from the atheists than the christians. It shouldn’t be that way, it should go the other way around, should it not? Oh well, thanks for your wisdom. Best wishes.
Wow! Why shouldn’t we be allowed to share our experiences with other people? When something wonderful happens to us, are we supposed to keep it secret or can we not share it as testimony? I am no Theologian, but I do believe the Scriptures. What if, for example, we know for a fact that if not for the intervention of an angel we would have met with a terrible fate, are we not allowed to tell anyone?
As far as I’m concerned I will share what happened to me. However, I will not be writing a book and presenting my story as something equal to scripture. Also, twice in my life someone has directly intervened and saved my life. Both times I heard (in my head) a voice that gave me instructions. I reacted immediately. One stopped me from being crushed to death by a car. And, the other stopped me from doing harm to myself during a critical moment in my life. Here is some news, we are watched and protected. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do stupid things to hurt yourself and we have free choice to make all the mistakes we want to make.
None of this can be proven, you believe what I say or not. Doesn’t matter to me which way you believe. I believe it did happen to me, I’m still here.
Genny, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am afraid however that I’ve been misunderstood in your reading of the review. I have no problem with people’s individual experiences. Nor do I think I indicated that anywhere. The issue I am concerned with is two-fold: How we interpret those experiences (how do we know we are understanding them correctly?) and what weight we give our experiences in determining truth.
When it comes to understanding heaven and the afterlife, the only truly reliable source from which to learn about theses matters in a way which can build genuine Biblical faith is the Bible itself. What has God said on the matter – that is the final word on it.
No doubt we all have many experiences, but we must be careful not to build our truth structures because how we are even to understand those experiences needs to be tempered by what God has communicated faithfully, authoritatively and sufficiently in His Word.
Excelent points. You area very wise man. Coping with what has happened depends on a person’s regard for the scriptures. I hold them (Bible) as the absolute guide for my life. I will never be able to explain why my adventure to myself or others. I will leave that to the Lord. Have a nice day, Reid.
Thank you for this post, exactly what I think as well. I felt uneasy after knowing the contents of this book — I’m a Christian and I somehow don’t feel right about this book. I would think Anything from God should give us peace, protection and grace in our hearts, but this book made me scared for some reason. Why would there be an eye witness of heaven anyway? Isn’t heaven real and we all know it because we know that Jesus lives! I think it’s great that the little boy has seen Jesus, but for the rest of us, let’s focus on the Bible and keep praying.
Be at peace my friend, our answers are coming. Reid has helped me deal with this. I am grateful to him for that.
I have just finished reading Heaven is For Real and came online to search and see if anyone else had the same uneasy feeling as I did. I too feel that what is to be revealed about heaven is found in scripture. I especially found the revelation of a special place for Mary (who according to Colton continues to mother Jesus) rather jarring, as if it didn’t fit in with the rest of the book, as if it were added to appease a certain kind of audience (and no clue of this is offered in scripture). Like you, I am not saying that the family or the boy are intentionally leading anyone into believing a lie BUT they may indeed be innocently doing so. I once had a dream that I was taken to the foot of a large gate and I knew it was heaven. Every atom in my being wanted to go inside those gates and I said aloud in my dream “That is where I really belong…that is my true home”. When I awoke I lay there achng with the knowledge that whatever heaven is like, it is my home. That is all I need to know and it is in direct line with the BIble. Thank you for being brave enough to write an honest review.
Reid, my problems with your assertions as outlined in this review are three-fold:
First, you imply (intentionally or unintentionally) that the Burpo’s present this story on an even keel with Scripture. One commenter even states that she wouldn’t present “[her] story as something equal to scripture,” as though that’s what the Burpo’s have done. You fail to mention, even in passing, that Todd is a pastor, and when he preaches on heaven, he speaks ONLY from the Scripture, NOT his son’s testimony. They belabored this point in the book.
Second, the areas where you question Biblical veracity (i.e. wings, halos, etc.) have no direct congruence or refutation in Scripture. We could very well have wings, or fly like Superman, or walk, or anything else. How do you know Jesus doesn’t have a horse? (I’ll refer you to Revelation.) The Bible doesn’t address it directly. The book also doesn’t refer to Mary as the “Virgin Mary.” The book simply refers to her as “Mary,” and states that she still “treats Him like a son” (implying the Burpo’s are merely placating their Catholic friends.)
Lastly, you make an overstretched and grotesque assumption that believers WILL equate this with Scripture, and be unable to categorize the two. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “This is what is, and this is what might be.” Likewise, you assert this book (or it’s ilk) is unacceptable as a “gateway” for an unbeliever. I say this in love: your premise reeks of elitist arrogance. Why have people give testimonies at church? Why share what the Lord has done for you? After all, it’s already in THE book. In fact, why have other books at all! Why should something inspire us? Isn’t the Scripture enough? The answer is that my God is a LIVING God, working here and now. People need encouragement. People need uplifting by other believers. People need to hear that God is working amidst their contemporaries.
You’re walking dangerously close to a line that says “If you need a pick-me-up to inspire you, then there’s something wrong with you, and your faith.” But that’s a lie. Christ’s grace is sufficient to carry me through my deficiencies, and my doubts. And anything not in direct contradiction to the Bible that inspires us to think about Him, to keep carrying on, or leads a unbeliever to relationship with Christ, is a testimony worth sharing.
Alex, Reid has a right to his opinion. Please don’t be too hard on someone who has only one perspective (from this world) only. The truth is that all we are to live by is the Bible and it is silent on a great deal of what the Burpo book says. Skepticism is a natural and correct tendency to adhere to when there is anything stated that would not be totally in line with the Word of God, even if it complements it.
My episode occurred in 1996 and I have physical consequences that I have had to learn to live with because of it. Even my wife did not believe, in the beginning. She does now because of things that have happened. I know when people are lying to me. I only wish I could do this over the phone or when someone writes something. The only thing I can even guess about why, is that perhaps I am now super or hyper intuitive. I somehow notice subtle things, maybe body language, that sets off the alarm in my head. This did not happen prior to the operation I had that set all this in motion.
Also, a very annoying thing that I see with my eyes now is the aura around everyone I run into. It is especially bad at worship services. I find myself staring at those instead of listening to the sermon. I visited another church one Sunday and their preacher was shinning so very brightly that I had to advert my eyes for most of the sermon. Even the unbelievers have them. The only way I can think of to describe them is that it looks like the waves of heat off hot pavement and it extends two to six inches away from the bodies. It is different for different people. The preacher’s was at least 12 to 18 inches while he was preaching. I have had to train myself to ignore it, but it’s still annoying.
Here is the deal for me. I don’t care the least bit whether or not anyone believes me. There is nothing I can do about it anyway. But, for the rest of my life I will try and save everyone I can from what I know for a fact is coming. The only way people are to be taught is by what we were given, the Bible. It is all sufficient to save men’s souls. Everything else is only an interesting diversion.
It is obvious to me that the author of this blog doesn’t understand or even know the God he is trying to defend and protect. For if not he would reflect on the following verse and try to understand how inept our human understanding is concerning how God works.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8 KJV)
For anyone to think that God would not use an innocent child to teach of his glory is something that I can’t support. God can do anything he wants, using anyone he wants, anytime he wants, and man has no say about any of it. The Bible makes this clear regardless of how great we think we are.
I find it fascinating how familiar some are with the Bible but how unfamiliar they are with the author.
Um a question…Colton says he saw Jesus, but the Bible says that you will die if you see God (Exodus 33:20). Am I misunderstanding something? Could Colton really have seen Jesus? Just wondering 🙂
Thanks for writing and commenting Claudette. We do know that while Jesus was here on earth, people saw Him and didn’t die. It was as if God was veiling Himself in Jesus so that we might see Him, without dying. It was part of His reaching out to us in Jesus so that we could be reconciled to Him, even tho we are sinners and the very nature of His holiness and justice would require that we be judged and destroyed for our sin. It is the hope of every Believer that one day we will “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Apart from Christ, as sinners, we cannot “see Him” without being judged for our sin, and indeed dying a just, eternal death apart from Him. But if we are “in” Christ, trusting in His death on our behalf, we can one day truly see Him, and enjoy Him forever.
The Bible does contain several accounts of Jesus appearing to some after His death and resurrection. Certainly they did not die. All that said, given the details which little Colton seems to offer, many of them at at odds with Scriptural data, and would seem to be less than reliable. Once again, I would simply point you back to the Scriptures, and to put your trust in their revelations, rather than in this young man’s.
I hope that helps some.
Okay, – I am not questioning your motive or your intent, but I will disagree with you based on the following thoughts: You say that it doesn’t line up perfectly with what God’s word says. According to who?, You? I believe wholeheartedly in the inspiration of God’s written word,… 100%. I believe that God is pure and Truthful and will NEVER go against His written word, – He is bound by His written word. But you have seemed to have placed Him in a box and LIMITED Him to His written Word. God is bound by his word, – but Limited to His written word. God is bigger than that,… much, MUCH bigger. And Truth does not come from you or anyone else’s INTERPRETATION of scripture,… Truth comes by way of the Holy Spirit (John 16) and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict anyone and everyone of sin, judgment and righteousness (again, John 16),… and He can do it anyone He chooses (just as He gives spiritual gifts, – I Cor 12). He may use a person, – but He most definitely can (and does) use experiences, dreams, visions, circumstances,… and this is supported time and time again in scripture. Where does it say that when the bible was finished working, – God’s interaction with people was done? What about those who have come to Christ who have never even read the bible? Are you going to give PEOPLE the credit?!? People come to Christ all the time,… and most of the time they do IN SPITE of Christians,… not because of them (that is not always the case,… but it is always the case if the Holy Spirit is not behind it!!). As I John 2:27 states,… we do not NEED anyone to teach, – rather it is HIS anointing that TEACHES US ALL THINGS. That can happen through a person or any other avenue (i.e. Burpo’s book), – but it is the Holy Spirit. And I have read the bible through and through (most of it multiple times),… and there is nothing in the book that I found inconsistent with scripture,… and I believe the Holy Spirit affirmed that in me (but that is between me and Him,… not for you). Too often we rely on “authority” and “experts” on God’s word to understand God’s will , intent, love, etc,… What makes them experts? They have studied the scriptures? Are you kidding? Then why are there literally 10s of 1000s of different interpretations on different passages of scripture? Because man uses his own intelligence to figure it out. And we know what God will do with man’s intelligence (turn it to foolishness, – early in I Corinthians). Look at the Pharisees for example, – NO ONE knew the Old Testament better than them,… and yet, the Son of God came and they MISSED him in their arrogance and pride (because they just knew they had it right). As humans, – we can figure NOTHING out,… nothing,… Truth is REVEALED by God. PERIOD. And revealed anyway He chooses. So stop placing the Lord in a box and dictating to everyone that the Lord is limited to revealing Himself ONLY through His written word,… but there is something greater,… The WORD of God,… Jesus Christ as described in John 1 (yes, – I have read more than just the books written by John,…). I am not offended by your thoughts,… I really am not,… but I do become offended when we, as believers, Limit the Lord our God to our own small minds that teach that He doesn’t extend himself beyond what is written down.
I appreciate your comments and especially your passion Tim. I really do. And I doubt we’ll come to full agreement on how to assess something like the Burpo book, or the role of extra-Biblical revelation. Let me simply note how you appeal to Scripture to buttress your own case, while at the same time telling me I ought not to use Scripture to weigh the book itself. You see we all need some sort of authority to appeal to beyond ourselves. And if it is not Scripture, then all truth is up merely for personal interpretation. Does Scripture need interpreted? You believe so since you used it to try and prove your point. Yet who’s interpretation are YOU using? You own? You tell me I cannot do that. In fact, you so overstate your case by appealing to the idea that there are “10s of 1000s of different interpretations on different passages of scripture.” So does that mean no one interpretation can be right? Or that no one can know the truth? You can’t say I can’t interpret scripture, by weighing it against your interpretation can you? I think you see the dilemma.
No, God isn’t limited to His Word, but I am. We are. So His Word itself tells us. So Paul can warn that even if some angel comes preaching another Gospel, to reject it. So Peter appealed to the written word of prophecy above his own experience on the mount of Transfiguration. Yes, God can speak. But He never speaks in any way contrary to His Word. Something must be our standard to measure all things. I believe that must be God’s written revelation. Else I have no way to judge any new species of supposed revelation. And hence, truth can be re-written at any time.
Interesting stuff to consider. Keep thinking! Stop by anytime.
Very good point with interpreting scripture,… that is a very good point. And I didn’t mean to communicate that you couldn’t use scripture by interpretation, – but everything must be weighed carefully. I appreciated you weighing in on Burpo’s book. But as believers in Jesus Christ, – we do have the Holy Spirit, – He is our final authority,… b/c He is the gift that we need to Know God and to know Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Spirit, – God’s written word will never go beyond our own way of interpreting it,… human way. And you are correct, – we cannot believe something just because it makes us feel good,… but neither can we reject something that makes us feel uncomfortable. Jesus himself used the Holy Spirit as His witness in the truth He was communicating,… that very same Spirit lives in me and in you. Jesus said that we could / would do greater things than Him,… greater (not be greater of course, – but b/c He goes to the Father and provides the same Spirit that He has).
And you are also correct in what Paul says about an angel coming and delivering a message other than the gospel that he preached,… however, – Colton’s book doesn’t go against the gospel,… it supports it. Look, – if I, you or anyone has an experience, receive a revelation or anything that leads us to Jesus,… it is not from Satan. Jesus was accused of casting out a demon by the power of Beelzebub,… and He basically said, – “Now that is stupid,… where would Satan’s kingdom be if he works against it,… it would fall,…” And he warned against blaspheming by giving credit to a demon when actually the Holy Spirit was behind it. Are you absolutely sure that God is not behind Colton’s experience?
Look, – I think this is good and healthy debate, – I really do. And I believe that scripture can and should be used to help us navigate and discern truth from lies, Holy Spirit from Satan’s schemes,… but I also believe that the Holy Spirit does that for us if we ask Him and we cannot rely too heavily on man’s interpretation. There are a lot of things that can be debated in scripture,… and lots of things are. However, – if one is a believer, – then one HAS to believe that God loves us, God sent His Son to teach us and be offered as a sacrifice for us (II Cor 5:21) and that Jesus defeated death and was resurrected and that all who place their faith in Him will be as well. If a person truly desires, in their heart, mind and soul, to know the Truth,… and God desires us to be with Him and to know the truth,… He WILL show us the truth (Ask, – and you will be given; Seek, and you will find; Knock, – the door will be opened,…). God knows what each person needs to maximize the chances of them coming into a relationship with Him,… and He is big enough and loving enough to bring that about,.. whether through studying, experiences, dreams, etc,… We cannot judge someone else’s motive or experience,.. we can discern, but not judge. But our discernment comes from the source of truth, – the Holy Spirit, – and cannot be based on our theology, doctrine and man’s interpretation.
I hope I didn’t offend you. But I have come to believe that if we would just love people where they are,… Love,… then that would break down walls that separate the lost from God and THEN the Holy Spirit will come in and do what He does best,… convict, teach and guide into all Truth. It is not my job to convict you,… my job is to love you,… love people where they are as Jesus did,…everyone. THAT is what changed the world. That is carrying out Jesus command of spreading the gospel and making disciples,… not ramming the truth down one’s throat, – but loving them (love looks different to different people), – giving a glass of cold water, sacrificing your time, money, etc,.. to reach out to the poor, naked and hungry,… to friends, strangers and our enemies. That love helps melt hardened hearts, – that Love (that is only possible by having the Holy Spirit) opens up an avenue for the Spirit to come in and do what He does best. We shouldn’t focus on doing the Holy Spirit’s job (unless He prompts us,…) other than loving people.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. I have enjoyed our discussion.
Hey Tim – thanks for responding and believe me, we far more agree than disagree. And certainly there is no offence taken at an open discussion. I thoroughly enjoy it and it is always worthwhile to understand one another better. So thank you.
You’ll get no argument from me regarding the reality of the indwelling Spirit and His work in us. Where I think we may have some way to go before we reach thorough agreement is in 2 things. If you will note, I never said their cannot be legitimate “experiences” that Christians might have. To quote from the review itself “The problem is NOT whether Colton might have had some genuine sort of experience of Heaven or not. The problem is…that we are willing to find more comfort and encouragement about the reality of Heaven and some of its supposed features – from the subjective experience of a gravely ill little boy – than we are from the Bible and God’s own revelation of these things. It is as though the Holy Spirit’s revelation is inadequate for us.” I have no way of knowing how much of Colton’s revelations are the product of his illness, his medications, his imagination or the Spirit. So they are interesting, but unreliable.
You see the Word of God IS the Holy Spirit revealing things to us. He continues to illuminate those things even now. He has not stopped. But if (as you posit) that the Holy Spirit is the final authority and not the Word (as I would say is the final authority) then how do we test anyone’s “experience” or spiritual impressions? How do we deny Joseph Smith’s “revelations” that made for the founding of Mormonism? Even Jesus did not preach and teach in a vacuum, but in fulfilling the Old Testament Scriptures. This was my point about Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration – yes, he (and the others) had a legitimate experience. But he notes that he does not count that above the “more sure word of prophecy.” Why? Because our experiences are so subjective. We need something above them to measure them by.
Now to one of your points, our interpretation of the Word IS fraught with subjective issues too. You are quite right. I will argue that my memories of experiences tend to shift over time. So what are we to do? And this is a really important question you raise. For one thing, we go back and ask “what are the rules for sound interpretation?” And there are rules. Good ones. That is the nature of hermeneutics. Rules which can easily get sidestepped when we aren’t careful. Thus we didn’t simply rely on our own interpretation, but we go back and check our interpretations against the rules, and then against how others have worked through the same passages over time. We pray and ask for the Spirit’s illumination, and we grow and refine our understanding and by the Spirit’s working gain greater and great insight as we go. And what is particularly safe and useful here is that we can go back to the Word over and over, because IT does not change (unlike our memories) and examine it and re-examine it over and over – arriving at clearer and clearer understanding. An experience once had, does not provide us with that mechanism. And as genuine as it might be, we are reminded that it is that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” – not by experiences. They may be (and sometimes are) authentic – but only the Word abides, and so our faith must rest in it instead. Make sense?
Keep thinking brother. It is a good discussion to have.
I have enjoyed reading the discussion between you and Tim. You have a very good grasp on the “reality” of the incident as opposed to the scripture. Having this happen to me too, I have over the years questioned , “Why me?” I vacillate back and forth in my mind, was this real or just some dream? It sure seemed real at the time, but as time goes by it deems in my memory. It seems that the only thing I can cling to is the book I have in my hand. That is where to place our trust, the written word of God. Everything else is just an interesting incident along the way of life. I have nearly gone “Nutz” reaching this point in my life. Thanks for your previous words of encouragement. They help me a very great deal.
thanks for the replies,..I went back and read my first post and I was harsh. For that I apologize,… not for what I posted, but with the heart I posted it with,… not because I offended you, but because the motive was not love. A little background (if you’ll allow me). I grew up going to a Church of Christ school surrounded by Church of Christ teachers. Most were great, but there were a few that would say some pretty judgmental things that just didn’t set right in my heart (I believe now it was the Spirit that was grieved),… my grandparents (and later my parents) were Church of God / Pentecostal and the Lord used my Grandmother, in very real and practical ways to instill a level of faith in me. For years and years (not until I was 30, – I am now 46), – I pushed the differences of the 2 to the back of my mind until the Lord spoke very clearly to my mind and my heart asking me the question “What do you believe?” I couldn’t shake it,… so,… I got into the written Word and began reading. I read and read and read,… never before had I hungered to read like that. I was not a reader at the time (AT ALL!),… I had even once tried to read scripture (3-4 years before that) and started with the Gospel of John,… I WAS BORED STIFF (the Lord knows it to be true),… after trying to read 1 chapter a day,… I quit after 3-4 days. But when I received this hunger to read, – all of a sudden, I found myself up at 3 – 4am reading entire books at a time,… one day, the book of John (now, my favorite),… next day, – Matthew,… next day, – Romans, etc,… and then I came across scriptures like Luke 11:9-13 (Lord will answer those that are seeking and give the Holy Spirit to those who ask), John 17:3 (eternal life is to KNOW God the Father and the Son) and I John 2:27 (the anointing of the Spirit teaches us all things),… and for the first time I began understanding more of what God wanted me to understand. It is more than just reading scripture, having experts on scripture teach you or even going to Seminary, Divinity or Theology school,… the key to knowing truth & having discernment is having God’s Spirit (the promised gift). The Lord began teaching me simple, but profound truths like, – it is important what you believe,… but what you believe has zero impact on the Truth,… and If something is prodding you closer to Jesus Christ, – then it cannot be from Satan. As I stated earlier,… there are 1000s of different interpretations on literally 1000s of different passages,… so the only true source of understanding scripture is the Holy Spirit. I had to let go of everything I had ever believed and I had to allow God’s Spirit to take over. I am so thankful for my parents because they encouraged me in this,… most of my bible teachers at my old high school would not have. The Lord wants all men to be saved,… so, He wants ALL men to know the Truth,… so, – if a man truly desires to know the Truth, – the Lord will not keep it from him. Sometimes people just want to be told what to believe instead of digging for it themselves,.. the problem with that is that people are fallible,… sometimes honest mistakes are made, sometimes there are agendas behind it, sometimes the religious just want to be in control (i.e. Pharisees). I get very cautious about “rules” for interpreting scripture,… not because they are not necessarily bad or ill-intended, but because these rules were made up by men. I teach Human A&P at a Christian School and I wonder in awe at how God created the Human Body,…and I get so irritated with “experts” who basically say that we are a cosmic accident through the random process of evolution. And I challenge my students all the time to question those who teach the bible,… to wholly go after the truth,… God is big enough to handle our questions, our doubts,… it is religious scholars who get offended when they are questioned (again, like the Pharisees). Now, – God can use religious scholars to teach us the truth,… through worship, church service, discipleship,… all very, VERY good things,… but scripture is also clear on “Test everything”. God also uses experiences in our lives and it is the Holy Spirit that is a witness to those truths, – just as the Spirit was a witness for Jesus,… that SAME Holy Spirit is given to us that we may do “greater things” as Jesus said. We have to be very careful not to subject God to OUR rules,… should the Burpo book be studied and weighed against scrutiny,… absolutely. But should he not write the book just because he is afraid of how people will view it? In fact, – I believe Todd Burpo was more than cautious before putting the book into print and went about very careful “tests” before doing so. In the end, – it is the Holy Spirit that will testify to the Truth, – b/c He is the source of Truth and guides us into ALL Truth (even spiritual “truths” [plural] that Paul speaks of in I Corinthians 2). To try to go on scripture without the guidance of the Holy Spirit can be damaging,… I believe that we will never get beyond a surface level of understanding with our minds,… remember that even Satan used scripture to test Jesus. And you know, as well as I, how people misuse scripture all the time because of what they believe, their agendas, what they’ve been taught or do it out of context. Yes, – I believe that the written word is the WORD of God and is tried and true, – but I believe the Holy Spirit to be the final authority of that Truth because of what scripture says. If scripture was enough, – then we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit,… and I believe that He is absolutely necessary to KNOW God and to KNOW Jesus,… without Him, – we do not know God, do not have eternal life and we are dead. Without Him, – no one can understand. May Grace, Mercy and Peace fill your lives.
I am a deacon in the church of Christ right now. As you can imagine there is turmoil that goes thru my mind right, and has been for years now. I have tried speaking to one of our elders about my situation and was told that I sound like a nut. I responded back to him, if you don’t believe in life after death, then why are you here?
I read the Burpo book and a lot of what he has to say matches what I saw myself. I did not make it all the way there, I was at some place half way,however, (Greek architect, highly polish white marble, people all around me in silhouettes and I could not see their faces. I saw only one person’s face, you can guess who it was.)
I had a conversation and was not allowed to remember what was said.
Hey Rick – glad to have you chime in and join the conversation. It is a good one to have. Always appreciate your input.
Thanks for the background Tim, and for hanging in there in the discussion. You are a thinking man, and I admire that.
For both you and Rick, it might be helpful to know that I also come from a heavily Pentecostal background. My grandfather on my Mother’s side was considered a prophet and a healer. He founded what is now one of the largest Pentecostal/Charismatic churches here in Rochester, presently pastored by my cousin. My Dad remains a committed Pentecostal (my Mom did so until her passing a few years ago) and my older brother pastors a Pentecostal church. These are very much the waters I’ve swum in. I spent most of my life in Pentecostal churches (13 in a Foursquare church) and under my own Dad’s pastorate until 1996. And I believe in the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit for today – tho the study of the Word had led me to conclude that so very much of what is characterized as the Spirit’s work in the Pentecostal/Charismatic circles I’ve belonged to was simply not Scriptural. But I wholly look for and delight in the authentic. I am NOT a strict cessationist, though highly skeptical of much of what I have observed over the years.
That said, so that you know I am not trying to poo-poo the indwelling, empowering, gifting or moving of the Spirit – I moved from what I believe was the dominating paradigm of subjectivism of my earlier years.
Believe me Tim – I get SO much of what you are writing. But I need to try and unpack some things. So let me try it this way. Indulge me a bit. I am not trying to be argumentative – I am striving for clarity. IF your paradigm as you outlined it is correct – then how would you answer the following questions. Maybe we can move to a better understanding between us by this means.
So – If your thesis is correct:
1. Then all who are so led and taught by the Spirit would have perfect agreement in all things. Do they? Where is this group of perfectly unified Believers who have discerned all truth identically?
2. How do you discern what is from you, and what what is from the Spirit and what might be from some other spirit? What authority can you appeal to, to measure and distinguish these things by?
3. Since the Holy Spirit breathed out the Scriptures – and we assume infallibly, isn’t the Word STILL the Spirit speaking?
4. What is the mechanism to be used when two or more who have listened to the Spirit disagree? How do we decide which has heard and/or interpreted correctly?
5. Are we to assume that all commentators were devoid of the Spirit when they studied the Word and gave their insights and/or opinions? And do we then ignore the office of “teachers” as per Eph. 4:11 as not gifts given by the Spirit to help us in these precise areas and leave all to individual interpretation?
6. Do we know for certain the rules for sound hermeneutics were not given by the Spirit to those who helped put them down for us?
7. Is restricting ourselves to the Word as the final authority putting God in a box, if He gave the Scripture by His Spirit for the very purpose of giving us infallible boundaries by which to keep us safe from being deceived?
If it is not being too impertinent – can we start there to try and unpack the issues?
Great points, especially regarding the scripture. It is complete ( the “perfect” referenced in 1 Cor 13:813 ). I have 2 Pentecostal preachers for cousins and I am very familiar with the issues of the “thus sayeth the Lord,” that come from their services. I have mentioned the same thing to them. It can be one thing one week and something different the next. A lot of the time it makes no sense what-so-ever “to me'”.
I have also noticed that some of the tongue speaking does not follow the prescribed instructions given by Paul. Then there is the issue of healing. How can there be these two gifts and not healing or knowledge or prophecy? The healing is a particular issue, most of the healing done in the New Testament was done on people who were not asked to have faith first. They were healed and then they believed the word. This shows that the gifts had a specific purpose of confirming the words being spoken. What knew thing can come forth in a Revelation now? Before I participated in this activity I would have to totally reconcile with Revelation 22:18 first. This would scare me into running away from it like a scared jacket rabbit.
I am NOT trying to pick on them, they are good people with kind hearts. I guess my emotions show through, being a Bible Purist.
I am sorry that you have had those close to you reject or not believe your story,… I know that hurts. I believe that scripture is infallible in every way. I believe that it was written by men and, after reading and watching different documentaries on how the scriptures were put together, – it is possible that it may have even been put together by men with impure motives. However, – the God of the universe that put all the stars together, created this earth in wonder and awe, creating life and keeps it together, – is also big enough to protect His written word. But I also believe that the Lord gives that which we need to draw us nearer to Him. For you, – He gave you this experience,… and He gave it for you (no one else). See, – our God is so multi-faceted,… giving us each what we need to draw us in and yet staying perfectly consistent with His standard.
How many times have we read a passage and it hit us one way at one time in our lives,… but completely different way at a another time in our lives (not with a different meaning,…). I have had experiences too. When I first began having these experiences when i began chasing after Him, – i wanted to tell the whole world!! Some thought it fascinating, – but others looked at me like I was a nut. Later, – The Lord showed me more patience, wisdom and discernment in who to share with.
I have been blessed to have been used by the Lord to lead many teenagers to Christ (either directly or indirectly), – there have been times I have been sharing and it is almost like an out of body experience (not literally, but I could tell that the Spirit was in charge of what I was sharing). This is all consistent with scripture. And I agree with Reid that a believer should not take MORE comfort in Colton’s story than what is in scripture itself,… however, – our stories help to affirm and confirm what is in scripture. Take comfort in knowing that the Lord gave you an experience that leads you to Him. And that is the question isn’t it? Did that experience draw you nearer to Christ? Did it cause you to Love more? Did it inspire you to get into scripture more? If the answers are all “yes”, – then why would it be from the enemy? If it is not from the enemy, then it is from the Lord? “If you are not for me, you are against me,…” and ” what divided kingdom can stand”? (in context to the Pharisees accusing Jesus of driving out a demon by the power of the enemy).
You see, – we are the BODY of Christ,… and the very same Holy Spirit that resides in us is the very same Holy Spirit that lead Jesus as He taught, suffered, died and resurrected. Read Ephesians 3:20,… “according to the power that is within,… US” The Body is supposed to stay connected,… share with one another, give to one another,.. and like a body, – each one of us has our job to do. To often (I believe,… opinion) people accept or reject someone’s experiences because they never had that experience and they have been taught that God doesn’t work that way anymore. I was taught that, – then i began reading for myself and the Spirit taught me truths I had never understood. But now, – I know what I believe and WHY I believe it. I can give someone a solid answer on why there is a God, why suffering is allowed, that he is a loving God and that Jesus Christ is the only way for Salvation.
Jesus IS the only way to God,… but WE are not the only way to Jesus (to quote a Casting Crowns song). And I, too, believe that more often than not Christians do get in the way of Salvation. My experiences has shown me that too often Christians say “do it my way” or “do it our way”,… instead of just saying “here’s Jesus”. We think it is our job to convince the world of who Jesus is or judge the world of who is right or wrong. That is NOT our job. “A new command I give you,… Love one another. … even as I have loved you, love one another” THAT is sharing the gospel and making disciples,… Love one another, love strangers and love our enemies (that about covers it) and let the Holy Spirit do what He does best. Now love looks different in different circumstances, to different people, etc,… but it is always selfless and always done to glorify God because the only way we can love the way Jesus commands is by the power of the Holy Spirit. But once we demonstrate this love of God, – THEN the Holy Spirit comes in and convicts of sin, judgment and righteousness, the Holy Spirit guides into ALL truth (John 16) and the Holy Spirit teaches us all things (I John 2:27). When we focus on doctrine, – we get in the way,… THAT is what turns people off from “religion”,… but true LOVE always wins and breaks down the strongholds that satan has erected.
See, – it is not about How I live my life for Christ,… because if it is left up to me, – I. WILL. FAIL. But it is about dying to myself everyday, surrendering, being filled up with His Spirit and allowing HIS Spirit to live out the Life of Christ through me.
Reid, – I haven’t forgot about your questions above,… NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE. I have been thinking and praying on these and will address this week, – now it is time to get ready for work. Thank you for this post and the heart and love behind your posts. And R.M. is right, – you can speak all the truth in the world, but have not love,… clanging symbol. You, my friend, are not a clanging symbol.
Tim, don’t be too hasty, assuming what you think I accept or reject. I cannot change what happened. I also cannot change what has been written, the Bible. It did change my life, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. It changed me. At first, no one believed me including my wife. But now, she believes me. I have done too much stuff now for her to deny it any longer. I have not shared with you what has happened to me, afterwards. I am now a built in lie detector when someone in speaking with me. I guess I have become hyper intuitive. That made a believer out of the wife. I wish it would work when I read something or talk on the phone, oh well.
Next, when I go to church, I am often distracted by all the waving and shiny auras around everyone’s heads. I can see them now with my own eyes. The preacher’s sometimes gets huge, above his head. I visited another church one Sunday and the glow above their preacher’s head was so very bright while he was preaching that I could not look at him. What this looks like to me is the way hot pavement waves in the summer time. It is transparent and wavy, and extends different lengths away from their bodies, anywhere from 2″ to 6″ out. The preacher’s gets to be 12″ to 18″ going straight up while they are preaching. The rest of the time they look like everyone else. I can see these on everyone, everywhere, and I have trained myself not to pay any attention to them.
My IQ has increased. I have taken and passed the Mensa exam. They spent six months trying to get me to join.
Now I debate the atheists, on their websites and with the Darwinist. I can hold my own pretty well with them. Not bad for a construction guy, huh? I wish they would listen to me. Not many will. I mean NONE that will admit it to me.
But, in all this, I use the written Word of God as my tool. Not my experience. They would not believe me anyway. “Even if one would rise from the dead they will not believe. They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.”
By the way, the Burpo book tells you about a portrait that was done by a young female artist. If you want to see a very good likeness of him, then find that. His skin was darker than what she painted but he does have blue eyes. This is kind of strange considering the he was an Aramaic Jew. However, there were two non-Jewish women in his lineage, Rahab and Ruth.
Now you now about me. I wish you all my best. Reid has helped me a great deal resolving my internal struggle.
My apologies RM, – I did not intend to assume anything,… but what a gift the Lord has given you. I know that some will not believe you and I know that we are not to “cast pearls to swine”. And it is a blessing that the Lord has given you such wisdom to debate the “wise and learned”, – I mean that with all sincerity. But we are the body of Christ, – our unity is paramount and Jesus prayed for it desperately on the mount of olives. if my taste buds and mouth feel satisfied, – the rest of my body rejoices with it,… if I break a bone, – the rest of my body hurts with it. This experience and story is yours,… it is what the Lord gave you,… just you. And it has been used to draw you nearer to Jesus to where even your wife believes. And most of the time we must establish our credibility with how well we know scripture and how well our lives are being lived out in Christ and demonstrating the fruit of His Spirit,… but I believe (opinion only) that by sharing that story (by the prompting of God’s Spirit only), – you may bring someone to Jesus. The Spirit moves in very unpredictable ways, – Jesus said that and it is demonstrated all through the book of Acts. Sometimes someone is lead to Jesus through scripture,… but other times, – it is through experience or through someone else’s experience and THEN scripture can be used to verify. What does it matter which is used first, – as long as someone is brought to Jesus. THEN the ball is in Jesus’ court and He never fails!! There is no “formula” for coming to Jesus or being used to bring someone to Jesus. We are just tools in the hands of the master potter,… it is all Him anyway,… as long as we surrender and follow the guiding of His Spirit.
Reid, – let’s see,… and you must pray to see if this is from the Lord or not,… I pray that it is, – if not, – reject it.
1. I believe that if 2 or more people are lead by the same Spirit, – then yes, – they should and ought to be in perfect agreement. What has happened? Men’s egos, pride and agendas have gotten in the way. Do you think that all these different denominations are God’s idea? Part of His plan? I think not, – so where did all this different thinking come from? Men. And the enemy,… Jude warns heavily against the enemy worming his way into the body. Most of the time we don’t even recognize him,.. and if we don’t recognize our enemy (as we should, – Paul stated that “we are not unaware of his schemes” and Peter states “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him”) Have you ever read through the devotional “God Calling”,… amazing. Not “Jesus Calling” (also very good),… but as I was going through God Calling, – part of my mind wanted to argue,… but I continued to hear the Spirit saying “YES!!,… YES!!”. And there was nothing in scripture that could contradict it. Same with “The Shack”,… I know that is a novel, – and yet God can use all things to give us different perspectives and broader view of Himself
2. Prayer and asking for confirmation,… and using scripture to help verify. I never meant to say that scripture couldn’t be used,… I just question men’s interpretation of it,… that is what must be weighed and tested. But is it bringing me nearer to Jesus, motivating me to read more, pray more, demonstrate more fruit of His Spirit (Love, joy, peace,…). I believe that sometimes the Lord will give a person 1 piece of a puzzle, someone else another, etc,… then brings us together,… but it is up to us to SHARE. Another reason for the importance of the unity of the Body.
3. Absolutely!! But you know, as well as I, that scripture can be distorted & / or taken out of context. Satan does it all the time and will use that in his temptation tool box. I believe only the Holy Spirit can bring revelation to the depth and true meaning of scripture. It may come through studying or just casual reading,… but we can give no credit to ourselves or any man or woman.
4. I would argue that if 2 people claim to have heard from the Spirit and disagree,… then 1 or BOTH did not hear from the Spirit. And we ask God for confirmation, – either through scripture or by an experience He may want to give us (and His silence can be confirmation one way or the other as well). Of course, – scripture should be used to help clear things up as well,… in full context.
5. Of course commentators and those who interpret could have been led / filled with the Spirit,… but something is amiss when you have so many DIFFERENT interpretations. Of course the Lord can use a Pastor, teacher, etc,… to teach the truth,… but make no mistake, – it is the Spirit teaching,… the Pastors are just instruments in His hands. You know how hard men of faith can fall when they get too full of themselves. Once we come to Jesus, – we need to keep coming to His and allow His Spirit to teach us,… let that be confirmed through His words through a faithful follower, experience, whatever He chooses. But too often, – people just want to be told what to believe. I believe that it is as important to know why we believe what we believe as much as what we believe. No, – the office of teachers should not be ignored,… they are instruments, but what they teach should be questioned, weighed and tested.
6. Hermeneutics very well could have been issued and brought about by the Holy Spirit, – absolutely,… my point is, – don’t put your full trust in what a man teaches,… trust in the Lord. Hermeneutics can be used as a tool to help understand scripture, – but the Spirit is the teacher, – we can never forget that.
7. Scripture is God’s written word to us,… absolutely. But I have heard it taught that if it in not in scripture, – it didn’t happen or doesn’t exist, – that is crazy. I am not saying you, – but is someone going to tell me that God is limited to just the words written down in scripture? John even said that Jesus spoke so much more that wasn’t recorded. Daniel speaks of a secret document that will not be revealed until the end times, – this world contains physical evidence that is not recorded in scripture, – I believe there is NO evidence that exists that contradicts scripture,… And we can trust wholly in God that we will not go against His written word, – but we cannot bound God by His written Word only. I believe that when we get to Him one day, – we’ll understand like never before and we will know “even as we are fully known” (I Cor 13).
I hope and pray that you don’t take my words as condescending. The Lord has used scripture in my life, but He has also given me experiences that have drawn me nearer to Him. I welcome your response.
# 7, – line 5, – “wholly in God that HE will not go against His written word” sorry,…
Thanks for the thoughtful reply Tim – I enjoy our exchanges. So as not to write a book, let me address just one major point, give a quote I love and steer you toward a recent Rolling Stone article to see how you might address the things raised there given your paradigm.
The major point. Your answer to Number 1 is the very point I have been trying to make all along. Not there are not authentic experiences in the Spirit, but due to the fact that we bring our own sinful weaknesses to it – it fails to become very reliable. We don’t have to throw it out, but we need to interpret it with caution. The very point you make regarding Scripture needing interpretation applies equally to experiences. They BOTH need interpreted. But with the Word, I can go back and re-examine the objective statements over and over. With experiences, I can only go back and examine subjective things which I may or may not remember correctly, or have interpreted correctly in the first place. But they are not permanently and authoritatively fixed like the Scripture is. So if both need interpretation, but only one remains for repeated re-examination with the help of others the Lord has gifted and the history of the Church’s interpretive principles can bring to bear – I believe I am on much more solid ground. And it seems proper to use what is fixed to interpret what is not. So it is on the road to Emmaus – the two men Jesus talked with interpreted the events in Jerusalem through their own lens, rather than through the Word (which Jesus chides them for) and then goes back, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 He chides them for failing to “believe what the prophets have spoken” – He does not tell them to just seek the Spirit’s leading or understanding. Do you see what I mean? I am not denigrating or rejecting genuine spiritual experience by the Spirit, but rather subordinating it to the Word as the lens of interpretation.
Quote: From Thomas Brooks
The Spirit never loosens where the Word binds;
The Spirit never justifies where the Word condemns;
The Spirit never approves where the Word disapproves;
The Spirit never curses where the Word blesses.
It is in finding where they agree (as they always WILL if it is really the Spirit) that we stand solidly.
Check out this article – it is long, but deals with where I find such need for caution.
Thanks for the continued dialog.
Tim, here is something for you to consider. If I were to use my experience to try and convert people, then why would I not be allowed to remember the conversation I had with him? The only thing I remember were the words, “Hello, I am the Son of God.” The only thing that is important is Christ and him crucified. Not me or my story. What happened to me is only an interesting consequence of a medical procedure, nothing more. I can’t even say that it was not just some dream during the surgery. The only confirmed, concrete, source of authority is the Written Word of God. That is what the Holy Spirit intended for us to use.
Focus your heart on that and you will do well.
I believe that we are getting closer, but let me first say this, – I don’t believe that what we are debating is a salvation issue,… I know that I am saved,… I know where I am going when I die, – I do have that “blessed assurance”. Not because of who I am, what I’ve done,… none of that, – but because of Jesus and Him alone.
In saying that, – allow me this point (which I believe I had said before),… if if the written word, by itself, was enough, – then why didn’t the Pharisees recognize who Jesus as the Christ? I would argue that no group of scholars, in all of history, knew and understood scripture the way the Pharisees understood it. They understood the Jewish context, tradition and had to memorize the entire old testament just to become a Pharisee. I honestly believe they knew it better then any scholar of today because they knew it in the day it was written. So, – here is the question, – Why did they miss Jesus? Did God hide Jesus from their eyes and hearts? Maybe,… probably? Okay, – then why did God hide the Truth? Because of their pride, their arrogance and their hard-heartedness. Jesus chastised them for not understanding the signs of the times,… Jesus even cried over Jerusalem because they wouldn’t accept Him as their savior.
I believe the same thing can and does occur today, – we cling to our doctrines, we cling to what we’ve been taught, we cling to even our traditions and we cling to the INTERPRETATION of scripture according to how we were instructed. The written word without the guiding and understanding given to us by the Holy Spirit, – is not more than words written on a page,… no different than any other book you may pick up (this is where I get in trouble,… I know). It is the Holy Spirit that brings the written word alive, – make it living and active separating soul from spirit, bone from muscle,…And scripture is written to correct, rebuke, encourage (as Paul told Timothy),… but what scripture was he talking about? Was he talking about the new testament? I don’t think so,… he was referring to the old testament and using it to point people to Jesus. If I am not mistaken, – the new testament had not been formed yet and in circulation (definitely not the Pauline letters).
And Love MUST be the foundation and motive by which we do EVERYTHING,… everything. Do you think the body of Christ is where God desires it to be? Do you think he desired for different denominations to form? I don’t see how anyone could believe that. God is a god of unity, peace,… the enemy is divisive,… and comes to “kill, steal and destroy” and is the “father of lies”. Now, – God has USED denominations to reach all different kinds of people (just like God always uses other circumstances for His glory to bring us closer to Him), – but I cannot believe that he desired for denominational walls to come up. Jesus prayed desperately for unity because he understood perfectly that we would need that to overcome the enemy and the world. But the church has been a parallel to the story of Israel,… but I also believe that denominational walls are coming down,.. and unity is beginning to form. WHY? I believe the world is inching closer to the return of Christ,… the bad parts of the world seem to be getting worse, – whereas the Spirit is guiding us into more righteousness,… never before do I remember teenagers (that are in Christ) more excited to serve, go on mission trips, BE the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.
I agree with Thomas Brooks completely save this one thing: The Spirit and the Word are one,… just as the Spirit and Truth are one,.. and that Jesus Christ and the Word are one. And as John writes, – Jesus IS the Word.
I really am loving our conversations, – and I do believe that if something is driving us to the Lord,… it must be from Him. How do you know if someone is from the Lord?, – the fruit of the Spirit (“bad fruit cannot come from a good tree and good fruit cannot come from a bad tree,…?). And even our experiences can be evidence enough to know it is from the Lord,… and yes, – they can be tested against scripture in every way, but the fruit and results can also be used as evidences.
more on experiences in my reply to R.M.
I don’t know why you weren’t allowed to remember more of your experience,… but I am quite sure that it was from the Lord. I have had 2 of my own, but not quite like yours. One was a vision I had when my son was born,… the other was a dream around the time I began chasing after HIM and had my awakening (for a lack of better word).
But isn’t the scripture full of stories and testimony of people sharing their experiences,… and they were used in the scripture to help bring people to Jesus. Paul speaks a man caught up to the third heaven,… John writes of His experience (honestly, – if most people were to hear or read of someone’s experience as John wrote, – most would call him nuts,…). Ezekial records his experiences of visions,… and Philip was literally transported to another place in the story of him testifying and baptizing the Eunich. Why wouldn’t God give us those experiences today? Where is it written in scripture that those experiences has ceased (and please don’t use I Corinthians 13,…that has been shown to me before and people forget to focus on the last part of the chapter,…).
If you share your experience with people and they don’t believe, – that is on them, – not you. If you lie about it,… it is on you and them for not testing it and weighing it. All things must be tested and it will be consistent with scripture, – but the Lord is desperate for us and will give each of us what we need to know Him (if our hearts are willing). I don’t NEED my experiences to believe in the Lord, I have read Jesus’ words and listen to the Spirit when He says “Blessed are those who have not seen and believe,…” However, – The Lord is so gracious and kind and wonderful,… and if it is leading me to chase after Him and pursue Him and allow Him to live His life through me,… then that is from the Lord, – because the enemy sure doesn’t want us drawing nearer to the Lord. Now, – here is what Satan will do,… get us to rely solely on our experiences,… and that becomes our focus instead of focusing on the Giver of all good things (“all good things come from above”).
And yes, – all that matters is Jesus and Him crucified, but we must also emphasized Him resurrected (“… the only thing that matters is FAITH expressing itself out of LOVE”). But how can you say that your experience is “only a consequence of a medical procedure”,… and not say it is from the Lord. Did this experience draw you nearer to Him or further? Don’t you think it might be the enemy tempting you not to share your story because people will not believe or tempting you to think this would be divisive? The Lord gave this to you for a reason,… and it is not a talent to be buried in the sand. You yourself said that your IQ has increased, you ability to debate has grown exponentially,… did this happen before or after the experience? Where the experience can harm you is IF you allow it to become your idol or your focus, but all things can be used to draw ourselves and others to Jesus. And, what if it were still just a dream, – does that mean it is not from God? Yes, – the Holy Spirit meant for us to use scripture, but only with him guiding us in it. Remember II Peter 1:20.
be blessed my friend, – I am enjoying our conversations.
I too enjoy the discussion. I do not want to over do it on Reid’s site, however. What I am getting at is that Word is the only measuring stick we all must live by. We all are given the ability to rightly divide the word. My family is Catholic, however, I was able to know that things there were is total accordance with the word. (Exception are my Pentecostal cousins) I do not believe that we all must be perfect, Christ compensates for our imperfection.
Back on the subject, Burpo’s book. The “book” comes across in some cases as confirmation of Todd’s belief system and really does nothing to confirm the word. (It doesn’t need his confirmation anyway.) It could have been me writing it for my story. I would have to agree with the negative criticism I have read from others about the book, even if I wrote it. Do I believe it actually happened? Absolutely. Would I write a book? No, it is not authorized as revelation. See Revelation 22:18. He is on dangerous ground that must not be crossed.
I can’t explain that things that happen to me in my life, like the two times that a male voice from nowhere (telepathy) stopped me from dying. No one believes that either, but it happened. And, then all the other things too. The Spirit is in fact still active today, but in a different way now that the Bible has been given to us.
Salvation is given through the pages of scripture. If I have a doctrine, it is in faithfully following the Bible. I searched quite a bit before I made up my mind how I would live, most definitely led by the spirit to the truth. Be well Tim, I have to go to work now and pay some bills.
Tim – there is so much we agree on in this post that picking at the differences almost seems superfluous. Well said.
I agree that we are not talking about a salvation issue here, but practice among believers. I have assumed all along that all 3 of us in this conversation are believers, and if I in any way indicated differently, please forgive me. That was an error.
In addition, I don’t “think” I advocated at any time that the Word and the Spirit are be to be separated in any way. The Word apart from the Spirit is a dead letter. But I might add that the Spirit apart from the Word (if there IS such a thing since it is by the hearing of the Word of Christ that we receive the Spirit in the first place (Gal 3:2) is subjectivism at best and fanaticism at worst. So if I ever said something to the effect that the Word apart from the Spirit is a reasonable dynamic, please point that back out for me so I can correct it. I never want to imply such a thing. Since one cannot even BE a Believer apart from the Spirit, I cannot exclude Him and His ministry from any aspect of studying, preaching, or interpreting Scripture. That is a given.
I think what might clarify the issues better for all of us in the discussion is contained in a statement you made above (intentionally or not). You said: “if the written word, by itself, was enough”
And I would ask: Enough for what? If we define that, I think we’ll settle where are on this better. Certainly the Word is not sufficient (apart from the Spirit) to bring salvation. SO if you would define what you saying in that statement, I think we can arrive at more mutual agreement. We probably DO agree in the final analysis.
I would love to take on the discussion of denominations at another time – but I do not see them as inherently problematic. I DO see denominational-ISM as sinful – taking the view that our denomination has it all, and all others are null and void. But distinctives within the Body of Christ around which some believers gather for forming local churches and outreach I don’t see as counter to the unity/diversity pattern Paul labors to establish in 1 Corinthians – provided it does not degenerate into notions of superiority and exclusionsim regarding others who are truly in Christ.
In my overall concern about Burpo’s book, I go back only to say that my chief concern (which remains) is people finding more comfort or supposed increase of their faith in his experience (whatever it may or may not have actually been) than in what the Spirit HAS provided in His Word for us. Note how careful Paul is NOT to use his experiences in the heavenlies as a source for any of his readers to contemplate in terms of faith or following Christ. He virtually has to be forced into talking about them at all. For he does not want people’s focus there – but on what is available to all in the Word through the Spirit.
Great discussion – THANK YOU!
went back and looked briefly to no avail (didn’t spend that long looking),… but I was probably interrupted by my own thoughts,… i believe I meant to say why would we need the Spirit,… in other words, – we agree, – we need the Spirit for life and the word needs the Spirit for power.
R.M. When I read Revelation 22:18, – I read it as John saying don’t add or take away from the book of Revelation (although I believe that to be true with the rest of scripture as well),… and reading Burpo’s book, – it comes across to me that he does measure everything against scripture. This experience was over several years, – and if I am not mistaken, – he waited 3-4 years before even sharing with his congregation. And who knows what the Lord placed in His life that prompted him to write the book,… and if the Lord speaks to you prompting you to do something,… shouldn’t we obey if it is done out of faith, done to bring glory to Him and lead others to Jesus? I believe the Spirit of the Old and New Testament is the same Spirit of today working the exact same way,… I believe only our needs or our faith hinder it.
I would love to, at some point, get on the discussion of Muslims and non-believers being brought into a relationship with Jesus through visions or visitations,… before reading or hearing scripture,… but maybe another time. I honestly don’t want to monopolize the site or wear out my welcome (I say that lovingly,… jokingly,… not in any resentful or bitter way)
Thank you for allowing me to express my points and views,… if they are not according to the Spirit, the Word, to our Lord Jesus Christ, – then they mean nothing. I look forward to meeting both of you one day, – if not in this life, – then the next. This has been a true blessing to me these past few days.
Hey man – welcome any time. Don’t be a stranger.
John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven,but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.
A friend posted your review on Facebook. I have no idea whatsoever if you are well known regionally, nationally, or worldwide, or even really who you are, other than I read in your review that you are a pastor. I read Heaven is For Real when it came out simply because it caught my eye on the “New Releases” shelf at a local bookstore. I’m an English professor, a Catholic – and by definition a Christian (<–why do I envision my Protestant brothers and sisters cringing at that remark?) – and an avid reader.
This puzzles me about your commentary: why would it seem odd to you that God reaches out to us on Earth in ways He knows will reach us? You and I come to the book in question as confirmed Christians. What about those who will pick up this book in a sense of reading the current hot title or will see the upcoming film version as something to do on a Saturday night – and subsequently be moved to ruminate on heaven and think on God, His son, Jesus, the Holy Spirit? You weren't led to Christ, faith, or the Bible by this book, because you were already there. You'd crossed the finish line of being saved – others haven't found the starting point, some are taking their first steps, never having run before, and some others are making progress further down the path. Is it unfathomable that God chose to work through this little boy, whether or not some readers will question the validity of his experiences and recollection of those experiences? If the Holy Spirit kindles the faith of even one person who prior to reading this book or seeing the film was not a Christian, then in my thinking, God has won one more. Hallelujah!
Consider Christ encountering Thomas after Christ had risen. Ultimately, Thomas would have accepted seeing the risen Christ on faith. Yet Jesus "got it" and essentially said, "Okay Thomas, you're not there yet, go ahead – touch me for tangible proof." The Holy Bible is the #1 best selling book of all time. I'm hoping this means people are reading it. At the same time, those who need to hear the Word aren't necessarily the ones who are going to buy a Bible to read. But they might pick up a popular paperback that everyone's talking about and get their pilot light lit. Once it's lit, ultimately the Bible makes their reading list, if not the next day, maybe a week or two later. Or a month later. Or a year. The thing is: they get led to the Bible, the truest account of heaven and the reality of heaven, and if it's through this little boy, then God used him for that.
Are the little boys experiences 100% a true account of the experience of dying and going to heaven? Really, Pastor? As a Christian professor working in a secular university I am surrounded and confronted constantly by eye-rolling emails that it's wrong to have "male" or "female" options on college application forms, as some students may not be comfortable identifying themselves as either male or female, and that the university had great news this semester: they now offer a minor in lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans-gender studies. . Who are the majority of people running and teaching in universities and colleges in the US? Liberals. Democrats. And those who are what I call “Beaker Heads” – like the angry mob that attacked me over and over when I responded to a posting on the university’s electronic bulletin board that touted a Darwin Day by expressing the fact that as a Creationist I don’t see anything to celebrate: Charles Darwin is just one more theorist. Having read a Pastor’s notes that a personal experience of encountering Christ and seeing heaven is potentially the result of fever-induced hallucinations was surprising in that I would have thought you might accept in faith, not question in science. This isn’t a criticism, merely an observation of my own reaction to what I read.
Many years ago, when I saw the Franco Zeffirelli film, Jesus of Nazareth, as a young child, I asked my mother why Jesus rubbed mud into the eyes of the blind man. Certainly, in my young thinking, Jesus didn’t need mud to perform a miracle. My mother responded that Jesus used the mud symbolically, that man would understand the act better and be more apt to believe it if something physical were applied, because that’s the way man is, not because that’s the way Jesus is. I would assert that God uses similar methods today to open our eyes and make us see: if some of us don’t “get it” for whatever reason, God reaches out to each of us in a way that we will “get it” and understand it. Even if that’s through a $12.99 paperback. Could God opt to solely use the Bible? Absolutely. Could Christ have returned a blind man’s sight without the use of mud? Absolutely. But who am I to question the methods God uses to reach out to His children that they might come to Him?
The book itself? I found it lackluster. The experience and account of heaven is a very brief one and because the family had very little of that content, in order to build a book around it they had to include a great deal of back story and fluff it up a bit to get enough pages. At the same time I found some of the anecdotes charming and heartwarming: the little boy comforting a dying man, saying to not worry, the first person you see is Jesus, and his looking at various depictions of Jesus and saying, “the hair isn’t right,” or “his eyes don’t look like that.”
I have to say I thought I detected a barb in the comment that the boy’s seeing the Virgin Mary was something noted for the family’s Catholic friends. Indeed, having read the book this fact was added like a “P.S” in a sort of Q&A format. At the same time, while it sometimes seems some of our Protestant friends want to metaphorically sweep the Mother of God under the carpet, she was chosen by God to be the mother of His divine Son, and we are told in the gospel of Luke that all generations shall call her blessed. That considered, would it surprise anyone to know that she is in heaven?
The considered opinion of a Catholic English Professor and reader.
If the Book “Heaven Is For Real” or the movie can bring one person to GOD? That is a good thing. I’m amazed at how people like the person that started this post or review and also Eric Williams who found it necessary to write his book “Heaven Is For Real but The Book Isn’t”. I didn’t use his proud title of Dr because it is irrelevant. If the little boy said he met or had another little sister and he had never been told this? Also if he had never been told about his Grand Father or about seeing his Father praying to God during his surgery. Sounds to me like your calling these people liars.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
The devil works in mysterious ways also. Be careful witch side your working for?
I haven’t read the book, yet as I have been somewhat reluctant, not quite sure why. .perhaps the hype surrounding this experience? The short movie preview did press upon me enough to turn me back to picking up and reading my Bible again and pointing me back in the right direction. One can only hope that the telling of this “experience” will point someone along the right path back to God and to the right direction of rereading and studying the Bible, just like it did for me.
The kid was obviously coached by his parents in what to say. Have you seen the interviews of this kid? He can’t answer a question asked to him without first looking at his folks with a look as to say…What the f&@! do I say now? Religion is nothing more than a money making scheme, but to bad they brainwashed their children into believing such asinine crap!
Julie (if I may be so bold as to just address you by your first name), let me begin by expressing my many thanks for taking the time both to read my brief review and to respond to it so thoughtfully. Let me also extend my apology for the tardy response as I have been away on vacation with limited i-net access.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts and certainly agree with so much of what you said. And I would not argue against your thesis that some may well find the book as a starting point in making serious inquiries into Christianity. It may well serve that purpose and I would absolutely rejoice to find it so. One thinks back to the conversion of Justin Martyr early in the 2nd century – a learned and professional philosopher who in a “chance” meeting with an old man in a field one day enters into a discussion which culminates in his own salvation and a rich and enduring legacy for the Christian Church. I did not wish to cast aspersions upon the sometimes very humble means God uses to reach individuals. Indeed, I celebrate them with you.
That said, I “think” if you will re-read my comments, you will note that I was writing for an ostensibly Christian audience and in that, raising the issue of epistemology for professed believers – like yourself. How we know what we know is extremely important. And as a Pastor, one of the things I face continually in my ministry is how people put “faith” in experiences (both their own or other’s) which can in the long run actually undermine true faith. Faith as I understand it Biblically is not simple, generic belief – even deistic belief. It is instead resting the soul in the authoritative revelation of God’s character and His promises. The poster boy for saving faith in the Bible is Abraham. Both in the Old Testament and in the New (especially Romans) what is brought before us that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:9). It is important that Scripture notes not just that Abraham “believed”, but that He believed God. This is what makes his faith saving. And it is this then that is at the core of my concern. That seasoned Christians believe God, and that unbelievers come to believe God. So that their faith is rooted in in the substantive realities God HAS provided. And given His love, omniscience and goodness, I believe what He HAS provided in His Word is sufficient. And that things apart from that authoritative Word are all suspect to some degree. Not that they might not be authentic, but that they are not to be considered authoritative.
If you the number of times that I encounter truly godly and sincere people who were absolutely “certain” that God had spoken to them or had given them the feeling that something would work out a certain way, only for it not to be so. The aftermath of such is a broken faith. For now God is suspect for not having come through on something, that in the final analysis He had never actually promised in His Word. This was brought home to me very recently in the untimely passing of my 32 year old nephew from stomach cancer. During the days just prior to his death, one sincere and godly relative related that God “told him” that my nephew would not die but when the doctors gave up is when God would finally step in and heal him. Now, what is left for that individual and for those who latched on to his “word from the Lord” is the nagging and unresolved question of why God didn’t come through on what He promised.
This is why it is so imperative to settle on what source we trust for truth – and especially in matters regarding our eternal destiny. I meet many many people who are sure they are going to Heaven, who in fact are far from saving faith in the person, death, burial and resurrection of Christ – because they “feel” it. So to go back to my title on the review – Heaven IS for real, but not because Colton Burpo says so, but because God says so. And I believe that must be the final word.
I understand also your being uncomfortable with my concern over the Mary references. As a professed Catholic, that might well be so. And I will openly acknowledge that as much as I believe the Roman Catholic tradition exalts Mary unscripturally, so many of my Protestant brethren almost denigrate her unscripturally in unthinking over-reaction. This is to be lamented on both sides in my view. I have not the slightest doubt that there are many genuine, saved men and women within the Roman Catholic communion who appear to put the complete trust for their salvation in the atoning work of Christ at Calvary rather than in the Church itself or in the addition of their good works to the justification accomplished by Jesus. I trust you are one of those as you certainly seem to be.
And my heartfelt congratulations for your work on the front lines in a secular environment so often truly hostile to a Christian worldview. Good for you. May God raise up many more to serve as you do. It gives me much hope that the influences of educators like yourself can vastly impact the lives of those whom God providentially brings across your path.
Thanks again for writing and dialoging so thoughtfully. EPISTEMOLOGY! 🙂 (Spelling errors due to writing furiously at Starbucks without spell-check)
Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting JR. I appreciate your thoughts. But so as to avoid restating what I hope are some clarifying thoughts regarding epistemology (which is my real issue) please read my response to Julie Williams. I hope that will be helpful.
I will add my “amen” to your thoughts Mary. Thanks for dropping by and for your note.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting “Pete”. I am sorry though that you would disdain all religion as a “money making scheme.” When you take into account that that the average Church in the US has only about 100 members – you can see that for the vast majority in ministry, money making just isn’t a reality. Are there some who fit your description? Certainly and sadly so. I would only ask that you narrow your paintbrush some. I personally know many who have given their entire lives for nothing in this life, that they might fix the entirety of their hope on the riches of grace in Jesus and not in money of any kind. I hope you meet some soon.
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I would have to say that I enjoyed the movie, although I have not read the book. I myself do not need someone to convice me that Heaven is REal. My faith leaves me no doubt. However, you question why we are not as motiviated by the Bible itself. I do not think it is the lack of motiviation that draws us to watching films like this, at least not for me. I myself enjoy listening to others personal experiences with God and angels. WHY NOT? Does it affect me personally. Of course!!! GOD speaks to us in many ways, through His word, our experiences, and through other people. We are all instruments that can be utilized in many ways to touch others, encourage, teach, share, etc etc.. Some people simply do not enjoy reading, but if the same message could be revealed through someones experience then the more Power to them!! This movie actually sparked a very interesting conversation from my 12 year old daughter. It motivated her to speak about Heaven, GOd, Faith, (more than I am able to motivate her). So, I thank the Burpo family for sharing their beautiful experience to us.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting Olivia. I am most pleased that the movie sparked a meaningful conversation with your daughter. And while I haven’t seen the movie yet I do intend to.
You mention that you enjoy listening to other’s experiences with God, and I would have to say I do as well. My issue (as with the book) is what means to we have to discern what is authentic or reliable in those experiences? If we do not weigh these things against what we KNOW God has said in His Word, then anyone can say anything and we are left just having to take their word for it. In the Old Testament, God warns His people not to listen to “prophets” and others who say what they say as a product of their own imaginations or even their dreams. In the New Testament again Jude warns us not to give heed to those rely on their dreams. We have but one source of authoritative, objective truth and that is God’s Word. The most sincere person in the world can be sincerely wrong. So we must be able to go back to God Himself, in His Word to be sure we are not letting ourselves believe mere fabrications – whether on purpose or not.
Keep thinking! And keep testing things by the Bible.
Even the Apostle Paul had a heaven experience…this generation is always asking for a sign…God used a boy among others to let us know about heaven…just accept it…I’m schocked that anyone would try to tear down this experience…
Thanks for stopping and commenting Marian. And yes, Paul had a Heaven experience. One that he waited 14 years to mention and even then reluctantly, and with no detail. Even at that he only shared it with us in Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I’m afraid little Colton’s account simply holds no authority for me in this regard. We must be careful what we take in as authoritative. If you will re-read my review, I did not tear his experience down – I simply rejected it as the source of truth I would go to for authoritative information on Heaven. His descriptions add nothing useful to the Scriptural record.
I am a believer and we just saw the movie and loved it. We are so sick of all the analyzing with all the books written and sitting here reading all the comments regarding this boys experience. I was a nurse for many years and have heard many wonderful spiritual stories of near death experiences and have had one even in my own family. A four year old child to have such an imagination….Come on. You people are just like the ones who were skeptics and non-believers of Christ. Why do we make religion so difficult???? and with all the books so confusing. How did God communicate in the scriptures…. with many dreams if I remember. Explain to me how he was on the operating table and he saw his dad in the church showing much anger to God by kicking the chair….Reid ,you make the comment Colton’s account simply holds no authority. You using the words Authoritative this makes no sense to me and many others. I just wish that people like you could once just say hey God is out there and there are many things we cannot explain. Lets just wait and see. This is the reason why people are pulling away from churches they are so confused. I tell people who question me about faith, keep it simple, Pray, Praise, follow the Ten and Love…….
All things are possible with God, don’t be so closed minded.
Thanks for stopping and commenting Carol, but with all due respect, it is your last sentence that exemplifies precisely why something like the Burpo’s book (and the movie) need to be thought through carefully from a Biblically informed perspective. If you have read any of the other comments and responses, then you know my primary issue isn’t whether or not Colton’s account is factual, but whether or not it is to be relied upon for forming accurate views of Heaven. It is in that context I use the word “authoritative”. Whatever he may or may not have actually experienced, one must come to understand what heaven is (or isn’t) and how one might get there, based upon what God has said in His Word (authoritatively) and not on someone’s subjective experience which may or may not have been actual, and which may or may not have been understood or interpreted accurately. As I am pretty sure I mentioned in a previous response, even the Apostle Peter cautions not to trust his own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but tells us to trust the “more sure word” of the Bible. That is an apostolic caution to trust Scripture above such experiences for getting our truth – which as a Believer (as you state you are), one would think you would take as authoritative in such cases.
That aside, i need to address your last statement – that in guiding others or answering their inquiries about “faith” you tell them “pray, praise, do the ten and love.” Now no one would argue about the sentiments overall, except to say – and I truly hope you know this – that is NOT the Gospel. No one can get to to Heaven, no one is forgiven of their sin and reconciled to God in right standing before Him by such means. The teaching of the Bible is quite contrary, exposing the reality that no one can be good enough by however much prayer, praise, a 10 commadments lifestyle or love. One must repemt of their sin and self-governement, trusting in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. Your “faith” system will damn a soul to Hell. It is the very same kind of religion that left the Jews still needing the saving work of Jesus Christ.
I do hope that as one who professes to be a Christian you will seriously and thoughtfully reconsider what you are telling people – for you are giving them a message of mere moralism, which cannot save them and can deceive them into thinking they are right with God when in fact they are still outside “the” faith. Do think on these things, I beg you.
Thanks for reading and leaving a note Diane, however I fear you missed the point of my review completely. The question is not whether or not God “can” give someone like little Colton a view of Heaven. Of course He can. The issue is where do we go to get the absolute truth a out Heaven, what it really is and how to get there. And that single source which can be truly and absolutely trusted is the Word of God which He has given us in the Bible. All other sources fall short and are to be accepted only in as much as they concur with what God has already revealed there. I hope that clarifies some.
Thanks this was very well written. I read the book and have some reservations about the whole thing. Yes Heaven is for real and I pray that everyone comes to that knowledge. I don’t like that people seem to be getting their biblical knowledge from movies or books like this. They don’t read their bibles and just seem to accept what other’s say and not what God alone says. I have run into a few Catholics that loved the movie and asked me what I thought and I gave them a few concerns of mine and one of the things i said was when we die, we do not turn into angels and sprout wings. The bible never says anything like that and they just looked at me and said oh I didn’t know that. They are just believing everything they hear because it claims to be about God. Test the spirits and do not be deceived – this is what we are to do. Many will come in my name Jesus says, but do not be deceived. If you don’t know the Word of God and it isn’t in you, than you can easily fall into that deception. Thanks again for your review!
Thank you so much for your taking the time to, stop, read and comment Sue. As you can tell by many of the other comments, not everyone got what neither I nor you are trying to say. Theological understanding about matters like Heaven need to come from God’s Word. That appears to be frustrating to some. I pray that can change for the better.
Thanks you for your kind, insightful and encouraging words.
Well said. Even Paul was forbidden to talk about what he saw. Everything has a reason. And, everything needed to save a soul has been given in the Bible. All else is on an interesting side diversion. I understand exactly what happen to this young man, it happens to people all the time. It even happened to Paul when he was stoned. He arose afterwards and went on preaching. When he talks about it, it was very “matter of fact” and no big deal to him.
Why should we worry about the importance of the child saying what he saw, as related to scripture. Remember, the scripture was written by men, later translated by men, some of whom due to the importance of the Church, may have excluded things in order to Benefit the Church. If true, the child just confirmed the existance and love of heaven and Jesus…Why would we question the reasoning behind it, if it helps believers or makes a believer of one who was not, it should not matter whether his disclosure contradicts or confirms scripture. Allow anyone to gleem what they can from the revelation and book.
Thanks for stopping by and contributing David. To answer your question in short, we should worry about the importance of what the child said as related to Scripture because Scripture is God’s provision for us to weigh truth. Yes, it was given through men, but it was not the product of men merely. As The Scripture itself teaches: 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” And as we were warned in Isaiah 8:20 (ESV) — 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
Ultimately, only the truth as God has given it can truly make us genuine believers (for to believe anything we must understand the content of what is to be believed) and only truth as God has given it can truly help us spiritually. Everything must be tested by some standard. And for the Christian, that standard is always the Word of God. We are not Christians or “believers” in the Biblical sense, unless what we believe is God’s revelation which is centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and not in every dream or vision that comes down the pike.
It is a question of epistemology – how do we know what is true?
the real question is….How did this kid know about his sister and his bis-grandpa? When Jesus came to earth in the first century, Jews only believe on the holy writes from Moises to Salomon and profets, and they dissmised Jesus… now we have our own holy writes… and our HW says by eclesiaste, the Death are Death but…. If Jesus was trying to show something else? and we are just acting like the first Jews in history? Just thinking about this…
Thanks for stopping by and commenting Jorge. YOu make an important point, but the answer may be different than you think. Yes, the Jews had the law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. Jesus speaks to these three divisions of the Old Testament writings, and we know today that those divisions comprised the same Old Testament we have in our Bibles. And this is precisely why Jesus chastened the Jews – because those scriptures told about Him, but they did not believe them. In Luke 24:44-47 Jesus says: “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” He goes on in John 5:46 and 47 to say: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” Jn 5:46–47.”
The Jews SHOULD have believed Jesus – because the whole Old Testament told about Him. They had no excuse. The Bible has said nothing about Colton Burpo and so we are under no obligation to believe him – especially where the Bible contradicts him. Just because something may be inexplicable, or even supernatural does not mean it leads to truth. Jesus warned us that: “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Mt 24:24.) We test everything by God’s Word, and reject what cannot be verified there.
I hope that helps some.
I am in youth ministry with five and six year-olds. I was given the children’s version of this book and am pondering whether or not it is appropriate. My class is at a “Catholic Church.” Any suggestions.
Thanks for writing and interacting Anna. And what a blessing to give yourself to ministering to this precious age group.
I guess my question would be, what is the intent in using the book? What are those seeking to employ it expecting the children to get out of it? Is it simply a platform to discuss death and Heaven? To say, “this is what this little boy says, but what do our Bibles say?” Or is it to be used to somehow teach about Heaven itself? When we look at the paucity of detail in this regard in the Spirit’s communication on the topic in the Bible, it doesn’t seem very safe to use it as much more than a curiosity to promote a closer look at the Scriptures. Isn’t it curious that Lazarus never gave such an account – at least not one recorded in Scripture – that the Holy Spirit did not see fit to include it as good and necessary for Bible readers? And what are we to make of Paul’s utter refusal to mention his own vision of Heaven until 14 years after it happened? And then only in one place, due to the extreme need in the Corinthian church to destroy the implications of the super-apostles that they were special or had special authority due to their own visions or experiences? These are indicators that concepts of what Heaven may be like, are so very secondary to whether or not one knows they will be there because they are in right relationship to God in Christ. In other words – the Gospel takes center stage. After all – the real glory of Heaven is Christ Himself, that we will be with Him in His unveiled glory to search out His infinite beauties for all eternity – not the landscape, or anything else. Heaven is Christ. Because He has died for us that we might be one with Him, not so that we can just live in a nicer place.
I’ll pray for you as you work through your decision.
Does it matter how a person is drawn to the Bible or finds God? I remember people accepting Christ after watching passion of the Christ. Whether it be the Bible, a movie, some other book etc I think the important thing is that they are found. Heaven will rejoice just the same. My question is if one person accepted Christ due to the initial reading of this book that digging deeper, isn’t that worth it?
Thanks for stopping by, reading and taking the time to comment Joe. And you raise a most interesting point that is really important to consider. In fact, I think it poses a somewhat false tension that we need to get our heads around and I thank you for bringing it up.
Let me use a real story by way of illustration.
62-year-old Edwin Robinson of Falmouth, Maine had been deaf and blind for nine years as a result of a head injury he received in a collision with a tractor trailer. One day in 1980, as he was wandering around looking for his pet chicken “Tuck Tuck” he found himself caught outside in a lightning storm. Panicking somewhat, Robinson began swinging his aluminum cane around to try to find his way to shelter underneath a tree in his backyard.
As you can imagine might happen, Robinson was in fact struck by lightning and knocked unconscious. When he came to, he made it back into his home and began discussing the event with his wife. Amazingly, he found that his sight had been restored at least partially. He could now read a plaque on the wall and the wall clock. On top of that, his hearing aides -which had been blown out in the strike – were not needed because his hearing had been restored as well!
Now should we conclude from such an event that a sound approach to helping those who are blind and deaf is to get them struck by lightening because in one case it did someone some good by God’s providential good grace? Of course not. Nor would we treat those who would recommend such an approach dispassionately simply because it DID help someone and we can prove it. The result is not an automatic endorsement of the means. Because God CAN use a book like this to a good end is not an endorsement of it either.
You note that is someone somehow comes to Christ through it “Heaven will rejoice just the same.” And you are quite correct. But note that when Paul declares in Philippians 2 that he can rejoice when the Gospel is preached even when some do it out of selfish ambition or pretense, that is not the same thing as endorsing the preaching of the Gospel out of selfish ambition or pretense. The one does not justify the other.
God uses a great many things which are not very good in and of themselves to good ends – because HE is good. At the same time, it is incumbent upon us to use good and wise judgment in what resources and methods we recommend and employ when wanting to bring the truth of the Gospel to men’s souls. And I am sad to say that in this case, this little book fails to be very good in that regard. There are much much better resources at hand. Wisdom and love would dictate we promote those instead.
Blessings Joe – and thanks again for joining the conversation.
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Thanks for stopping and commenting Cry. And I am so grateful you found it useful. Blessings: Reid