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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What I’m Reading: Heaven Is for Real

Sometimes I put aside my own reading interest – even though my “to read” pile is only ever growing taller – and I read the ‘popular’ and ‘best-selling’ books that are recommended to me by well meaning friends and church members.  Heaven Is for Real is one of those books. 

I read it in less than a day.  It’s not a difficult book to read. There’s nothing particularly striking or startling within it.  There’s no revelation.  There’s nothing new here.  I’m surprised that it’s become such a ‘best-seller.’

But I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, it plays upon the emotional heartstrings of good Christian Americans, hitting all the right notes – God, Jesus, Children, and Heartland Family Values.  The only thing that makes this ‘vision’ of heaven slightly different than the countless others that have preceded it is that it’s narrated by a 4 year old boy.

The problem isn’t with the boy – Colton, but with the confirmation bias of his parents.  Colton had a traumatic experience – even one of those bright tunnel of light near death experiences – that he described with the only language and terms he knew.  And being a preacher’s son, this was biblical.  And whenever his parents heard him describe something that confirmed what they believed from the bible it was received as a vision of the truth.  And whenever Colton described something outside their biblical beliefs, it was received as new information from God. 

My main dissatisfaction with the book is that it reinforces the idea that Heaven is the place we go someday – after we die – instead of being the realm  that comes down to us and breaks out through us into the world.  If it is true, as Jesus said, that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, that it is here in our worship and in our deeds of love and mercy, then we don’t need the quasi-mystical imaginings of a confused little boy to know about heaven.  We need only to love God and to love our neighbors, and we’ll see something of heaven every day.


This review of Heaven Is for Real by Slacktivist Fred Clark brings up some interesting (and creepy) peculiarities in Colton Burpo’s vision. 

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Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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