Heaven is for Real, But are the Modern Day Claims of “There and Back Againers” in Line with the Bible?

Heaven is for Real, But are the Modern Day Claims of “There and Back Againers” in Line with the Bible?

There is an article on Charisma News which is reporting that the Southern Baptist convention has issued a resolution stating books (and now presumably movies) such as Heaven is for Real and others like it (such as My Journey to Heaven by Marvin Besteman, To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary Neal, and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper) are not in line with “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” and are determining to remove Heaven is for Real from Lifeway Christian Stores.

And it’s taken them how many years to come to this decision? Heaven is for Real has been in stores since 2010.

The book’s great success helped spur many other books of its genre (which have been snapped up like hot cakes by the average Christian reader). Why is it only now this action has  been taken when the damage (as it were) has already been done? Will the other “heaven” books be removed from Lifeway store shelves as well or will Heaven is for Real be the only title removed? But let’s leave those questions aside.

Here is what’s important about this official resolution being made by the SBC.

In making this statement, the Southern Baptist Convention is going on public record to state that these published “personal accounts” of “trips to heaven and back” (regardless of the status as visions, dreams, or near death/out of body experiences) do not reflect what scripture has recorded about heaven.

This is huge! And personally, I think it is about time some authoritative body within the evangelical church has  finally had the stones to officially address the issue. Yes. While I know these books can be encouraging, and uplifting for the reader, it cannot be denied there are descriptions (or overall themes) which cannot be supported biblically.

And let’s face it, as a rule of thumb, we are called to use wisdom, discernment, and to… not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NLT. The problem is most Christians are accepting of these “to heaven and back” accounts without employing any of the necessary discretion.

If it sounds or feels good it must be from God. Except that is simply not true.

We do have an adversary who can create false signs and wonders. Whose to say some of these “heaven” stories are not elaborate deceptions meant to draw people away from the truth? There is also the case that many of these visions, dreams, or near-death/out-of-body experiences occur in moments of physical/emotional/psychological stress, while under the influence of heavy pain medication, etc (which means these remembrances or experiences could be hallucinations or very vivid dreams).

My point is that the Southern Baptist Convention has made a wise move to state “theological reasons” for their action(s) in regard to Heaven is for Real.

My hope is that Christians will be encouraged to explore what scripture has to say about heaven, rather than building their hopes on the vision of a  (then) four year old boy. I pray that  those who are drawn to books such as Heaven is for Real are taking the time to practice some discernment and really study scripture rather than accepting these accounts as “gospel” truth.

Friend, there are so many distractions in our culture to keep us from truly following God. There are so many people who are falling prey to “… a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3. I just think it is past time to seek God’s word and comfort on the topic of the after-life and what to expect in heaven rather than rely on these personal accounts for comfort or belief in the afterlife.

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UPDATE: Apparently, Charisma has changed the title and content of their original article. Here’s the original link address: citing-theological-reasons-baptists-remove-heaven-is-for-real-from-lifeway-christian-stores. The article now states that the SBC ruled that the request was “out of order” and Lifeway Christian Stores will continue to carry the book. I’m going to assume the error is Charisma’s and not a retraction of a decision by the SBC. BUT…the point of my article and the SBC’s declaration in regard to the theological dissonance of Heaven is for Real (and other books of its ilk) stands.

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This is a clip from a message given by David Platt on this topic. I believe he sums up the situation pretty well:

 

About kristinemac

Kristine McGuire is an inspirational author and speaker, sharing her testimony and encouraging others in their walk with Christ.

Comments

  1. Agree with you 100%!! Paul was not even allowed to speak of what he saw in Paradise, 2 Corinthians 12 ~ He had more right than anyone to talk about it, but God didn’t allow him to, even gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble…

    • Indeed. And I thought what David Platt pointed out is very significant. Biblical accounts of heaven (as described by a visionary) are all about the glory of God. These do tend to be missing from “to heaven and back” stories, which are almost always focused on the person (their life, their friends or family greeting them, etc). It all needs to be taken into consideration.

  2. Thanks for sharing! People are afraid to speak these truths yet it is not surprising that people seek the feel good and hear what their itching ears want to hear.

  3. I haven’t read the book but it distresses me that people would bypass scripture and follow the lead of their emotions.

    • Agreed. You know, the first time I even thought it necessary to read this book was two years ago when I heard a prominent Christian women’s speaker discuss Heaven is for Real in her keynote. She made it clear she believed every word (right down to the angel wings for us all) and it sent up red flags. Reading the book did nothing to assauge my concerns.

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