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11.19.2010

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo


This is a story about 4-year old Colton Burpo, who, according to his father (author and pastor) Todd Burpo, had a heavenly experience when he died briefly on the operating table.  Throughout the course of the book, young Colton reveals bits and pieces to the family about heaven, Jesus, family in heaven, etc.  It is a very easy read and only 154 narrow pages in length.

THEOLOGY:  I've never been thoroughly convinced of what we call today "near death experiences", or NDE's.  I don't recall any accounts in the Bible like the ones given by those who claim to experience them.  The experiences relayed to us in the Bible about heaven are from the standpoint of visions: Ezekiel, John, and Paul to name a few.  In those situations, though, the men were alive and well and in their right minds when they had the visions.  They did not die on earth, depart for heaven, only to return again to tell the story.  Instead, God gave them the visions as they lived on earth.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't provide us any interviews with those who died and were raised from the dead.  Those people seemed to live in obscurity as they followed Jesus...if they even followed at all.  It is interesting that the authors of scripture did not include these peoples' accounts of what heaven or hell was like.  I wonder if it's because they never happened or if they were skeptical themselves.

So, what explains the explosion of NDE's in modern time?  I don't know. Hollywood?  Vivid imaginations?  Bad tacos?  Nevertheless, I found this book very hard to believe...although the story was told and written well.  One aspect of the account that renders it unbelievable is the following conversation between Colton and Todd (p.72)

"Everybody's got wings," Colton said.
Wings, huh?
"Did you have wings?" I asked.
"Yeah, but mine weren't very big."  He looked a little glum when he said this.
"Okay...did you walk places or did you fly?"
"We flew."

I haven't yet come across a Biblical account of saints in heaven wearing wings, let alone flying from place to place with them.  We read of saints in white robes (in Revelation), but no wings.  We read of angels with wings (Ezekiel), but no saints.  This is one of those aspects of the story that make me believe it's more about a 4-year old's wily imagination than a true heavenly experience.  (Other portions of the story render it unbelievable, but I only have so much space to write.)

On the other hand, how did young Colton know he had a sibling in heaven due to miscarriage?  Todd wrote that nobody ever told Colton this, but we can't be sure as readers.  How did young Colton know while he was on the operating table that his daddy was in a certain room praying?  How did young Colton know many of the things he was not privied to other than via a heavenly experience?  I don't know.  I guess you'll have to read the book and come to your own conclusion.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars...not for theology, but for at least having the courage to put this story out there in print.  Also for the readability.


I review books given to me for free for "Book Sneeze".

17 comments:

  1. i am curious about the book myself. I believe, but that doesn't mean i am a sucker for anything. So consider me... skeptical of this account, while believing in general.

    So i have been purposefully seeking out really positive reviews and less positive reviews.

    Anyway, thanks for what you wrote, but let me offer a little in the way of brainstorming...

    why don't we hear about near death experiences much in the bible? well, truthfully, we don't hear much about people coming back from death or near death at all, and its a fairly recent phenomenon and one good reason for that is that until pretty recently if you died, it was permanent. there was no shocking a person to restart their heart or anything like that, you just died.

    Of course there are also the stories of Lazarus (sp?) and all of that, which is a valid point you make.

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  2. A.W., you probably have a good point that not nearly the number of people were brought back from the dead as they are today, due to medical technology.

    Did you review the book also?

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  3. On the other hand, how did young Colton know he had a sibling in heaven due to miscarriage? Todd wrote that nobody ever told Colton this, but we can't be sure as readers

    It so happens that I blogged on a similar occurance recently. Link

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  4. Thanks for the review on the book. I can relate to your concerns about near death experience writings, since I have the same concerns myself. Typically I handle these situations just as you do here. Look at what they write that they saw/encountered, compare what they say to what the Bible tells me, if it disagrees with scripture, then I discount it as truth and if it does not disagree then I figure that perhaps it is truth. I don't want to be harsh and judgmental toward people, yet I want to be wise.

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  5. Tracy, that's certainly good wisdom.

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  6. a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was reading this book, and I plan to read it myself. However, I can tell you an experience I recently had..I have worked for 15 years as a firefighter/paramedic; we recently were successful in reviving a gentleman who had collapsed in his front yard from a sudden massive heart attack. Fortunately he was waling with his neighbor who called 911 immediately. Long story short he recently stopped by our firehouse to meet his "heroes" (his words not mine; personally don't like that title)..he talked a little bit about his incident, most of which he does not remember, except for one thing..."I was at heaven's gate", and described the "white light" and was told "your work on earth is not done"....and the next thing he remembers was waking up in the ICU the next day! Being a long time christian, and also the son of a minister, I too have my doubts; but who are we to argue with God's abilities, especially when these folks share things that are not known to them previously. Our God IS an awesome God! My two cents. God Bless!

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  7. Hard to argue with that!

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  8. Cindy3:09 PM

    Why is this so hard for people to believe? They have to experience it themselves! Where is the faith? Why can't people just enjoy the future possibility of a Heaven seen through the eyes of a child? I believe it's real because of my experiences. I've never told my experiences because nobody would believe them, and that's probably why there aren't many you've heard.

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  9. Cindy, thank you for your comments. It's not that I DON'T believe it's possible to have these encounters, I just am very skeptical.

    I think we all must be extremely careful that we do not allow "experience" to trump what may or may not be true.

    If experience doesn't line up with God's word (which, I noted a couple things in this review about the book), then I think those experiences have to be questioned...which is what I did.

    Thanks again for your visit!

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  10. As soon as I opened this book, I believed that Colton's experience was real. Since I am a PK (or pastor's kid) I guess you can say I'm a bit biased on this subject but I'd still appreciate if you listened to my opinion.

    At some point in everyone's life (wether saved or not) we all have the chance to learn about God. Like Colton, I was taught at a young age to love and serve God (I'm only 13 now). Eventually though, I had to make the decision to sevre God for myself.

    I, personally, believe in Colton's experience bcause nearly everything he stated about his journey to heaven can be backed up by scripture (text in the Bible). Although there are some things I may not agree with (like when Colton professed that God was three seperate persons, or the Trinity), I cannot deny solid facts such as when Colton said he could see exactly where his parents were at during the time of his surgery.

    This book has given me a more vivid image of heaven and what it will be like when I get there someday. I highly reccomend this to anyone. You DO NOT have to be "saved" or a "christian" to read this book!!

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  11. Ashley, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I hope you'll stop by again to read my follow-up comment, and not just do a "drive-by".

    The most troubling of your statements was the following: "As soon as I opened this book, I believed that Colton's experience was real." That kind of mindset is where we get into trouble...we automatically assume something is true because we WANT to believe it's true. That which gives us goose bumps rarely comes right from the goose!

    If you read the book carefully and critically (as I mentioned in my review, but could only detail one issue -- winged saints), then you should see that much of the book doesn't have strong biblical support.

    Simply because dad's a pastor and his kid claimed to have a heavenly experience, doesn't necessitate it's veracity. Maybe Colton had a really vivid dream. I believe Todd should have taken more care to question the contradictions his son was telling him, rather than packaging as Christian those "warm fuzzies" he got when his kid told him these stories.

    Ashley, you are 13 and have a lot of future reading ahead of you. I simply hope you'll take more care to protect yourself from being duped(just as you should with your text books). After all, Colton's experience cannot be emphatically disproven by me or anyone else, but the evidence sure points that direction.

    Thanks again, Ashley!

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  12. Mike,
    Thanks for sharing your opinion and giving me a bit of insight.

    I, unlike you, do not read "critically", but I read to gain wisdom and knowledge. I do, however, understand where you are coming from and why you support your point. As a reader, I know that I cannot always trust in the author's words alone. But with this particular story, you either believe or you don't...I chose to believe.

    When you mentioned,"Simply because dad's a pastor and his kid claimed to have a heavenly experience, doesn't necessitate it's veracity" I wanted to point out that just because the father is a pastor doesn't mean the experience wasn't real. (If I am misinterpreting your words, please correct me)

    Again, we all have our opinions, and I appreciate yours as much as everyone else who commented above.

    Thanks so much,
    -Ashley

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  13. If you want to know if what the boy said was true you need to pray and ask God if it is true - he does answer. The Holy Ghost testifies of truth so we need to pay attention to that feeling then use prayer - it works.

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  14. Interesting & civil discourse. I was looking for views on this topic after a FB friend posted that this boy is coming to her church. I have some Big issues w this story, although I think it's possible Colton had an initial experience, and as time progressed, he "remembered" things that were not so. The "wings" thing got me, as well as the blue-eyed Jesus, but most of all it's the clamor about this book that gets me wondering. When the world gets so excited about something spiritual (but not necessarily Christian), I figure there's got to be a lie in there somewhere. So many Christians, I'm hearing, seem to swallow anything handed to them & don't take time to analyze things from a strictly Biblical point of view (maybe they think God will do it for them). The danger I see is that the first swallow is tasty, then gradually more & more is swallowed until the individual is way off track. Take "The Shack", Love Wins" & the other popular books. Reading some comments from those who say they are Christian, you'd think everything is okay. Critics are labeled unloving, religious, or self-righteous. In these definitely last days, one has to be VERY careful. Deception abounds(Mat.24:24). But when our trust is in God & His Word lights our path, He'll keep us from stumbling. Thanks for the insights.

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  15. Anne,

    Wow, you make some great points! I should have consulted you before typing my review. I LOVE the point you made about the world getting excited about "Christian" things and that a lie must be in there somewhere. I think that is a very astute observation. I also agree with your statement that too many Christians swallow something that's tasty at first and then....they're way off track.

    I would also agree with your observation that those of us who think critically about issues like this are labeled unloving, etc. Most of the comments have been from those who believe all of the story without seriously considering what they read in the book.

    Thank you for your comments and insights. Wonderful!

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  16. That book certainly is NOT biblical and disagree with its context therein. It will deceive new believers and make them go astray. The Bible teaches that in last days many will follow doctrine of demons. And if you've been grounded and rooted in the things of God that book will be marked with corrections and verses.

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  17. Such a great read. With make you stop and think about things. God is so good, so very good indeed!
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