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There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Heaven Is For Real

Heaven Is For Real

by Todd Burpo
“The angels sang to me to make me feel better. They sang, Jesus Loves Me and Joshua fought the battle of Jericho. I asked them to sing We Will Rock You, but they wouldn’t do that.”-Colton Burpo (paraphrase) from Heaven is for Real

Heaven and the subject of heaven, are certainly interesting and fascinating items of consideration. I’m one of those folks who believes we have all the information we need, and what we don’t know, at the moment, in this lifetime; we don’t need to know. I trust Jesus Christ like that. Still, stories like this one are hard to ignore. I am told they are making big waves on the “life after death” book circuit these days. But do we really need them?

The latest book, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, is an interesting and, of course, involving trip into one of these experiences that has been put into paperback form.

Colton, the three year old son of Todd and Sonja Burpo, claims he has spent time in heaven and has lived to tell about it. Colton’s experience is a bit different than most near death experiences as he actually never died, though in the text he does concede that perhaps he did die, if only a little.

His father, Todd, a Weslian minister, renders the story of how his son was first believed to have had the flu but in reality his appendix burst and he was being slowly internally poisoned for five days before anyone got wise to the situation.

Colton survives his brush with certain death, as the nurses reveal later in the book; they were waiting to give the time of death. Colton however, bounces back, miraculously, and then for the next handful of years goes on to tell his parents in snips and snaps of his experience with heaven and Jesus.
Little things come out here and there as life goes on for the family, triggering memories in Colton that pop up, like old lines in a song would for an adult, when stimulated to appear. He sits in Jesus‘ lap. He meets his sister who was still born before he was born. He meets John the Baptist (who is really nice). There are thousands of colors we have never seen ( a private hypothesis of my own which I have conjectured is due to the limited range of the rods and cones in our eyes which cannot perceive certain bands of light beyond a certain range, in much the same way as our ears can’t pick up sounds that a dog’s ears can. But this is all fun conjecture, not necessarily revelation on my part.) He meets his great granddad who tells him things about his father that Pastor Burpo has never revealed to the 3 year old child. Everyone in heaven has wings and they fly everywhere, except Jesus who levitates, an interesting distinction. (I know I have always liked the idea of flying free in the open sky, ever since I was a kid, too. But I have included the imagining as one where a person can soar through space as well, I’m going to Alpha Centauri after May 21, 2011, when we are all raptured. Who’s with me?)

He also describes the face of Christ, which I found to be the most riveting part of the story. Jesus has blue-green eyes, a casual beard, wears a white gown and has a purple sash across his chest. Purple being the color of kings. (Angels have yellow.) Jesus also has a crown with a pink diamond in the middle. Hmmm.... (other people have said it, but I looked myself and chuckled at this too, Jesus looks like Kenny Loggins!)
Colton also saw the Holy Spirit, whom some of my most trusted scriptural teachers have indeed stated is a “person”. The third person in the tribunal of God. The Holy Spirit is kind of blue, according to Colton. This is very believable as I have always found that God has a thing for the color blue. When Moses and the elders see God the Father in the desert, he is standing on a pavement sort of thing that is described as being sapphire blue. Personally, I think God likes “thalo blue”, if you know what that is. ;-)

There is no sun in heaven because God and Jesus light up heaven (Keep in mind that the new Jerusalem in the sky described in Revelation states the same thing). There are animals everywhere, and no one is old. Colton was also able to witness events that happen over time all in the span of three minutes.

Fanciful as Colton’s experience seems to be, one needs to be careful as to how much weight, and of the books “revelations”, can be given. If we believe in a current and living God, one who is quite capable of watching over his Word so that mankind doesn’t condemn himself or others in his blind stupidity, then we can have full confidence that what we have in the Word is really all we need. Colton’s revelations are interesting and of course capture our imaginations, but if it had been you or me in the same situation, would there have been things about the experience that directly related to you, or even related back to Colton’s experience? Acceptance or rejection of these kinds of experiences has to be given a kind of “under consideration” position, in that one never really knows where God ends, and our own  sense of what we perceive to be true or what we perceive to have happened, begins.

There are those who have studied out of body experiences with many, many patients and tell of how the near death experience has an overwhelming consistency across the board of human experience, personal preferences and societal influences not withstanding. If Colton had been a Muslim boy, would he have seen Muhammad? (some say this is exactly what does happen) Such a revelation would probably be squelched in that society for fear of things like Sharia law. But according to those who say they have studied it, the experience is overwhelmingly consistent. Does everyone see Jesus? That’s debatable, even one book on the subject gives us an account of heaven without a Christ figure present.

I will say one thing that jumped out at me that no one else seems to want to mention. The rampant naturalism in Colton’s account. According to his father, Colton loves superheroes and action figures. He plays hero all the time and fights the bad guys dressed up in his superhero cape and play sword. Colton insists there are indeed swords in heaven, mostly to keep Satan out. But think about this: With all the super powers and the mechanical devices, like jet boots, rocket packs and light sabers and such that are available to a three year old via his mass marketing toys and videos and cartoons, wouldn’t some of that find its way into the experience of a child who was making it all up? I would want it to be fantastic in a way that would appeal to me if I were three years old. Jesus would have gravity cancelling boots for levitation, rocket packs for angels would be a natural part of things, and maybe even a few web shooters. Yet none of that man made fabrication and speculation makes its way into Colton’s descriptions. I find that interesting.    

Colton’s father, Todd Burpo, does his best to make scriptural evaluations of Colton’s revelations. Being a Weslyan minister, it would be important for him to do so if he were indeed putting out a book for the general public and was at all interested in maintaining a certain amount of scriptural integrity. He is, of course, dealing with a three year old, and by putting a book of this information out there for all to see, he is treading on thin ice as it were, in the public forum. Would he edit the revelations to provide a complete “correct” picture of things for the narrative? To say so would be conjecture on anyone’s part. You do have to trust that Todd Burpo realizes the position he puts himself in if he doesn’t stay true to form on scriptural truth, and if he really believes in a God who is all present, then he must not pretend that he can “get away” with any subterfuge. Burpo has a hard time himself knowing just how to filter the ideas that come from his son’s experience, and that could be a tribute to authenticity or, as some suggest, slick marketing that knows its audience.  

Kids from three to six share a kind of natural, knee jerk response, that can give parents a headache. One constantly has to watch what one says around them as they will blurt out things they have heard often at the most embarrassing times. That is a linchpin of their age group.

The point being here that if you speak in front of them, they are like sponges and will blurt out gossip or non-politically correct language with little or no reservation. 

His father and mother, according to the narrative, seem puzzled over his bizarre knowledge of things they have never discussed. Why would you discuss death or afterlife or anything pertaining to that with a child whose attention span and predilections are quick and fast and probably have more in common with a kitten that is fascinated with a shiny ball, than anything having to do with something so far removed from his narrow little word as a “war in heaven”.

Colton’s eyewitness account of Christ is rather interesting also, as it doesn’t seem to contain his own predilections. His parents showed him renderings of Christ for sometime after his experience, and instead of becoming exasperated at the exercise and giving in to one of those questions as to “Does Jesus look like this one?”, he holds out until he sees the revelatory painting of Akiane Kramarik. Akiane is a little girl who is a painting prodigy who claims to have had revelations herself and has painted the true face of Christ. Her paintings are amazing for her age, and wildly imaginative. Her painting of Christ, however, is very matter of fact and shows no desire to create design, but merely a representation. Colton’s response is that this is finally it! This is the face of Christ.

Although to his credit, Colton never tells us that Annikan Skywalker was in heaven, I have to wonder just where oh where he might have really been? He has no doubts that he was in heaven, but why would there be some many animals? And why no nudity? Creating Adam and Eve nude was quite the natural thing. Myself, I would expect it, since there is no shame in heaven. But according to Colton, everyone wears a white robe with a specially colored sash. I find that point to be an interesting consideration. Nudity shame comes from the fall, from Satan’s perspective and separation from God. Why would anyone need clothing?

Some have speculated that Colton is describing “New Earth", a place that has yet to exist. But the book is quite clear that time means very little and is recognized as a linear human concept, therefore,  New Earth it could very well be, especially if you throw in the idea of God and Jesus lighting up the world, this is why there was no sun.

If Colton and his family are lying, why would they lie? If they can’t stand before God and support this book, then they are on some mighty dangerous ground, and I find it hard to believe that a pastor could continue his life, without some sort of stress, if falsehood was indeed the case. God doesn’t stand in the gap and hide those who are hypocrites. The nation of Israel suffered for its hypocrisy and so have modern day pastors and such who were living “double lives”. If something is not correct here, you’ll know about it soon enough. In some fashion. But what if that never happens? What will you say then?

As I have said, Look upon this with interest, but not with an eye to conversion. Leave that to the scriptures. They are the only narrative that claims to be “alive” and “life changing”. Keep that as the foundation of your faith, as this is what God looks over, promising that not one dot will be changed in his word.

This is quite the book to read and makes one definitely consider those things we all wonder about as far as the future of ourselves, our loved ones and also of all mankind. But it can only be a consideration.

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