At age six Alex Malarkey was in a car accident with his father Kevin that resulted in the boy being in a coma for two months. He claimed that he had been to heaven during that time and spoke to Jesus. Out of the experience came the best-selling book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Now 16-yrs-old, Alex says the book is not true and has admonished LifeWay Christian stores for profiting from it. He wrote a letter addressed “to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism.” An excerpt from the letter says:
“I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible. It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven…. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.”
Over the last number of years books of this type have proliferated even among Christian publishers. One of the books reports a trip to Hell and another was made into a movie. Now that Alex has recanted his story as a fabrication promoted by publishers eager to make money off of the public, what lessons might we learn about why these stories are succeeding today.
One lesson is that Americans are increasingly elevating personal experience as the arbiter of truth instead of the Bible. Pastor David Platt pointed out that there is not one instance in the whole Bible of a person dying, going to heaven, and returning to tell about it. Even Paul who experienced visions and revelations of heaven was not sure whether he went to heaven bodily or in his spirit, but he said he could not talk about the things he had heard, let alone write a book about them, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. In addition, Proverbs 30:4 explicitly declares that people do not go up to heaven and come down again. Asking a series of questions with a no answer the verse opens by asking, Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Clearly no one. Shouldn’t this create caution about the many who claim otherwise?
Many years ago a Christian leader told me that a popular Christian movement has a tendency to elevate personal experience as the guide for the Christian life instead of biblical truth. As absolute truth is more and more receding, people are replacing it with their own feelings, intuitions and experiences. While former generations viewed such individual, subjective impressions as untrustworthy, currently there is an enormous confidence in the powers of the self to determine what is true or false. One deeply deceived New Age Movement follower once replied to me, after I asked how he knew his experiences were true, “You just know.” It didn’t matter if the facts could not be validated, he just knew and was so sincere about it.
It is extremely sad that a Christian publisher has led the public astray with a made-up story that contradicts the Bible in the first place and now is admitted was not true. As Alex now says, The Bible is sufficient. Let’s read it, learn it, and test every truth claim by it.
Your friend, needing insight and wisdom from above, Pastor Brian (:-}).