When a Christian book coming out of Nebraska takes the number one spot on The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list, it’s time for this native Kansan to step up and take notice. The book, “Heaven is for Real”, by Todd Burpo, is a fathers’ account of his son’s near death experience at the age of 3 years 10 months.
Little Colton Burpo, after emergency surgery, began to share visions he saw in heaven. His visions of heaven came out in bits and pieces over the years. He is now 11 years old.
If you read this story like I did the first time through, it’s a touching, heart-warming account of a young boys experience of near-death as told through the eyes of his evangelical minister father. Who wouldn’t be touched by the honesty and innocence of this little boys story? I am certain, his story has bolstered the faith of many a Christian.
Of course with any popular media story, there are the detractors. Having read articles critical of the book, the story it told, and even how and by whom it was written, I re-read the book myself with a more critical eye.
A key commitment to the evangelical ministry according to Wikipedia is to “Actively express and share the gospel”. Minister Todd Burpo did just that in the book with frequent references to the bible and scripture.
So, if this was his story, why was the book co-written by Lynn Vincent? Of interest, Lynn Vincent is a senior writer for the conservative Christian publication “World Magazine”. Her writing frequently revolves around the topics of abortion, religion and gay marriage. She also helped Sarah Palin write her book, “Going Rogue”. The critical voice in my head had me questioning why he needed anyone to help him write this non-fiction account.
Another critical impression I had when re-reading the book was just how much can a boy of 3 years, 10 months really remember? How reliable is the memory of a 4, 5 or even 6 year old? I for one can hardly remember anything from my life at those ages.
Then there are the visions that seem suspect of simply a vivid youthful imagination from the countless bible stories his parents read to him such as: Everybody in heaven has wings; God’s throne is really, really big where Jesus sits at the right hand of God; the gates of heaven “they were made of gold and there were pearls on them”. Other visions were even more fantastical: rainbow horses; a war against Satan and the monsters “like dragons and stuff” that his dad gets to fight “with a bow and arrow or a sword”.
Whatever your take is on this book, be it the believer or the skeptic, my favorite passage in the book talks about the humility of little children. “What is childlike humility? It’s not the lack of intelligence, but the lack of guile. The lack of an agenda. It’s that precious, fleeting time before we have accumulated enough pride or position to care what other people might think.”….”It is the opposite of ignorance-it is intellectual honesty: to be willing to accept reality and to call things what they are even when it is hard.”
This Saturday 9.10.11 Pastor Allen Smith from the St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church here in Salina talks about the book “Heaven is for Real” and about a real-life near death experience one of his parishioners experienced.
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