The Berean Library

Identifying False Teaching in Christian Bookstores

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Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo (Bad Fruit)

A Brief Overview and Endorsers/Promoters (2) of the Book:  My sisters in the Lord, you can add another book to the large pile of stories found in Christian bookstores, and popular chain discount stores, about someone foolish (2 Cor 12:6),  making another claim of having a visit to heaven or hell and living to tell us all about it.  All for a price, of course.  Besides Don Piper, who is the author of a similar-type book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, women such as Mary K. Baxter, Choo Thomas and Marietta Davis, have also authored books of similar heaven-bound adventure.  The radio program, Haven Today, is also endorsing this story as non-fiction.  Even after receiving concerned listener feedback, the program’s host, Charles Morris, continues to stand by this account as truthful which you can hear in Haven Today’s 2-part series. Mr. Morris offers the book to his audience for only $30.00 a copy.

The new spin on this particular foretelling is that it allegedly comes from a past experience of a 4 year old boy, Colton Burpo. His father, Todd Burpo, pastors Crossroads Wesleyan Church, in Nebraska.  Pastor Burpo asks his little toddler, or leads him in, many questions to understand and know what his son experienced while on the operating table to undergo an emergency appendectomy.  Seven years later and with the help of professional writer, Lynne Vincent, Burpo puts the story behind the really adorable, cheerful cover of his son.

As always, the problems with these kinds of stories is that they undermine the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture, add to the Bible (extra-biblical) while also being contrary to Scripture. One way this is so is the mere attempt to cite and write about such an ‘episode.’ In 2 Cor 12:1-10, Paul’s humble account was written in third person in obedience to God; to not brag or “be credited with more” while remaining controlled in the Spirit to not boast. Paul stated that even if he did boast he would not be a fool, for it really happened, as recorded in and for the Holy Spirit-inspired, authoritative writings of the Bible. Paul wrote of his experience that he “did not know if it was in the body or out of the body,” but that nonetheless, it assuredly happened, again as written in and validated by the Word of God. Later on, in the 2 Cor 12 passage, he was given a “thorn in the flesh” for further humbling purposes by the Lord, to keep him from “exalting” himself. The lesson from Paul’s thorn is that God’s grace is sufficient! We are to be content in our weaknesses and sufferings for Christ, which indicate that “Christ dwells in us.” For when we are weak then He is strong. Praise the Lord!

Not only was Paul’s overall humble description of his account to heaven true as found in the Bible (Jn 17:17), and therefore “not foolish,” but also that his visit was “inexpressible.” Meaning that it was not for this apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who wrote 13, or possibly 14 books, of the 27 New Testament books, to be permitted to share it beyond a godly restraint. It was not to be revealed with detail or pridefulness.  To do so would be “unlawful.”

[Updated (10-27-11) with further admonishment to reject the tale in this book, and all others like it, as truth]  Beware of trusting anyone who is claiming to have new revelation of truth from God. God has authored a closed Canon of Scripture. The Bible is His complete, authoritative, binding, infallible, inerrant, divine, sufficient, supreme and plenary revelation. And since the time it was closed (Jude 3), the 66 books of the Bible is how God speaks to us and allows us to experience the study and knowledge of Him (Eph 5:15-17; Col 1:9, 2 Tim 2:15). We are to turn to His Word, look to Him and trust Him for all truth (Jn 17:17), not anyone or anything or any experience that is contrary to His Book. The last revelation of Christ was given by God to another apostle, John, in the book of Revelation.

Consider, also, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, from Luke 16:19-31, as another admonishment for Sola Scriptura, as well as what is not allowed by God. The rich man, who died and went to Hades, asked Abraham to send Lazarus, who died and went heaven, to warn the rich man’s family about how real the torment, God’s wrath, is and to repent. Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament); let them hear them… If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets (another emphasis for Scripture, back-to-back), they will not be persuaded even if someone comes back from the dead.” (emphasis and parenthesis mine)

Further, after His resurrection from the dead, while on the road to Emmaus, Christ employed Sola Scriptura, not His experience, again with those who were being “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken…. Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (emphasis mine) Later their eyes were opened and they recognized Him while He was breaking and blessing the bread. Reflecting back while walking on the road with Jesus, they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-32) What a profound illustration is “hearts burning within us” when one is hearing God’s truth and yet not understanding it or accepting it.

Paul said to be “imitators of me,” in 1 Cor 4:16 and again in 1 Cor 11:1 because he, himself, is an imitator of Christ. May we carry out this command as well for Christ’s sake, in every area of our lives, by the grace and truth of God, for His glory.

-Karla Tadler              

UPDATE (02-05-13)  Be sure to CHECK OUT:  Janet Mefferd Discusses with Phil Johnson, of Grace To You, the Popular Visits-to-Heaven Trend in Christian Bookstores.

See also Phil Johnson’s Post at the GTY Blog, Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine


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