By: Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
Subject Matter: Heaven; Christianity; Near-death experiences; Religious aspects; 1999
I have a lot to say about Heaven Is for Real.
I guess I should start by saying that I don’t buy it.
It’s not that I don’t buy that this could have potentially happened. I’m not sure where I stand with that. But I definitely don’t buy that there is irrefutable proof that Colton Burpo, the 4-year-old who supposedly went to heaven and came back, really went to heaven.
For me, there are major logic holes in this book. (I know, I know, faith is about just that: faith. Logic isn’t the primary component. But if you’re going to produce a book with the intention of convincing a very skeptical nation that this really did happen and here’s why, then you need to have a more airtight case than this one.)
The premise is that, during a major surgery, Colton, a preschooler, went to heaven for “three minutes” human-time and then came back to earth with his memories intact without ever physically dying.
I’m not totally opposed to the premise. But I’m gonna need details if you want to convince me.
And Colton’s details just don’t add up to me.
For one, the first supporting argument that Todd, Colton’s dad, gives in this book is that Colton was able to relate exactly what his parents were doing while he was under anesthesia. Colton’s answer? “You [Todd] were in a little room by yourself, praying; and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone.”
Not only is this extremely vague, but this is exactly what a child would guess his parents were doing while he was in surgery! I’m not saying that Colton is lying; I’m just saying that this proves literally nothing. Colton’s father is a pastor, and later in the book Todd fully admits to routinely taking Colton along on pastoral care visits. So Colton has seen his father pray in hospitals before. It wouldn’t be a shocking thing for him to be doing. And Mom on the phone? Also not shocking.
That’s kind of how the whole book goes for me, if we’re being honest. There’s no point where I found myself thinking, “This couldn’t be true.” But there were an awful lot of points where I found myself thinking, “This kid isn’t proving anything. Nothing.”
So I don’t know. Be your own judge if you want. But I’m not going to recommend this one. It kind of just made me angry. Books like this with super loose arguments are exactly why the world looks down on religious “proofs.” Not that I think religion is all about proving anything anyways.
I haven’t seen the Greg Kinnear movie they made out of this book. I haven’t read any of the hundreds of interviews, articles, books, etc., that the Burpos and others have come out with since this book was published, so I can’t say if they would refute or support the argument. I’m just saying this book doesn’t do it for me.
For books similar to Heaven Is for Real, check out these suggestions:
(for more by the Burpos)
Heaven Changes Everything by Todd and Sonja Burpo
(for more by Vincent)
Unsinkable by Abby Sunderland and Lynn Vincent
Never Surrender by William G. Boykin and Lynn Vincent
(for nonfiction Christianity)
The Finishers by Roger Hershey and Jason Weimer
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life by Robert Hall
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Forgotten God by Francis Chan
(for more books about heaven)
Akiane by Akiane Kramarik
Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander
90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig