Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.
The book’s publisher, Tyndale House, had promoted it as “a supernatural encounter that will give you new insights on Heaven, angels, and hearing the voice of God.”
But Thursday, Tyndale House confirmed to NPR that it is taking “the book and all ancillary products out of print.”
“Boy Says He Didn’t Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book,” Jan. 15, 2015, 10:20 p.m. ET
I suppose this will be all over social media today and that many people will be commenting on their blogs about everything from fraud to faith. Frankly, I’ve always ignored these sensationalist stories about people having near-death or death experiences, visiting Heaven, then being resuscitated and telling everyone they sat on Jesus’s (Yeshua’s) lap or something. I’ve ignored these stories, well, almost ignored them, because they never said anything that surprised me.
These stories always confirmed the traditional Christian view of the afterlife, of Jesus, of everything preached from church pulpits all over the world, or at least in the U.S. and Canada. Assuming (and this is my assumption) that standard Evangelical Christian theology and doctrine doesn’t have a perfect picture of everything having to do with God, Jesus, and Heaven, then I’d expect that a person who had actually experienced a mystical encounter and visited the Heavenly Court would say something that Christianity hadn’t anticipated, but at the same time made sense once we heard it and compared it to experiences such as Ezekiel’s or John’s we find in the Bible.
And to the best of my knowledge, that’s never happened.
Here’s the reason I’m writing this “extra meditation” today:
“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” Alex wrote. He continued, “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.”
Now here’s the kicker:
“They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”
When I read that sentence, I immediately thought of the following:
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
–Luke 16:27-31 (NASB)
This is a parable and probably not a literal story involving real people, but the tale makes a point that is very relevant to the current topic. While some people may accept and believe stories like Alex’s, most people won’t including most religious people. After all, the Master was resurrected and is called “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and yet not everyone believes his testimony or the testimonies of the direct witnesses to his resurrection.
Alex Malarkey is right. The only information source we can trust is the Bible and believe me, Bible study is a lifelong effort in learning and drawing nearer to our Creator.
We do know that some people have “visited Heaven”. We have the mystical experiences of Ezekiel and the Apostle John recorded in the Bible that renders their visions or visits (not sure which) in vivid, if sometimes incomprehensible detail. We have the Apostle Paul writing that he (apparently) was “caught up to the third heaven,” though he provided no details of the experience because he heard “inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”
So we have a few Biblical examples of such mystical experiences, but they seem rather rare.
Both Judaism and Christianity have rich mystical heritages, but I’m not qualified to speak to all that because I’m not a mystic. To me, the mystic tales of the Hasidim (for example) seem more metaphorical than literal. For my part, I have a tough enough time just being ordinary and living life exploring my faith from my own limited perspective.
So I’ll continue to muddle along the old-fashioned way, by reading and studying the Bible, by praying, by visiting with other believers, and I’ll let God tell me what He wants me to know in whatever way He sees fit.
I wonder how many people based their faith or came to faith because of stories like the one Alex told? I wonder how many people’s faith will be shaken or even shattered now that they know that he lied?
Actually, I feel sorry for him. He’s just a kid. It must have taken a lot of courage for him to come clean in so public a manner. I just hope everyone else involved also does the right thing.