Heaven’s not for sale, and books recounting people’s journeys there won’t be, either—at least not at LifeWay, the bookseller and publishing house established by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 1891.
LifeWay’s Marty King told the Baptist Press “experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction.” LifeWay stopped re-ordering the books—called “heaven visitation resources” in LifeWay’s written statement—last summer. The SBC adopted a resolution in June that cautioned Christians not to get their beliefs about life after death from “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience.” Though the resolution did not mention LifeWay specifically, King said the SBC’s commitment to “the sufficiency of biblical revelation and affirming the truth about heaven and hell” informed LifeWay’s deliberations about whether to continue carrying the books.
The written statement does not mention any books by name, but several popular recent titles include Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven (2004), Kevin and Alex Malarkey’s The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven (2010), and Todd Burpo’s Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (2010). The books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Sony Pictures released a film based on Heaven is for Real last year, and Giving Films finished filming a movie version of 90 Minutes in Heaven this March.
Heaven visitation books have been the subject of recent controversy already. Tyndale House decided to pull one of the books in the genre—The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven—after the boy, Alex Malarkey, said he neither died nor went to heaven.
“They should read the Bible, which is enough,” Malarkey said in a statement released by his mother. “The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”
LifeWay’s own LifeWay Research recently found a healthy majority of Americans believe in heaven and hell already. What’s missing is theological clarity found in the Bible: LifeWay Research’s Bob Smietana reported that “just under half of Americans (45 percent) say there are many ways to heaven—which conflicts with traditional views about salvation being linked to faith in Jesus.” The view of hell is no different: Though a majority believe in hell, “Americans don’t seem too worried about sin or being sent to hell.” And Americans may be unlikely to turn to Scripture for their beliefs, with less than half calling the Bible the Word of God.
But LifeWay’s recent decision will leave at least one heaven visitation book untouched. As John Piper noted in a tweet, “LifeWay stores pull ‘heaven visitation’ books. … Except one. The Bible.”
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Thinkstock
Publication date: March 31, 2015