Heaven Is for Real is about a small town, Christian, 4 year old boy’s near death experience as told by his father, Todd Burpo. I saw this book on the bestseller list on Amazon and wanted to read it for several reasons. First, I grew up less than 40 miles from Burpo’s hometown in Imperial, Nebraska, and that town is even mentioned in the book. Second, I have had a close family member who had a NDE and saw himself/herself lying on the operating table. Third, I am a Christian as well so I was interested in this perspective. And, I do believe heaven is very real.
It is an amazing story, but I do have questions about it. That doesn’t really mean I believe or disbelieve the story as I’m not sure how I feel about it and probably never will be sure. I hesitate to express any doubts about the story because I know it has given several Christians hope and a renewed faith. Also, and most importantly, if it is true I wouldn’t want to go against God in any way, shape, or form. However, after thinking about it, I decided to go ahead and write a review of the book detailing my questions.
First, the background. Colton gets very very ill (I don’t want to spoil the reason why) and nearly dies. Several months after his recovery, Colton begins saying things about his time in the hospital that make his family believe that he has, in fact, been in heaven. The details don’t come all at once but over a course of months and even years. Colton not only gives descriptions of heaven, but also of family members he should know nothing about. The tale is inspiring and amazing if true, but the questions I have about the story are these:
- This is a minor mistake, but in the book Mr. Burpo stated that North Platte was 3 hours from Denver and 8 hours from Omaha. Not true — I’ve driven I-80 and I-76 along this route many many times. It’s more like 3.5 hours from Denver and 4 from Omaha. On the map below, you can clearly see that North Platte is almost directly halfway between the two cities. This mis-statement was the first that raised a tiny red flag in my mind. If he was wrong about this, could he be wrong about other facts?
- Colton said that in heaven Jesus still had the holes in his hands, feet, and side. I don’t dispute that that may well be the case. However, there is some debate in Christian circles whether the nails were actually in Jesus’ hands or his wrists. I don’t know the correct answer to this, but Colton pointed to his palms when describing them. I’m just saying that some Christians would have a problem with this.
- Colton said he remembered clearly what Jesus looked like. He would always say that all the pictures he saw of Jesus were wrong, until he saw one painted by Akiane Kramarik, another child who states she has seen visions of heaven. However, the painting is of a ‘Western’ Jesus, where in reality, Jesus was Jewish and should have Jewish/Middle Eastern features. Then, when I went to Akiane’s site and blog, it appears she’s not really Christian in the sense that most Christians consider themselves to be Christian. She talks about goddesses of earth and water and her opinion that we can find heaven on earth now. Both are views that most Christians would surely deny.
- Also, it bothered me a little bit that actual people’s names (other than the family’s) were used. Maybe they gave their permission, but I know that most people in very small towns wouldn’t want that. I wouldn’t, but that’s me.
It’s not for me to determine if the story is true, only God can know that. The story is interesting, and I’m sure it has given a lot of people comfort and hope. It has to be up to every reader to decide.
Here is the map I talked about: