Biggest Christian news story of the week: The boy who came back from Heaven didn’t come back from Heaven. In fact, Alex Malarkey never left earth in the first place, he now says in a public letter:
I did not die. I did not go to heaven.
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. They should read the Bible, which is enough.
Tyndle Publishing House stopped producing the book and deleted its facebook page and web page pretty immideately after Alex’ released his statement. All this created a lot of debate about the authencity of other books about supernatural experiences, particularly “heavenly tourism”. Once again, cessationist Christians join hand with atheists and skeptics in refuting all charismatic litterature, claiming that this shows that books like this are a fraud. And by books like this we’re obviously thinking about the other book about another boy who shares his visions of Heaven in Heaven is for Real, published the same year (2010) as The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.
There are differences between the two boys though. While Colton Burpo from Heaven is for Real has been interviewed over and over again, Alex has hardly been interviewed at all – his father has done the talking. Alex’ mother Beth has been very critical to the book and wrote in 2012 that Alex personally wrote that the book was deceptive in a fan group for the book, but the post was deleted and he was permanently blocked from writing there again. Alex’ mother wrote on her blog in April 2014:
What if Alex disagrees and has disagreed with the book? What if he had tried to stop something that he could not, at the time, quite define the wrong of it(but knew it wrong somehow)so tried the best that he could with his young mind but those that could stop it did not listen? He is not a little boy any more!
She stands with her son now in his refutal of the book. She has also stated that she and even Alex has not received any of the thousands of dollars that the book has brought in. Quite a dirty story.
This is a pretty huge contrast to Heaven is for Real where Colton Burpo reaffirms that he stands behind his story, and where no similar family dispute has been revealed. Now, atheists and cessationists will continue to claim that his story is fake just because of their world view, and Alex’ refutal fuels their fire. Biblical Christians should have no reasons though to brand something as fake just because it’s supernatural. Isaiah, Hezekiel, Paul and John all saw visions of Heaven, and I have personally met and interviewed a guy who was raised from the dead and saw Heaven, Francis Shongwe:
As I’ve explained previously, I think the theological arguments cessationist and cessationist-ish Christians use to refute Heaven is for Real are generally insufficient. But it is sound to be a little skeptical – we should test all prophecies, Scripture tells us (1 Thess 5). Francis Shongwe has not written a best-seller or gained any other monetary priviliges from his claims of “heavenly tourism”, he leads a poor church in a poor village and told his story just because I asked him about it. And the Biblical writers didn’t earn thousands of dollars for their letters – rather, they risked their lives from distributing them.