Monday, October 8, 2012

Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo

Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo is based on the previously published book: Heaven is for Real, which claims to be an account of a true story.  In the account, a pastor, writes the account of his son's trip to heaven, that happened during the emergency surgery of his 4 year old son's near death experience. While alleged near death experiences are somewhat common, based on the media attention in documentaries, articles and even books, what makes this story unique is the fact that it comes from a 4 year old boy, who upon his return to his parents, reveals information that he could possibly not have known anywhere else.

This newly published book is a 40 page devotional based on the lessons and accounts of four year old Colton's experiences in heaven. The devotional format takes scripture as as well as Colton's personal experiences and applies it to everyday life. I believe that the Burpos share important scriptural lessons that apply to many-such as faith and hope. For example Sonja Burpos recognises the unspoken grief of pregnancy loss that society in general does not recognise.  Rightly so, she explains that the unborn child does go in fact- to heaven.  This is supported in scripture- as there are many references to stillbirth in Job and other palces in the bible. Nevertheless, the Burpos claim the bible is silent as to the whereabouts and destination of the unborn who are loss.  It almost seems as if the Burpos feel as if the bible is incomplete and they need to "add" or clarify its message.

 The fact is that many people suffer grief and less than ideal circumstances here on earth.  But this book brings to light the reality of heaven.  For this the Burpos must be commended.  Not too many public speakers or preachers focus on heaven in this modern society- its a message we need!

 One concern is the focus that the Burpos place on those who have died and their alleged omnipotent abilities.  For example, there is a discussion in the chapter, "No Secrets", how Todd Burpo had no secrets from his four year old son- Colton who observed him in a private moment of prayer in the hospital.  That thought really disturbed Todd- even more so than the idea that God is all knowing.  The pastor seemingly had more concern about what his child thought of his actions than what God thought.  Furthermore, no where in scripture, is any emphasis placed on what our dead loved ones think or feel about our actions.  In fact, other than the fact that we go to heaven (or elsewhere) after death, the bible is silent as to whether our loved one's are up there looking down at our actions.  We as humans simply do not have that ability to know everything- even after death.  It almost seems to be perpetuating the erroneous idea of ghosts and the belief that ancestors who have passed can in fact see what we do here on earth.  Throughout the book the authors point out to their son's experience in heaven as a guide for all people to follow.  Yet, the vision or experience is somewhat turned into a doctrine.  It almost seems as if Colton's near death experience has become the catalyst for a new religious sect that is perpetuated by the pastor of a Wesleyan Church.  Consider the movements initiated by the visions and apparitions of the Catholic Church- and how those movements gained a  popular following! I feel these books, based on Colton's books are promoting a similar experience.

Even though this story of Colton's experience in heaven is easy to read and easy to follow, it raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture. While it is true that some NDE can be ruled out as the side effects of a dying or injured brain, not all can be scientifically ruled out. Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature. Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth. I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE. For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature.

Convieniently, this entire miraculous story occured to a pastor's son. The reader places his faith by accepting the word of the pastor- the author of this book- that his 4 year old son did in fact go to heaven and that it is a true account and not fabricated or embellished. While the pastor does not admit to adding to his son's depictions of heaven, he interprets them in light of scripture. In of itslef there is nothing wrong with doing that. Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that this story is legit, it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDE. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that this is a true account and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe this heartwarming and comforting message is true.

Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the experience of Colton is spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information. Paul warned in the letters of the new testement, especially in the book of Galations, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many. So, if this is true, then is it possible that a Pastor might be decieved and misinterpret his son's experience as being from God when it possibly isn't? That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book. While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message containe din the gospel. When Colton urgently claimed that all must know Jesus to enter Heaven, that is accurate- and perhaps the most significant piece of information that could possibly validate the experience as being in line with scripture. As far as the other details- knowledge of his grandfather and unborn sister- that information could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions Colton shared. The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood. We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned. they will try all sorts oftricky and decieving deceptions. They will try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using an innocent boy and his Pastor Dad, as tools to mislead others. It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm. The details of the throne of God, the angels and other aspects are questionable, as to their spiritual authenticity.

As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review. It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read. unless of course that reader is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the message presented by this little boy's experience and his dad who authored the book.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! You have artfully explained my concerns about this type of book. I most likely would not have been as kind as you toward the author. You bring out valid concerns, and I thank you for taking the time to write this thoughtful review.