3 Reasons I’m Not a Fan of the “I Went to Heaven” Books

Within the last couple of years I have had an influx of requests from publishers to read and review a host of “I went to heaven” books.  The more popular varieties of these books have often led many within our congregation to ask whether or not I’ve read these books and what I thought. 

I’ll start out by saying that more than likely I have not read the books.  I’ve maybe skimmed a couple of them.  Before you criticize me, though, for dogging books that I haven’t read please hear me say that you don’t need to read the books to make these statements.  The very presence of the books is the problem not even necessarily what they contain.  Here are my 3 reasons:

  1. We don’t need them.  To believe that we do and that somehow they help exposes our lack of confidence in the Scriptures.  I really appreciate that The Gospel Project called out these books by saying, “The Bible doesn’t need our fantastic experiences to verify it.  It is the very Word of God from the very breath of God”.  Amen. 
  2. They misplace our focus.  The point of heaven isn’t the streets of gold.  These books often are attempts at helping satisfy our curiosity about what heaven is going to be like.  The Bible doesn’t seem to care.  Notice that when Paul was contemplating death in his letter to the Philippians he only said, “To depart is to be with Christ and that is far better”.  He didn’t say, “To depart is to get a sweet mansion, gold teeth, and endless rides down the neck of winged-purple dinosaurs.”  The point of heaven is unhindered relationship with Christ.  Anything else only reveals our earthly idols. 
  3. Paul couldn’t write about his experience.  In 2 Corinthians Paul mentions that he had a rockin’ heavenly vision.  It would have been a certain best-seller if he could have figured out a way to churn out a bunch of papyrus copies.  But the Scriptures say that rather than a multi-million dollar book deal the Lord gave Paul a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble.  If the apostle Paul couldn’t speak of his heavenly vision what makes these authors believe that they have the green light? 

If you are dying to know about heaven I’d suggest reading the Scriptures, spending time with believers, enjoying sunsets, and wage war against idolatry and other God-belittling sins.  Slowly but surely our vision of Christ will expand and we’ll catch a glimpse of what it will be like, though we still look as through a glass dimly, to know Him as He truly is.  That will give you a taste.  You don’t need these stories to distract you from what really matters. 

If you are just dying for a book on heaven the best one I’ve read is Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02324416879654113532 Unknown

    Thank you for this article. Students in the ministry have asked me about several of these books also and I’ve not know exactly how to articulate my reasons for not caring about them.

    Just one question – are you SURE we won’t get to have a gold grill in heaven???

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  • Josiah Barnett

    A persons Testimony of what Christ has done/is doing in their lives is generally a good thing. People who give a testimony of heavenly experiences that don’t blatantly contradict scripture should be given the same respect as anyone giving a testimony. That means being excited (or not so excited) but realizing that personal testimonies have their proper place in the Christian life. If it produces good fruit in the life a believer (which any true testimony will do) than i’m a fan :). Sure “we don’t need them” to verify scripture but we might as well get rid of ALL testimonies (and a great deal of other “not needed” things in the Christian life) if we are going to go down that road. We don’t need blogs and the internet to prove scripture either but here you are sharing your thoughts and opinions on an internet blog to try and advance the kingdom. Just because blogs are “not needed” doesn’t mean we should completely disregard them.Your blog provides a specific way for people to interact with and experience the truth about God/Jesus/Scripture that has its own pros, cons, flaws and all. Just like personal testimonies.So your first point is well taken but incomplete in its scope of consideration.
    Your second point is a generalization and is partly true, but also incomplete. Some of these books and testimonies are bound to be partly or completely false and an attempt to make money. Others are just personal testimonies that should be respected as a personal testimony (as any Christian person deserves). Your second point doesn’t take into account that some people might hear/read these testimonies and actually be re-focused and reinvigorated to live for Christ and take his claims seriously (which any true testimony might do). They may be reinvigorated to study the bible and test the claims of these testimonies and drive people to be in a more intimate and biblical relationship with Christ. The thing about testimonies is that some of them really speak to us (and some of them don’t) because we can relate to them in some way or because we find/hear some truth in them which God uses to speak to believers (or non-believers) hearts. Just because these types of heavenly testimonies don’t speak to you or encourage you in a biblically fruitful way doesn’t mean they don’t do exactly that for other people. In the same way your blog is probably great at inspiring some people toward God and others find it completely unnecessary and/or “not needed”.
    As to your third point i find it really stretching any kind of biblical basis for people to keep their heavenly experiences to themselves. A true testimony is a true testimony and it should be shared just as scripture instructs us to share. Paul wrote the part of his testimony that God required of him for biblical texts, and though scripture doesn’t say so who are we to assume that Paul didn’t share much more orally to his friends or others? Scripture is silent about that so lets just steer clear of assumptions for now just like we should steer clear of assuming that just because Paul didn’t share more specifically about his heavenly experience (in his writing) that we should all do the same. In fact it could be assumed that since Paul spoke (however briefly) about his heavenly experience that perhaps we as believers should share our experiences as well. My point is that randomly pointing out Paul’s lack of specifics in his heavenly testimony and using that to argue that others should do the same is bad exegesis. That would be like me arguing that Paul never spoke more specifically about the thorn in his flesh within scripture so I should not tell people in my life what is specifically causing me whatever pain and suffering i’m going through.
    In summary, these testimonies should have their proper place in the Christian life just like everything else. Some people will abuse and mis-prioritize these testimonies just like people do with other things in the Christian life, but that does not mean we should completely dismiss them as “not needed”. Some people will be inspired by certain testimonies and others will not, but as long as Christ is lifted up and glorified in a truthful way than we should consider those things and respect them as a small (or big) part of what God is doing in the world.

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