Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Alex Malarkey was six years old when he and his father, Kevin, experienced a car accident. Alex was in a coma for two months and is permanently disabled. Six years later Kevin, his father, wrote the book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2010).
Alex is now 16 and retracts the story: “An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”
An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
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. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.
Tyndale publishing responded to this retraction and no longer sells the book.
Here are a number of reports and responses to this retraction.
Christianity Today summarizes the retraction made by Alex: The 'Boy Who Came Back from Heaven' Retracts Story
Beth, Alex’s mom, made statements that this account was not true in 2012 and again last April. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven...not quite
The Guardian presents an overview of the history of this story of the Malarkey family: The boy who didn't come back from heaven: inside a bestseller's 'deception'
Michael Wittmer gives good biblical counsel about how to respond to this and other personal accounts of heaven: 4 Reasons to Stop Obsessing About Heaven
Sadly, this sort of genre has become commonplace. Amazingly, or maybe not, they sell! Consider the following (and this does not include the books about those who have died and gone to hell):
Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2004).
Bill Wiese, 23 Minutes In Hell: One Man's Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment (Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2006).
Erwin W. Lutzer, One Minute After You Die (Chicago: Moody 2007).
Don Piper, Daily Devotions Inspired by 90 Minutes in Heaven: 90 Readings for Hope and Healing (Berkley Trade, 2009).
Dale Black, Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash...A Lone Survivor...A Journey to Heaven--and Back (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2010).
Todd Burpo, Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010).
Kevin Malarkey, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2010).
Dennis Prince, Nine Days in Heaven: A True Story (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma, 2011).
Marvin J. Besteman, My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2011).
Mary C. Neal, To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2012).
Why the interest? Why the fascination?
Tomorrow I will give a brief response I shared with those who asked about the Burpo and Malarkey books that were published in 2010, and then when the Burpo book was released as a movie last year.