Alex Malarkey was publicized as The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven in a book written by his father with him as co-author. In 2015 Alex denounced the story, and the books were pulled from stores. Last April he sued Tyndale House for defamation and deceptive trade practices among other things for a total of seven complaints. A judge dismissed five of the complaints. Now Alex’s attorney has filed three more complaints: appropriation, publicity given to private life, and financial exploitation of a person with a disability.
If you don’t remember this story, you can start reviewing it in “Boy Denies He Returned from Heaven.”
Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that the Bible tells us enough about the afterlife and that experiential claims can’t trump it. In light of recent bestsellers and movies, their influence on even biblically literate believers, and Scripture refusal to tell us personal experiences with the afterlife, SBC messengers “reaffirm the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”
Yesterday, Lifeway softly announced it would follow suit, saying it is taking a new direction. A spokesman said, “We decided these experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer.”
I hope the business tactics used to obtain the Malarkey family book will not be part of this new direction as well.
The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven has released a letter denying his claims in the book (link defunct), something his mother has been doing for a few years.
“I did not die,” Alex says. “I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.”
Publisher Tyndale has responded by pulling the book and related materials.
If you read the accounts from Alex’s mother, Beth, you may ask how a publisher of Christian books for the body of Christ could railroad her and her son (apparently with the father’s permission) to publish a book with such terrible theology. In a post from September 2013 which offers a timeline of details following the accident, Beth tells us some of her interaction with people wanting to turn her family’s story into books and a movie.
I neither verbally nor in writing gave approval for any quotes. In fact I instead verbally gave my desire to not have any quotes by me put in any book. There was a time that I was sitting in PICU and told over the phone that some words from a webpage that no longer exists (prayforalex.com) that were written by me were going to be placed in the book. I was sitting in PICU with Alex! I told the person that they could not do that, to which they said they could and that that site was public. GRRR….the best I could do was to tell the person that they had better get every word correct. I have documentation of what is written in the book and that post from the webpage. The two do not match up 🙁 It saddened me more to learn that that interaction that was twisted is part of a Bible study…what? I certainly have witnessed some shocking things!
Money, she says, was the driving factor for these people, and they promised money to her for Alex, but she has not seen any of it.
Phil Johnson has an article on the recent rash of supposedly eyewitness accounts of heaven. He says it’s nothing new:
Various survivors of near-death experiences have been publishing gnostic insights about the afterlife for at least two decades. Betty Eadie’s Embraced by the Light was number one on the New York Times Bestseller List exactly 20 years ago. The success of that book unleashed an onslaught of similar tales, nearly all of them with strong New Age and occult overtones. So psychics and new-agers have been making hay with stories like these for at least two decades.
Johnson points to an upcoming book by John MacArthur on heaven and these books. He argues that the Bible forbids the possibility that anyone can return from beyond the grave. “All the accounts of heaven in Scripture are visions, not journeys taken by dead people,” MacArthur writes. “And even visions of heaven are very, very rare in Scripture. You can count them all on one hand.” Moreover, the biblical accounts focus on God’s overwhelming glory, not all the fun junk we might do in heaven.
In his excellent book Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus, Jared Wilson touches on this in a paragraph near the end.
Can I tell you one of the problems with books like Heaven Is for Real? Aside from the obvious honesty issues, they very often demote Jesus to a Character in heaven like one of the costumed players at Disney World. He is Santa Claus, an attraction of some kind. Continue reading Can Anyone Return from Heaven?