Accounts of Heaven in Books, Movies 'Cannot be Corroborated,' Southern Baptist Conference Resolution States

BALTIMORE – Southern Baptists have taken aim at the theology behind afterlife experiences like the one described in the bestseller book and Hollywood film Heaven is for Real by stating that such accounts "cannot be corroborated" and are not in line with biblical accounts of from the apostles.

The Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution Tuesday stating messengers representing its 46,125 churches "reaffirm the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one's understand of the truth about heaven and hell."

While the resolution did not single out Heaven is for Real – Committee on Resolutions member Chris Osborne told an inquiring messenger "We did not want to single out anyone" – a motion raised by Community Church Pastor Tom McCracken did.

McCracken petitioned the Committee on Resolutions Wednesday to petition Lifeway Christian Resources to "cease all sales, support and distribution" of the New York Times bestseller in its brick and mortar stores as well as online. The motion, though rejected, received a rousing second.

The Virginia pastor told the Christian Post that he supports Lifeway, but said the non-fiction account of 4-year-old Colton Burpo's near-death experience is "so far off track" theologically it should be billed as fiction.

He is not the only Southern Baptist with reservations about the book and resulting movie.

David Platt, who spoke at the SBC's pastors' Conference Sunday, denounced Heaven is for Real in 2013 as a "fanciful" tale that "is contrary to everything God's word says about Heaven."

"The Bible is not silent about Heaven," asserted McCracken.

The Apostle Paul, as found in 2 Corinthians 12: 1-4, wrote about a man who was "caught up to the third Heaven." According to Paul, the man reported hearing "inexpressible things" – a far cry from the wings, halos, and angelic serenading describe in Heaven is for Real.

Paul also noted – and SBC Resolution 6 sites – the "no one is permitted to tell" of the things heard in "Paradise."

SBC Resolution 6 also references the biblical accounts of Jairus' daughter, widow of Nain's son and Lazarus, concluding that "In God's perfect revelatory wisdom, He has not given us any report of their individual experience in the afterlife."

Heaven is for Real is not the only book about heavenly encounters. Other titles includes "The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven," "To Heaven and Back," "90 Minutes in Heaven" and "My Journey to Heaven" just to name a few.

Unlike the other books, Heaven is for Real sold over 7 million copies following its 2010 release and as the central story of a movie by the same name, made $4.4 million in U.S. box offices following its Easter 2014 debut.

SBC Resolution 6 states that all such accounts "describe heaven from a subjective, experiential source" and "cannot be corroborated."

While it can be said that works like Heaven is for Real can serve as a conversation starter, committee member Osborne told Southern Baptists "The Scripture [sic] is sufficient, not some book or movie."

The 2014 Southern Baptist Convention was held in Baltimore Tuesday and Wednesday. The annual meeting's theme was "Restoration and Revival through Prayer."

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