Some Christians Take Issue With the Way “Heaven Is for Real” Portrays How People Actually Get There

Connor Corum in a scene from “Heaven Is For Real.” (Image source: AP/Sony Pictures, Allen Fraser)
Connor Corum in a scene from “Heaven Is For Real.” (Image source: AP/Sony Pictures, Allen Fraser)

Heaven is not only “for real,” it’s pretty much for everyone in the new movie based on the near-death experience visions of a precocious preschooler.

The original book, “Heaven Is for Real,” was a 2010 sales sensation. Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo detailed his 4-year-old son Colton’s visions of a blue-eyed Jesus in a rainbow-bright afterlife populated with everyone his family ever loved.

The film’s co-producer, Dallas megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, said he wants the film to prompt people “to explore the death, burial and resurrection of Christ,” especially as the film is released during Holy Week and Easter.

But where the best-selling book tagged every image — however tenuously — to a passage from Scripture, the film jettisons doctrine. Instead, it celebrates an unabashed “God is love” view that goodness in this life gets you, your friends and your family a crown and wings in the next.

This friend-and-family-plan approach rings all the bells of popular attitudes toward heaven. For conservative Christians, however, it’s the theological equivalent of feasting on marshmallow Peeps and calling it Easter.

“I don’t want to impugn the motives of the filmmakers who made this with good intentions as something helpful for the church at large. We just come down on the side that it’s not really that helpful,” said Chris Larson, president of Ligonier Ministries, which publishes and broadcasts traditional Christian teachings from a Reformed Protestant perspective.

“Heaven is a real place, not just a concept, and we know 67 percent of Americans agree with this,” said Larson, drawing on research Ligionier commissioned from LifeWay Research.

“We just wish many people would go to the Bible, rather than the cinema, to find out what heaven is. The Bible says there’s only one way to salvation — through Jesus.”

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Religion News Service

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