Have you noticed that there seems to be more books written about Heaven? Or at least books written about experiencing Heaven?
There’s the account of now 13 year old Colton Burpo. His father wrote a book about his boy spending 3 minutes on Jesus lap in a book called Heaven is for Real. The book has sold 7.5 million copies.
There’s a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Granted this was written in 2004, this was about Piper’s near death experience and his journey into Heaven. His website is reporting over 5 million books sold in 40 different languages.
More recently, November 2012 there is a book called Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander. His is a neurosurgeon who writes about his experience with the afterlife.
And of course under somewhat the same theme, although not about a person going to Heaven, but about Heaven and Hell, let’s not for get the firestorm of Love Wins by Rob Bell.
Although these books have been classified as Christians, what is interesting is the amount of non-Christians seem to be taking in this subject. And perhaps swayed. Read what the Macleans article I linked reports on the findings of belief in afterlife.
Recent polls across the developed world are starting to tell an intriguing tale. In the U.S., religion central for the West, belief in heaven has held steady, even ticking upwards on occasion, over the past two decades. Belief in hell is also high, but even Americans show a gap between the two articles of faith—81 per cent believed in the former in 2011, as opposed to 71 per cent accepting the latter. Elsewhere in the Western world the gap between heaven and hell believers is more of a gulf—a 2010 Canadian poll found more than half of us think there is a heaven, while fewer than a third acknowledge hell. What’s more, monotheism’s two destinations are no longer all that are on offer. In December a survey of the 1970 British Cohort group—9,000 people, currently 42 years old—found half believed in an afterlife, while only 31 per cent believed in God. No one has yet delved deeply into beliefs about the new afterlife—the cohort surveyors didn’t ask for details—but reincarnation, in an newly multicultural West, is one suggested factor. So too is belief in what one academic called “an unreligious afterlife,” the natural continuation of human consciousness after physical death.
This of course is not without it’s critics. From the non-religious in the scientific community, as well as some Christians as well. Here’s a link from Scientific American in response to Proof of Heavenhttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-near-death-experience-isnt-proof-heaven. Here’s how ends his summation.
The reason people turn to supernatural explanations is that the mind abhors a vacuum of explanation. Because we do not yet have a fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness, people turn to supernatural explanations to fill the void. But what is more likely: That Alexander’s NDE was a real trip to heaven and all these other hallucinations are the product of neural activity only? Or that all such experiences are mediated by the brain but seem real to each experiencer? To me, this evidence is proof of hallucination, not heaven.
Tim Challies also challenges this as well. He calls Proof of Heaven “more New Age-y than the rest, close to non-Western religion”. He was also critical of Heaven is for Real. Here is a portion of his review.
First, the Bible gives us no indication whatsoever that God will work in this way and that he will call one of us to heaven and then cause us to return. It is for man to die once and then the resurrection. To allow a man (or a boy) to experience heaven and then to bring him back would not be grace but cruelty. The only biblical example we have of a man being caught up to heaven is Paul and it’s very interesting that he was forbidden to tell anything about it. And the reason he even mentioned this experience was not to offer encouragement that heaven exists, but to serve as a part of his “gospel boasting.” He saw heaven and was told to say nothing about it. This was a unique experience in a unique time and for a unique reason.
You can read that here.
There is criticism from a number of different areas and perspectives.
But they are being read. They are being enjoyed. And perhaps in many senses there is a real comfort in these books. It helps people imagine Heaven. And it gives people hope.
I ask you, is there more interest in Heaven? Do you think these books are harmful or helpful? What about the criticism?