Book Review: Heaven is for Real

Book Review: Heaven is for Real, by: Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, and Colton Burpo

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I rated this book five out of five stars.

I was moved, provoked, and invigorated reading this book. I am a believer, so for me this just reiterated or provided inspiring proof of my belief system.

What I enjoyed about the book:
1) The miracles. I love hearing a good miracle-and this story is full of them. The tale of the family receiving an unexpected flood of donation money, enough to cover their vast medical bills is a miracle. The father having a prayer answered-even one said through grieving anger-was a miracle. Colton’s story touching his baby sitter-that was a miracle. Colton’s validation of the divinely inspired art of a girl half a world away, that’s a miracle. In my opinion, I think Colton being the child of a minister, and having this experience, is a miracle by itself. If the same child had the same experience with two non-religious parents I don’t think we’d have this book. I don’t think the parents would have known what kind of questions to ask, or would have seen the significance in the answers given.

2) I like that the author stays on track. He doesn’t get lost down dog trails, or bash on those who are not from the same belief system he is. The book is very focused on the relevant events around Colton’s trip to Heaven and what he saw. The religious expositions are there only to help narrate for those less familiar with Christianity.

3) I have a four year old to thank for making me feel better about the book of revelations. I also have a four year old to thank for CREEPING ME OUT, by relaying the truth my mind likes to ignore about the devil not currently residing in hell. I remembered why I don’t like to think about it because it makes me feel like there is a serial killer in my living room. Thank you Colton for the food for thought.

I was intrigued reading the two polar extremes of reviews this book received. There is definitely a trend, the believers love it the non-believers bash it. I was interested to read the book and see where perhaps the author may have lost the “non-believer” audience. That answer was easy: Colton doesn’t mince words when he freaked out at a funeral and demanded to know if the dead man had Jesus in his heart. “Daddy he can’t go to heaven if he doesn’t have Jesus in his heart.” There it is-no doubt that is going to hurt peoples feelings. No surprise there. I also think others were lost to their own ignorance of a faith they might claim in a secular status. I know this, because I was a baby Christian not that long ago. Some of the riveting moments in the book, would not have made much sense or had the same impact to the once baby Christian me. There is a language of intelligibility barrier that sometimes cannot be overcome when you are not a believer. You can see the author do his best to explain the relevance of what Colton revealed. He tied in the scriptural basis, explained the “why” as best he could. But I think many significant points are lost to the baby Christian audience as well as the non-believer audience.

I expected to see opposition; it comes with any religious topic. It was just intriguing for me to see how vehement some of the opposition is. I’ve seen how quickly non-believers get riled over what to me is pretty innocuous stuff. So it was not a shock to see the trend of poor reviews all hovering around one of the following themes. I will list them and then state my point of view.

1) The book is bad/I’m offended, because their boy was saved through prayer implying my loved one could have been if I was a believer.
Here’s my thought: After reading complaint 1, I expected to read several chapters explaining lengthy prayers the family and congregation made. It wasn’t there, and what was I felt was summed up very nicely. If anything what was discussed was an introspection of the father/minster and how he felt guilty for lashing out at God. It was very human-and brave for a minister to admit his weakness in a very dark time. There are numerous books dedicated to prayer, the kinds of prayer, how it can be effective, what you can and can’t pray for, there’s blogs, and websites-and if all else fails the Bible itself (imagine that!). I’m no expert-look it up-I’m not going down the dog trail of why someone’s loved one was saved and others were not. However-I do believe in prayer and I believe in miracles. I loved reading about an answered prayer-and miracle. It’s a beautiful thing to know we are heard even when we are not at our best.

2) The book is bad because of course this kid saw all that stuff, “his dads a minister”.
Here’s my thought: The father did an excellent job of explaining the boys knowledge and exposure to the Bible. I can relate very well to the authors amazement at what Colton told him. I know the cognitive age of a four year old, I have a three and four year old I am raising right now. So I’ll tell you, my secret is out, or maybe not-but for all those who don’t know, my kids are exposed to a very progressive evangelical form of Christianity. I know for a fact they are not taught the kinds of things Colton was talking about. I’d be proud and astonished if they could tell me who Jesus’s cousin is, where Jesus sits, what the Holy Ghost does, where the marks on Jesus are, and like the author points out “Why Jesus died?” For the last question I might get an answer like-to save us, or because he loves us-but NEVER the answer Colton gave. Come on if this is a brain washing Christian household why didn’t the older sister have the same answer Colton gave? For Colton to know Jesus called his father to the ministry, or of a lost pregnancy- for a four year old that’s profound. The author pointed out his own astonishment at Colton knowing these things. I believe the author is being honest when he claims Colton knowledge did not come from his parents or their church’s Sunday school. Christians don’t teach down to the level of detail Colton knew, because kids don’t retain it/understand it. That’s what makes the story remarkable-we get a glimpse of Heaven from a child’s point of view. He used child’s words to provide descriptions of things he had no knowledge of and had never seen before.

3) The book is bad because/I’m offended because it implies if I don’t believe like a Christian I’m not going to heaven.
Here’s my thought on this: Once again it’s a child telling you this, a four year old. Not once does the author lay this on you. If this really bothers you I challenge you to seek out why? If you know why, then does the story really merit the same rating as your opinion of Christianity?
None of the three objections, in my opinion, equal a bad book. I think there could be value in people examining why they have such an emotional response and why they are so quickly offended by a four year olds experience.