Monday, April 21, 2014

Heaven is For Real

The movie "Heaven is For Real" has been generating some buzz lately, both from Christians who are looking to the story as proof of the truth of the Bible, and from atheists seeking to discount the story.

Someone asked me if I believe that the little boy's experience was real. The best answer I can provide is "I don't know, and it doesn't really matter." It is not likely to convince anyone who has already decided to reject God in order to deny his moral authority over his life. But from my viewpoint, even if we knew that his experience was the result of brain chemistry caused by his near-death condition, that doesn't disprove the reality of heaven.

I tend to look at most accounts of "near death experiences" with some degree of skepticism. With a few exceptions in the times of the Bible, heaven is only experienced after death, and death is a one-way street. If you are not dead, you are not experiencing heaven, and if you come back to life in this world, you were not dead. I've heard people say "I was dead for 8 minutes before I was resuscitated." If you are walking around telling this story, you were not dead. Hebrews 9:27 says that you die once, and after that comes judgement.

There are complicating factors in "Heaven is For Real". How did the boy know facts about the baby that his parents had lost? I can't answer that question. Maybe in that moment, God revealed it to him. Maybe someone had told him. Or maybe it was a remarkable case of intuition. On the other side of the scale, why did he describe Jesus as looking like Kenny Loggins? Maybe that's how Jesus chose to reveal himself, or maybe it was a projection of his own subconscious preconceptions of what Jesus would look like.

Regardless of what I think of this movie and the events behind it, I believe that heaven is real, not because someone saw it and reported back to me about it, but because I know the God who reigns there. The reality which can not be denied is that He has transformed me into a new creation. I have not seen heaven, but I know that it is real like I know the force of gravity. Attempts to prove it empirically are doomed to fail. That is why it requires faith. Not a leap of faith into darkness, but a confident step onto the solid ground of God's love, proven to us on the cross.

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