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3,733 of 4,099 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is "Heaven is for Real" for real?
I found out about a pretty neat program not too long ago. I could get free books if I'd agree to write a review. As a lover of books, with over 1,000 of them in my library, I jumped at the chance.

The first book I received was titled "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo. Needless to say, as a pastor I was skeptical! I thought, Oh no, not another I've been to...
Published on November 30, 2010 by The Heavy Revy

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1,309 of 1,540 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet story, but not a resource for theological discernment
It's a terrible thing to be young and jaded. I confess that, despite my belief that there is a real and dynamic spiritual world interwoven with material reality, I approached Heaven Is For Real with a high degree of skepticism. I have a hard time getting past the logical-critical methods which have been drilled into me through the course of my education. Part of me, I...
Published on March 7, 2011 by Amazon Customer


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3,733 of 4,099 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is "Heaven is for Real" for real?, November 30, 2010
By 
This review is from: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Paperback)
I found out about a pretty neat program not too long ago. I could get free books if I'd agree to write a review. As a lover of books, with over 1,000 of them in my library, I jumped at the chance.

The first book I received was titled "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo. Needless to say, as a pastor I was skeptical! I thought, Oh no, not another I've been to heaven book! Beginning with 90 minutes in Heaven, the market has been flooded by books of peoples accounts of their journey to Heaven, Hell, and the Laundromat! I assumed this book would be little different and I thought I'd wind up relegating this book to the "not worth my time" pile. I was wrong.

"Heaven is for Real" is a a heartwarming, simple, and surprisingly biblical glimpse into a little four year old boy's journey into Heaven. Colton Burpo was four year's old when he found himself at death's door. His family didn't realize he had made his amazing journey until small but shocking revelations that amazed and bewildered his parents began to leak out. Colton didn't just have one sit down conversation, he let his journey be known one startling revelation at a time.

How could this little boy know these things? How could he know about relatives who had died long before he was born? How could someone so young offer such amazing insights into Heaven, Christ, and the glories that await Christians? How could he know things he'd never been taught and couldn't know?

As I mentioned before, I'm a skeptic at heart. A book like this one wouldn't likely catch my attention and certainly wouldn't win any praise from me. So many books like these are fanciful, unbiblical, and simply outright inconsistent with what I know to be true from the Bible. Colton Burpo's story was a refreshing and surprisingly accurate portrait of what awaits each of us whose destiny is Heaven. I read the book with a critical eye, looking for those little details that would prove this story to be at best inaccurate or at worst a fraud. I couldn't find them. His tale seemed honest. His descriptions fit the way a child would describe things, not one whose words had been fed him by an adult. Some of his revelations were simply amazing!

Who would be blessed by this book? I'd honestly say almost anyone. If you've recently lost a loved one or maybe you are a mother who has lost a child to miscarriage. You can find something here that will warm your heart and quite possibly help ease your pain. This book is a sweet, touching, and amazing story. I think you'll be blessed by it.

That said, you might wonder if I found anything in the book I didn't agree with. That's a tough question. I found nothing I'd say was blatantly wrong or in direct contradiction with the scriptures. There were a couple of things that made me raise my eyebrow but I can't quote a verse that says Heaven couldn't be like that, just a couple of things that didn't fit my expectation or interpretation of what Heaven would be like. Those things might make you wonder but I think you'll find they don't detract from what this book is meant to do, strengthen your faith, encourage you in your walk with Christ, and maybe just maybe long for Heaven just a little bit more.

Hope this review helps you make your choice of whether or not to pick up a copy of this book. I'd recommend you do.

Micah

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <[...]> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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1,309 of 1,540 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet story, but not a resource for theological discernment, March 7, 2011
This review is from: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Paperback)
It's a terrible thing to be young and jaded. I confess that, despite my belief that there is a real and dynamic spiritual world interwoven with material reality, I approached Heaven Is For Real with a high degree of skepticism. I have a hard time getting past the logical-critical methods which have been drilled into me through the course of my education. Part of me, I suppose, deeply longs for quantifiable evidence of the spiritual. My jadedness comes from poring over scads of accounts of afterlife experiences and finding so many times that they come coated in a greasy film of sensationalism and self-promotion. Heaven Is For Real might just be the real thing.

Todd Burpo, co-author, husband and father, is a small-town minister and serves as the narrator. Todd went through a trying season of personal injury and illness, taking on large medical debts, which culminated in a life-or-death struggle for Todd's son, Colton. Colton had a bout of what seemed to be, and was misdiagnosed as, the stomach flu, but in actuality Colton's appendix had ruptured and the condition went untreated for five days. Railing against God for this Job-like testing, as Colton was wheeled into the operating room screaming, Todd thought he'd seen his son for the last time.

Against all odds, and through multiple surgeries, Colton miraculously recovered. The caliber of the miracle would not begin to be revealed till months later when Colton revealed to his family that he had been to Heaven. Over the course of time Colton would open up and share details of his experience; offering preternatural knowledge of things about which, his family says, Colton had no prior knowledge. As Todd described it, Colton's revelations came in the sort of call-it-as-you-see-it way of preschoolers who have not yet "learned either tact or guile." From details about Heaven to interactions with family members who passed on prior to Colton's birth, this story is one which invites the reader into contemplation of mystery.

What allows me to take this story seriously is the sense of humility and circumspection present in the narrative. The Burpos tread carefully with Colton letting him tell his story as he was ready. Seven years passed from the first inklings of Colton's experience to the publishing of the book.

The single aspect of Heaven Is For Real that concerned me was when Colton's reporting shifted from descriptive to predictive, recounting visions of a great battle-to-come at the end of time. In these visions, the forces of Heaven are arrayed against the forces of Hell and Christian men wield either swords or bows-and-arrows as part of God's army. Colton reported to his father that he saw him as a participant in that future conflict. What gives me pause is this: the Armageddon visions come much later than the earlier stories shared by Colton and are in a narrative peppered by frequent references to Colton's early and ongoing love for superhero battles played out with sword-wielding action figures.

Don't use this book as a basis for theological discernment about either the afterlife or the end of time. Take this book for what it is: a sweet story of the love of parents for their child, the care of Christians for each other in times of crisis, and the surprising mystery of the grace of God.
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2,637 of 3,154 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gonna get a lot of flak for my review, so here goes..., August 28, 2011
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This review is from: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Paperback)
For those of you who are going to rant and chastise me for being judgmental, save it...

I, too, have had a terrifying experience where my child was extremely sick, doctors could not diagnose him for a couple of days, he went into the hospital, and when he was finally diagnosed was not expected to live. This is where my 'judgmentalism' comes from...

Thinking I was going to be buying a sweet little, uplifting tale that would resonate with me as I am a person of great faith and unfathomable love and thankfulness to God _ I came to a point in this book (about midway through Chapter 6) where I had to quit reading this book. The more I read (as written by the little boy's father) about the actions of these parents before actually seeking medical attention for their obviously sick child, the more judgmental I became. I don't like it when I find myself judging people, so the best thing for me to do was to delete the book from my Kindle and just forget about it. If I could ask for my money back, so that no money goes into the hands of people who acted so ignorantly, I would.

Here are a few examples of their behavior that just stupified me: When little Colton first became sick, before a trip, his mother took him to the doctor and the doctor wrote his illness off as a stomach flu. The parents prayed not that their sweet little 3 year old get better, but that he would get better enough not to interrupt a trip. (The trip was for a district church denomination meeting.) So, little Colton seems to be back to his old self the next day, so they go on their trip. While out on their trip, both of their children become sick one night and the parents believed there was a revisitation of the stomach flu. That's understandable. However, when the 6 year old daughter who only threw up a couple of times overnight and the 3 year old continues to vomit "hourly", without any sign of improvement whatsoever, do they check-out of the hotel and take him to the ER or head back home? Nope, they take him to the home of some friends (let's just give this virus to everybody we know) so the mother can take care of him while the father attends church with one of the friends. Ignorant, selfish call I think. But, we're all entitled to a dumb move now and then. So, I keep reading. Once church is over, the father and his friend come home to find the 3 year old still very sick and vomiting "profusely". The male friend the father went to church with that morning is concerned, thinking the symptoms might equal appendicitis. The father, whose experience as a pastor and garage door salesman make him an expert, decides that it's not appendicitis. Fine, anybody can be wrong. Keep reading... so dad decides it's not appendicitis and must still be the (contagious) stomach flu, therefore the family will just stay another night with their generous hosts - just in case they haven't made them sick yet, I guess. The following morning,after a night of the little boy STILL vomiting, the parents pack up to go home and their host, seeing the sick child cradled in his mother's arms, says that the little boy looks "pretty sick" and suggests that the parents take him straight away to the ER. Well, the parents reason that the 3 hours they would sit in an ER would be better spent driving home, so they head on home. They call ahead to their local doctor, make an afternoon appointment, and before heading out explain their reasoning to their host. The host "said he understood", but the father "could tell he was still worried". Okay, even now the friends of the parents are apparently thinking "what are you DOING?". Two hours into the drive, after the parents have had to stop and change clothing on an already fully potty trained child (!!!) whose began soiling himself and the child is by now "crying constantly" and they've had to stop "every 30 mintues" for him to throw up. So, they're still an hour or so from home, and they STILL DON'T STOP AT AN ER! I mean, come on people, it doesn't take a triple digit IQ to figure out at this point that 48 hours of hourly to half-hourly vomiting by a 3 year old can result in dehydration so severe that he could be having organ problems. Wait, the dad even says that 2 hours into this 3 hour trip home that they know he must be getting dehydrated (ya think?!?) and they STILL DIDN'T STOP. So, they get back to their hometown in 3 hours and, though earlier in the book Dear Old Dad says they called ahead for an appointment with family doc, when they get home you know what they do? They go to the ER. FINALLY! And when they get to the ER, the kid is so sick, they don't make the family wait the dreaded 3 hours that the parents had speculated about earlier, no, one look at the child and the ER staff immediately takes them back. Blood work is performed, Xrays are performed, and IVs are run. Results... the doctor doesn't know what's wrong with the child, but the Xray shows 3 masses in his stomach. While the IVs and antibiotics (antibiotics... they don't give those for stomach virus) are dripping, friends begin streaming in. One friend suggests that the parents should have the boy transported to Denver Children's (ya know, since doctors at Podunk Hospital don't know what's wrong). The parents dismissed this, instead deciding (I suppose) to let the Podunk docs google until they make a diagnosis. On day two, after the boy is STILL throwing up and only getting worse "faster", mother stays on at the hospital while Dad works and prays. Finally, on day 3 at Podunk, it dawns on the parents of little Colton (whose looking like death to his parents)that maybe they should take him to another hospital. Denver Children's? Noooo, that would be too far from the parents "base of support". ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHAT ABOUT COLTON'S MEDICAL SUPPORT? This is where I quit reading. I know from the photo on the cover that little Colton survived and is doing well (he's obviously not 3 anymore). But I just, at this point, had formed such an unfavorable opinion of these parents selfishness or ignorance or both, that I just didn't want to read anymore. As a parent, I love to the point I would die for my kid. Sitting in an ER 3 hours from home is a far cry from death. Subjecting him to days of continual degradation of health and wellbeing so that I can be close to those who will pat my back and tell me it's all gonna be alright is not my idea of taking care of my child. I'm sorry if this feeling is offensive, but it's why I could not finish this book.
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589 of 726 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Full of Factual Errors - Mostly a Work of Fiction, June 18, 2011
By 
DaveTan "davetan" (Newport Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Paperback)
I read this book truly hoping to find an account of life after death that I could believe in. Unfortunately the story has several factual errors which cast serious doubts about the legitimacy of the story. Add that to the increasingly fantastic imagery that emerges as the boy grows older and is exposed to more Christian "schooling" and Hollywood media and the whole story loses credibility.

The first factual error is the fact that the boy mentions that Jesus had red marks on his palms and feet (where supposedly he continued to bare the marks of the nails of his crucifixion even in Heaven). It is not a well known fact that Jesus was crucified through the wrist and NOT through the palms, as it is not possible for nails through the palms to support the weight of the body. This has been proven through scientific tests using cadavers. Even the Shroud of Turin if indeed it is authentic, bears stains that would correspond to a wound on the wrist NOT the palms. This is one of the most important errors because it is a description that occurs soon after the purported meeting with Jesus, and not years afterwards where the effects of a child's hyperactive imagination could, and in my opinion have, created incredible scenes.

Colton also says he watched Jesus send "power" in the form of the "holy spirit" down to his father (a pastor) while he gave his sermons. The only problem is that during the time he was supposedly in Heaven watching Jesus do this, his father was at the hospital and not preaching.

Another factual error was Colton's idea that Jesus looked like the painting by the God inspired child prodigy Akiane, which depicts a fairly light skinned man. Now most Christians in the Western world might like to believe Jesus was "white", but the truth is he was born in the Middle East. Just take a look at what the typical Jew living there looks like and you will see that he would have actually had dark skin and most likely black hair.

Another problem is that ONLY Christians can get into Heaven according to Colton, so all other religions, agnostics or atheists, no matter how good they are -- are screwed. Yet - conveniently, his miscarried sister who was never born to be baptized a Christian, turned up in Heaven.

As Colton gets older the story gets even more fantastic with "future" scenes of Heaven waging war with Satan with... wait for it: SWORDS as well as BOWS and ARROWS. Not surprising this happened to coincide with Colton's recent viewing of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Not to mention that only males were warriors. It appears that female emancipation in the modern world has regressed in the future according to Colton.

Having been raised as a Christian and having religious parents and a Grandfather who was a Pastor, I am in no way anti-Christianity. However, like many, I am looking for the truth, not blind propaganda. When I read this book it pained me to eventually realize how fake it was.

Add that to the fact that the co-writer Lynn Vincent has written many political books, including ghostwriting Sarah Palin's, and the only conclusion I could come up with was that this book has to be taken with a bucketful of salt.
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630 of 777 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A question, April 1, 2011
By 
This review is from: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Paperback)
Around the world, people of faith all have different views of the nature of God, Jesus, and Heaven (not to mention other prophets, gods, and revelations). Of course, these differences exist not just between religions, but also within Christianity itself (there can even be many, many differences between believers within the same congregation and even within families). Even people engaging in similar approaches to biblical interpretation (e.g. literal readings of the King James Version of the Bible) can yield very different conceptions of the nature of Heaven. The result, of course, is that within Christianity, there are thousands and thousands of good-faith understandings of God, of the permanence of the soul, and of Heaven.

Given this, how could it be conceivably possible that Colton Burpo's revelation of the true nature of God and Heaven happened to conform exactly to his father's views on them?

I should note that you do not have to question the existence of God or of Heaven to wonder about this. In fact, I think the question is more troubling for true believers. For real believers, the question is not whether there is a heaven or not (that is beyond question); the real question is whether Mr. Burpo is using his son as a false prophet.

I think people should really consider that before endorsing or supporting this book.
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278 of 341 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A childish fantasy written by adults, December 22, 2011
By 
Steve P (Adelaide, South Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Paperback)
Right up front, let me say that I think Todd Burpo's book Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back is one of the most naive, superficial, and disturbing "Christian" books I've read for a long time.

In brief, the book purports to tell of a 4 year old's journey to heaven during a surgical procedure for a severe ruptured appendix. Following the procedure, and over a period of months and years, Colton, Todd's son, gradually "revealed" bits and pieces of his alleged journey to heaven. Here's what he "discovered" and/or "experienced" on his journey:

- angels sang to him while he was in hospital
- he was sitting on Jesus' lap while he was in heaven
- while in heaven, he saw his father praying in a small room in the hospital and his mother in a different room talking on the phone and praying
- he met John the Baptist in heaven
- Jesus has a rainbow coloured horse and wears a golden crown with a pink diamond
- he was given "homework" to do in heaven while he was being cared for by his deceased grandfather - Pop
- everyone in heaven has wings and flies around from place to place - except for Jesus who who levitates up and down like an elevator
- everyone in heaven has a light above their heads (Todd Burpo interprets this in the book as a halo)
- God is `really, really big' and is so big he holds the world in his hands
- Jesus sits at the right hand of God, Gabriel sits on God's left, and the Holy Spirit is "kind of blue" and sits somewhere in the vicinity of the other three.
- the gates of heave are made of gold and pearls
- after Colton's return to earth, he became obsessed with rainbows because of the incredible number of colours he saw in heaven
- at times, following his return from heaven, Colton saw `power shot down from heaven' while his dad was preaching
there are swords and bows and arrows in heaven that the angels use to keep Satan out of heaven
the weaponry described above will apparently be used in a coming battle that destroys the world - and Colton's dad will be fighting in that battle
- the final battle will be against actual dragons and monsters while the women and children stand and watch the men fighting them
- he meets `a sister' in heaven - who was lost through miscarriage by the mother years before - and which the parents claim they never spoke to Colton about
- he claimed to see Satan in heaven but wouldn't say what he looked like
- and he described what Jesus looked like, comparing people's ideas of Jesus in their artworks as not right, until he was shown a painting of Christ by Akiane Kramarik which he said got the picture of Jesus right

There are a few more "revelations" in the book, but these are the essential ones. And all this was discovered in 3 minutes in heaven!

There are a number of reasons one should be highly sceptical of this book. Firstly, Colton was just 4 years old when he began to talk about his experience mostly prompted by his father - except for the first of his comments about the angels singing to him when he was having his surgery. Four year old children are renowned for making up stories and not being able, at this age, to distinguish fantasy from reality. After all, many children have imaginary friends and use their imagination constantly in making up stories while engaging in play. It would seem that the parents are still thinking like four year olds if they take what their kid says as literally true!

Secondly, why so many months and years for the story to develop - with the prompting of the parents? Surely if a child visited heaven they'd come back and be talking about it excitedly all at once - at least to start with. Haven't we all heard children bubble over with enthusiasm after having an exciting experience? Not Colton. He doesn't even mention it until he happens to say something about where his parents were during his operation. But given that it takes years for his whole "story" to come out, one has to wonder how much of it was constructed in response to his father's questioning.

Thirdly, the "information" provided by Colton is so obviously consistent with an evangelical fundamentalist view that it is not hard to see it has being informed by this culture as he grew up. Colton's father is a pastor and he admits to reading Bible stories to Colton as he grew up. He would have attended Sunday School and been exposed to all the detail he has described even if unconsciously. It's not surprising that his description of heaven draws on that culture.

Fourthly, Colton's father holds to a literalist reading of the biblical Book of Revelation which most people quite rightly understand to be highly symbolic and figurative. Colton describes things like swords and horses (rainbow coloured, no less, obviously similar to the children's Rainbow Brite toy!) in heaven and his father believes they are truly in heaven because verses in Revelation confirm it! So does Colton's father believe there is really a slain lamb/lion creature actually there too?

Fifthly, if Colton's descriptions of God on thrones with angels using swords to keep Satan out of heaven are to be taken literally, then God has been caught in an Old Testament era time warp. Are they really suggesting that God has eternally sat on thrones, ridden horses, fought with swords against real dragons? Most biblical scholars (and most Christians) would have a much more mature view of these issues than the childish view that Colton and his parents have. But then, of course, according to this book, we are to become like little children in our faith and just accept all this stuff without question.

Finally, the idea that Colton has told them a few things that he just couldn't have known about is highly unlikely. Church communities are renowned gossiping communities and it is much more reasonable to assume that he heard some of these things than to believe they are supernaturally revealed.

There's a lot more that could be said about this book. But the above will do. Heaven is for Real is simplistic, superficial, and naive. The most disturbing thing about this book is that it has become so popular - which doesn't say much for the people that swallow it whole without a second thought - even to the extent of stating that they have had their faith strengthened by it. If this is all it takes to reaffirm faith then, to my mind, that faith is pretty fickle.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very contrived, March 3, 2012
I had high hopes for this novel as many friends have read and recommended it. However, after reading the book in a day (it's a quick read), I was disappointed. I found it contrived and unconvincing. The narrator, who is the boy's father, appears to have a clear agenda of furthering the Right Wing Christian view that is so popular right now in the USA. The boy's experience conveniently fits into the agenda of a sub-group of conservative Christians trying to shape policy and Christianity in our country. Inspiring fear, for example, such as condemning people who "do not have Jesus in their heart," and that "Jesus has a sword and you Dad will be part of the coming war (foreseen in Revelations)," is distasteful. As a Christian myself, I found it disturbing that fear seemed to be the main point - if you are not a Christian, you will go to Hell. I think messages of love are what our ailing society needs right now and this definitely does not fit the bill.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truth or Fiction?, November 4, 2011
Considering how long "Heaven is for Real" has been on the best-seller list and entered into topical culture, a summary is probably unnecessary at this point. But, just in case: Todd Burpo is a Mid-Western Wesleyan pastor who, after a series of personal trials and tribulations, nearly lost his son to a ruptured appendix. This final straw first shook, then reaffirmed his faith, but not nearly as much as the revelation that followed. His son, Colton, claimed to have spent three minutes in heaven. Three things in particular seemed to validate Colton's story: he knew that his dad had been in a small room praying during the operation (and his mom had been on the phone), he knew that his mom had miscarried before he was conceived, and he recognized a great-grandfather who died before he was born by a photo of him in his younger years. (Of course, what makes these things amazing is that his parents believed he possessed none of this knowledge prior to the operation, and had no conceivable way of knowing afterward.)

Todd and the rest of his family appear to be sincere, and I don't see any reason to believe them to be otherwise. This removes one of the three likely possibilities regarding a claim like this: that they are liars. The other two possibilities - that they are telling the truth, or that they themselves have been deceived and are repeating only what the believe to be the truth - are the only ones that I think are worth considering.

As an aside, this reflects C.S. Lewis' famous "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" trilemma. The answer to that trilemma is the fourth option - that Jesus is not being accurately portrayed - and I think it's worth considering here, as well. Burpo's co-writer is Lynn Vincent, who is previously most famous for penning Sarah Palin's Going Rogue. I don't bring this up to try to besmirch Vincent or the Burpos by association (and for many, this would probably be a positive association), but to point out that Vincent's forte is portraying sincere, salt of the earth American folks. This does not mean that the Burpos (or Sarah Palin) are NOT sincere, only that we must recognize that we are seeing them through a romantic hyper-reality that has the "everyday, good-hearted Americans" dial bumped up a value or two. I don't think that Vincent would add or change pertinent details, or that Burpo would be likely to let her. But I do think that the craft employed here is likely to paint a more confident, pre-digested picture where the actual history may appear somewhat less confident and mundane.

Consider, for example, the knowledge of the previous miscarriage. Within the context of continued revelation as presented, this appears to be amazing. But Burpo does confide that they did tell Colton's older sister about the miscarriage, and it's really impossible to say what she may or may not have told him. Had Colton come immediately out of the operation with all of this information at his disposal, I, too, would be amazed. But Colton's insights trickled out in the months and years that followed the operation, so it becomes increasingly easy to imagine a scenario where Colton's older sister mentioned something to him in passing, and it was converted in Colton's mind into a false memory. The ability of young children, as well as adults in general, to generate false memories based on even unintentional prompts is well-documented. When you consider that Todd describes he and his wife showing Colton special interest and attention whenever he talked to them about his time in heaven, it's easy to see how Colton might continue to produce stories to tell them. Young children especially are renowned for their propensity to engage in any kind of behavior that will elicit attention from their parents, even negative attention (consider, for example, tantrums).

But if we take the story at face value and assume that Colton is describing a legitimate near-death experience (despite the fact that he was apparently never clinically dead as is usually the case), we can put it in the context of other NDE's, and in the context of wider paranormal claims like past life memories and abduction experiences. NDE's are a surprisingly common phenomenon, and by no means limited to Christians or even religious individuals, but they do tend to have a number of attributes in common. They're not worth delving into here (they ARE worth delving into here: [...]), but Colton's experience is easy to reconcile with the standard experience, when considered through the interpretive lens you'd expect from a young child who grew up in a highly Christianized environment. Colton's memories also have a similar tone to the countless numbers of recorded past life memories children have reported around the globe, perhaps most famously studied by Ian Stevenson ([...]) and popularized by Tom Shroder ([...]). This neither elevates nor debunks Colton's experience, but I don't think it can be considered independent of its context without a legitimate excuse.

Since few of us have the time or attention to thoroughly explore the context, however, and having read the story we demand some way to categorize it in terms of truth, perhaps the best way to judge the story is against the Bible. That may sound like a strange proposition coming from an atheist, but there are two good reasons for doing so. First, comparing something or someone to the standards they hold themselves to is always a good initial test; it forestalls any of the inevitable argument that arises from comparing them to a standard they don't accept. (The Wesleyan creed states: "Wesleyans are convinced that the Bible is God's written Word and the final authority for all Christian beliefs and practices," so it is fair to hold them rigorously to the Bible. Secondly, it is a possible point of departure for Colton's memories from the crowd of other NDEs - if his memories validate scripture, then they have an unusual feature which requires investigation. If they do not, then I'd suspect that the Burpos would agree that Colton's memories do not trump the Biblical word and should not be taken as truth.

In many ways, Colton's memories DO validate scripture, and often in ways that are surprising for a four-year-old who is probably not intimately familiar with the details of apocalyptical stories. But in other ways they do not, and even a few incorrect details in a sea of positives can be fatal - if we cannot trust Colton's memory on some details, how do we define what we can and cannot trust? Colton remembers seeing Jesus' hands pierced through the palm (Colton pointed specifically to the location for Todd) and his feet pierced through the top, but this is neither biblical nor historical. Some have argued that the Bible says Jesus was pierced through the hand, but neither Hebrew nor Greek at the time distinguished between the hand and the wrist, but they DID distinguish the palm of the hand from the rest, and this term was not used. Romans crucified through the wrist and the heel so the nails could support the weight of the body as it was mounted; the popularly conceived notions of where Jesus was pierced are misconceptions that appeared centuries later. Colton recalled dead relatives as appearing with wings and halos (the latter an interpretation by Todd), but these are not biblical either (wings are a medieval conflation of the dead with angels, and halos come from pre-biblical pagan sources). Christian bloggers have argued at greater length that I can here that these details are not only extra-biblical, but at odds with a belief in Biblical sufficiency (e.g. [...] In fact, however, the idea of the dead awaiting us in heaven is not really Biblical at all, as the Bible seems to indicate that the souls remain in the body (thus the early Christian hesitance to cremate) until God raises the dead (the bodily resurrection) at the end of times.

What Colton saw did not validate Biblical Christianity, but it DID validate modern pop-culture American Christianity - a Christianity where Jesus is an attractive, extra-masculine, green-eyed savior (never mind the fact that blue/green eyes are not native to Semitic peoples and only appeared after interbreeding with North-Western European populations after the diaspora), where we become angels with wings and halos who play harps, where spiritual warfare is not an allegory but a clash of actual (presumably) spiritual swords and weapons, where men fight and women and children do not (despite the fact that we are all one in Christ, neither male nor female like the angels). It certainly did not validate a Catholic Christianity (John the Baptist is afforded a greater honor than Mary).

How do we reconcile what Colton saw? I was raised in a Christian household, and while we didn't have paintings of Jesus ascending on our wall, I'm sure I saw dozens such pictures in books and at churches by the time I was four; how much more so would a child of a pastor who visits the homes of Christians and is surrounded with Christian-related material? Even just glancing exposure could explain most of the details of the appearance of heaven and Jesus, and particularly the location of Jesus's wounds as Colton remembered them, along with the halos and wings. Other descriptions that Colton gave (Jesus's rainbow-colored horse, and Jesus' crown with a pink stone) already appear to be childhood fantasies and require quite a bit of stretching to fit into biblical descriptions, if they can be fit at all.

The Takeaway - we can choose to take this book as truth or as fiction (fiction for whatever reason). Truth, our hearts may want to believe, because how else do you explain Colton's recognition of his great-grandfather's picture, or his knowledge of where his parents were during his surgery? But if we treat it as truth for these reasons, we have to take seriously the thousands of other NDEs with similar proof, and we have to take seriously the accounts of children who remember past lives and offer similar proof, and since these other accounts don't bear out Colton's description of the afterlife, we can take it or them as obvious, literal truth. If the only reason we have to distinguish Colton's experience from the others is its (partial) adherence to a particular brand of Christianity, then we are begging the question, and have nothing new to chew on - either we believe in that form of Christianity and still do, or we don't and still don't.

If we treat it as fiction, even unintentional fiction, then we are in the same position - it will stoke the fires of our preconceptions in the direction they already lean. The only meaningful takeaway from this book is as an additional story to add to the ever-growing collection of near-death experiences.
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91 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HEAVEN IS FOR REAL FOR KIDS, October 28, 2011
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL FOR KIDS by Todd and Sonja Burpo, as told by Colton Burpo
Illustrated by Wilson Ong
A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

I still have chills after reading this book. After hearing so much about the #1 New York Times bestseller Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo, I was thrilled at the opportunity to review this version for children, as told by Colton Burpo. If you aren't familiar with this story, little Colton visited Heaven during life-threatening emergency surgery and returned with intricate, Biblically-accurate details about his experience.

First of all, the illustrations in this book are absolutely breathtaking. The colors are so vibrant, and artist Wilson Ong made the story come alive in a way that will capture the minds and hearts of young readers.

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical. I would imagine that a lot of people are pretty hesitant to believe this story. But, now that I've read the children's version, I will be reading the grown-up version--immediately.

The part of the story that really struck me was that in Heaven, Colton was greeted by his older sister, who (lost in a miscarriage) he didn't even know existed. I realize that some people are doubtful, but you really must read this book for yourself. The book also comes with a Q&A section and a guide for parents.

Heaven is For Real for Kids is written in Colton's own words about his experience. Young kids will easily be able to grasp Colton's simple phrasing and descriptions, and once again, each page is illustrated beautifully. The message of love will surely bring peace, comfort, and joy to all who read it.

As a parent, I highly, highly recommend this book for all children and expectant parents!

I received a complimentary hardback copy of this book from the publisher through BookSneeze®.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry...not believable, April 7, 2014
By 
Kathryn J. Levitt (Plantation, FL USA) - See all my reviews
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I am Catholic and I believe in Jesus, heaven, and all that...I've read many books on NDE's and some are so good your like,"Whoa!"... This is not one of those books...this is a young impressionable little boy who only gives his story about heaven when he is prompted and cued by the adults in his life...for instance...there is a part when they are watching a movie...and the mom says to the little boy..."I bet your sad there's no swords in heaven..." And the kid answers indignantly..."yes there are...the angels use them to fight Satan..." This is where I stopped reading...about 3/4 through...it's possible he had a NDE...I'm not denying that possibility...but over the years he mentions things here and there about "heaven" and it typically occurs after an adult asks him a question or brings it up...it seems like he's making it up...like a game he thinks they are playing with him...I don't think he's "lying".. But it seems like it has become a game to the little boy...like a make believe game being played...and he's just playing along...plus...There is a pattern here...which is obvious to the reader but maybe not the writer...in almost every instance of Colton talking about heaven...he says something very brief and vague and the father(author) is just flabbergasted beyond belief...it happens over and over here,..not a good story and not credible...I think it's possible the little boy went to heaven...but I think the father prompted and manipulated his childlike mind to get him to say other things that may or may not be true...just rubbed me the wrong way...
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