86 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2011
For starters, let me just say I am a follower of Christ. And, I call *baloney* on this one. Sorry. I am surprised that not more professing Christians have offered a skeptic review of this piece, given its popularity. I decided to read this book, like many, at the urging of several well-meaning Christian sisters in my Bible study who told me it was faith-affirming. I was sckeptic, but hopeful, and read the book as soon as I got it. I also had several non-believing friends who were interested in it, and I thought I'd read the book first before recommending it to them. The story did not affirm my faith, but I wasn't really expecting it to, as that is the Holy Spirit's job, not a 4 yr old's anecdotal account of heaven.
What I read was a sweet, re-telling of a very powerful emotional experience of a very VERY young child, retold by his parents, with the help of a co-editor. Period. I think the Burpos are, most-likely, honest people who had a genuine heartbreaking, emotionally laden experience where their faith was challenged and where their son said some unusual things. To be real, it sounded like the boy was getting fed alot of positive attention regarding his "dream, "experience", ect. I am sure he said some pretty unusual things, at the prompting of or inspired by the adults in his life. The boy isn't dishonest, he's just 4. Was it truly a trip to heaven? I guess we'll never know for sure, but probably not.
For the record, I am the stay-at-home mom of 2 boys, ages 3 and 5. I see and interact with alot of them. If this account of Colton is true, he is the most amazing, articulate, developmentally advanced intelligent child you could possibly meet. I think, in reality, he probably is a very smart, intelligent little boy who loves his parents and want them to be proud of him. I think his parents love him very much. I also think (with the help of an editor) there is some serious parental amnesia going on and some heavy editing of the details. The problem with all this is that it does not set the scene well logically for what comes next (the account of heaven), which is the main point of the entire story. Already, from early on, my skeptical red flags are waving. Here is a NOT QUITE FOUR YEAR OLD CHILD who, according to the book, before the story even gets off the ground:
* Is recalling the very long, difficult name of his surgeon at the hospital, without prompting
* is having a conversation with his dad immediately after surgery (sorry, have you or your child ever been under anesthesia? it takes hours to wear off, not minutes)
* was potty trained at just under the age of two (pg.23)
* has exquisitly detailed verbal recall, on a regular basis, of something happening for a moment of time several months ago (sorry, but IF I AM LUCKY I am might get one ONE tiny detail about school from my pre-school aged son IMMMEDIATELY after picking him up).
* has a genuis understanding of tithing, accounting, family values, and adult social cues
Also, he got some things wrong - one historical, the rest biblical:
* Jesus' markers, in the story are in his palm. I think the evidence out is that the nails were most likely in the wrists, otherwise the weight of the body would've pulled the nails out.
* Jesus' horse in Revelation is WHITE. Not "rainbow".(I'm hearing "My Pretty Pony") Revelation 19:11
* Jesus has, on his head not one crown, but "many diadems"(Rev 19:12) and His robe is not white. It is red, dipped in blood (Rev 19:13). And his sash is not purple, it is gold (Rev. 1:13).
* The 12 gates of heaven are made of 12 single pearls (one pearl per gate) Revelation 21:21, not gold with pearls on them (pg.105).
A few more items I'd like to point out:
* That Colton could recall Jesus clothing is not unusual at that age. In all the bible story books in my house, Jesus is always wearing a white rob and either a blue or purple sash. This is an image that is everywhere in children's biblical literature.
* That Colton said there was a great war in heaven where men fought monsters and angels with swords and bows and arrows is not unusual. This imagery is also all over children's biblical literature, especially for boys. Knight Warrior for Jesus is everywhere. It is also very Lord of the Rings. Ayway, all I'm saying is that a statement like this from a little boy is not so strange.Especially when he has everyone's full attention.
* The John the Baptist statement also doesn't mean much, considering this story was also probably circulating in the house at some point in time. In our home, we tell the story of Jesus being baptized by his "cousin" quite a bit. It is in every children's bible storybook.
* The fact that he thought the visual of Akiane's Jesus was "it" does not surprise me. It is a striking picture of a beautiful man, clearly different from traditional pictorals of Jesus. In the picture, Jesus is staring right at the camera, so to speak. In typical contemporary religious art, Jesus doesn't do this. Is it really the face of Jesus? Who knows. Maybe it is.Or, maybe this little boy just really liked the picture and thought the hair was different.
However, what is more telling as evidence for the Christian faith are the Gospels. Each one varies slightly on the anecdotal details, yet affirm each other on the major points. That is exactly what you would find in a 4-person retelling account of a similar experience, in this case Jesus' life. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are not cleaned up. Details are a little sloppy. "Heaven is for Real" is not sloppy. It is very cleaned up. Nothing the little boy said about heaven is unusual and, not an ounce of it is offensive or specific. It is sugar-coated candy for believers, and for non-believers, it's just silly. Additionally, I would be wary of having your faith affirmed by any other measure except the gospel account, as written in scripture, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
This has been a very long review, and a part of me feels bad for not being more positive. I do not mean to lambast the Burpos personal testimony. I think they are sincere people whose son had an unusual experience who said some amazing, faith-affirming things. The account of the little sister miscarriage is of particular interest. He might of even had a true dream about Jesus and His angels. And that is very, very sweet. Period. But, for those who need this book to become a believer - please let your faith rest on the good and complete work your Savior did for you on the cross - not on anecdotal testimonies of children. That is a very dangerous place with which to pursue your faith. God is not concerned with bringing us evidence for Him. if He did that, our beilef would no longer rest on faith, but on proof.
Having said all that, I am going to give it a 2 star, at the end of the day. If this book endeares someone to the Savior, and causes them to go to the Bible and study it and begin a true walk with Him, then He has used it for His purpose and that is a good thing and He can use whatever He wants.
139 of 180 people found the following review helpful
Colton Burpo, age 4, once his parents finally get him to a hospital, has a burst appendix and "dies" on the table. He is revived, and survives. Later, it comes out that he visited heaven during his death.
Let me preface this review with this: I am a Christian (Lutheran), married to a pastor so I am coming to this opinion as a believer. This book is not for me. It is written in very simplistic language, and simply misses the mark. The child may or may not have been to heaven, but frankly, the parents almost badger him for information whenever he mentions something about his trip to heaven. And he gets a lot of attention when he tells them what they want to hear--of course he is going to continue to have revelations. Based on this book, the Burpo's parenting skills leave a lot to be desired and no greater example of this is when the son and father are having an ice cream cone and the father notices a dead bunny in the road. He decides to use it as a "teaching" moment and tells Colton that is is what can happen if a car does not see you, you could get hurt or even die. Several moments like these made me shake my head.
This book is a quick read, as there is little substance here. If you need comfort, and you want to know about heaven, turn to Scripture.
Nov. 27, 2010
Very interesting--this review has struck a chord in many people--and not a harmonius chord. I have been accused of not being Christian, not being a believer, my parenting skills were questioned. So let me make it clear, despite what some people might think, I am a believer, I do believe in miracles, and I am a Christian. This review is my opinion, simply that. Do I believe that a person can go to heaven and return--yes I do. But, my theology is not what is being reviewed. I simply did not like this book--others can and will read it and draw something from it--good for them. It was my understanding that we are all entitled to our opinions even if some disagree with them. It is not necessary to attack my faith because I did not like this one particular book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2011
I wanted to love this book. I truly did. But from the beginning, this wasn't a story about a child who had an (alleged) after-life experience. It is all about the father, and his interpretation of things his child said (some odd, some innocuous, but few that really made me go "wow!" (My kids say things all the time from which I could 'interpret' some higher-power meaning, if I try.)
Cute & uplifting? Yes. Awe-inspiring & life-changing? Not even close.
81 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2011
First, I am a believer. So, I am not in the least put off by a young boy's "experience" with Heaven. What I regret is that this experience was obviously the cumulative effect of Sunday School teachings, parental conversations, and a child's observations over time. (It took months, if not years, for the full story to be revealed by the boy.) This is Heaven the way a child would see it. One in which Jesus looks like the paintings of him, you get to see all your dead relatives, and the cast from the Bible stops by for a curtain call. It trivializes what is likely a Heaven so grand and complex that the human mind cannot comprehend it. It's not a bad story, but it plays into non-believers' idea of believers: that we are simple-minded, non-questioning children.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2011
I don't purchase a lot of books, but I bought this one with the intention of sharing it with family and friends. I was secretly hoping that this fascinating story would be a good way to witness to a couple of relatives who needed a little convincing that Heaven and God are for real. I had heard about Colton's story and was looking forward to reading more details of his experience and witnessing the afterlife thru the eyes of a child. I totally believed the initial accounts I had heard and expected this book to be awe-inspiring. Sadly, after the first couple of chapters, I knew this was not going to be the case.
While I have no debate on the pros & cons of the religion factor in the story itself, the basis for my low rating is in the way in which it is related. First of all, it's about 50% Colton's story and 50% his father's interpretation and correlation to scripture. It was almost as if the authors felt a need to justify each snippet of Colton's revelations - which sort of negates the concept of seeing it thru a child's eyes. Mostly though, I struggled to believe that a four-year-old child could express himself so articulately as he did in this telling or that he could have such a grasp on the complex symbolism of his observations. For example, he said that Heaven's gates were covered with gold and pearls. Does a four-year-old even know what pearls are? Now if he had said they are "shiny" or some similar general term, that seems much more likely to me. Also, when he asked his father about his grandfather named "Pop," he wanted to know if that was his mommy's daddy or his daddy's daddy. Again, I don't doubt that Colton may have met his great grandfather, but it's a stretch to believe that a pre-schooler understands the line of succession from a great-grandparent to his own parent. For most kids that young, a grandparent is a grandparent and they make no distinction as to generation, much less maternal or paternal side of the family.
In summary, I had formed certain expectations based on accounts I had seen on the news and wanted very much to love this book. However, I found that rather than having my initial acceptance of the story confirmed, it was significantly dispelled by my reading of the book. Not only did I lose the enthusiasm to share an amazing story, I was also left wondering if it was as genuine as I had first believed it to be.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2012
When I was around Colton's age, I had a school friend who told me she lived in a haunted house. Each recess, she would regale me with fantastic stories of her haunted abode. I was captivated and looked forward to the continuation of her wild tales every day. I often would ask leading questions that would take her on to other creative tangents. I'm sure she noted my enthusiasm and she never let me down until after about two months when she admitted that the story was completely made-up. I was crushed.
I find Colton's story very similar. I have no doubt that his initial story of heaven was "true" for him. Just as a near death story for a Muslim child might reflect his/her religious beliefs. I am less certain as the story progressed, however, that he wasn't pandering to his parents' delight and that they weren't prompting him a little more for details that matched their own expectations and beliefs. For example: "I bet they didn't have swords in heaven," Dad pronounces. Followed up quickly by Colton wanting to please his dad by not only saying yes they did but that his dad would be one of the ones to use said sword to fight the devil! How convenient that Colton's extended stories were identical to his father's own literal Bible translations!
As a Christian, a therapist and also as a bereaved parent who has lost a child, I read this book with the hope that I would discover something definitive about life after death. I feel that Colton's initial story, as I stated before, is guileless and I believe that he spent those 3 minutes in heaven. The rest of the stories, though, seem like his parents are leading the witness: planting questions in which an expected answer is obtained. Colton's motivation (like that of my grade school friend)is to provide entertainment and pleasure to his audience. In this case to his mother and father who so desperately want confirmation of their religious point of view, which their dutiful son provides them.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2011
Having just finished this book on a recommendation, I put it down feeling as if Colton's experience was cheapened by his father's elucidation of the story. I am skeptical of the events as they are written. Having worked with dying children before, I do not question that they have visions or experiences that parallel divinity, yet the story is credible when not sensationalized. I understand that the family has taken the dog n' pony show around to different media formats, which in my opinion makes even stronger argument for the "fruit cake attention seeking Christians" that those with a story to tell are so quickly labeled. Perhaps this should have been Colton's story to tell rahter than his parents. As a follower of Christ, I don't question that His presence was revealed to Colton. However when enlightening that vision to the world, it must be treated with discernment. Those receiving it should be equally cautious.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2012
I have a hard time believing its accuracy. I'm sure some things happened but a lot of it was embellished for a tear-jerk and dramatic read. I haven't finished the book yet but as a RN with specialty in ER and Pediatrics, there are already some medical inconsistencies. Based on my personal experience, someone as sick as Colton for that many days, laying limp in their arms, throwing up for days, does not have energy to scream or yell or cry for daddy. Ask any pediatric or ER nurse, when a child gets that sick, they don't argue or cry for anything like Colton did at one point in the hospital. Another example, father said Colton came out of surgery and was "alert" and asking for him. When a child or even adult comes out of anesthesia, they are NEVER "alert" and usually still sleeping off the anesthesia. It's a cute book though and I do feel bad for the parents going through what they did. But, they are making a lot of money off this book so I'm not going to feel that badly :)
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
Well, as there are over 5,000 reviews on this book I imagine that mine will get lost in the mass. Most are assuredly all fervently positive from equally fervent Christians since the book appears to back up their fundamental beliefs. That wasn't my opinion... But here goes anyway.
I was very anxious to read this book. I figure what could be more honest and refreshing than a near death experience of a child? A child is likely to have no preconceived notions or opinions of the experience and thus we can get a most truthful and honest relating of an experience that is very intriguing and compelling for many people. Sadly such was not to be the case.
This first red flag for me was discovering that Colton was the son of a Pastor. That's not an immediate disqualification of any validity but my experience with People who have had NDE's and are very Christian is that the telling of their experience tends to be 'colored'. But hey, this is a kid, a very young kid, a Tabula Rasa.
The book was written by Colton's Dad and very soon into the book it became apparent that not only did Dad's opinions of what heaven should be like start to color Colton's recounting but Dad was using this event to proselytize to others. Some degree of this was to be expected but in this case it became excessive. It became apparent that Colton was trying to recount his experience (and please Dad) using the framework that was provided for him on Sunday. (and probably throughout the week) In fact the best parts of the book were the ones where Colton was able to tell his story on his own. Had the book only contained those things without or with very little of Dad's commentary it would have been far better. It would have been a lot shorter perhaps but a lot better.
I understand the necessity to put an unknown experience into a model that is best understood by the person(s) undergoing the experience. That's okay. But in this case I think Dad should have taken a few steps back and let Colton tell his story without, 'leading the witness'. I won't even go into why young Colton wasn't taken to the ER a lot earlier. That's another topic altogether.
As Near Death Experiences go I was hoping for a great deal more from this one and didn't get what I was hoping for. If you are agnostic looking for even handed relating of an NDE this story is probably not for you. If you are a die-hard unswaying Christian believer, you will likely love it.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
Having a phone with Kindle capabilities and a job that, at times, allows me a fair amount of opportunity to read throughout the day has led me to download many a book I would not otherwise do. "Heaven Is Real" happened to be one of those books. Stumbling upon it in the Amazon store, along with 6 dollar price tag, the many reviews, and the idea of a digital copy, versus a physical copy and I quickly downloaded it, reading the whole book in only a few short hours.
The title says it all: "Heaven is Real". You can get a much more in depth and well rounded summary of the events here but basically we, the readers, are told Heaven is real, led to this conclusion on the words of a 3 year old who supposedly visited it. So I guess the first question to ask is, do I believe in Heaven. Absolutely. I do in fact believe many of the things taught in the Holy Bible, so my opinion may not be as biased say of that of some atheist. However, giving credence to the sayings of a 3 years old who was violently sick, I might add (he was in the hospital when this so called "visit" occurred), is rash and premature.
First there is the glaringly obvious fact that in no point in this entire story is Colton Burpo ever "dead". The doctors never pronounce him dead, never revive him, never even come close to that morbid diagnosis. Yes, his outlook is grim (a burst appendix is serious business) but even a provided medical chart never once mentions "death". This presents a problem for me. Now growing up, I've alway been told that unless the rapture happens, the only way to get into Heaven is by ceasing to breath and to expire. There is the argument of John and book of Revelation, sure, but even that was a vision, NOT a trail pass to the pearly gates. That God would bend the rules for one small 3 year old boy isn't something I see him doing. My thoughts? Like I said, Colton was utterly and violently ill, loaded up with all manner of drugs and medications. Instead of rushing into this "Oh My he want to Heaven" belief, wouldn't it make much more sense to attribute his "visit" to the effects of the powerful meds rushing through him? Just watch that famous youtube video of that poor kid after a dentist appointment and I think you'll get the general idea.
And then there are the things Colton supposedly saw. I said I Do believe in Heaven so don't take it wrong here, but honestly, I find it very very hard to take seriously the descriptions that Colton speaks of: Jesus with a beard, people with wings and halos, children sitting on Jesus's lap. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these the EXACT same images children are taught in Sunday school and shown in picture bibles the world over? Ask ANY well taught 3 year old what Heaven is and undoubtedly, they pretty much say something vaguely similar. What irked me the most in Colton's description was Jesus and his "markers". Am I really to take Colton's words as truth when he says Jesus's hands bare the mark of the nail directly in his palm? Hasn't it been scientifically proven that there was no way Jesus could have been crucified with a nail directly there?
Again, these are not original idea, but rehashed and spoken from the mid of a 3 year old. Colton says he sees a great-grandfather he never met, his miscarried sister, Satan (who is, surprise surprise, seen as a dragon) and the Holy Spirit zapping his father with "power" so that he can be a powerful pastor. He says Heaven is made of gold (again, straight from Sunday school), that Jesus wears something on his head (and is led to believe its a crown by his father's leading questions), angels wear white, and that Jesus "really, really loves the children". Which I might add is a staple of Sunday school teachings. The descriptions are so cookie-cutter and unimpressive that I honestly do wonder if Todd Burpo and his wife are just trying to make a quick buck out of their son's wild fever and drug induced ramblings. Even the apostle John (who followed Jesus himself) couldn't describe Heaven in any way we, a modern people could understand. What makes us think the simple mind of a 3 year old can do a better job.
"Heaven is Real" does have a few heartwarming qualities despite it's shortfalls. Obviously it's a feel-good story, leaving the reader feeling better and confident. Then it's well written and paced nicely. Even though I assume most of this was written by Lynn Vincent, Burpo does a good job narrating his story. He's also a very good father, and you can read the love and anguish he feels for Colton, Cassie, and his wife as well as his struggling faith in God's testing of him. Finally it's a fast, easy, guiltless read.
If anything can be learned by "Heaven is Real" its this: people will write anything if people will buy anything. Maybe it's the age we live in but inspirational books sell (pardon the cliche'd expression here) hotter than hotcakes. We all want to feel good, to have something to strive for. Something to believe in. For those sucked into this trend, "Heaven is Real" is a definite deliverer and as it's true, and involves a kid, it's a very easy money maker. However, to me, it came across as just that: a money maker. Nothing original, or even enough to make me ponder. I don't know Burpo's intentions in writing this, and they may be pure, but as I read in another review, "Heaven is For Real" puts believers in a mildly bad light, making them out to be simpletons who will be sold on anything as long as it says the word Jesus, Heaven, or God.