There's a lot of talk right now about the book and movie, Heaven Is For Real. The story of a little boy who supposedly went to Heaven. It isn't popular to say this.... actually, it is rarely popular to disagree with people who are gung-ho about such things, but I am skeptical. Very skeptical.
No, I didn't read the book, and you'd have to pay me to watch the movie. There is a copy of the book here, actually in my line of sight. It was a gift to my mom from a couple she used to babysit. I have looked through the book, read about the book and movie, and read what others have said about the book and movie..... and I remain skeptical.
Here is my skepticism in a nutshell:
1) This is supposedly what happened to a four year old boy, Colton. A four year old. Kids that age have great imaginations, and a great story telling ability. I sure wouldn't want to make such a big production out of something a four year old came up with.
2) Colton's description of some things he saw don't line up with Scripture. There is no evidence we will have wings and halos, and I doubt we will.... we aren't going to be angels.
3) Just the idea of how much money is being made off of the story makes me skeptical. A book, and now a movie. And as with any Christian fad, I am sure there is all kinds of merchandise as Christian companies try to cash in on a little boy's story.
4) People don't go to Heaven and come back. And why of all the billions of people on the earth, would God pick a 4 year old to do so?
Now I have heard the argument about it drawing people's attention to God and Heaven and all that..... and I am not convinced that is a big deal. With the exception of atheists, pretty much everyone believes in Heaven. And you know what else everyone pretty much believes?
They believe they are going there. In fact, no matter what kind of life their family members lived who have died, they believe they went to Heaven.
There's an old song that says "everybody talkin' about Heaven ain't going there". That is what the movie doesn't cover. Yes, Heaven is for real and is a wonderful place, but "everybody ain't going there". The only people in Heaven will be those who have repented of their sins, asked Jesus into their hearts, and lived for Him.
Really good people won't make it. No matter how sweet Granny was, she won't make it if Jesus wasn't her Savior. Did Heave Is For Real mention that? Did it mention the place people will go who don't serve God in this life? Did it tell the other side of the story?
It doesn't matter if every person on the earth goes to see Heaven Is For Real and is moved by it and convinced that Heaven IS for real, if they just assume they are going there and don't get the message of the Gospel. If they don't get the message there is also a Hell to avoid. And from what I hear, neither the movie or the book make the case about hell, nor make a case for people needing Jesus to make it to the wonderful place called Heaven.
Which brings me to the other thought on my mind: I am in a Facebook group called "Avid Readers of Christian Fiction." A lady in the group posted this earlier this evening:
"Anyone read Fear Has A Name by Creston Mapes. I enjoyed the book and would recommend. But, found it a little preachy. Any thoughts."
A few things:
1) I did read the book.
2) I didn't find it a little preachy
3) This IS Christian fiction we are talking about. Is preachy not allowed because it is fiction?
Christian fiction gets a bad rap. I have heard people speak derisively of the "Christian novel" and refer to them as fluff. And yes, there is some books out there with fluff, but there are many that have a great message, and I have been stirred and convicted by things I read in a Christian fiction novel.
I commented with what I just said in the above sentence, and that Jesus told stories that were very preachy, and we shouldn't be bothered by it. Then I thought some more. And here are a few more thoughts:
First off, let me say I am one of the first to admit the old "scare them to the altar with scary stories of hell" is not the way to do it. Yes, hell should be mentioned some. Jesus talked about it, but I speak from personal experience that it can cause problems if people are scared to the altar. I believe that is one factor that caused me to doubt God's love for so many years, and why tried to serve Him for the wrong reasons for so many years. One of those wrong reasons was fear of hell.
That said, I believe if every Christian got a glimpse of what hell is really like, it would change everything. We wouldn't be afraid to witness to friends and relatives. We would pray more for lost loves ones. We'd spend less time playing, and more time spreading the Gospel. If we sang, we'd sing songs to really reach people, not songs about your cheating heart, etc. If we wrote books, they'd be preachy. We wouldn't fear offending people by talking about God to much or by being too preachy, whether in a fiction book or in conversation.
But we don't fear hell enough. We don't fear people going there. Even the most saintly among us have almost bought into the idea that everyone is going to Heaven. But everybody isn't.
Heaven is for real, but so is hell. So is the reality that millions are speeding towards hell while we play and waste our time entertaining ourselves. Maybe its time we tossed the rainbows of books and movies like this aside, tossed aside ideas of being too preachy, and do what Jesus commanded us to to: take the Gospel to the world.