No doubt I’m going to lose a few of you folks with this as I revert into my conservative waters of orthodoxy, but hear me out. First though, a confession, well, more of an admission: In general, I am not a fan of fiction – well, for the most part; there are a few works of intrigue here and there. Although I do appreciate parabolic writing, metaphor, and analogy, I do not consider it a great value to invest time in reading the fiction genre. On a greater level of distain, I strongly do not appreciate theological fiction; it blurs the lines of truth. At best it is benign-esque, at worst it is dangerous and misleading. So, be that as it is, that’s where I stand.
Still with me? Good. Let’s press on.
Here’s my argument. It seems that we Christians present as very gullible these days especially when it comes to the latest “theological” fodder pulp-fiction, the “Heaven Tourism” genre; the new revelation of “visits” to Heaven. We claim to root ourselves in the sacred truths of antiquity, affirming the sufficiency of Scripture and all, then, some book or movie comes out which is most times not rooted in Scripture, and we run like lemmings to the sea to lap this stuff up (do lemmings “run”, I do not know, nor do I truly know if they lap). We look for anything even remotely close to a glimmer of Christian theological truth and then we champion the entire effort as Christian.
A few cases in point – the Left Behind series; nine volumes of theological fiction, and I might add, confusion as it blurs the lines between biblical absolutes and conjectural dross. Another is Heaven is for Real, the imaginary story of a boys’ journey to Heaven. Another is the recent movie 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. And the list goes on. The message we portray in embracing these is dangerously adolescent. “Wow! What a great insight of end times!” Or, “Oh, boy, I have been waiting for some new revelation to come out. Finally, after 2000 years God has decided to speak through a four-year-old boy and communicate new revelation about the doctrine of Heaven.” True, one of the examples above is fiction presenting as fiction; the others are fanciful fiction presenting as truth; both however muddle biblical truth. We, as a believing community, should be demonstrating greater judgment and discretion.
Perhaps, the most confusing of them all to me is the generated applause which Christians gave to The Shack. I have even heard of errant churches engaging in Bible studies in order to extract the deep theological profundities from this heretical work. Satan should be the only one applauding, not followers of Christ. May I remind you that this book, along with the others is fiction. That plain and simple means – it is made up. In the case of The Shack, it is fiction presented by an agnostic at best, and quite probably an atheist touting heresy about the Trinity and salvation.
I don’t get it but some of its proponents, you would have thought, were going to tear out some of its pages and slip them into their Bibles right along the inspired writings of Paul and John as though they carried the same level of insight of God’s true agents. “Wow! This book gives me a better picture of Trinitarian theology.” As if the true Biblical picture given were somehow deficient.
When we are generating our theological foundations or clarities based on works of fiction, by those of questionable spiritual merit, there is a problem. I have heard the arguments. “It’s just good clean fun.” “What’s wrong with it, at least it’s based on the Bible?” These afterlife fictional works are being sought by evangelical publishers and foisted upon the unsuspecting who claim to be in Christ. That coupled with the fact that the discernment of evangelicals seems to be at an all-time low bodes poorly for the witness, health, and integrity of the church.
Is ‘Heaven is for Real’ for real? The answer is, “No!” If we are to look to the Bible for absolute truth we would see this very clearly. Proverbs 30:4 asks this question, “Who has ascended into heaven and descended?” In John 3:13 Jesus gives a very clear, irrefutable response: “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.”
Is Heaven for real? The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” But it is not contingent upon the mystical fabrications of any uninspired human author; it is categorically true based upon the Word of God.
You may disagree with me and label this a rant; I say this as a very stern exhortation to the body of Christ. I know it sounds harsh, but I’m trying to look out for you! If it doesn’t promise true doctrinal value, why are you putting it in your brain? When did the Bible and theology become entertainment?
We would do better to invest our time searching the truth of God’s Word rather than the fictional false teachings, fanciful delusions, or demonic fabrications of those unconcerned with our spiritual well-being.