This past week I read two amazingly different books. As I thought about it last night it occurred to me that I don’t think I could have read two more opposite books. I started the week by reading The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, because it needed to be read before I saw the new film. It is a good book, but very predictable at times and slightly too formulaic. It is also gruesome and violent at both a physical and psychological level. The second book I read this week is Todd Burpo’s syrupy sweet tear inducing Heaven is For Real. My reading was distinctly bi-polar this week. I thought I would spend some digital ink with a brief review of Heaven is for Real.
The Great Stuff
- Disclaimer, I did not think I would like this book. In general I am not a big fan of books like this which involve dying and coming back to life , ala Don Piper. These kinds of books are not bad, it’s just that I don’t need them. I’m already convinced that heaven is real. But . . . this particular book has such a compelling story that it is interesting in spite of the fact you know from the very first page where this is headed. There are no surprises here; nevertheless it is fascinating. I do not know whether that is Burpo or his co-author Lynn Vincent.
The Good Stuff
- There are a lot of good, wholesome things about this book, but one which sticks out is that I think I would like this family. More than that, there is something about the way in which the story unwinds that feels familiar. At several points in the narrative I kept thinking, ‘Yeah, that is exactly how I would be,’ or ‘I’ve felt that way before.’
- A second bit of good stuff would be the way in which Todd Burpo, a pastor, uses Scripture as his guideline for interpreting what his son is telling him; not the other way around. It would be so tempting to take our experiences and then view Scripture through that lens, but Burpo works hard to rightly point out that Scripture is our guide and we must start there. I appreciated that aspect of the book very much.
The Bad Stuff
- There is not too much bad in the book, but I somewhat worry about this little boy as he grows up. His parents are going to need to make very certain that he is healthy and well-adjusted as he grows up in his small town. I can see where something like this–not the going to heaven business, mind you but the celebrity of being the boy who died and went to heaven–might eventually become a negative on him. I’m not saying it will, but I’m saying the possibility is there and those adults around him will need to help him process through it all.
In summary, I liked this book, and I recommend it. The read is quick, only 154 pages of text with a fairly large font (but not as quick as Don Piper’s book 90 Minutes in Heaven. He was in heaven longer than it took me to read his book.) Inevitably people ask me, “Do you believe the story is true?” Well, I suppose I have to now, don’t I? I have no reason not to and there is nothing in the book contrary to my theological construct of eternity. I can say that the narrative is persuasive and has the feel of authenticity. I hope its true. But whether Heaven is For Real is for real or not; I do know that heaven is for real.