Last week readers left comments on our review of Burpo’s Heaven is for Real that ended up being erased when Google hiccupped. Thankfully, my local ministry partner printed them out before they went away, so I’ll use this as a chance to offer a general commentary and additional thoughts.
How can we be sure that heaven is still following all the principles of honor, shame, hierarchy, etc? The real question is, why should we think otherwise? 99.9% of people who have ever lived have been agonistic and collectivist. It is imperialist arrogance to suppose that heaven has changed for our sake, or to think that we’ll have a special section set aside for People Like Us. When people ask me about how we’ll deal with honor and shame in heaven, I always say – we’ll learn. The hard way, if needed.
How do we know Colton’s vision wasn’t adjusted by Jesus to make him more comfortable? This is merely a contrivance. There’s no reason why Colton would not have been comfortable with a Jesus who had darker skin than he expected -- the Burpos are not racist, are they? – and yes, the difference would be quite noticeable. It is asked if I expect Jesus to look the same through eternity; the answer is that I expect some reason to be given why he would not be, and why (conveniently!) he happens to manifest as a white Anglo-Saxon. The idea that Jesus manifests differently to different people is, like the rest of this, a wholly modern notion designed to accommodate uniquely individualist sensibilities. Paul did say he became all things to all men, but this is a principle of evangelism, and no one needs to be evangelized in heaven.
Nor would there be any reason for him to lack comfort with “nail holes” someplace other than his palms. Indeed, it is just as well to say ask why God would allow such details to be wrong, knowing that so many people would see that they are; it's the sort of error that gives critics fodder that is hard to refute. Medical evidence shows that the palms are unsuitable for crucifixion and will tear. Adding in ropes doesn’t solve the problem – it admits there is one and tries to get around it.
Maybe Colton made some mistakes. If that is so, then where is the line drawn as far as how much to believe about his testimony? And as a reader also put it (in a comment Google ate):
….how would the boy recognize Gabriel? Wouldn't he have noticed the extremely peculiar sight of six-winged seraphs, who fly above God and whose voices can shake the doorposts and thresholds of the temple? You'd expect a child to be amazed by such a sight, but did he mention any of what we do know about heaven from the Bible?
Also, why would Jesus retain the scars while he is now in heaven? Paul said in Philippians 3:20-21,
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Does this mean that we will also have the same scars that Jesus bore, or does he mean that Jesus no longer has the scar-riddled lowly body and is now transformed into a glorious body?
In the end, readers may wonder why I am so intent on this matter. The answer is that books like this one are not only shot through with error, they also make it impossible to convince Christians of the importance of apologetics. Why care about the textual reliability of the NT? It must be guaranteed, because little Colton saw Jesus in person, dude.
And that’s an attitude that lies at the heart of our problems in the Western church today.
The Ticker will be back Wednesday, as I have yet another medical appointment (different matter this time) Monday.