Earlier this year, Alex Malarkey, the subject of the 2010 book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, announced that his “true story” was completely exaggerated.
This wasn’t a surprise to most of us who see no evidence of an afterlife, but it sent some shockwaves through the Christian publishing world because they had made a ton of money peddling books by people offering a glimpse of Heaven.
(Colton Burpo, the subject of Heaven is For Real, soon issued a statement defending his visions.)
To their credit, Tyndale House, the publishers of Malarkey’s book, said they would stop selling it.
And now, LifeWay Christian Resources — arguably the largest outlet for Christian books — says they, too, will stop selling all “experiential testimonies about heaven” indefinitely:
“Last summer, as we began developing LifeWay’s new structure and direction — what we’ve now identified as One LifeWay — the role of heaven visitation resources was included in our considerations. We decided these experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer,” LifeWay spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press in written comments.
“Now that we’ve begun implementing the new direction, the remaining heaven visitation items have been removed from our stores and website and will not be replenished“…
The impetus for the decision is the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution regarding the “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.” Which is a fancy way of saying authors don’t need to embellish what they think they saw during a coma because the Bible says enough about Heaven.
It’s not completely satisfactory. It’s not like LifeWay admitted these books were fantasy or just prosed-up versions of a child’s overactive imagination. I mean, if LifeWay wanted to stop selling fiction under the guise of non-fiction, it’d pull everything written by David Barton, not to mention the Bible.
Still, this is a good step.
It won’t stop Christian publishers from putting out these kinds of books, of course. They’ll continue to get plenty of mileage from the “heavenly tourism” genre through Amazon and other online/physical outlets. And if the money’s flowing, why would they care about integrity or accuracy?
But maybe it’ll at least slow them down a little bit.