***Update (6:00p)***: Tyndale House says it will stop selling the book:
This evening, Todd Starowitz, public relations director of Tyndale House, told The Washington Post: “Tyndale has decided to take the book and related ancillary products out of print.”
We’re used to hearing stories about children with Christian parents who, facing some tragedy, “go to Heaven” and then come back to tell us all about it. Colton Burpo, the subject of the late-2010 book Heaven is For Real, is perhaps the most famous example. (Dr. Eben Alexander wrote a similar sort of book, Proof of Heaven, in 2012.)
But before both of those books went viral, there was the story of Alex Malarkey, the subject of the mid-2010 book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven:
Here’s the description of the book, published by Tyndale House:
In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad.
But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just terrible to a six-year-old. And, most amazing of all… Of meeting and talking to Jesus.
Last year, something weird happened. Alex’s mother Beth wrote on her blog that she basically disowned the book. It wasn’t just wrong on the theology; it was exaggerated:
When Alex first tried to tell a “pastor” how wrong the book was and how it needed stopped, ALex was told that the book was blessing people…
ALex’s name and identity are being used against his wishes(I have spoken before and posted about it that Alex has tried to publically speak out against the book), on something that he is opposed to and knows to be in error according to the Bible. How can this be going on???
That’s… pretty bad. But it went under the radar for the most part. The book was still selling. The publishers weren’t going to remove the book from their catalogue. The whole genre had exploded since the book’s release. People wanted to believe it was real. And this would’ve destroyed the narrative, along with the hopes of many Christians.
But they can’t keep this hidden much longer. Alex, the quadriplegic who was the centerpiece of the story, has written an open letter on the website Pulpit & Pen saying that the story is fiction and he was exploited:
“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible… not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.
Wow. He’s still a Christian, no doubt, but this a damning statement. It pretty much calls out everyone in the Christian world who published this book (and continue to make money off of it) even though the story isn’t real, as it’s marketed.
The Pulpit & Pen blogger adds:
… we are publishing this story because Christian publishers and retailers should have known better. They should have had the spiritual discernment, wisdom, compassion, and intestinal fortitude to not sell a book which contains, along with all books like it, deep theological problems. It also doesn’t help that in what is purported to be a “TRUE STORY” that there are vivid descriptions like “The devil’s mouth is funny looking, with only a few moldy teeth. And I’ve never noticed any ears. His body has a human form, with two bony arms and two bony legs. He has no flesh on his body, only some moldy stuff. His robes are torn and dirty. I don’t know about the color of the skin or robes — it’s all just too scary to concentrate on these things!”
LifeWay, the Christian retailer, is still selling this book despite Alex’s letter, showing that they care more about money than being honest, even when it directly involves their faith. (Even if they removed this particular book, others involving “heavenly tourism” would still be selling.)
Those of us in the reality-based community already knew the book was a work of fiction when it first appeared. No one has ever actually died and come back to life. Certainly, no one has gone to Heaven and come back to tell us about it.
But now one of the subjects has admitted this stuff never happened.
When will the Burpos and Eben Alexander admit the same thing?