I haven’t read a single book in the heaven-and-back genre, but it does chap my hide every Sunday when I see them atop the NY Times Bestseller lists. How dumb can the American public be? I ask myself. (Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question.)
Tim asks a different question: Am I, as a Christian, obligated to give these Christian authors the benefit of the doubt:
I am not going to review To Heaven and Back. It’s pure junk, fiction in the guise of biography, paganism in the guise of Christianity. But I do want to address a question that often arises around this book and others in the genre: How do I respond to them? How do I respond to those who say they have been to heaven? When a Christian, or a person who claims to be a Christian, tells me that he has been to heaven, am I obliged to believe him or at least to give him the benefit of the doubt?
No, I am under no such obligation. I do not believe that Don Piper or Colton Burpo or Mary Neal or Bill Wiese visited the afterlife. They can tell me all the stories they want, and then can tell those stories in a sincere tone, but I do not believe them (even when they send me very angry and condescending emails that accuse me of character assassination). I am not necessarily saying that these people are liars—just that I am under no obligation to believe another person’s experience. Here’s why:
You can read the rest in Tim’s post.
I agree with Tim. We’re under no obligation to believe these accounts. In fact, it’s just the opposite: our theological commitments require us to be skeptical of these stories. Heaven, after all, is not a physical (or meta-physical) place — just ask NT Wright.
Heaven is a time, in the future, in which God’s messianic re-creation of all that is will be complete.
So I don’t know where Don Piper went, but it wasn’t heaven. At least, I doubt it.