The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: Update

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: Update June 12, 2014

by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Way Forward

(Editor’s note: This piece is an excellent example of the Evangelical tendency to dramatize or even outright lie in order to have a testimony convincing enough to reach the ‘unsaved’ Lying for Jesus. This child’s father is despicable for making money off his son’s tragedy and giving not one penny of the monies made towards the long term care this child needs.)

Last week, I posted a review of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. After my review hit the internet, Beth Malarkey, the mother of Alex, contacted me via Twitter.  She let me know that Alex, now a teenager, did not write the story and he does not agree with what is in the book.

On her blog, Life’s a Journey, Beth wrote:

I never intended this blog to be a place that I would have to defend my son ALex’s indentity let alone the journey that he and he alone has endured. I started this blog as a “fun” thing to do and with the intention of maybe sharing some hope and bits of wisdom that has been learned through the struggles. I have taken this blog down from time to time not sure what to do with it and NEVER wanting to make it appear as if any of the people that I write about are extraordinary individuals…

,,,This past week a movie based off the book Heaven is for Real came out. I have not read the book, do not plan to, and am strongly opposed to the movie. Let’s just say that the Burpo book and the book that has Alex’s name listed as coauthor (The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven),as does the Tyndale Publishing website (can not understand how that can be), have a few things in common which I will not get into on here. I am trying to defend my son and truth. Here is something to think about….

It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book The Boy who Came Back from Heaven to not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned. I could post facts and try to dispel many of the things contained within the pages of that book (have done a bit of that), I could continue to try to point out how Biblically off the book is (a few strategically placed scriptures does not make a book Biblically sound) and how it leads people away from the bible not to it (have done that as have others including John MacArthur and Phil Johnson), I could talk about how much it has hurt my son tremendously and even make financial statements public that would prove that he has not received monies from the book nor have a majority of his needs been funded by it (a fund that was set aside by a friend a few years ago has actually been paying for most things in the past few years but that fund is dwindling), I could…..but it seems like many people want to believe what they are given despite the wrong that it may be doing or the wrong that was done in the making of it.

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. Ok…first, Alex said that while he was struggling physically and trusting this person as someone who seemed to be concerned so the person was invalidating Alex’s feeling while justifying the wrong that Alex was trying to make that person aware of. . The person told Alex to “trust” him. Alex is the ONLY one that supposedly had the experiences being written about(Alex was a 6 year old and coming out of major brain trauma…note I am not saying what is true and not just that Alex was a kid with major brain trauma which alone should raise questions as to validity) Alex is the ONLY one who has endured not only a horrific set of injuries, but having his journey capitalized on. His struggles are NOT past tense nor is the “story.”

The ones making money from the book are NOT the ones staying up through the night, struggling for their breath, or were they the ones at six years old, waking up unable to move or breathe and in a strange place after last remember seeing a car coming right at the car he was riding in. What I have walked through with Alex over the past nine years has nearly broken me personally and spiritually. I have wept so deeply for what I have watched my children go through, been made aware of how ignorant I was of some things, how selfish I was, and how Biblically illiterate I was which allowed me to be deceived! Sure, I had read my Bible A LOT, but I had not studied it. I had listened to teachings but probably enjoyed more ear tickling than I am still even aware of(for that I repent and have experienced deep sorrow) I am so thankful that God is so merciful and patient. I am thankful that God allowed me to go ahead and fall for the junk that I did(and it was that junk)for I am fully aware of what it feels like to be pulled in.

There are many who are scamming and using the Word of God to do it. They are good, especially if you are not digging into your Bible and truly studying it. They study their audience and even read “success” books to try to build better and bigger…”ministries/businesses”. Please, examine what you see and read. I see many things from a different vantage point because of how much I have witnessed and am witnessing first hand…not second hand. I will remain puzzled and remain seeking truth in the Word of God! One more time..Alex did not write the book and it is not blessing him! Saying that it is blessing others to try to justify its wrong is just that…justification of wrong!

Beth is divorced from Kevin Malarkey and continues to be Alex’s primary caregiver.

malarkey children 2013


Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs atThe Way Forward.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.

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  • SAO

    I recommend that the mother contact an attorney and sue for royalties. She should sue the press, not the author. Often, a letter from a lawyer is enough to make a company give serious consideration to the claim.

    She could pursue other options, but suing over authenticity would be more likely to merely get her son’s name off the book, while her husband continued to profit.

  • persephone

    I agree. However she feels about the book, her son’s care has to be maintained.

  • gimpi1

    She may be able to attach the royalties as part of a support settlement. Is the father/author paying support at all? If not, why not?

  • Just a quick correction. Beth is separated, not divorced from her husband. Best I can tell she is now influenced by the writings of John MacArthur. 🙁 Regardless of the influence, her side of the story needs to be told.

  • Thanks for posting this. I’ve had questions about the whole story.

  • brbr2424

    I appreciated hearing the mom and the child’s side of the story. Perhaps we will hear from young Burpo in ten years or so.

    The father can’t be getting rich off the book. Amazon has about 60% of the book market. That metric is probably a little different for Christian books since there are Christian book stores. The Amazon sales rank is around 150k. According to an this self published author, a rank of 50-100k translates to sales of about one book a day. The ranking is probably somewhat logarithmic, so his book is probably selling not more than a couple of books a week.

  • I think as far as current sales go, I can’t imagine they are selling many books. The current book for sale is actually a 2011 reprint. When this book first came out it was at the top of the charts. Someone made a sh%* load of money. It sounds like that someone wasn’t Alex and his mother.

    I have been unable to find any meaningful recent info on Kevin Malarkey. It is like he has disappeared. I would love to hear his explanation.

  • Guest

    Did anybody else feel a bit of a twinge of discomfort reading the part about “how selfish I was and how Biblically illiterate I was”? It always strikes me, when I see the Bible turned into a weapon of self-criticism, how quickly that criticism can be turned onto others.

  • PB

    Having followed this controversy, I would like to respond as a trained theologian and faith-science investigator for an inter-denominational European research team who has done extensive work both on near-death experience reports and mystical literature in Christian tradition (Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox).

    My heart also goes out to Alex and Beth Malarkey, but for a somewhat different reason than that given by some commentators. What is very apparent to someone looking at all this from outside American Evangelicalism is the way in which discussion of the merits of the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ has been falsified by the polemics surrounding the ‘Strange Fire’ conference in which John MacArthur and others launched a sustained and unusually forceful attack on charismatics and others who do not hold to their particular ‘Sola Scriptura’ line of Biblical interpretation. From Beth Malarkey’s comments above and in her interview with Hank Hannegraaff it seems that she initially believed in at least some of the material contained in the book, but subsequently came under the influence of teachers who attacked the book as ‘unbiblical’. The fact that she should cite them by name clearly suggests that their highly controversial teaching is what has caused her to ‘repent’ of her former position as succumbing to ‘ear-tickling’.

    Many of the critiques that have appeared on the internet from this theological constituency against not only this book but also Colton/Todd Burpo’s ‘Heaven is for Real’ and others are based on the premise that the idea that Scripture is not only sufficient for salvation (on which all Christians are of course agreed) but EXHAUSTIVE is self-evident. This is of course not the case, as the great majority of Christians (obviously including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and – in a slightly different sense – Pentecostals) do not accept this view of the Bible and indeed regard it as itself unbiblical, as the principle of sola scriptura is never stated in Scripture!

    It is not my purpose to defend the veracity of everything written in ‘The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ (the question of verbal expression with regard to near-death experiences is a complex one, not least owing to questions of a pre-existing theological framework for interpreting an experience and the difficulty involved with subsequent reconstruction of such experiences in human language). Nor would I presume to comment on the question of the royalties, the ethical issues concerning the use of Alex’s story or the tension between Alex Malarkey’s parents. What I can however say with confidence on the basis of my own research is that there are striking convergences between the events related in the book and NDE/mystical accounts from Christian traditions with which the Malarkeys could not have been familiar, and that no actual evidence has been produced to challenge the compelling medical case history referred to regarding the accident. In trying to make an objective evaulation, this argues in favour of the authenticity of the account at least in its broad outlines, whatever one may think of the specific imagery of the afterlife and its relationship to Scripture (which the book’s detractors seem to read in a simplistically literal fashion).

    My own impression is that, tragically, the polemical and aggressive writing of commmentators with ideological axes to grind has had an intimidating effect on Beth Malarkey. Seen from the outside, this is the equivalent of theological bullying of vulnerable individuals. In addition to the trauma of her son’s medical condition, B.M. has had to deal with feelings of guilt at having given some credence to what influential but highly-contested Christian writers have essentially been attacking as heresy.

    My prayer is that there would be reconciliation within the family and that the intellectual and theological poverty of the arguments of the ‘Strange Fire’ camp against Christian NDE accounts in general should become apparent more widely within American Evangelicalism as they are outside it. It is clear that the Malarkeys have paid a heavy price for having been caught in the crossfire of a heated theological dispute which they did not initiate and for which they do not bear responsibility.