Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you have probably heard of the book and movie titled Heaven is for Real. I have previously blogged a brief summary and my opinions on the book in the post, Is “Heaven is for Real” for Real?.
Along with the wildly successful book for adults, Thomas Nelson has published two children’s books, Heaven is for Real for Kids and Heaven is for Real for Little Ones. The former is likely for children between the ages of 4 and 8, and the latter is for children 3 years old and younger.
As a children’s pastor, and having read Heaven is for Real, I was curious to pick up these children’s books and find out what was included. I found three big reasons why parents should be cautious. Here’s why:
1. Colton’s descriptions of Heaven are presented as fact rather than possibility.
In the book for adults, Colton’s journey to Heaven is told from the perspective of his father. In the children’s books, the story is shared from Colton’s viewpoint. The descriptions of Heaven, as told by Colton, are presented to your child as factual events; the book does not affirm the Bible as the primary source of truth about heaven. In my opinion, it is unwise to teach as fact that someone went to Heaven, saw Jesus, met many people, played and went “sight-seeing,” and then came back to earth to tell everyone. Is it a possibility? Perhaps. Certainly, I am not prepared to say that it is impossible, but to teach Colton’s story as fact would be a mistake.
2. Colton’s descriptions of Heaven are sometimes descriptions of the new Heaven, which does not appear to come until after Jesus’ return.
Throughout the books, Colton gives descriptions of how beautiful and amazing Heaven is; of course, the Bible agrees! On one occasion he says,
Heaven is more amazing than you can imagine. I could hear beautiful music and see lots of colors. Big, bright rainbows are everywhere you look. The streets are gold, the gates are made of pearl, and shiny jewels are on the walls.
This “vision” may match the Bible’s description of Heaven, but it appears to align with the description of the new Heaven (Revelation 21). Christians will not experience the new Heaven until after Jesus’ return. Jesus called the current Heaven “Paradise,” which those saints who have gone before us are experiencing today. Paradise may also match Colton’s description, but the Bible does not tell us definitively. Throughout the book there are several other “visions” which are also supported by Revelation 21 (the new Heaven and Earth chapter).
3. Colton is depicted as a source of truth or an expert on Heaven, even where the Bible is silent.
This last danger is the most unnerving for me. In the back of Heaven is for Real for Kids, there is a question and answer section that offers eight questions children might ask about Heaven that are not answered in the story. Question eight asks, “Do we really get wings in heaven?” Here is the response:
As Colton says, ‘You get to choose if you want to walk or fly.’ Again, the Bible is silent on this issue. No verse says that our heavenly bodies will or will not have wings. Colton clearly remembers wings, and because he remembers so many other smaller details that align with Scripture, it would be very unusual for him to mistake something as obvious as wings on everyone’s backs.
This statement is troubling. Just because someone makes claims that appear to align with scripture doesn’t mean we should say they are giving us truth–especially when scripture is silent. Where Scripture is silent, it is silent; we simply cannot know. No one knows for certain but God. As a result, it would be a mistake to say that Colton, or anyone, is speaking truth because they “seem to have gotten it right on other occasions.”
Heaven is for Real children’s books may seem very inviting to parents. Who wouldn’t want a child to know how amazing Heaven is going to be? However, I think it would be prudent to explain to your children prior to reading them that the Bible is the only definitive source for information about Heaven. For instance, you could read the story and add disclaimers, such as this, to every page: “The Bible doesn’t tell us what kind of animals are in heaven, but wouldn’t it be fun if there were monkeys?” We should do this because we do not know all of the wonderful things God has planned for those who know him (1 Cor 2:9). Perhaps a better option is to pass on these books and read the actual accounts of heaven from the Bible.
Our desire for our children should be that they learn to trust God’s Word alone as authority and truth on every subject. Heaven is for Real for kids and little ones seems to do otherwise.
Side note: “Heaven is for Real for Little Ones” does not go into all the details and descriptions that the book for older children does, but readers should still heed caution.