Heaven is for Real?

Category Christianity

I saw the movie Heaven is for Real out at the Dimond Mall today, on a whim. I was going to skip it since I don’t generally think much of religious movies, but since this one dealt with a near-death experience, I decided to give it a chance. I am really glad that I did. The movie was very well done — a thought-provoking tear-jerker that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. It was a powerfully moving, emotional movie. The movie centers around the illness and near-death experience of Todd Burpo’s four year old son, Colton. While in surgery for a ruptured appendix, Colton has a near-death experience and sees Jesus, Heaven, Todd’s grandfather, and an unborn sister (who died in the womb) that he didn’t know he had. The movie also deals with the Burpo family’s coming to accept their son’s experience and coming to accept that heaven is actually for real. Part of what I gathered from the movie is that Todd Burpo, a preacher, really didn’t believe what he was being paid to preach, and that the same goes for his wife. Atheists in church? Perish the thought! 🙂

I have always found near-death experiences fascinating and thought-provoking. What if they really are for real? What if they really point to a continued existence in another place after physical death? I am not religious, and I certainly don’t anticipate ever returning to Christian belief, but I tend to take these experiences seriously, especially since I find the skeptical “hallucination” theory problematical at best. Calling near-death experiences hallucinations and writing them off as such fails to explain anything meaningful about them, including their life-changing scope and power.

I currently consider myself to be an ex-Christian agnostic, with atheist leanings. But near-death experiences (NDEs) really do make me think and consider the possibility that there may be more to life than what meets the physical eye. I would love to believe in a loving God and that a peaceful and heavenly existence awaits us after death, but I have been burned badly once by religion (fundamentalist Christianity) and I am very hesitant to put my trust in another set of beliefs again. But beyond thought-provoking NDE experiences, I don’t know of any real evidence that such a God or such a place actually exists. I think it is a matter of faith, but I’ll grant that such beliefs are certainly positive and life-affirming. In the movie, Colton Burpo encounters Jesus Christ, but I find that encounter hard to accept as real because the research I have done into the subject strongly suggest to me that Jesus — especially the loving Jesus that Christians tend to believe in and promote — is little more than a myth. There just isn’t much evidence that he ever walked the face of this earth, much less than he died on a Roman cross 2000 years ago and rose from the dead. The Gospels, while beautiful in some respects, were anonymously written decades after the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus, so they are not eyewitness accounts, and it is difficult for me to take them seriously as accurate accounts of the life of Jesus, especially since each Gospel portrays Jesus so differently. The most important event in Christian history — the resurrection of Jesus Christ — is not even portrayed accurately in the Gospels. The accounts vary and differ in the important details of the event. The Gospel of Matthew even has a story suggesting that many dead saints arose and visited the city of Jerusalem after Christ’s resurrection. I’m supposed to take a biblical account of a zombie apocalypse seriously?? I don’t think so…

There are some portrayals of Jesus that are beautiful. If you watch the Jesus Film, for example, it’s hard not to fall in love with Jesus and want what the movie strongly suggests that he has to offer — salvation and eternal life! On the other hand, Jesus supposedly commanded the literal hacking off of body parts if they caused offense or sin — not such a pretty picture of a loving Savior… Jesus is also depicted as bringing a sword rather than bringing peace (Matthew 10:34) and the Gospels contain warnings about a place called Hell, which I find diametrically opposed to the concept of a loving God. If Hell exists and human beings go there forever (being punished infinitely for finite sin), then God is a monster, not a loving Supreme Being. And, in fact, the Old Testament does portray God as a monster — a mass murdering monster most definitely not worthy of love or worship…

So… while I truly appreciated and enjoyed Heaven is for Real, and I highly recommend going to see it, I find it impossible at this time to justify a return to Christian faith. I’m sure that many Christians will love the movie, and I’m sure many will find fault with it. Go see it for yourself and let me know what you think…

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