Several have asked me my thoughts on this movie. Since I have not read the book nor seen the movie it’s difficult for me to given a thorough response, however, I can say some basic guidelines I use for any book/movie that claims to be a true story and touches on theology.
1. Consider the source.
Every “true” story starts with a person. I usually try to research a bit about the person’s background before I am ready to buy their story. There is a world of difference between a person with a track record of integrity sharing something versus someone whose background may be a bit shaky or suspicious. If I heard an incredible story from Billy Graham I’d pretty much take his word for it. But if it was told by Miley Cyrus…wellll, let’s just say I wouldn’t give it a second thought. A four year old’s fanciful descriptions should not be heavily leaned upon.
2. Be a gracious skeptic.
Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but I’ve learned to view everything through a critical lens. Benjamin Franklin said, “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” That’s pretty good advice. Jesus said, “Be shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Why did he say that? Because “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” That means that God wants you to be smart about what you believe or buy. Trust God, check out everyone else!
3. Be a discerning consumer.
As we start the Daniel Plan, one of the biggest lessons we have to learn is to READ LABELS, not the propaganda. During a recent visit to Chick-fil-A I ordered a Grilled chicken Salad. I wanted the healthiest dressing. Was it the “Low Fat”? Nope. Reduced Fat? Nope. Fat Free? Uh-uh. Turns out the Light Italian seemed the best choice overall. The point is, never let marketing make up your mind. There’s a reason companies PAY people to push their products. Assume all marketing is NOT telling you the whole truth. Learn to become “hype-callous.”
4. Never, ever, ever form your theology from anything other than the Bible.
Whether it’s “The Shack,” “The DaVinci Code,” or “Heaven is For Real,” it is incredibly dangerous to form your beliefs on pop culture or non-inspired stories of men. The reason the Bible has survived for thousands of years is because it is God’s Word. The Bible contains all the truth you need to answer all the questions that matter. And everything God wanted us to know about heaven before our arrival has already been recorded by divine inspiration. Whenever a non-biblical source presents information about spiritual matters it must be weighed in light of the Bible. If there is any variance or contradiction, the Bible wins. Period. By the way, that includes preachers and Bible teachers. If I ever teach something that the Bible doesn’t affirm, you may freely discard my babbling.
The book/movie’s main character, Colton Burpo, gives information and descriptions of heaven that clearly are not biblical and seem more congruent with the imaginations of a child. For example, he states that he is given a halo and wings to fly around with, sits in Jesus’ lap and says the Holy Spirit is kind of weird blue thing.
All of the Bible’s true descriptions of heaven emphasize the glory of God and fear and awe was always the individual response.
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, gives an excellent summary in his Secret Church talk:
My overall recommendation would be:
- If brought up in conversation with non-believers, USE the subject matter to engage them in truth. For example, “Of course, I already knew heaven is for real, but I wonder, do you know what the Bible says about how we actually get there?”
- Either skip it for yourself or if you decide to watch it, do so following the Mossolonian Four Laws noted above!
What are your thoughts?