Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Afterlife tourism? Legitimate apologetics?

The increase of stories of afterlife  tourism to hell and heaven demands that  we address the issues raised by them and determine whether using them is a legitimate apologetics  strategy. Here is a brief blog article on the subject.

Its almost a rash, or even a flurry, it certainly is a phenomena...it's afterlife tourism. You know what I mean ,trips to heaven and hell. they are two a penny at the moment and I think it is a tragedy that the best selling boks in the evangelical world  over the last ten years are this one and similar type stories. the nook I'm thinking of is 'heaven is for real' by Todd burpo and his son Colton's trip to heaven.

There are plenty more both to heaven and hell? Mary K Baxter has a book, film, and a number of TV programmes.

So what do we learn about heaven or hell..

Demons torment people there, surrounding the lake , pushing people back in. There are different levels of hell and it is in the centre of the earth. we learn about the size of the place, and of the demon tormentors and it's entrances.

Jesus has blue eyes,  everybody has wings, God has wings! the Holy Spirit is sort of blue? Jesus  has brown eyes (accounts differ). Jesus is the only one in heaven wearing purple. There is a lot of Italian music playing in heaven (in fact an Italian band according to Baxter ).
The gates to heaven are pearl like and shiny.

Look, I could write page after page of descriptions of both  places taken from these tourism stories. Many of the facts are contradictory amongst themselves. Others (in fact all accounts) in some ways contradict the clear teaching of the bible.
My biggest concern is the amount of time, profile and airspace. Given to these things. There is a whole set of believers that are totally enamoured with this stuff.
I'm  concerned that so many people are gasping, sharing stories, reading the books, telling everybody else, having their faith and facts rearranged by these accounts of visits to heaven and hell.

Here are some things that have been said which clearly contradict the bible

1. Demons are in hell tormenting people. ( no they are not, hell was created to punish them)
2. People are in hell now.  (No one is in hell until death and hades are cast there).
3. heaven is like the new Jerusalem. ( the New Jerusalem is a symbolic description it is described as a Bride the wife of the lamb, the NJ is a symbolic picture of the perfected people of God).
4. People have actually seen God  the father. ( no they haven't).

In the burpo story there are bits of information revealed about his miscarried sister and other facts while he is heaven. do these supernatural facts show the story is true? They might, or they may be satanic deception or they may not be true.... We cannot verify these things. So what is the truth?

These things are not negotiable. Either the stories are incorrect or the bible is. So how should we respond where say Colton Burpos story is that he saw God the father who has wings and this contradicts the bible where it says 'he dwells in unapproachable light who no man has seen or can see' 1 Tim 6v16.

The link below comes with a truth and health warning that what is contained is a massive mixture of tall tales, exaggeration a, lies and a little bit of truth... http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HR1sFtFug38

How on earth do we respond to these stories.

A good degree of scepticism!  When extreme financial pressure preceded some of these accounts (Burpo) we can't help but be aware of the need to generate funds. When the stories grow with the telling, getting ever more fanciful (Baxter is an example). When the facts are not independently verifiable or when little facts like the person did not actually die and their heart didn't stop beating (Burpo) become public knowledge we simply have to realise we are not getting courtroom testimony here.
Do not rely on them for information.   I mean it. If we start relying on this stuff to inform us of the details of the afterworld we are in serious trouble.
Do not rely on them for evidence.
These accounts are subjective, often contradictory, the facts unverifiable and  sometimes fanciful. Apart from the fact that some may have some kind of kernel of truth, they still must not be put forward as evidence the faith is true.
Trust Jesus not these accounts.
If we promote, publicise and give prominence to these things we will point people to the wrong place , give them wrong priorities and mislead them.


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