LifeWay pulls all 'heaven tourism' titles in doubts over authenticity and theology

Alex Malarkey retracted his story about going to heaven and returning.Tyndale

LifeWay Christian Resources has pulled all its 'heaven tourism' resources, reports Baptist Press.

Among the titles affected will be The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey and Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo.

The decision follows a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution on "the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife" which was highly critical of some of the claims made by people who claimed to have visited heaven – or hell – and returned.

However, it also comes hard on the heels of the controversy following the admission by Alex Malarkey, who as a child claimed to have visited heaven when he 'died' in a car accident which left him badly injured, that he had made up the story. The admission threw the 'heaven tourism' genre into disrepute in spite of affirmations by other authors that their stories were genuine. LifeWay stopped selling The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven almost immediately.

LifeWay spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press: "Last summer, as we began developing LifeWay's new structure and direction... the role of heaven visitation resources was included in our considerations. We decided these experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer.

"Now that we've begun implementing the new direction, the remaining heaven visitation items have been removed from our stores and website and will not be replenished."

The SBC resolution warned Christians against allowing "the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience" to "become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife" and affirmed "the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one's understanding of the truth about heaven and hell".

Another 'heaven tourism' film, 90 Minutes in Heaven, starring Hayden Christensen of Star Wars and Kate Bosworth of Superman Returns, which is based on a book by Don Piper, has just finished filming and will be released in the autumn.