The best-selling story of a boy's near-death experience is a fake, according to its co-author and subject.
The publishers of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, Tyndale House, confirmed to Christian Today that the book is to be allowed to go out of print following the revelations by Alex Malarkey.
Co-written with his father Kevin Malarkey and published in 2010, the book purported to tell the story of six-year-old Alex's experiences in heaven after a car accident in 2004, which included meeting and talking to Jesus.
Now, however, Alex – who was left quadraplegic by the accident – has written an open letter to booksellers including the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway business recanting his story and taking aim at other accounts of "heaven tourism", a genre that includes Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and My Journey to Heaven by Marvin Besteman.
Addressed to "Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven", the letter says: "Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
"I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
"It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible ... not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough."
Alex's mother Beth, who is divorced from his father and who is Alex's caregiver, had previously disowned the book, writing on her blog: "It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book The Boy who Came Back from Heaven to not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned." She claimed that he had not benefited financially from it, concluding: "Alex did not write the book and it is not blessing him!"
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution at its 2014 conference critical of 'heaven tourism' books, though they continue to be sold by Lifeway.
Kevin Malarkey was also approached to comment on this story.