Boy who “came back from heaven” recants story, rebukes Christian retailers

Is the Bible enough? Is it sufficient?  There are a lot of books on the market lately that appear to be personal testimonies of people who have actually visited heaven. The problem is, these experiences are outside of what Scripture tells us about heaven, and there is no way to validate them. But Christians have been snapping up these books without any regard for the sufficiency of Scripture, and retailers have been profiting nicely – in spite of the theological problems with such stories. Now comes word that the book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, is a total made up story. In fact the boy’s mother has been warning bookstores for years, but her voice was drowned out by the sound of the cash register.

Kudos to the folks over at Pulpit & Pen, who have published an open letter to retailers from the boy himself, now a young man, who calls on Christian bookstores to repent:

“The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” Recants Story, Rebukes Christian Retailers                               By Pulpit and Pen



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download (3)

Lifeway has been selling The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven for many years now. It is part of the trifecta of books on “heavenly tourism” that Lifeway has sold and has promoted, along with 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real. The co-author of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven – the boy himself – has written an open letter to Lifeway and admonished them for not holding to the sufficiency of Scripture, and has recanted his tale. For those who may not be familiar with of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, the publisher’s description is as follows:

“In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex–and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. ‘I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,’ a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just ‘terrible’ to a six-year-old. And, most amazing of all . . . Of meeting and talking to Jesus. ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ is the true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.”

It’s in this context- the context of Lifeway selling this book and making money off of it for years- that Alex Malarkey, the co-author of the book, has reached out to us.  Alex is well aware of the #the15 and supports the mission of those who are tired of being marginalized and written-off by those considered to be Christian leaders for bringing up legitimate concerns. We saw some seeds of this a bit over a month ago when Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources and one who has become the object of much exhorting and beseeching about these issues, was contacted by Alex Malarkey’s mother, Beth.  Alex’s mother communicated to Rainer that her son Alex was against the book that purported to be his story.

Unfortunately, Thom Rainer has taken no apparent action as result of Beth’s comments. Perhaps he plans to, I don’t know. I do know that, so far, due to the pressure and pleas from the Pulpit and Pen and others, that three of the books that we have taken aim at and labelled “the worst books Lifeway sells” have been pulled from their online store.  We’re going for a fourth…not because we’re upset and just want to cause a scene, but out of love and care for our neighbors who might read this. Sadly, messengers to the SBC in 2014 passed a resolution against such books, but Rainer continues to proudly display heavenly tourism on the shelves at the SBC-owned Lifeway bookstores.

Also, we are publishing this story because Christian publishers and retailers should have known better. They should have had the spiritual discernment, wisdom, compassion, and intestinal fortitude to not sell a book which contains, along with all books like it, deep theological problems. It also doesn’t help that in what is purported to be a “TRUE STORY”  that there are vivid descriptions like “The devil’s mouth is funny looking, with only a few moldy teeth. And I’ve never noticed any ears. His body has a human form, with two bony arms and two bony legs. He has no flesh on his body, only some moldy stuff. His robes are torn and dirty. I don’t know about the color of the skin or robes—it’s all just too scary to concentrate on these things!” 

With that said, we offer up Alex’s letter.  It is directed to the Christian bookstores that sell his book for profit. While I’ve no doubt that Lifeway will see this and will more than likely pull it off their shelves and online store, I would ask and pray that anyone reading this would contact other major large Christian bookstores and organizations and send them this link, so that they too would pull it down. We thank Alex for trusting Pulpit & Pen to release his letter.

From Alex:

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10928626_10204948860017913_449404330_n (1)

“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”

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.

In Christ,

Alex Malarkey.”

The Bible is enough.

The Bible is sufficient.

Christ is enough.

Christ is sufficient.

We don’t need Christian bookstores to tell us otherwise. We pray that Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, other Lifeway executives and all Christian book retailers will take notice of this courageous and Gospel-centered 16 year-old young man.

[Contributed by Dustin Germain]

Note. For an excellent, concise and biblically spot-on analysis of heavenly tourism, please read Phil Johnson’s post The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine


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20 Responses to Boy who “came back from heaven” recants story, rebukes Christian retailers

  1. Stephen says:

    Now let's wait for Colton Burpo and all the others to come clean. Malarkey repented and turned to Jesus; now there's a story more glorious and joyful than any made-up trip to Heaven. And it is for real.


  2. at the end of the day, Christian bookstores are just businesses, even Lifeway; they're not out to change people's theology or even to spread the gospel but to make money. It's not their job to research stories to see if they match Biblical correctness or not, but simply to turn a profit for that business. It is the job of ministries like Pulpit and Pen to educate Christians about what books are good and which are not. It's good when these kinds of ministries can talk the bookstores into pulling the bad books out of the inventory but they shouldn't expect the bookstores to be the ones to do that type of work


    • @blankaffect says:

      Dwight,I think Christian bookstores exist to sell books that Christians can read trusting the author and publisher, as well as the retail outlets, to not knowingly sell deceptive products. The second paragraph of this article suggests Alex's mother has been warning retailers "for years" about the truth of the 6 year old's story, but was ignored because it was making money. If those bookstores only exist to make money, they shouldn't have "Christian" as part of their name; they're just another bookstore. Jesus and virtually every New Testament writer warned about deception in the last days. It certainly does not help for a business claiming a Christian identity to sell what is known to be false, just to make a buck.


      • Laura Young says:

        I think Christians need to be discerning in anything and everything they read, watch, listen to or participate in – ESPECIALLY if it has the word "Christian" attached to it. Just walk in any so-called Christian bookstore and you will find books written by known false teachers – placed in a prominent spot and touting their best-seller, Oprah and Dr. Phil credentials. We used to enjoy going to our local Christian bookstore, but increasingly noticed that the things that were unscriptural were usually pushed to the forefront, while digging had to occur to find anything worth reading. Anything we do buy now we purchase online after a lot of research and focused prayer. We have probably thrown out just as many books that claimed to be Christian as the secular novels we threw out when the Lord led us to kick Stephen King, James Patterson, Dean Koontz and friends out of our home.


    • martin says:

      Is that why christan bookstores overprice everything? Profiting through lies in the name of God? What a lame excuse for such an obvious mistake… you ought to reconsider your comments. Unless of course you are one of those christian bookstore owners.


  3. Betty says:

    Alex begged Tyndale House not to publish the book. He was told, "It's a done deal." His mother has been trying to get the truth out for years. Neither she nor Alex (nor any of the other three children in the family) have received any money from the book sales.


    • Barry says:

      That is untrue. I know this family and they are modest people with a heart for Jesus. There may be problems, but the miracles that surround them are not among those problems.


  4. victoriadiagnello says:

    That is the problem; the harlot. It's all about the money because they are just a business. And they sell plenty of apostate books. Lifeway is owned by some Beth Moore affiliate from what I heard, so it figures. These people don't care about biblical orthodoxy, just the ringing of the cash register. That is why WE have to be the vigilant ones. If something doesn't line up with the bible, it's outa here! We don't need anything besides the bible and right now it's dangerous to buy ANY book at a so called Christian bookstore with the rampant apostasy in full swing. The only book I have besides my bible is Foxe's book of Martyrs through the 21st century. But I applaud the young man for taking a stand for truth and if it is his 'story' then doesn't he own it and have the right to recall it? But I don't know how that works. Anyway all will have to answer for their actions before a holy God one day, business or not. Only those who are truly saved and being obedient to the Lord will fare well at that time. If not they better repent while there is still time.Blessings


  5. Ben says:

    First, I am not a fan of the so called "heavenly tourism" books. I wasn't when I worked for LifeWay and I'm still not. Second, there are a lot of gullible folks who don't know Scripture and are looking for encouragement, help, or just something that seems to make sense to them. The question LifeWay and others have to ask is, "Where is the line?" Where do you draw the line? Obviously, if a resource teaches that there is another way to fellowship with God than through a relationship with and belief in His Son, Jesus Christ, that is heresy. Those are pretty easy for LifeWay to decline. There are a lot of others that have theological flaws/holes of one size or the other, but perhaps don't reach the threshold of heresy.
    LifeWay has the unenviable task then, of deciding whether to sell the item or watch someone else sell it. How bad is too bad when it comes to theological difference. There are a number of realities in the Christian book business. First, it's a shrinking market. People aren't reading as much as they once did. Second, with big box stores like Wal-Mart in the game, margins are constantly shrinking. It's a tough business, and make no mistake it is a business, not a ministry, nor a para-church organization. Next, Southern Baptists alone have not, cannot, or will not support LifeWay stores by themselves. The buyers and VP's are put in a tough position. If they refuse to carry anything that disagrees with some segment of Southern Baptist doctrine, but does not rise to the level of heresy, they miss out on potential sales and perhaps alienate customers at the same time. Where's the line? At some point, the customers have to be responsible, not the store.
    The bottom line is that LifeWay stores and other Christian retailers are in a tough spot. I can tell you because I worked there and know some of the people tasked with deciding what books are carried that they don't take their job lightly. They understand the responsibility they have and they take it very, very seriously. Have they been right every time? No, I don't think they have and I believe THEY would tell you they haven't. However, considering the business pressure they are under and the volume of material they must consider, they do a remarkable job. There might be another Christian retailer that is as picky, but there's none that's more picky.
    It frustrates me to read some of the posts on the P & P blog. The writers are always after LifeWay about something. Most who post are pastors. I would encourage them to spend less time being the LifeWay police and more time shepherding the flock God has entrusted to them. Love your people and preach the truth in love. That's what you're called to do. Stop wasting your time and energy jousting the LifeWay windmill with your pure doctrinal lance and use that time in personal worship and study, building up the kingdom, or building up your people. Better yet, spend it with your family! What you're doing isn't helping anyone. In some cases, you're right theologically, but to what end? How many souls are being won or hearts changed because you scored a point of doctrinal order?


    • davemosher says:

      Ben, you made many good points. You say Lifeway people are being picky and pulling books – and I commend them for that. I couldn't find any titles by the heretical contemplative Richard Foster or the heretical Emergent Brian McLaren on their website. But they seem to send mixed signals, pulling some titles while digging their heels in on others. I'm wondering why they aren't pulling some of the other most obvious heretical books, books that are the most protested by discernment ministries. (I realize they are the only ones that can explain their actions or inactions). Some examples:
      Here's a discernment article on "The Circle Maker":
      Here's a discernment article on Beth Moore:
      Your last paragraph concerns me, particularly your ending sentence: "In some cases, you're right theologically, but to what end? How many souls are being won or hearts changed because you scored a point of doctrinal order?" I'm not talking about points of doctrinal order here – I'm talking about "damnable heresies" being propagated by Christian bookstores – heresies such as the occultish practices of "The Circle Maker" and contemplative prayer promoted by Beth Moore. Such teachings and practices are literally destroying evangelicalism. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (I Tim. 4:1)
      BTW, since you worked at Lifeway, perhaps you can answer a few more questions. I'm wondering what their policy is on special orders. I.e. if they can order titles and authors I would object to (such as Foster and McLaren). Or if they can order "fundamentalist" items (such as Chick Tracts). I realize a number of the books I like are self published; since they don't have ISBN numbers or UPC codes, I'm assuming they can't be sold in a computerized Point of Sale bookstore – is this the case?


      • godsfingers says:

        Just caught this. What occult practices in the circle maker? I'm no fan of Beth Moore but the circle maker doesn't even rise to the level of the prayer of jabez mantra. I'm questioning some of the red flags thrown around here in comments because I've yet to see Brannon Howse and worldview getting called out. He was exposed for failing to call out John McArthur for teaching that Jesus only died for the "elect" and that Christians can safely take the mark of the beast to preserve themselves. I'm thinking the false doctrine is getting protected by alarmists.


  6. Barry says:

    I would like to be a counter voice in this discussion. I personally know this family. While God surrounded the accident and days following with miracles, the devil has waged war on them as well. Beth has not been a fan of the book from the beginning and has said numerous things that are not true to try to discredit it. She is the main caretaker for Alex and holds much sway in his thoughts and actions. That he would change up at this point isn't necessarily proof that what he said before wasn't his experience at that time. Kevin Malarkey has provided for his family, the high cost of Alex's care and been generous to the local church and to those in need through book sales. He has been generous with his time as well speaking at churches small and large about their experience and the gospel message. He recently released a book on dying to self which is a message few people want to pay to hear, so before you judge him for profiteering, it would be good to get to know more facts.


  7. man from modesto says:

    I am glad that spiritual discernment is mentioned as the standard. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we can make a right judgment. Things look odd at times. But, it is when it feels odd, when it disturbs the peace we have in Christ, that we must be proactive and aggressive in seeking out the source of the problem.By this measure, and I know others will agree, the story "Heaven is for Real" for Todd Burpo is also a thing of error. There is something wrong with that story as well. Every time I think there is something wrong with it, my mind goes to the part where the boy tells his father he will have a bow and arrows to fight in a war. Compare that to the visions of Dumitru Duduman (from whom we already have many fulfilled prophecies, and no failed ones.)


  8. Jim says:

    You could say that about many so called pastors and ministers. Joel Olsteen, and others like him who right book that are clearly not Biblical and condemned by many theologian, but Christian books store still carry their harasy.


  9. Wes says:

    Wonder what they did with all the money gained through this book and others like that decieve people?




  11. godsfingers says:

    This is the same thing with Joseph Smith except that JS didn't repent and recant and now you have the LDS. This and the hell and back stories. But the caveat here is not to band wagon and discount true heaven experiences. Note that Paul had to keep his mouth shut about his experience.


  12. Ian Malia says:

    Probably you might have read books, that other people have not necessarily read and most likely few other individuals have even heard about, what’s important, is the fact you’ve entered them and come from that encounter enriched because of it. Emerging as you become more emboldened through the experience of participating in a diverse mindset for a while, this is the authentic power of an excellent book!


  13. Karen says:

    Is anyone else sick and tired of listening to these liars speak of their trips to heaven and hell? Let call a spade a spade hear, these people are all liars and their stories are in direct opposition to the Word of God. Does not God issue a warning to those who add or take away from His inspired Word?
    Yes, Revelation 22:18-19.


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