Westminster Seminary California
On Salvation and TV Absurdity
On Salvation and TV Absurdity

A number of years ago a young boy had a near death experience, which is recounted in the best-selling book Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story Of His Trip to Heaven and Back. This book is ranked number one under Amazon’s “religion and spirituality: occult” category and number three in “Christian books and Bibles: Christian living” and “theology” categories. It has an amazing 2,241 reviews and ranks at 4.5 out of 5 stars. The book’s description explains that it recounts this little boy’s “mystic visions of heaven” as he told his father about them. Keep in mind, at the time, this boy was four years old.

Today, a story appeared on the Internet where the Today Show interviewed this little boy eight years later. The interviewer asked him a number of questions about his experiences. The boy’s father, a Wesleyan minister, explained that his son saw deceased family members, Jesus, and God. You can find other links to interviews with this boy here.

There are two observations about this. First, it is understandable how desperate people are for information about the afterlife. From a this-world perspective, death certainly seems like an exclamation point at the end of life with nothing but silence and many questions to follow. However, what amazes me is that people are willing to flock to the supposed mystical visions of a four-year-old child rather than seek the truth from the Scriptures. In one sense, such a pattern is to be expected from unbelievers—they will seek answers from everywhere but God’s revelation. But what is befuddling is that this book is published by a Christian publisher. How many Christians, therefore, have flocked to this book looking for answers and run right past the Bible? Moreover, I have a four-year-old son—I would never seek knowledge about the afterlife from him. Why would I accept the purported testimony of a preschooler over the word of God?

The second observation is the original context where I found a link to this story. The story was recounted in the context of a recap of recent TV stories—including a cockatoo that feeds a dog spaghetti, Whoopi Goldberg’s banana peel shoes, and TV hosts playing with nerf guns. In other words, serious matters about theology and the afterlife got the same amount of time and billing as the inane, mundane, and silly. Is TV a suitable means to communicate serious truth? As Neil Postman has observed in his trenchant study, Amusing Ourselves to Death, the means of communication inherently shapes the communicated content. Case in point, a bird that feeds a dog spaghetti was deemed as noteworthy as eternal life.

Our only source of our knowledge of salvation is Scripture and the chief means by which this knowledge is diffused is the foolishness of preaching. We should be dubious about preschool mystics and TV as a proper means to propagate the gospel. In the face of doubts and fears only the Word of God and its proclamation can assuage our troubled hearts.