Thinking Out Loud

April 13, 2018

Boy Who Didn’t Come Back From Heaven Now Suing Tyndale House Publishers

Tuesday in The Washington Post:

On Nov. 14, 2004, as 6-year-old Alex Malarkey drove home with his father Kevin in rural Ohio, a left turn nearly took his life. As Kevin turned the car it collided with another vehicle, and the boy’s skull became completely detached from his spinal cord.

But Alex did not die — and that’s the central fact behind a long-running controversy that has now led to a lawsuit.

Two months after the crash, Alex emerged from a coma as a quadriplegic. The injured boy also began telling family and friends about traveling to heaven and meeting Jesus and Satan.

In July 2010, Kevin and Alex Malarkey penned an account of the boy’s religious experience, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.” The book was published by Tyndale House, a publisher of Christian books. It went on to reportedly move more than 1 million copies and spent months on the New York Times bestseller’s list. The book was part of a bumper crop of similarly geared narratives — tales of near-death experiences and brushes with the Almighty published by religious imprints.

Then it all fell apart. In January 2015, Alex, now paralyzed from the neck down, admitted he had fabricated the story.

“I did not die,” he wrote in a blog post. “I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.”

The admission created a firestorm within the worlds of evangelical faith and Christian publishing. The controversy was revived this week when Alex — now 20 years old and living off Social Security — filed a lawsuit against Tyndale House in Illinois’s DuPage County, where the publisher is located. The complaint alleges Kevin Malarkey was the main actor behind the fabrication…

continue reading here

Christianity Today picks up the story Wednesday:

…Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015, after Malarkey admitted he made up the story of dying and going to heaven after the accident.

“Now that he is an adult, Alex desires to have his name completely disassociated from the book and seeks a permanent injunction against Tyndale House requiring it to do everything within reason to disassociate his name from the book,” according to the complaint, which was covered in The Washington Post.

Malarkey has sued on the grounds of defamation, financial exploitation, and publicity placing a person in a false light, saying that Tyndale went forward with initially publishing and promoting the book knowing his opposition. He states that he did not write any part of the book or consent to the use of his name as a coauthor and story subject.

The suit states that he has “never been permitted to read the contract, nor to review any accountings provided under the contract, he refuses to acknowledge that the contract ‘is in effect and binding,’ now that he has reached the age of majority.” …

…Tyndale said in a statement issued this week that it no longer promotes the book or makes it available for sale, and that it has complied with the terms of the book contract.

“This is a terribly unfortunate situation, which deeply saddens all of us at Tyndale,” said Todd Starowitz, the publisher’s spokesman. “Despite the claims in Alex Malarkey’s lawsuit, Tyndale House paid all royalties that were due under the terms of our contract on his book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015 when Alex said that he had fabricated the entire story. Any books still available from online vendors are from third-party sellers.” …

continue reading here

Clarification: Since the product recall, many mistook the story being recanted as belonging to the book Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo (Thomas Nelson) since both are about kids. Bookstore sales staff continually need to emphatically set the record straight.

Product which was available as of January 16th, 2015 before the recall. Image captured at Ingram/Spring Arbor.

 

The book was one of many similar titles on the New York Times bestseller list in August, 2011

 

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January 17, 2015

The Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven

Boy Who Came Back From Heaven product lineScreenshot of a book industry page listing product related to Alex Malarkey’s story.

Alex Malarkey, the boy in The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven has now recanted his story. The Washington Post provides the update:

Tyndale House, a major Christian publisher, has announced that it will stop selling “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey.

The best-selling book, first published in 2010, describes what Alex experienced while he lay in a coma after a car accident when he was 6 years old. The coma lasted two months, and his injuries left him paralyzed, but the subsequent spiritual memoir — with its assuring description of “Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World” — became part of a popular genre of “heavenly tourism,” which has been controversial among orthodox Christians.

Earlier this week, Alex recanted his testimony about the afterlife. In an open letter to Christian bookstores posted on the Pulpit and Pen Web site, Alex states flatly: “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.”

Referring to the injuries that continue to make it difficult for him to express himself, Alex writes, “Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short…. 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.”

Continue reading at Washington Post.

I guess we have to take this at face value. Alex and his mother have been reported as trying to get the truth about the story out there for some time. Still, there’s something about Alex’s final comment, the idea that people should only read the Bible, that suggests he’s been influenced by some ultra-conservative or fundamentalist individuals or group.

Should we get rid of all the books in the same genre? Right now there is a huge backlash online concerning “Heaven Tourism” books like Heaven is for Real by The Burpos and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Although we carried the Piper book at the bookstore I’m involved with, I carried it in very small quantities until I was able to watch the hour-long video that goes with a curriculum of the same name. That changed my mind. And I think that Todd and Sonya Burpo have been very realistic about whatever it was that Colton experienced; there’s no denying that he was party to information after the experience that had never been shared with him, and that they, like Don Piper, were very reluctant to go public.

We ran this quotation a few days ago here in the link list:

“Among conservative Christians who think critically about these matters are Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland, both of whom have written on the subject. In discussions with them, they seem to agree that while NDEs [Near Death Experiences] have debatable significance in giving us a glimpse of heaven, and little to no value in proving the Christian faith, they do have significant value in discrediting naturalism (the belief that there is no transcendence to nature) and scientism (the belief that science can explain all things). Why? Because, at the very least, NDEs give evidence that there is a conscious part of individuals that transcends the body and brain. NDEs give evidence of the soul.”

Read more at Parchment and Pen.

It’s not been a good year for Tyndale, either; they were also the home of Mark Driscoll’s Resurgent imprint. The earliest indications here in Canada are that suppliers will take inventory back, but subject to normal return policy; in other words, only stock you purchased in the last 360 days.

I also need to clarify that the last link is to a blog called Parchment and Pen, and the upper story contains a link to Pulpit and Pen. Confusing. The people at the latter are also part of the group called #the15 who are trying to hold LifeWay retail stores more accountable for the things they carry that are inconsistent with the store’s and the Southern Baptist Convention’s standards. Needless to say, they’re jumping all over this in the same way the mainstream press is jumping and punning all over Alex’s last name. For them, the timing couldn’t be better; however, this affects all of us who have retail stores.

“So,” I hear you saying, “You seem like a smart guy, why did you carry this book in the first place?”

I have a certain amount of skepticism about many of the titles customers at the bookstore order — we sometimes deny orders on certain subjects ranging from what constitutes hate speech under Canadian law in some titles, to books that encourage rather severe corporal punishment of children — but frequent ordering means that titles find their way into core inventory. (That’s what happened here, we passed completely on what are called ‘pre-pub’ or pre-publication offers.) But I don’t think it would be right to look at similar books in my store and say that we as owners, managers and staff lack discernment. Honestly, our “heaven tourism” books are all on a lower shelf. From Betty Malz to Aldo McPherson these stories have an appeal to a certain type of person, but then, I personally distance myself from most prophecy titles, yet there’s no denying that there are people saved and attending church today because of The Late Great Planet Earth and even the Left Behind series.

I’m not thrilled with everything the Christian publishing industry produces, but to toss everything except the Bible means to toss out a vast catalog of Christian literature that includes everything from the writings of the Early Church fathers to the great classics of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. Furthermore, many of our spiritual heroes claimed a number of strange and mystical experiences, many of which we don’t talk about today.

To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, you gotta know when to display ’em, and know when it’s time to take ’em down. This one is done.

November 3, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Not enough links for you in yesterday’s NIV post?   Well then here are few extra…

  • First of all a quotation from Bishop Fulton Sheen we found at Big Blue Wave:  “So much of what people call atheism is not so much the negation of God as the deification of the ego.  All atheists believe in God, but the god is themselves.”  Ouch!   This is a website that deals with social issues from a Christian perspective.
  • A story in the Imperial Republican in Imperial Nebraska is one of the most amazing things I’ve read this week.   Little Colton Burpo had a near death experience that resulted in his dad, Todd Burpo publishing the story with Thomas Nelson in the just-released book, Heaven is for Real. Check this one out, and be sure to read the four reasons why his dad concluded that his son really did get a look at heaven.
  • It took Kelley Mooney two years, but she finally got the mechanical rights to use Leonard Cohen’s song Halleluljah with substituted lyrics which look at Jesus’ road to the cross.   Check out the video premiere in Nova Scotia, Canada with an awesome children’s choir.
  • Some great stuff at Christianity 201 recently including:  Michael Krahn’s look at the Wayward Son’s older brother;   Mark Batterson on the Jewish “3D” understanding of sin;   Bob Coy wonders aloud how long The Flood was effective in wiping sin off the face of the earth;  an anonymous e-mail forward takes a look at the 23rd Psalm;  Daniel Jepson cites Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ take on the subject of brokenness;  David Fisher finds a church in Belfast which, rather than a statement of faith has a statement of ethos.
  • Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason takes a cue from Jesus’ ministry and suggests that when someone is trying to trap you with a question about some controversial social issue; turn the table and answer the question with a question.
  • In Christian circles preoccupied with pastors who are major authors, or attendance figures at megachurches, Darryl Dash celebrates the beauty of average or ordinary churches including this quote from Derek Webb:  “I’ve found that often success looks more like failure, riches more like poverty, and real life often feels more like death.”
  • Regent College theology professor John Stackhouse flat out thinks that Mark Driscoll needs to take a study break to sharpen his exegetical skills.   C’mon, John; tell us what you really think.
  • Robert A. Schuller does an unscheduled 20-minute interview with Jim Cantelon at the daily Christian talk show in Canada, 100 Huntley Street; including a mention of how his son, Robert Vernon Schuller, aka Bobby, pastor of The Gathering, brokered a meeting between Robert A. and grandfather Robert H. Schuller.  This is a two part video; here and here.
  • And speaking of the Crystal Cathedral, Karen Spears Zacharias suggests that Joel Osteen should be taking notes on what is happening at the big glass church.
  • Joshua Harris looks at the big picture of how we approach Sunday morning worship, including a growing lack of punctuality, which we’ve also noticed recently in a few churches.   Does it say something about our increasing apathy in our hearts?  Do people in your church fill the front rows first?   Is the hunger there, or is there complacency?
  • Our picture below is from a general interest website, BoingBoing; which spells out the scripture mentioned in the sign:  “Mark 11:12-14 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.”

August 30, 2009

James Garlow: Heaven and the Afterlife

One of the frustrations of the Christian publishing market are so many titles tripping over themselves saying essentially the same things.   I rather expected Heaven and the Afterlife to be a good review pick having read (out loud, actually) 50 Days of Heaven which an abridgment of Randy Alcorn’s longer work, Heaven. I figured it would somehow qualify me to compare two works on the same topic, and quickly write a short 150-word review.

Heaven and the Afterlife - GarlowInstead, I found myself with something completely different; a title much more comprehensive on diverse subjects that preoccupy the thoughts of many; a book  that would also appeal to those who had read 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, or 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese, not to mention Angels by Billy Graham and a whole raft of titles by Grant Jeffrey.    In fact, the book is so wide in scope that while Garlow cites Randy Alcorn, he does so only a couple of times.

The book begins with the subject of near death experiences (NDEs) and moves on to after death communication (ADC) and takes an approach that I think would appeal to the general reader, the secularist, even the skeptic.   It’s lighter on Biblical content in the earlier chapters, instead easing into the topic by raising the questions which all of us — churched and non-churched alike — often ask when dealing with these difficult subjects.   Later chapters discuss angels, demons, reincarnation, eschatology and the concept of purgatory.

Every one of the 21 chapters in this book could really be a book in itself.  At times  —  such as the chapter on demons or the chapter on end-times judgment — Garlow leaves us wanting more; at others, he covers the ground so quickly that I wonder if skeptics would accept the progressive reasoning, or would, like Wikipedia editors, cry “citation needed.”

But I think that is exactly the point.   In 258 pages of text, the best one can offer is a general overview.  The subject of heaven specifically and the subject of the afterlife in general, is indeed a complex series of discussions which probably touch on even more than the 21 topics contained here.    Where the book most succeeds is to show us that these topics are interconnected and part of a unified whole; considerations that must be weighed against the “big picture” conceived in the mind of God, and reflective of His very nature.

So while the book assumes a basic concession to the Biblical view on such things, it also helps us improve our Biblical literacy on these topics, and builds respect for the scriptural take on death and the end-times.

Therefore, I want to modify what I said last week in a preview to this review.   I still think the book might be useful to give to someone who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith; but I think it would work better if given to someone who is already moving in that direction but has some questions.    While I might be tempted to file this book under “H” for heaven or “D” for death, I think it also has a place under “A” for apologetics.

james-garlowIf you don’t know Garlow, he is a most prolific writer, a pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego and holds six — count ’em — theological degrees.   So he’s quite capable of dealing in later chapters with two current “hot button” topics:  Universalism (which can be an ‘all roads lead to God’ viewpoint, or an ‘everyone is saved in the end’ theory)  and Annihilation (the idea that those who don’t accept Christ simply cease to exist after death.)   He deals honestly with the arguments used in support of these positions and shows respect for their proponents, but then explains why he cannot buy in.

If a book may be judged by its ability to deliver on its title, Heaven and the Afterlife contains — theologically speaking — everything but the kitchen sink.   This is the current exhaustive treatment of the breadth and width of this topic.

Heaven and the Afterlife – James L. Garlow with Keith Wall (Bethany House, 2009; paperback, $13.99 US)

nearsighted bookwormEnjoy the book reviews in Thinking Out Loud?   Then you might also want to check out “The Nearsighted Bookworm,” where reviewer Janis covers the latest Christian fiction and non-fiction titles.   Click here to connect.


August 23, 2009

Currently Reading: Heaven and the Afterlife – Garlow

Filed under: books, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:15 pm
Heaven and the Afterlife – James L. Garlow

Heaven and the Afterlife - GarlowI’m about a third of the way through this one and will be doing a full review on it in later in the week.  My first reaction is that this book takes a more secular, more scientific approach to this topic than the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, beginning with the whole NDE or near-death-experience phenomena.   (Admittedly, it was the abridged 50 Days of Heaven that I read.)   Thus, I see the possibility of giving this one as a gift to a non-churched friend who may not get into Alcorn’s “bible study” approach to the topic.   But remember, I’m only one-third in.

The only other major observation is that among many of the early NDE anecodotal stories, Garlow presents a few wherein the subject is not at all headed to a place of light and love — rather, the other direction — but is offered a last chance at salvation, while in some intermediate state between this life and the next.   Does this mean Garlow believes that ultimately, everyone is included in Christ’s finished work of the cross?

I guess I’ll have to keep reading.


Thinking Out Loud – Matters of Faith Because Faith Matters

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