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The Idolatry of Experience

Friday, May 02, 2014 | Comments (83)

by John MacArthur

The inclusion of Bible references throughout Heaven Is for Real [1]Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville: Nelson, 2010). may convince superficial readers that Pastor Burpo has painstakingly com­pared his son’s account to Scripture and judged it accurate on that basis. But to those who take the time to look up the citations and ana­lyze them in context with any degree of discernment, it will be clear that Todd Burpo’s facile method of proof-texting betrays a lack of any serious engagement with Scripture. He has failed to test everything carefully as we are instructed and encouraged to do (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11).

Amazingly, Todd Burpo himself admits that he rarely “tested Colton’s memories against what the Bible says.” (Heaven Is for Real p. 101). In the one instance where he mentions testing Colton, he declares, on the thinnest possible evidence, that Colton “passed [the biblical test] without batting an eye.”

What was the biblical issue at stake on that occasion? Todd was asking his son if he had ever seen God’s throne. He first needed to explain to the boy what a “throne” is. (“I picked up the Bible storybook and pointed . . .”)

“Oh, yeah!” Colton replied. “I saw that a bunch of times!”

Todd, in keeping with the tone he maintains throughout the book, was utterly agog: “My heart sped up a little. Was I really going to get a glimpse into the throne room of heaven?”

Colton continued: “And do you know that Jesus sits right next to God? . . . Jesus’ chair is right next to his Dad’s!” (p. 100).

Pastor Burpo’s response again emphasizes his avid credulity (not to mention his cluelessness about the kind of images a four-year-old raised on illustrated Bible stories might have in his mind): “That blew me away. There’s no way a four-year-old knows that. It was another one of those moments when I thought, He had to have seen this” (p. 100–101).

One of the most troubling aspects of Heaven Is for Real is the way Todd Burpo constantly insinuates that personal experiences—even the spectral memories of a three-year-old boy under anesthetics—are somehow more compelling than Scripture alone. “I had been a Chris­tian since childhood and a pastor for half my life, so I believed that before. But now I knew it” (p. 84). Colton’s experiential exegesis of heaven has clearly made a far more profound impact on Todd (and has been more formative to his notion of the afterlife) than anything he had previously gleaned about heaven from his own study of Scripture.

That way of thinking is diametrically opposed to what the Bible says about faith, experience, and the authority of Scripture. In fact, the most important defense Christians have against self-deception is a conviction that the written Word of God is more certain and more authoritative than anyone’s experience. Scripture teaches this explicitly and repeatedly.

For example, writing about his experience on the mount of transfiguration—an undeniable miracle at which other eyewitnesses were present—the apostle Peter says: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths. . . . We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven” (2 Peter 1:16, 18 ESV). It was a stunning, unprecedented, up-close look at the glory of heaven—literally. Peter goes on to say, however, that the written Word of God is even more reliable than an experience of that caliber! “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention” (v. 19 ESV).

Authentic faith “comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV)—not from mystical experiences, and certainly not from blindly trusting a child’s account of a mystical experience. That kind of naive conviction is not true faith at all; it has more in common with dangerous self-confidence.

Nevertheless, Pastor Burpo clearly believes that somehow little Colton’s experience has bolstered his family’s faith in a way Scripture could never do. “I love the way my mom sums it up,” Todd writes, and then he quotes his mother’s words, which stand (except for a brief epilogue) as the book’s closing sentence: “I accepted the idea of heaven before, but now I visualize it. Before, I’d heard, but now I know that someday I’m going to see” (p.150).

I’ve given this prolonged critique of Heaven Is for Real not because it is the worst of the genre, but because of all the books in this category, it is the most likely to be read and deemed harmless by the typical evangelical. It is not harmless. It denigrates the authority and suf­ficiency of Scripture. It confounds faith with superstition. It subtly elevates human experience to a higher level than the Word of God. It purports to reveal things about God and the heavenly realm that are not taught in Scripture. And it repeatedly insinuates that the testimony of someone who has been mystically enlightened can be a more effec­tive stimulant to faith than Scripture alone.

While Heaven is for Real has been the focal point of our discussion, the theological problems and dangers it presents are not limited to its pages alone. This is just one example of a large and growing subgenre of afterlife travelogues popular today—a genre that includes at least two mega-best-selling titles from evangelical publishers. The authors of these stories—and evi­dently millions of readers as well—regard these testimonies as authori­tative, reliable, and full of superior insights that can take readers to a higher level of understanding and enlightenment beyond what we can get from the Bible. In other words, all of these books take a similarly protognostic stance on heaven and the afterlife. All of them are dan­gerous and misleading. That includes the ones that seem fairly benign as well as the ones that are clearly steeped in occult superstition. All of them stand as reminders to us that Scripture and Scripture alone is the only safe place for Christians to learn anything about the immortality of human souls, what happens to a person after death, what heaven is like, what awaits the unrighteous in hell, and what we can expect in the judgment to come.

That is the point I want to stress at the close of this series. It is the principle of sola Scriptura. That Latin expression means “Scripture alone.” It is a shorthand expression that signifies the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It means that Scripture is the sole rule of faith and practice for Christians—so that no duty, no teaching, and no belief that lacks a biblical foundation is ever to be deemed binding on any Christian.

To put it another way, the principle of sola Scriptura starts and ends with a recognition of the Bible’s superiority over every other source of knowledge, truth claim, reli­gious tradition, and supposed new revelation.

This principle was one of the fundamental pillars of biblical Chris­tianity recovered by the early Reformers. It had fallen into neglect and denial, as sound, biblical doctrine had been crowded out of mainstream church life by false teaching, medieval su­perstition, ecclesiastical corruption, and a host of problems all related to the visible church’s failure to submit to the authority of Scripture. The current evangelical fascination with near-death experiences (and with other extrabiblical sources of alleged spiritual enlightenment) is pointing backward to the same kind of apostasy.

Clearly, if we believe Scripture is the Word of God, we must re­ject every anecdotal account that contradicts or goes beyond what Scripture teaches. We must also refuse to get caught up in every kind of speculation, every truth claim, and every supposed new revelation that detracts from or leads people away from simple reliance on the Word of God.

(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven.)


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#1  Posted by David Lee  |  Friday, May 02, 2014at 7:06 PM

Thank you pastor John.

#2  Posted by Kyle Peters  |  Friday, May 02, 2014at 11:03 PM

Great article, we need more Christian leaders to stand up for the authority and sufficiency of scripture and speak out against all these alleged trips to heaven. With that said, I'm trying to properly interpret 2 Peter 1:18-19 which says: "and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." Just reading those verses on face value, isn't Peter elevating his personal experience? When he says that the prophetic word was "made more sure" you have to ask: what made it more sure? Was it not his experience in verse 18? Would I not be correct to say that the reason Peter has confidence in the prophetic word is because it was confirmed through his experience with Christ on the mountain? Keep in mind I'm coming at this from a cessationist standpoint, I'm just having a hard time understanding how this passage undercuts personal experience. Am I missing something?

#3  Posted by Rick White  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 7:14 AM

#2 Kyle Peters,

As an apostle, Peter had many experiences and many things revealed to him that weren't revealed to the average person. The only reason Peter's experience becomes relevant to us is because it is recorded for us in scripture. So, someone's experience today has no relevance to or authority over us. Everything we need to today for salvation and Christian living is revealed to us in scripture. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

#4  Posted by Jim Parshall  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 8:37 AM

Yes, one of the qualifications to become an apostle the person had to be chosen personally by Jesus to follow Him to be an eyewitness to the events that occurred during His time on earth. That is also why there is no longer the office of apostle ship in the church today because anyone who claims this has not seen or physically touched Him.

#5  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 9:12 AM

#4 Jim Parshall

Actually eyewitness to the resurrected Christ.

Why is it important?

Else is everything we told you not true.

#6  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 9:34 AM

I'm simply astonished at the idolatry of sola scriptura. If Scripture is the ultimate authority then sola scriptura is a false doctrine as it is not established biblically. As much as basing a belief on experience is idolatry, believing that God reveals nothing new extra-biblically (tested against the theme, revelation, and character of God we have in Scripture) is in danger of being a more serious sin that flies in the face of the Holy Spirit Himself. The sufficiency of scripture is in its theme as well as its content. It reveals to us the very character of God and how he speaks. Thankfully he speaks through experience as well.

#8  Posted by Randy Johnson  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 3:14 PM

When He was tempted by the devil (Mt 4), which authority did Jesus appeal to? For faith and practice and church conduct, which authority did the apostles appeal to? It's because all scripture has a divine origin (2 Tim 3:16). Thus, I must conclude that scripture is more authoritative than any "prophet" today, even though I also confess that God does whatever He wants, whenever He wants, and for whichever purpose He wants. But, He won't contradict His own word.

#10  Posted by Steve Lamm  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 3:56 PM

Jim Parooly, please explain how the doctrine of sola Scriptura is in any way idolatrous.

Also, your assertion that the doctrine cannot be established biblically demonstrates a profound ignorance of orthodox Christian theology.

If you need some help to understand this vital doctrine, I can point you to some good biblical theological reading that will enlighten you. Let me know if you're interested.

#12  Posted by Rick White  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 8:08 PM

#6 Jim Parooly,

Those who hold to the Biblical teaching of sola scriptura do not worship scripture. We realize that scripture is authoritative because it was "breathed out by God" 2 Timothy 3:16 ESV. Because scripture is "breathed out by God" it is sufficient "to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus 2 Timothy 3:15. It also makes it so "the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" 2 Timothy 3:17. What else would the man of God possibly want to rely on as the only infallible rule of faith and practice? Even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ went to scripture to counter the temptations of Satan Matthew 4:1-11. Paul calls scripture "the sword of the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:17. It is only through scripture that we learn about and then teach about Christ. Luke 24:27-45; John 5:39; Acts 8:35; Acts 17:2,11; Acts 18:28. The Bible is full of warnings about false teachers and false apostles. What are we to use to test the teaching of these false teachers and false apostles? Scripture is the only logical source since it is the only thing given to believers that has the ability "to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" Hebrews 4:12. With all that scripture is, why would any believer ever trust some "experience" over the God breathed scriptures?

#13  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 8:43 PM

Jesus challenged the perceptions of his day concerning the hermeneutics of Scripture. Scripture leans heavily on hermeneutics for its validation in reasoning. It is possible to test hermeneutics as well as contemporary revelation with Scripture. I don't know why you feel the need to argue the authority of scripture over any other source, the problem I see is viewing any other source of revelation as either unnecessary or necessarily false.

#14  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 8:55 PM

Simple, it is idolatrous because the value placed in scripture is greater than the value placed in the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Sola Scriptura distorts the sufficiency of scripture (a true principle) into a disdain for any extra-biblical personal revelation clearly promised to be given by the Spirit. This is neither biblical nor an accurate interpretation of scripture. It cannot be established biblically for the simple reason that extra-biblical revelation is a promise of scripture. Must it be consistent with scripture and the character of God revealed therein? Of course. Even us poor, misinformed quasi-charismatic adherents to Wesleyan theology can understand that.

#46  Posted by Rick White  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 11:49 AM

I think I understand the problem now. You have a distorted understanding in what sola scriptura is.

Simply stated it is: The Bible constitutes the only INFALLIBLE rule of faith and practice. If you don't believe that, then please explain what other "infallible rule of faith and practice" exists and what is the source for your belief? Is it the Pope, or The Book of Mormon, or The Koran? These all claim to be divinely inspired and authoritative. I know that they aren't simply because they all contradict scripture. That is the point of the doctrine of sola scriptura. God has given us something in which to test the various claims of false teachers.

#7  Posted by Samson 1  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 10:46 AM

Amen. 2 Corinthians 10 esv

#9  Posted by Vicki Svarpellini  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 3:41 PM

I know this family and have heard him preach. He pastors the Weslayan Methodist Church, which is a holiness church like the Nazarenes, Church of God Anderson, and Free Methodist. There's no way Todd is making anything up. The book is better than the movie, in my opinion and we were very blessed by it and meeting this wonderful family. I believe you are wrong. Do you know Todd and Colton? Maybe you should get to know them before you give a negative critique. I critique books and Christian movies by the critiques of their books, articles on the authors' lives and what they've said, and magazine articles, and their beliefs before I will buy or read their books or movies. How much investigation did you do?

#37  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 8:27 AM

Vicki, what do you do with personal testimonies that contradict Scripture?

#40  Posted by Vicki Svarpellini  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 9:16 AM

What contradicted the Bible in the book?

#11  Posted by Robert T. Haynes  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 4:17 PM

#2 Kyle Peters,

Regarding 2 Peter 1:19, John MacArthur in his Study Bible has this note: " This translation ['the prophetic word confirmed' {NKJV}] could indicate that the eyewitness account of Christ's majesty at the Transfiguration confirmed the Scriptures. However, the Gr. word order is crucial in that it does not say that. It says, "And we have more sure the prophetic word." That original arrangement of the sentence supports the interpretation that Peter is ranking Scripture over experience." (Excerpted from MacArthur's note on 2 Peter 1:19 in NKJV Study Bible)

For a more complete explanation of this interpretation, see MacArthur's Commentary on 2nd Peter and Jude, pages 61-63. I hope this helps.

#15  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Saturday, May 03, 2014at 10:06 PM

Vicki,

Did I miss where Dr. MacArthur accused Mr. Burpo of lying? I doubt you would get much of an argument about the Burpo’s being a wonderful family, but what does that have to do with the issue? I’m wondering if you wrote this while you were a bit angry (been there, done that) because what you’re saying is that because you know them and their nice, that they are not wrong. That sounds a little nutty. Does that same logic apply to you concerning Dr. MacArthur?

Jim,

I agree that God speaks through experience, but I think we understand that in two very different ways since you brazenly object to sola scriptura. I few questions please.

1. What has God revealed lately that is new?

2. Are you sure you know what idolatry means?

3. Do you realize your statements on experience contradict each other?

#16  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Sunday, May 04, 2014at 10:57 AM

Vicki,

1. If you change the definition of "new" to mean anything needed for salvation or revelation of the Character of God I suppose nothing. However if we take the actual definition of new, then God is revealing new all the time. You are a new creation. Someone was given the new charge of reaching you with the good news. Consistent with scripture, but new all the same.

2. What have I said that would indicate a failure to grasp the meaning of idolatry?

3. How?

#17  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Sunday, May 04, 2014at 12:19 PM

#16 Jim Parooly

1. What is then needed for salvation, that is not in gods Word?

2. What is then idolatry?

3. Can you point out one single individual who have received new revelation from God?

#19  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Sunday, May 04, 2014at 7:03 PM

Rudi,

1. Sola scriptura is a unbiblical distortion of the sufficiency of scripture. I have yet to hear anyone argue that anything given by experience is new in regard to the event of salvation. That would contradict then doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture. Experience and revelation by God's Spirit has nothing to do with the sufficiency of scripture beyond the need for there to be harmony.

2.Let me ask this question in response to your and Vicki's question: how did John MacArthur use the term?

3. What kind of new revelation are you looking for? As I said to Vicki in answer to her first question, it depends if you use reformed theology's manufactured definition or the actual definition of new.

#21  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 12:15 AM

1. I must then ask you to enlighten me. Am I saved if I have a weird experience seen Jesus hugging me? Can I know if it is true at all? Not a deceiver from Satan?

2. The Bible gives the definition. I can see in #14 that you call Gods Word alone idolatry. God alone choose and calls His elected. Many are called, few are chosen.

3. "Come and see - here is Jesus". Don't for a moment believe them. God is in those He have chosen and forgiven - and who believe.

#31  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 7:50 AM

1. What?

2. That doesn't answer my question.

3. So everyone who has a vision including the many Muslims who have had road to Damascus experiences (note the word experience) which have driven them to learn about Christ (through God's word) and ultimately devote their lives to him (Romans 10:9) aren't to be believed? Okay, you spend your time condemning them, I'll spend my time edifying and instructing them in faith.

#20  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Sunday, May 04, 2014at 7:24 PM

Oops I referred to Vicki before but it was Ben I was responding to.

#23  Posted by Jeffrey Delarosa  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 1:59 AM

Jim

how do you know of Christ if not by Scripture?

how do you know of His Redemptive work if not by Scripture?

how do you know the third person of the Trinity if not by Scripture?

how do you know of His importance if not by Scripture?

what volume?what Book speaks of Christ in not Scripture?

the greatest experience a man can ever have is opening Scripture and knowing and learning of Him who died for us.

#28  Posted by Jeff Clark  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 7:26 AM

Jim,

How do you discern the voices in your head? How do you know which is Holy Spirit, which is Flesh/Self, which is Satan, and which is others? This is one of Satan's greatest tools - to think we have new revelation and know more than others - it is pride and it is the worse form of idolatry. You are elevating yourself above God.

The ONLY way to discern is to know God's Word. As said previously, the Spirit will NEVER contradict God's Word. Truth by definition is black and white and God's Word is truth and one with the Spirit and the Son.

We rebel against God's Word because it is in our sin nature to do so and because our flesh is weak and doesn't want to submit and obey. We all want to be rulers of our own kingdom. Claiming to follow the Spirit when it contradicts God's Word is simply justifying our rebellion and reinforcing our self-centeredness. The ONLY Spirit that contradicts God's Word is Satan.

Who are you really following?

#32  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 7:52 AM

It appears you think I do not attribute authority to Scripture or hold its sufficiency as a principle in my life. But to claim that God reveals his purpose and plan and speaks by scripture alone is inherently unbiblical.

#22  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 1:08 AM

#19 Jim Parooly

For it stands in Scripture:

"“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do."

(1 Peter 2:6-9)

"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God."

(1 peter 1:22-23)

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."

(1 Peter 2:2-3)

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

(1 Peter 2:9-10)

#33  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 7:54 AM

None of these declare the distorted view of sola scriptura. They do proclaim the authority and power of scripture. Not a point I'm arguing against.

#25  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 2:48 AM

#19 Jim

1. IF you claim a dream or a vision or a prophesy is from the Almighty God, then you are adding to Scripture.

IF it in any way contradicts or misrepresents Scripture (the work of the Holy Spirit), then it is utterly Satanic deception.

2. John MacArthur simply called it for what it is: a fabricated deception. The Truth is in Scripture.

3. There will be no new revelation before the end of time, before the worldwide great falling away from the once and for all delivered to the saints, faith. The great apostacy. Judas kisses on a worldwide scale. Then will God speak to Israel about their rejected Messiah.

#34  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 8:02 AM

1. Explain the conclusion it is adding to scripture? If it does contradict scripture it cannot be trusted, yes. Even if it doesn't contradict scripture it isn't automatically trustworthy either. The source must be considered and tested.

2. That doesn't answer my question. How does John MacArthur use the term "idolatry"?

3. What about in the meantime. Does God not reveal his plan and purpose in the meantime? Scripture gives basic to semi-specific instructions, but we must be inspired by the Holy Spirit to know what God is specifically charging us to do in our lives.

#26  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 6:45 AM

Jim,

I’m not changing the definition of new. I’m not playing games with you. I’m asking for a couple of examples of your experiences where God has revealed something new for you outside of scripture.

I would simply define idolatry as anything we put ahead (more important) of God. If you think that being a proponent of sola scriptura is idolatry then I take that to mean you believe we put scripture above God, or in your case, above experience. You have several problems with that position. If you’ll agree that all scripture is God breathed then how can we possibly put too much emphasis on God’s word? It’s directly from God!!! What Dr. MacArthur and his guests at Strange Fire made abundantly clear was that scripture is the reliable source of God’s revelation, not experience. This is an old (and for me) a tired argument from the charasmatics.

The third line of your post says, “As much as basing a belief on experience is idolatry”.

The last line says, “Thankfully he speaks through experience as well”.

How do you not see that?

#35  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 8:11 AM

I'm using it in the same way as MacArthur. You will never hear me say that experience trumps scripture. You had to make that assumption and I can only assume you made it because I am defending experience. In fact, experience must align with scripture. But we can idolize scripture above God in making the claim God does not speak or inspire today through the Holy Spirit.

Who said anything about emphasizing scripture too much. That is not the problem with sola scriptura. The problem is that sola scriptura limits the Holy Spirit in how he speaks. What then was the point of God granting all believers the gift of the Holy Spirit if God wouldn't reveal and inspire Christians throughout history?

#36  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 8:22 AM

Hit submit too soon. Questioning experience is not the problem, it is writing it off and declaring it false outright. If the only Wesleyan quadrilateralists (not charismatics) you have argued with have given you the impression that experience should automatically be assumed to be genuine, no wonder you are tired of arguing with them. That is not what quadrilateralists believe.

You can idolize experience by placing it above God. I see it all the time. People often argue that Jesus was all about love and tolerance. That is part of their experience. It is wrong, but why? Because it is not consistent with the character and person of Christ revealed in scripture. We know from scripture that God is intolerant of sin and gracious and merciful to the repentant sinner. But a person who attempts to make God more palatable to them (Rob Bell) through means of experience is idolizing experience.

That is consistent with what I have been saying.

But it does not mean that God does not speak through experience.

#44  Posted by Ben Hogan  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 11:24 AM

Mr. Parooly,

Some further comment... There is a big difference between having the activity of the Holy Spirit in us to flesh out holy living (Phil. 2:13, Heb. 13:20-21), versus receiving revelation from God contrary to Scripture (the whole thrust behind this original post by JM). To pit one against the other creates a terribly incorrect dilemma and I encourage you to really think about the implications of denying "Sola Scriptura".

Something must be firm and fixed in order for us to know what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. They complement each other. The Word of God was written by the Spirit Himself, after all, as the Spirit *is* God. They affirm each other. To say that Sola Scriptura is unbiblical just because the Holy Spirit is alive and well is a gross misunderstanding of how Scripture and the Holy Spirit works. That's not to be mean. I'm really trying to help clarify the confusions.

#27  Posted by Ben Hogan  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 6:54 AM

Let's be careful of the theological gymnastics, here.

I think it would be prudent to re-read the last paragraph of John's post. The issue (like these alleged Heaven trips) is that experience is almost always elevated over efforts to understanding Scriptural text, which is actually a sin. Speculation is fruitless. The secret things do in fact belong to God. What is revealed in the Bible is sufficient for salvation and all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17 & Heb. 13:20-21), implicitly affirming that Scripture stands *alone* as regards revelation from God. You can't separate the "sufficiency" from the "sola". They're joined at the hip.

The Holy Spirit is what we have with us now (God working in us), illuminating this sacred text to us (an experience in itself!) which will make us wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ (2 Tim. 3:15).

The real question is... If the revelation from God Himself has indeed equipped us for "every good work", making us "complete" and "wise" for eternal life, what else could possibly add to *that*? What else?

If someone thinks they've been given a revelation from God, then either two things have happened: 1) The Holy Spirit brought some Bible verses to the forefront of their mind, or 2) They are trying to espouse something contrary to the Bible. If 1 is correct, then we know that claiming revelations from God is pointless because they have already been revealed. If 2 is correct, then that person would be walking in the counsel of their own wickedness and not delighting in the law of the Lord (Psalms 1:1-2). They would be in line with false teachers and heresy. It's either one or the other.

The objective Word must shine its light on what we have subjectively "heard". If it is anything else, then we are not only denying the sufficiency of Scripture, we are idolizing our depraved perspective over God Himself. Let us not be fools. The heart is deceitfully wicked above all things...who can understand it (Jer. 17:9)? Additionally, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for us (1 Cor. 2:9). Knowing these things, I distrust contrary man-made revelation and only trust God's.

Let us say with John the Baptist that "He must increase, but I must decrease" ... "the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie" (Jn. 3:30 & 1:27).

#30  Posted by Shane Haffey  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 7:43 AM

Well said Ben

#38  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 8:32 AM

Scripture alone and sufficiency of scripture are not joined at the hip. The only bending and twisting must be done on the part of reformed theology.

Be careful, you are using reason to justify sola scriptura which is a contradiction. Every minister who declares sola scriptura ought to stand to preach and only read scripture. I've never known a reformed minister to do this. Does he illustrate scripture? By what, his experience, another person's experience, some inspirational and relevant quote.

No. Every minister who declares sola scripture yet adds to a message by inspiration of the Holy Spirit at work in his preparation time reveals himself to really believe in prima scriptura, which strangely enough also declares scripture to be sufficient.

#41  Posted by Ben Hogan  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 9:33 AM

Mr. Parooly,

If you would kindly read your own words in Comment #34, you will note that you agree with the fact that “the source must be considered and tested.”

Being then that you believe there is something greater than experience to evaluate it by, may I ask what that is? Whatever the answer is will show what the true arbiter for your life is, as well as what it is that is sufficient for you to place the full weight of your faith in.

As a side note, you must be careful not to change the nature of the examination of this whole topic. The world’s definition of things like reason, rationale, will, etc. is skewed because it hasn’t been informed by Scripture. Once it is, we can, along with Paul, “reason from the Scriptures”. This doesn’t elevate reason, it subjects it to the Scriptures, rather than depravity. Experience is understood the same way. No one here is denying experience in and of itself as that would be denying our very existence, so it might do some good to acknowledge that in order to help reduce the needless semantic arguments, no?

#43  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 11:21 AM

Yes, scripture. Scripture is what we test it against. I have been more than clear about that including informing you that my theology is Wesleyan. I'm concerned that so many here persist in arguing against this phantom charismatic theology which apparently places little to no value in scripture when the reality is quite different.

Experience includes vision and prophecy, two tools of revelation by God's Spirit and this is exactly what I find people arguing against here.

#47  Posted by Ben Hogan  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 12:09 PM

Okay, excellent, Mr. Parooly. Having clarified what the highest point of arbitration is, we are left to see that Scripture is alone at the top. You in fact do affirm Sola Scripture then.

You see, it is a moot point for someone to claim a "vision" or "prophecy" came to them from God when it can readily be found in (insert Scripture verse here) already. Since everything has to be validated against Scripture, it means that Scripture alone is God's way for us to know what is legit and what's from the pit.

#29  Posted by Shane Haffey  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 7:39 AM

"the most important defense Christians have against self-deception is a conviction that the written Word of God is more certain and more authoritative than anyone’s experience".

This is precisely the issue. The conviction that Scripture is our supreme authority in all spiritual matters is given by the Holy Spirit for He is the reason why saving faith cannot be broken. To suggest that the Holy Spirit's work will ever at any time act otherwise than to confirm this truth is satanic.

God's judgment in Revelation will prove to address this very issue as "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign." Math 16:4. For they will in fact receive their "great signs" causing unprecedented deception. Rev 13.

#39  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 8:58 AM

#34 Jim Parooly

1. Why do you think God will speak to you and not to me?

2. Why don't you enlighten us with your point?

3. "Does God not reveal his plan and purpose in the meantime?" No, it is already in Scripture. For those who can hear what the Spirit say to the Church.

#45  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 11:30 AM

Rudi,

1. Who says I do?

2. Read my comments #35 & 36 for my answer.

3. We have a general revelation and purpose. However, the specifics of our charge are given through the Spirit's leading. For example, the pastor in our church shared about a past experience. God's general charge is to make disciples of all nations, to, as the church, maintain discipline amongst the believers, to meet needs amongst believers and unbelievers alike, etc. He had an opportunity to minister to a new family that visited church. God placed a heavy burden on his heart to let this family go. He didn't know why, he just knew the leading of the Spirit. On the surface, this would seem to go against the general charge of scripture, and it was heavy because he very much did not want to let the family go. Looking back events happened that, if happened in the church would have seriously damaged the church. God protected the church and the pastor through the leading of his Spirit. It's because the great commission charge in scripture is to make sure it happens, not how it will happen. God would reach more people because the pastor was obedient and let a family go that would cause serious harm.

#48  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 12:35 PM

#45 Jim

I hope this family will come to Grace To You, listen to John MacArthur speaking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The stone rolled away, Heaven open, Christ inviting hardharded sinners to wash His feet with their tears and wipe them with their hair for so great a gift.

#42  Posted by Mark Houser  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 10:09 AM

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV)

#50  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 2:27 PM

Dear Jim Parooly,

I appreciate your willingness to join the discussion and bring an opposing perspective. As can be seen by the comments of this and previous posts, there are many things which could be said to affirm or deny the validity of Colton's experience as a factual representation of heaven. If I may, I'd like to engage with you on two points:

First, you rightly said that the source of such claims needs to be considered. As you know there are a number of people—men, women, and children—who have written books on their experiences of heaven. Unlike the biblical accounts which are rather consistent, all these books differ significantly. Since all these books (including the Burpos) make some claims consistent with the Bible, some claims inconsistent with the Bible, many claims beyond the scope of the Bible, and many claims mutually exclusive of each other, how are we to know who to trust? Colton was a not-quite-four-year old boy at the time. Another man is a neurosurgeon; another a pastor. Others were skeptics, and so on. How are we to filter through the sources given all of this?

Second, given your comments, you likely just took exception to my statement that the Burpo's are making claims inconsistent with the Bible. You've repeatedly asked (as have many others), where do they contradict Scripture? Since I don't have a copy of the book on-hand (though I did read it last year), I will simply point to their ministry website where they have a FAQ page. Here are some of the "facts" we are asked to believe:

  • Mary (Jesus' mother) has a light above her head that looks like a halo.
  • You get to choose to walk or fly in heaven. If you decide to fly, you get wings as tall as your body.
  • God the Father has wings and most resembles the angel Gabriel
  • The Holy Spirit is bluish and transparent
  • Demons are monsters
  • Satan's light was extinguished a long time ago

Jim, I would ask you and everyone who wants to defend Heaven Is for Real, do you believe the above (and many other extra-biblical details) as much as you believe what the Bible says?

There are certainly higher-level issues to be discussed (e.g. continuing revelation). But let's not forget that there are truth claims being made from the Burpos that we must either believe or disbelieve. We must either affirm that God has wings, or deny it. We must either trust that people actually do have halos in heaven, or not.

#51  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 2:59 PM

Rick you are describing prima scriptura.

#56  Posted by Rick White  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 5:06 PM

Jim, I'm not sure where you are getting your information. The definition I gave for sola scriptura is the one understood and used by Protestantism since the Reformation. Just because you give it another name doesn't change anything. I would suggest you do at least a cursory study of the doctrine you are attacking. You should start with the churches that actually affirm sola scriptura and see what they have to say about it. Your redefining our doctrine doesn't mean anything. We do not accept your definition. Yes, sola scriptura means scripture alone. What we mean by that is that "scripture alone" is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. In other words, if you're going to attack a doctrine, please attack the actual doctrine and not a straw man.

#52  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 3:04 PM

No, sola scriptura is scripture alone. You are describing prima scriptura. Very distinct doctrines to answer the same question. An extra biblical vision is just that. It both must not contradict the theme or revelation of scripture and result from a spirit led individual of which scripture gives a description.

#53  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 3:08 PM

Rudi, wow, perhaps we should be discussing the idolatry of John MacArthur. I would have expected a proponent of sola scriptura to hope that this family would look to scripture alone for salvation.

#54  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 3:23 PM

Gabriel,

It is impossible to both to identify contradictions and harmonize extra biblical details for the simple fact that they are extra-biblical. The Wesleyan church has on its website a critical q&a regarding som e of these issues. I have noticed a lot of people group HIFR with the other books.I think this a contextual mistake. Since I have non connection to the other authors I neither promote them nor condemn them. I may be skeptical of them, but I don't allow my skepticism dictate my response and too quickly speak to write them off.

#55  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 4:51 PM

Thanks for that response. You're currently carrying on several conversations at once, so I appreciate your attention.

In reading that paper from the Wesleyan Church, it seems they crafted the answer carefully so as to not be held accountable for the truth claims Colton makes. Here's how I would summarize their position, "We believe what Colton says, but God reduced heaven to Colton's [three-year-old] level, so perhaps what Colton saw is not what an adult would see." It creates a situation where one doesn't have to affirm Colton's truth claims without denying his overall experience.

Here is at least one problem with that: due to the world's (believers and non-believers alike) dissatisfaction (if not complete ignorance) with what the Bible actually says about heaven, so many people ask very specific questions of Colton. The responses are definitive statements that are in no way softened by, "Well, remember Colton was only three and God likely brought things down to his level." No, we are told that Mary is essentially his mother's height (curious, since humans were much shorter in the 1st century), Michael is twice the size of Jesus, and only those who want to fly have wings, etc.

The Burpos are not trying to merely encourage people with the reality of heaven. They are doing that, but so much more. They are passing off Colton's memories as the de facto truth about what we should expect to see when we get to heaven—including an exact portrait of what Jesus looks like!

It's one thing to debate whether revelation in the form of visions continue (in case you missed it, Strange Fire dealt with that at length). It's another thing to hold up a three-year-old (!) as the one in a crowd of heaven tourists whom we should believe. And I'd ask that you explain how it's a contextual mistake to say that Colton's descriptions shouldn't be compared with others' experiences.

Thanks.

#57  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 5:24 PM

Gabriel, what you read is a position paper of the denomination the Burpos belong to. That is both the denomination and the Burpo's position on the vision Colton saw. Whether you believe that or not is a personal issue and I in no way condemn skepticism regarding his vision.However condemning his vision as fabricated is a bold declaration which I believe to be based off faulty theology.

#66  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 10:04 AM

Jim, I'm trying to understand the scope of your disagreement. On the one hand you seem to be saying that Colton's vision should not (cannot?) be discounted as fabricated. On the other hand you don't seem to care to affirm the truth of Colton's vision.

Are you merely trying to say that such experiences can occur? Or would you go further to say that Colton's experience was not only an actual experience, but a real and true experience of heaven to which we should submit our understanding of heaven?

Clearly you have a problem with the idea that the Bible (i.e. the truth contained therein) is enough to live the Christian life. Is that disagreement your sole reason for commenting here, or just your primary reason?

#58  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Monday, May 05, 2014at 5:32 PM

Rick, sola scriptura and prima scriptura are unique doctrines. I have a firm grasp on the understanding of both. It seems clear to me that many here think they believe the doctrine of sola scriptura but when fleshed out it is really prima scriptura. Even John MacArthr is not strixt to sola scriptura. It is not semantics because we are not calling the same thing by two different names, at least I'm not.

The straw man argument is grouping those of Wesleyan theology in with "charismatics" like Benny Hinn, something John MacArthur has no problem doing.

#69  Posted by Rick White  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 12:49 PM

Those who affirm the doctrine of sola scriptura use the definition I gave. The fact that you call it something different doesn't matter. You aren't the authority. If you go to the statement of beliefs of those who affirm sola scriptura, they will give the definition that I gave or one very similar. You seem to be under the impression that sola scriptura means that scripture is our only authority. That is not correct. The doctrine means that scripture is the only infallible authority for faith and practice. Some chuches may use the word inspired instead of infallible, but they mean the same thing. The point of the doctrine is that, since scripture is the only God breathed authority, it is the only standard we are to use in making doctrinal decisions.There are several great books out there that explain the doctrine. I would recommend Scripture Alone by James White. It's pretty much in line with what most evangelical Protestants believe. So, the doctrine you are attacking is a straw man.

#70  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 1:12 PM

A helpful and concise definition of an orthodox view of Scripture can be found in our doctrinal statement. The third paragraph would constitute the meaning of sola scriptura.

http://www.gty.org/connect/doctrine#Scripture

#60  Posted by Diana Lovegrove  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 6:05 AM

John MacArthur wrote in the article above: “In fact, the most important defense Christians have against self-deception is a conviction that the written Word of God is more certain and more authoritative than anyone’s experience. Scripture teaches this explicitly and repeatedly. For example, writing about his experience on the mount of transfiguration—an undeniable miracle at which other eyewitnesses were present—the apostle Peter says: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths. . . . We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven” (2 Peter 1:16, 18 ESV). It was a stunning, unprecedented, up-close look at the glory of heaven—literally. Peter goes on to say, however, that the written Word of God is even more reliable than an experience of that caliber! “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention” (v. 19 ESV).”

Am I understanding John MacArthur correctly, that his view is that this passage of scripture is teaching that the written Word of God that Peter had access to when he was writing this letter was more certain, more authoritative and more reliable than the experience he had? It sounds to me like John MacArthur is teaching that the Word of God which came to Peter on the mountain is not as certain, reliable and authoritative when it came to Peter as when it came to the Old Testament prophets. I find this an incredible assertion to make. Presumably, in MacArthur’s view, once Peter wrote it down in his letter, it then assumed the same status of certainty, authority and reliability.

My question for John MacArthur is that when Jesus returns, and when we experience His return, is he saying this glorious, wonderful experience of seeing Jesus face to face will not be as certain, authoritative and reliable as the written prophecies about this event?

A further question for MacArthur is how does he think the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus came into being? Was it not the case that the Word of God came to them? Is this not an experience? And this is what happened to Peter on the mountain – the Word of God came to him. The prophetic word, the testimony about Jesus.

#68  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 12:32 PM

Diana,

If I may, here's a quote from the MacArthur Study Bible on that passage: "[The] original arrangement of the sentence supports the interpretation that Peter is ranking Scripture over experience. The prophetic word (Scripture) is more complete, more permanent, and more authoritative than the experience of anyone. More specifically, the Word of God is a more reliable verification of the teachings about the person, atonement, and second coming of Christ than even the genuine first hand experiences of the apostles themselves."

The point is not that experience is totally unreliable and meaningless. Rather, the point is that Scripture is supremely reliable and should be our sole authority for knowledge of truth. It is true that the Scripture writers had experiences which were completely reliable. But what confirmed the reliability of their experience is the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit. Other experiences not recorded in Scripture are confirmed by comparison to Scripture. So Scripture is the authoritative baseline.

The application of this in the context of this blog is that Colton Burpo's experience is totally irrelevant to the question of the reality and nature of heaven. We know heaven is real because Scripture tells us and the Holy Spirit has given His stamp of approval on the descriptions of the Old and New Testament writers who described heaven. We don't need Colton's experience to confirm that heaven is real.

Once we believe on the basis of biblical authority, our experience (say, of the return of Christ) is not for the sake of confirming the truth, but enjoying the truth. When the fullness of what we've believed comes to pass, we will not wonder whether it is true, we will simply enjoy it forever.

Hope that helps.

#61  Posted by Janie Hildebrand  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 6:48 AM

If Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:16 that, "God lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see," how is it we are to accept Colton's testimony of having seen God? While it is true that God can do whatever He wants, are we to accept that He will contradict His Word to do it? We are setting a dangerous precedent if we accept this.

#62  Posted by Ben Hogan  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 6:57 AM

Prima vs. Sola

I said in Comment #27 earlier that the "sola" and the "sufficiency" of Scripture are joined at the hip, which is true. How so?

By definition, Prima Scriptura acknowledges that Scripture is the "primary" source of authority, but not the only source of it.

The problem: If Scripture does in fact only *contribute* to the whole of our Christian lives, rather than act as the arbiter of it all by itself, then the Scriptures are not sufficient to those who claim Prima Scriptura. The sufficiency of Scripture presupposes the exclusivity of it. There is no way around this.

For a proponent of Prima Scriptura to assert that Sola Scriptura means debilitating the Holy Spirit, shows a misunderstanding of Sola Scriptura as well as the actual Trinity.

It is the Spirit who carried along the apostles to write and then said “don’t go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). It is the Son who taught these men in the first place before the Holy Spirit picked up where he left off to put into words what God said. It is also Jesus that prayed and said to God, “*Your* word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Additionally, the Word is so highly revered and esteemed that John 1:1 says the “Word was God”.

By allowing room for other writings or traditions or “revelations” that the Holy Spirit did not write, proponents of Prima Scriptura actually quench the real work of the Holy Spirit which is illuminating the only words of God to the reader, gifting certain people the ability to teach/preach it (1 Cor. 12:10), making men's minds more like Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), interceding for men in prayer and in public (Rom. 8:26-27 & Matt. 10:19-20), and worst of all...directly contradicting what the Holy Spirit carried along (2 Pet. 1:21) the Apostle Paul to say: "Do not go beyond what is written.”

For a proponent of Prima Scriptura to say that all revelations and “visions” must still pass the litmus test of Scripture is to tacitly affirm Sola Scriptura since Scripture alone is the judge of truth or falsehood. For a preacher to add a human example to his sermon, it doesn’t add to the instruction of Scripture, thus negating the Sola. It only gives a practical illustration to what Scripture says. The Scriptures validate the illustration. It is not the other way around. We must be careful with that differentiation.

Sola Scriptura elevates God. Prima Scriptura elevates man.

I have one wife. I do not have a primary one.

#63  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 8:17 AM

Janie, I agree that no person here on this planet can see God. But Colton is not saying he saw God here. He is saying he was in Heaven when he saw God. I am sure you would agree that Scripture clearly states that when we are in Heaven, we will be completely able to see God. Regardless of whether we believe Colton was in fact in Heaven, the verse you cite does not automatically render his statement false.

#64  Posted by Patty Duke  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 8:28 AM

Herein lies the problem with Mr Parooly, in his own words:

"Experience includes vision and prophecy, two tools of revelation by God's Spirit and this is exactly what I find people arguing against here."

And on this I would recommend highly that he read STRANGE FIRE by John MacArthur. He can set him straight on visions and prophecy.

We will not convince Mr Parooly of his adherance to false teaching, perhaps MacArthur can help him.

He is, in fact, deep in the Wesleyan mess, much of which I have read, or had articles sent to me by well meaning friends. Not only do they not believe in sola Scriptura, they do not believe in the sovereignty of God (think how many Bible verses they have to throw out for that one), they believe you can "forfeit" your salvation. One person I was talking with I gave the verses of Jesus Himself talking in John 10 that "no one can snatch you from my hand" and their answer was "well, no one can snatch you out, but you can snatch yourself out of His hand. You can walk away from your salvation by your own free will". As if they are stronger than either Satan or God Himself. As in, "Satan can't snatch you out of God's hand, but you are stronger, so you can snatch yourself." Satan whispered the lie to Eve, "you shall be like God", and many false teachings have been mimicking that phrase ever since. All that to say, that until the Wesleyans start reading their Bibles and studying what it says about the Election of God's people, God's sovereignty, the Assurance of Salvation, the sufficiency of Scripture alone, etc. they will not be able to come out from under the false teaching they are currently blinded by.

#65  Posted by Jeff Clark  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 9:41 AM

The case against Mr. Parooly and his false teachings:

http://www.gty.org/blog/B140505

#82  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014at 11:14 AM

Why would I read Strange Fire when I can read the Bible? I reject John MacArthur's theology and therefore do not view him as an authoritative source for biblical interpretation, the sin of heresy, I know. Wesleyan's do not reject the sovereignty of God. We do view it differently, but we do not reject it.

#83  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014at 11:22 AM

Right, because John MacArthur, or in this case, a MacArthur approved source says so. One thing I love is when a Wesleyan disagrees with reformed theology it is a difference of biblical interpretation and we can still view you as brothers and sisters in Christ. When an adherent to reformed theology, particularly those loyal to John MacArthur and MacArthur himself, disagree with a different biblical interpretation it is false teachings and heresy and we are subject to attack and a questioning of the authenticity of our salvation. In this particular case, the attack falls on a family I am connected to and I am assured (yes Wesleyan's believe in assurance, just a little differently) of the Burpo family's authenticity.

#67  Posted by Janie Hildebrand  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 11:31 AM

Steve, I see your point regarding that scripture. And yes I understand that when we get to heaven we will all see God. However, are we then to conclude that Colton actually went into heaven? Because if we do, then we must also conclude from scripture that he was made 'imperishable" as Paul explained. He must have been given a new body. A body that the Apostle John admitted that, "what we will be has not yet been made known" (1 John 3:2).

The point is that Colton went into detail about his new body including age, wings and height to which we must conclude he became imperishable if we accept He entered heaven.

If he simply had a vision of heaven (which is not what is being proposed), that vision would have to be consistent with scripture (which it is not) as well as a call placed upon his life to be either prophet or martyr, not to make a Hollywood film.

#71  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 3:22 PM

Janie, I am not sure I understand your thinking. Are you saying that in order to see something and/or have an experience in Heaven a person has to be in an "imperishable" state?

If your answer to this question is yes, then I would assume that the Apostle John had to be " imperishable" for him to "come up here" and see and experience what he describes in Revelation. Was he in that "imperishable" state? Is there Scripture that says he was in that state? Please explain.

#72  Posted by Vicki Svarpellini  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 3:57 PM

Colton's body was still on the operating table. His spirit went to Heaven. Everyone he saw in Heaven were also spirits. According to the doctors, Colton did not die. They cannot explain how this happened. It was a God thing...a miracle. Colton could not have made any of this up. I believe him. It happened for a purpose, evidently.

I don't know anything about prima scriptura, etc. I grew up in a Wesleyan denomination. (Free Methodist...Sanctification, holiness). My dad was a pastor. I didn't read commentaries, just the KJ Bible. I'm not learned in that, so I can't really address it. Thank you, Jim Poole.

#73  Posted by Shane Haffey  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 5:33 PM

Question.. How many authors of the supernatural are there in the Bible? 2 right? God and Satan. Does Satan have the ability and permission to cause people to see images? Think Biblically here.

False Christ's, false prophets, false teachers... They wouldn't be false if they didn't look like the real thing. Does not Satan disguise himself as an Angel of light? False religion always speaks which is not according to truth. That's what makes it FALSE, and it's author Satan. Something false means it cannot be verified. Don't miss this. How do we verify truth? God's word alone is our source for verifying truth. So now we are to believe that God would orchestrate all these heaven and hell, near death experiences because He wanted people to know the truth? If we buy that we are buying a lie. We are to live not by food, not by experience, not by feelings but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. We must hold fast to this truth lest God give us over to the idolatry of experience.

2 Thess 2:11 - "For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false."

#74  Posted by Janie Hildebrand  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 6:24 PM

Steve, I see what you are saying and perhaps it is more an issue of semantics for me. Of course I agree that the revelation of John and those of the prophets were certainly seen while they were very much alive, and not yet made "imperishable." So for the sake of argument, let's just say that Colton's spirit did make a trip to Heaven. I guess my next question would be, for what purpose? What did God hope to accomplish through that visit?

As I recall the final biblical revelation we have is from John. I think you would agree that those visions were not ones of comfort or beauty, but of warning and great wrath. Are we to assume that God is now taking the gentle approach with mankind by transporting a 3 year old to heaven in order to testify about halos, wings and a rainbow colored horse?

Forgive me if I find this out of character for our Almighty God. You may argue that the movie brings an awareness of heaven and therefore it is good. That does not however mean it is true which is what is being proposed. Even Colton's own father used Colton's story book to confirm what he saw rather than looking to scripture.

It's a feel good, fuzzy Hollywood movie. That's all. Let's not diminish the sacred visions God has given us for a Hollywood version.

#75  Posted by James Hartt  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 8:22 PM

Proverbs 10:19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,

But he who restrains his lips is wise.

Does this mean too many Bible words or too much Scripture? Of course not. So it means; Too many men's words, speculations, philosophies.

So many people here trying to debate and correct Jim Parooly, and I didn't read 100% of the comments but nearly all. Therefore either slim, or None (which is why I'm posting), commented that Jim Parooly makes All his statements of what is "Biblical" or "In Scripture" [without quoting SCRIPTURE]. Hello! :)

And then all of you go on perpetuating the "many words" (Prov 10:19) with him, with slim to no ask of; "would you verify that with Scripture?"

Q: Why did you all do this continuation of discussion without being attentive to this omission with him?

A: Despite Letter of The Law knowledge that many of you referred to Verses, the Holy Spirit if in you at the time would have brought to remembrance; ask him to Verse back it up what he says. Or the Holy Spirit is derelict in duties? No! Or you were not In The Spirit in discussing with Jim? Very Likely!

Q: Why do you Jim, talk so much and have no desire or ability to refer to Scripture specifically for your beliefs and assertions?

A: The Word is not your source, not your Faith, you rely on Self and Drama, and likely secretly despise the Word. Or you'd use it by muscle memory, or like infinite cinnamon butter on warm bread. Or you weren't in the Spirit either the entire time commenting and discussing. And have yet to be in the Spirit since, to be brought to humility and repentance of the entire time misrepresenting (adding/subtracting) Scripture.

Philippians 3:14 I press On toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (which is Obey the Word, not the drama)

How bout y'all? Don't answer too quickly, in case your life and discussions judge you a liar.

#86  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014at 9:18 PM

Well, since you seem to have sufficiently answered your own questions for us all, I'll leave you to think whatever you will. Of course, had you not taken it upon yourself to provide your own answers... but we'll never know.

#76  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Tuesday, May 06, 2014at 11:52 PM

#53 Jim Parooly

Jim, I'm danish. I found John MacArthur many years ago and love him, simply because his love to my Lord is evident. The same for the rest of the dear brethren here, who speak the Truth without shame, and are living out their salvation. In my country, everyone is hard working denying everything Gods Word say. I simply believe it.

"I would have expected a proponent of sola scriptura to hope that this family would look to scripture alone for salvation."

You can make a mockery out of it, and walk away smiling, having your victory. I'm actually crying.

Don't mock Christ, and His salvation. Hell is real and so is heaven.

#84  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014at 11:38 AM

Rudi, First of all, mocking John MacArthur =/= mocking Christ. Second, I was not mocking John MacArthur, I am questioning his theology. I have no issue believing that John MacArthur is a devoted Christian and there are a significant number of issues we could easily find agreement on, but this issue isn't one of them. I believe sola scriptura is a distortion of the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture and I believe that extra-biblical reasoning as well as extra-biblical caveats are required to make adherence to it possible. The reasoning and caveats morph the meaning of sola scriptura into closer resemblance to prima scriptura but still permits the rejection of select spiritual gifts (based on extra-biblical conjecture), and promotes an attitude of division between two groups who believe in the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of scripture. I take this very seriously as you do, and I apologize for hurting your feelings. I too am deeply wounded, but for me, I am wounded at the attitude of reformed Christians causing them to question the authenticity of their Wesleyan brothers and sisters.

#85  Posted by Jeff Clark  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014at 6:32 PM

Jim,

You aren't hurting our feelings. We feel bad for you.

Jesus did not come for peace but with a sword to separate sheep from goats. We feel bad for you because you have bought a lie, are following Satan, and making your mysticism a false idol. There is a very strong warning for you ...

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. Revelation 22:18-19

#88  Posted by Jim Parooly  |  Friday, May 16, 2014at 9:47 AM

You are welcome to feel bad for me. Your "empathy (disguised in condemnation and cries of heresy and idolatry)" do not effect the landscape of theological debate. That's all I really have to say to someone who is supposed to be a brother in Christ, yet questions the fundamental principle in my life which is the grace, mercy, and forgiveness, reconciliation, and sanctification through knowing Jesus Christ.

#77  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Wednesday, May 07, 2014at 7:58 AM

Good morning Janie. I am enjoying our discussion. Please understand that I too have many questions and issues with this whole thing. There are what appear to be Biblical problems with some of it. It would be easy to label the whole thing "demonic" and dismiss it outright. But, unlike James, I think discussion, even when it involves "many words" is not to be feared or avoided.

You first ask why God would take Colton's spirit to Heaven. What would be His purpose in doing that? I have wondered about that too, and the truth is that I do not know the answer. But I know that God does a lot of stuff I do not understand. Sometimes I get some clarity downstream somewhere, but many times I never really get it.

Maybe Colton's thing is nothing more than a manifestation of the Joel prophecy that is in Acts 2. I don't know. There does seem to be a lot of that dreams and visions stuff going around these days. If we are in the midst of the Joel phenomena, it is, as they say, the weirdest of times. And no wonder we shy away from those Joel manifestations. That kind of experiential stuff raises a huge number of questions. But the Word says that it will happen anyway, so I guess, if I am truly Bible believing, I just need to accept that God knows what He is doing.

John had a vision of Heaven and he related what he saw. Does that mean that what he saw was everything that exists in Heaven? Does Revelation say that what John saw is all there is in Heaven?

I think that when John saw that open door and heard "come up here", the purpose for that invitation was made clear. Rev 4:1. John was told that the purpose of his visit was to see "things that must take place after this". So what he saw was all geared to that purpose. And these things were the "warning and great wrath" that you refer to in your post.

But the judgment and wrath and warfare that John saw represents only one part of the overall character of God. My impression is that He is also "warm and fuzzy". I remember the same John laying his head on Jesus' chest at the Last Supper, and Jesus touching, blessing and elevating the children. Seems pretty "warm and fuzzy" to me. To say that Colton's experience is inconsistent with God's character because he saw warm fuzzy stuff as opposed to what John saw really limits who God is. It is a very restrictive view of God and does not conform to the totality of His Word or the complexity of His character.

Last point. If I were God and I was going to show a three year old who was near death a vision of Heaven, what would I show Him? Not sure, but I am thinking about that verse where Jesus says that, if we as sinful people, know how to give good stuff to our kids, his much more good stuff will God give us because we are his kids. What Colton saw was wonderful, a truly good gift. Why would Jesus not show him this stuff? Seems consistent with the His character, His nature and even His Word.

Having said all that, I respect GTY's concerns. I have them too!

#80  Posted by Patty Duke  |  Wednesday, May 07, 2014at 12:29 PM

Dr. MacArthur states that we should question anything that goes beyond Scripture, and clearly this experience Colton says he had goes way beyond Scripture. We absolutely cannot accept this as a real event- that he went to heaven and came back to tell us about it. Where in Scripture does it say this will not happen? How about Luke 16, Jesus talking, story of Lazarus and the rich man, both in the afterlife, one in Paradise, one in Hades. Rich man asks Abraham to send someone back to warn his brothers. Answer- "No" "No", "No" (emphasis mine). Why? BECAUSE they have the Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) and if they do not believe the Word of God, they will not believe anyone who comes back from the dead. Period. Jesus Himself says this will not be allowed! This is a warning for us today too obviously. Did Jesus know we would have a ridiculous number of people saying they had "died" or "almost died" and come back to tell us about it? Of course He did. Did He want us to be warned about it? Yes. Does He want us to concentrate on believing HIM (His Word) and trusting Him only. Yes. You have to decide to either believe Jesus, or believe every Tom, Dick, and Harry who comes along and says they have had so and so experience. Which will it be? Everything God allows in our lives, in the world, eventually will be seen to be allowed for the glory of God. The experience of Colton does not glorify God, it glorifies Colton- God and heaven are reduced in glory to a child's imagination. But most improtant of all, Jesus says this will not be allowed. What else do we really need?

#79  Posted by Janie Hildebrand  |  Wednesday, May 07, 2014at 10:39 AM

Good morning, Steve. Thank you for your humble approach. It is refreshing to discuss issues that are confusing or difficult in a spirit of gentleness. We non-theologians so appreciate that! :)

I agree with you wholeheartedly that our God is "warm and fuzzy" and I was in no way implying that being warm and fuzzy was inconsistent with His nature. God forbid we accept a sterile approach to our precious savior.

What I meant was that when it comes to the biblical accounts of heavenly revelations, Colton's account just seems so inconsistent. And to be honest, I don't really know of any other way to judge things except by scripture. For example, if I read the accounts of Ezekiel, Isaiah and Revelation, and then Colton's account, there is such a contrast and I struggle with that.

Perhaps I am also suspicious because of all the youtube interviews I've watched of Colton. They are, well, less than convincing. Granted, he's a kid and his memory is fading, but his account sounds scripted at best.

But like you, I have lots of questions and I would never want to restrict God in any way. But at the same time I am cautious in accepting things that seem inconsistent with scripture, no matter how warm they may sound, lest I fall for something more dangerous later.

But thank you for the discussion, Steve! I love to learn and examine things.

In the (warm and fuzzy) love of Christ,

Janie

#87  Posted by Sis Caudle  |  Friday, May 16, 2014at 9:34 AM

God is sovereign. It is appointed to man to die once, ... yet, we find a couple examples of this not happening ie Enoch and Lazarus. Enoch didn't die at all and Lazarus had the distinction of dying TWICE!

I'm not saying Colton's experience was "real" or it wasn't. When something like that happens to us, it is extremely difficult to convince ourselves that it is not real. I once had a weird type of dream that was so real that I believed it happened (for many years) until I was shown that it could not have happened and I learned about a type of dream in which you are partially awake and partially asleep.

My own mother had a near-death experience and it changed her life in such a way that I could never say she did not experience something incredible. She didn't see heaven, that I remember, but she was told it wasn't her time to die and she wasn't doing what she was supposed to be doing. Wow! Her social-climbing-money-making days were over!

I think these things should be put on a shelf and pondered. No doctrines should be made from these experiences; there are many inconsistencies between stories but also many similarities. I find them fascinating!

#89  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, May 19, 2014at 3:07 AM

#84 Jim Parooly

"I am wounded at the attitude of reformed Christians causing them to question the authenticity".

Yes, I do not only question it as an authentic experience from God, but also point out the "extra authentic revelation supposed originated from God" in Colton's story.

Either it is from God, or it is not. It is not. I don't believe a word of it, but there is a book, written by God....