NASHVILLE — One of the nation’s largest Christian bookstore chains has announced that it has pulled all of its “Heaven visitation resources” following the passage of a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution surrounding the “sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”
LifeWay Christian Resources told the Baptist Press this week that it will no longer sell items pertaining to those who have claimed to have visited Heaven. It states that its decision was partly due to consideration of the resolution, which was agreed upon last June and warned Christians not to let “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience … become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife.”
“Last summer, as we began developing LifeWay’s new structure and direction—what we’ve now identified as One LifeWay—the role of heaven visitation resources was included in our considerations,” spokesman Marty King told the outlet. “We decided these experiential testimonies about Heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer.”
“Now that we’ve begun implementing the new direction, the remaining heaven visitation items have been removed from our stores and website and will not be replenished,” he continued. “We have more work to do aligning the LifeWay Retail Division with LifeWay’s vision and core values so we covet your prayers as we continue to provide trustworthy Biblical Solutions for Life.”
The announcement means that books such as “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper, “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo and “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” by Kevin and Alex Malarkey will no longer be available for purchase at LifeWay.
As previously reported, in January, Alex Malarkey, who was in a coma for two months following a car accident nearly a decade ago, wrote an open letter in January admitting that his book about dying and going to Heaven was fabricated.
“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” he confessed. “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,” Malarkey continued. “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.”
“I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient,” he reiterated. “Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.”
Tyndale House Publishers announced days later that it would no longer publish the book, and LifeWay likewise advised that it would pull the book from its shelves and send its copies back to Tyndale.
“LifeWay was informed this week that Alex Malarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.’ Therefore, we are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our stores,” it wrote in a statement.
Pulpit & Pen, the blog that first broke the story about Malarkey’s admission, also reported that Lifeway had been told about Malarkey’s book being fictional last year. It posted text from email correspondence between Justin Peters, a former trustee of Lifeway who also leads a discernment ministry, and Thom Rainer, the president of Lifeway.
“[I]f you are not already aware, the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ detailing story of Alex Malarkey is fiction. It did not happen,” Peters wrote to Rainer in May 2014. “I know this because I have exchanged numerous emails and have personally spoken with Beth Malarkey, Alex’s mom. Alex does not support the book. … You might want to pull this, too, if you haven’t already.”
In addition to deciding to remove all “Heaven visitation resources” from its stores and online after considering June’s SBC resolution, LifeWay states that it was also influenced to pull the items following an inquiry about Don Piper’s book “90 Minutes in Heaven,” which is set to be released as a movie this fall.