CAROL STREAM, Ill. — The publishers of a bestselling book written by a then-ten-year-old boy who claimed he “came back from heaven” have pulled the book from publication after the boy announced this week that he lied about his story and called upon Christians to repent for buying into “heavenly tourism.”
“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” Alex Malarkey, co-author of “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” wrote in an open letter. “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,” he 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.”
Malarkey had been involved in a car accident at the age of six, and was in a coma for two months. His book, published by Tyndale in 2010 and co-written with his father, claims that he died and went to heaven, having encounters with angels and ultimately meeting Jesus. The book reached bestseller status, and a documentary was also released about Malarkey’s story. Christian reviewers gave the book high marks.
But Malarkey’s admission that the story was fabricated isn’t necessarily new. Last spring, Malarkey’s mother wrote in a blog post that she had concerns about the book’s continued proliferation as her son had confessed that the book was unbiblical.
“It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned,” Beth Malarkey wrote in a post entitled “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven…Not Quite.” “Alex’s name and identity are being used against his wishes (I have spoken before and posted about it that Alex has tried to publicly speak out against the book), on something that he is opposed to and knows to be in error according to the Bible.”
“When Alex first tried to tell a ‘pastor’ how wrong the book was and how it needed stopped, Alex was told that the book was blessing people,” she continued. “[But] Alex did not write the book and it is not blessing him! Saying that it is blessing others to try to justify its wrong is just that … justification of wrong!”
Malarkey and her husband have since divorced following the publishing of the book.
“I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient,” a now teenage Alex Malarkey wrote in his open letter this week. “Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.”
Following his admission, Tyndale House Publishers informed reporters late Thursday that it would no longer publish “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.”
“Tyndale has decided to take the book and related ancillary products out of print,” Todd Starowitz, public relations director for Tyndale House told the Washington Post.
Lifeway Christian Stores, one of the nation’s largest Christian retail chains, also announced Thursday that it will 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.
“Christian publishers and retailers should have known better,” wrote the blog Pulpit & Pen, which first released Malarkey’s open letter this week. “They should have had the spiritual discernment, wisdom, compassion, and intestinal fortitude to not sell a book which contains, along with all books like it, deep theological problems.”
“It also doesn’t help that in what is purported to be a ‘true story’ that there are vivid descriptions like ‘The devil’s mouth is funny looking, with only a few moldy teeth. And I’ve never noticed any ears. His body has a human form, with two bony arms and two bony legs. He has no flesh on his body, only some moldy stuff.'”