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Monday, February 18, 2013

A Book Review: Revealing Heaven

     Recently, I had the chance to read the new book by John W. Price called "Revealing Heaven".   Rev. Price is an Episcopal priest who wrote this book in response to his experience of interviewing persons who died and were revived.  This is a very easy to read, short book.  Rev. Price makes it interesting to read and is clearly passionate about letting people know about what others have told him about their experiences of going to heaven and coming back.  There are many things that I like about this book.  There are also some serious theological concerns that I have about what Rev. Price says.

    One of the things that I like about this book is that Rev.Price really calls on people to consider how their actions and words affect others.  He talks about how those who go to heaven have a chance to really feel and experience the joy and pain that they cause others.  This is really something to ponder.  He says that one of the things that many had in common was that they had a life review.  This seems consistent with what the Bible says about how each person must stand before God and give an account of their life.  How much more careful we would be if we realized how careless words and actions hurt others.

       The other thing that I like about this book is that Rev. Price emphasizes the love of God.  He really talks about and wants to comfort others that when someone dies they go to a better place.  You hear this desire to alleviate fears in his book throughout and that is commendable.  It is true that God is love and that heaven is for real.  It is interesting to hear him talk about how this was not something he gave a lot of thought about early on in his ministry.

       One of the interesting stories that John tells is when he goes back to his seminary and runs into some seminary professors.  He tells them about his experiences of talking to others who died and came back.  These seminary professors reject the concept of heaven completely.  One wonders what type of liberal school he went to and why these professors would be allowed to teach others if they don't believe in a heaven.  Yet, Rev. Price states that this was not a focus in the early part of his ministry.  He was more interested in the here and now.

        One big concern that I have is that Rev.Price seems to say that it truly doesn't matter if a person is Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim or Christian.  The important thing isn't following Jesus or believing in him.  It isn't really even that important according to him to go to church.  What is important is that we love other people.  In saying this, he lowers the standards for salvation to simply being good instead of faith in Christ.  Christ doesn't become the way, the truth and the life, but he is only one of many ways.

       The author seems to acknowledge this concern and writes about this for about 4 pages.  He tries to justify this belief by equating Jesus with love.  According to his statements, if we simply love others then by our actions we believe in Jesus.  But, the problem with that is that Jesus is much more than love.  While God is love, he is also more than love.  God is more than a concept, but is a person.  He made exclusive statements about his nature, which John ignores in this book for the most part.

       I understand the desire to not want anyone to go to hell or to think they are going to hell.  I wish that John was right.  Interestingly, John says that when pastors have this experience and come back and tell this to their congregations that the congregations end up dying.  He seems to suggest this is because they are no longer harsh or judgmental.  But, the truth is, that if Jesus is only one of many ways, then it doesn't matter that much if I come to church or not. 

       Jesus didn't make these statements about himself.  In lowering the standard of salvation, Dr.Price actually waters down the gospel to alleviate fear.  But, the Bible declares that the fear of God is the beginning of understanding.  Jesus claimed that the way to heaven is through the narrow gate and he said few find it.  John Price said that the way to heaven is a highway and hell is only for really mean people. 

       We must be very careful about doctrine that compromises what God says.  It is easy enough to want God to say something.  It is also easy to equate experience over the Word.  In effect, that is what John does by believing the words of those who apparently died over what the Bible says.  The bible doesn't imform his experience, but his experience trumps the Bible.  This is dangerous and wrong.

       This is a deeply flawed book which elevates experience over what the Bible says.  Unfortunately, it is a popular belief today.  To claim that what Jesus said was true, means that others in the world will judge you as harsh, judgmental and a bigot.  Uncompromising to the Word, you will be viewed as close minded and mean.  But, the truth is that we are not called to compromise the word to alleviate fears.  Sometimes fear can be good.  Especially if it leads you to consider who the person of Jesus is and what your response to His sacrificial death is.


trish said...

It really is true that words can wield a lot of power. I make an effort to remember that when feelings are running high, but also when I think kind things about people I make an effort to let them know.

Thanks for being on this tour and sharing your thoughts on this book.

Nikole Hahn said...

Especially if you are a mean Christian. :o) Great review.