Hizzle Is Fo Rizzle?

Question from Josh:
“A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.” I don’t buy this for one minute, but some of my religious friends hound me for an explanation. How would you explain this? I tell them it is a shame.

Answer by SmartLX:
It is rather a shame. Thanks to Heaven Is For Real, for the rest of Colton Burpo’s life people may well want to talk to him about something he barely remembers more than anything he achieves afterwards.

What Colton Burpo didn’t already know about what was going on in the real world while he was unconscious, he could have guessed (for instance that his extremely religious parents were praying). If any of the real-world revelations still seem too unlikely, the father and author Todd Burpo admits a period at the beginning of the poor kid’s interrogation when Todd hadn’t thought not to ask leading questions. There’s no telling what he fed Colton.

As for Colton’s descriptions of heaven, he could have picked up any amount of theological geography from his father before the event. Despite this, he recounted a great deal of detail which doesn’t match the Bible at all. Some believers have rejected the whole thing on this basis, but there are many others who simply ignore what Colton got “wrong” even as they proclaim what he got “right”.

There’s a decent critique of the book and the kid’s story here, written by a Christian apologist academic of all people. He’s one of those for whom the “wrong” theology is a dealbreaker. So you see, even many of the faithful aren’t happy with Colton’s testimony.

19 thoughts on “Hizzle Is Fo Rizzle?”

  1. “A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.”
    It is rather easy to explain … during surgery, the kid would have been under anesthesia. So just substitute “life-saving surgery” with “deep sleep”.

    The rejection by the apologist put up by SmartLX is rather funny … the apologist’s objection is more because the account does not tally with scripture and less because there is reasonable doubt about the testimony! Its just fantastic! Reminds me of accountants (I deal with them a lot, alas) … rejecting a transaction because it does not fit the GAAP/ IFRS and not because it is invalid in the first place.
    Easiest way to make crazies out of normal people – write a tome and put a stamp of authority on it! Works in accounting almost as well as it works in religion.

  2. So many do not understand what they read. So they assume that they are correct and quote verses to support their view. Remeber a text taken out of context is a pretext! Scripture itself tells us <. What does that include or exclude? Do all of these “wise” critics know that they only need to pray and as <> or <> or <> etc. All this means is, if you have a RELATIONSHIP with the Father, then you can ask HIM anything. All this man made controversy demonstrates a lack of understanding of faith, trust and BELIEF. So this is doubt rampant. A lack of any real relationship. Opinion, pride and arrogance to the fore. Ask and wait for the answer. What about prophecy now, NOT found in the bible! Does that invalidate the prophecy? Test it by asking for HIS take on it. Keep asking. If it is way off you should get an INSTANT reaction from your spirit man. (that includes you ladies). If it is very important the Holy Spirit may respond strongly. If more serious, you may get a CLEAR word or a clear vision. That can feel like it is audible and to some it is. God is not a cooky cutter God. He is multifaceted and answers us where WE are. Eg, we are all unique. Think finger prints! It is so sad that the general attitude is <>Result win lose at best and more often<> Finger pointing, confrontation and accusations. Change of attitude to WHAT, that makes it impersonal, removes the confrontational component and the answer works for everyone. <> Summary, WHAT not WHO!!!!!

  3. I’m sure submissions do look strange when truncated. Pay it no mind.

    You’re not the first to tell me and the readers here to ask God for answers directly. I’ve done this, repeatedly and with as much sincerity as I can manage, and received nothing. You would most likely say that it’s my fault for not believing enough or not praying hard enough, but here we have a Catch-22: one already needs to believe before God will act to increase one’s belief. This is useless to an atheist, even if true. One can’t be entirely sincere in asking the advice of someone who likely isn’t there.

  4. (in response to SmartX’s comment)

    Well, if you cannot believe and have faith, God will not perform miracles for you. If it is useless to an atheist, fine, its your choice. But if you are going to complain about God not answering you, the answer is right here: lack of faith. If God doesn’t fulfill every single request you have, it’s either because it is of selfish/hurtful intention, inappropriate for you, you aren’t working hard enough (remember hard work + faithful prayer = success), or plainly, an answer from God like “not yet.” Even I did not instantly believe. When I first accepted the gospel, I was basically a weak believer. I did not have full faith until I got invited to intense worship and devotion at a Holy Spirit revival conference (attend one and see for yourself) when I saw arthritis get healed, pain removed, and more miracles. My faith immediately increased drastically and I and my family began receiving blessings and healings from God. So, please, do not make the same mistake I made by wasting a year partially doubting about the Lord our God…in Matthew 7:7 in the bible it is written, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

  5. (in response to SmartX’s answer to Josh)

    Ok.
    1) Colton said exactly that his parents were praying in the other room with detail. At 4 years old, he said it in such a firm tone without any spot of doubt or question; now, if a 4 year old was guessing this, he would ponder a bit and say this in an uncertain tone, if not ask about it. So he must have obtained that statement from heaven. Same thing with your assumption about Colton “picking up theological geography from his father before the event.” His father never did tell him this and said it himself.
    2) Actually, not a single word from Colton’s experiences in heaven contradicted the bible; it is just that some details weren’t in the bible. (If you think Colton is making those things up, remember when Colton said “Jesus had markers” in the way a 4 year old talks? Well, he later pointed to ankles and wrists, the exact places of the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion, and he did not know this. If you think his Sunday school teachers taught him about the nails, he wouldn’t have said “Jesus has markers” first.) God does not reveal ALL about him to us directly. Instead, he uses people like Colton as well as prophets (for example, Cindy Jacobs”) to reveal to us God’s plans and more information.

  6. I wouldn’t expect God to fulfil every single request, even if I thought he existed. It would help a great deal, however, if He fulfilled a single request that only He could grant, thereby demonstrating his own existence. He hasn’t done even that, at least for me, so while I can’t say with certainty that He doesn’t exist I’ve got no reason to believe that He does. Even “weak” faith, or “accepting the gospel” in the first place, would be unjustified.

    In brief, I asked and nothing was given, I sought and found nothing, there is no apparent door to knock on, and all of this both before and after I became an atheist. So God’s wrong, Matthew (or whoever actually wrote the Book of Matthew) was wrong or there’s just no Christian God.

    I don’t doubt that your faith was strengthened by your devotions and especially by your attendance at the revival conference, because the primary purpose of those conferences (other than to make money) is to strengthen people’s faith. There are many ways to achieve this with already-willing devotees, some of which may amount to brainwashing, but suffice it to say they do not require divine help.

  7. 1. Todd Burpo admitted to asking Colton leading questions at first, so as I said there’s no telling how much information Colton gained immediately after he awoke. The words of the parents’ prayers might have been nearly identical to prayers they’d prayed before; in times of great stress, people often fall back on the classics. As for Colton’s level of confidence in the initial interview, we have only his parents’ word, but he could well have been extremely confident if his father was essentially telling him what to say.

    2. Colton said Satan was in Heaven, Joseph. If that’s true, then never mind that it contradicts the Bible, it’s possible for anyone to escape Hell and enter Heaven, so what’s the point of repenting before death if there’s no apparent reason to?

  8. This child had an experience which agrees the Word of God.

    Faith is the cornerstone of Christianity. Before you can challenge the Word of God and His children, you must challenge their faith. You cannot argue with them that they are wrong because their faith permits them to see what you cannot. I’m going to quote scripture.

    2 Corinthians 5:7 – For we walk by faith, not by sight:
    Hebrews 11:6- “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

    But if you deny God’s existence because you have no sensory evidence that He exists, then you are in the same place where all Christians once were. The spontaneous acceptance of God’s existence comes from hearing His Word.

    Romans 10:17 –“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

    As long as one rejects God, in particular, God’s Word, one will not be able to see God. This is scriptural. Jesus happens to be God’s Word come in the flesh. It is also written that you cannot see God the Father (the Creator of heaven and earth) if you deny that Jesus is the Christ.

    John 12-
    “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.
    And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.
    I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
    And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
    He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
    For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
    And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

    My dear friends, atheism is also scriptural.
    God can harden your heart to the point where you can never see Him. He can choose your delusions which is a horrible thing.

    Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”

    But if you deny God because of something deep inside your heart that condemns you, even murder – remember that this same Jesus alone can forgive you, and that His blood can wash away all that evil which condemns you.

    John 11:25-26. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

    Notice the word “liveth”. You are still alive. It is written that “a living dog is better than a dead lion”. Your life, which is God’s gift, provides a window for you to secure your relationship with Him and be saved. It is sufficient. But don’t delay and perish in your own wisdom. It is written that wisdom is justified by her children and that the message of the Cross is foolishness to the Gentiles (unbelievers).

    God bless you.

  9. It may surprise you to learn, and I’m not sure whether it would surprise me if it surprised you to learn, that I’ve heard all this before. It is an extended excuse for the fact that not only have I not had any sensory experience of God, there’s no evidence for a god at all.

    I’ve heard and read the Word rather a lot, since I was raised Christian before I became an atheist, and not much has happened as a result. Now that I don’t believe anymore, giving me more of the Word I’ve already heard isn’t going to do much. There’s always such an emphasis on spreading the Word, but no effort to make it stick because people think it’ll work by itself.

    The other possibility, from your perspective, is that God has hardened my heart so that I’m impervious to the Word. Firstly, why the hell would He do that if He wants me to love Him? Secondly, if it’s already been done, what makes you think you’ll have any effect?

    To be as general as I can, you can’t make anyone afraid of something they don’t think is there. You have to establish the reality of that threat, and just telling people it’s real won’t do it for you.

  10. Dear Friend,

    Here’s some of what precedes Romans 1:28 (just to jog your memory, of course)

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.

    You cannot deny that God exists. Why, just look at yourself. You were made in God’s image. David said in the Psalms that he was “fearfully and wondrously made”. I caught a glimpse of the item where you claim that a certain man’s experience of Heaven is nothing more than a temporal lobe seizure. But do you know how such a seizure happens? Could you reconstruct a temporal lobe and cause it to fire in such a way as to produce such a reproducible image of Heaven similar to what all Christians who make such claims, such as Colton Burpo, do?

    You claim that it is ludicrous for God to harden one’s heart if He wants such to love Him. But, God didn’t create us to be automatons. We have free will. However, God can punish us in such an extreme way if – we have at one time received His love (to once have known God in Romans 1:21 above) – but to have then jilted Him. This amounts to the most severe form of blasphemy – which is to sin against the Holy Spirit – from which point God will just abandon a person so they heap up condemnation against condemnnation upon themselves – oblivious to what is happening – until Judgement Day. I won’t quote scripture under the assumption that you are reasonably erudite concerning Bible verses.

    Has that happened in your life? If it has then I won’t trouble you anymore. You claim on your website that “you have answers.” But somehow I feel you are the one seeking answers. Else why would you bother to keep reaffirming to the world that God doesn’t exist?

    I’m sure no blind man would want to keep wasting his time reaffirming that his friends are delusional about nonexistent things called colours.

    God bless you.

  11. Yes, I’m aware of the Bible’s opinion of non-believers, and it is just that.

    What reason is there to accept that we’re made in God’s image when no one has any idea what God looks like? The human body and brain are complex, and of course I couldn’t build and operate one from scratch, but I don’t have to. Human bodies and brains have already arisen, evidently from a process of natural evolution spanning about three billion years from the initial emergence of simple life.

    Again, I couldn’t deliberately manipulate a brain to produce an image of Heaven, but our brains produce highly detailed images of unseen places all the time. They’re called dreams. Colton Burpo’s dreams were heavily influenced by the constant preaching and prayers of his devoutly religious parents. As you’d expect, while his story broadly reflected the conventional image of Heaven, he came up with certain things that don’t fit anyone else’s ideas, such as that the Devil is there.

    If God didn’t create us to be automatons, he sure treats us like automatons sometimes. You’re saying that if we reject God once, he may directly manipulate our emotions so that we always reject Him thereafter. What happened to there being more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 righteous people? God seems to be actively preventing stray sheep from returning to the flock.

    I didn’t reject God as such; I just realised that there is likely no God to accept or reject. You think of everyone as having some relationship with God, even if it’s adversarial; that’s simply not the way I and other atheists look at it. To answer your question, I run this site and keep stating my position to help others, educating them about belief and non-belief and dispelling misconceptions about atheists. This really needs to be done.

    A person who can see colours can demonstrate the fact to someone born blind or colour-blind. Perhaps they could solve a block puzzle which looks impossible in greyscale, but is in fact colour-coded to make it very easy. Until believers can somehow demonstrate the presence of God to non-believers, there is no reason for non-believers not to think that believers are at least wrong, if not delusional.

  12. Dear Friend,

    You stated earlier that you were raised a Christian, and then became an atheist. I was raised a Buddhist, which is perhaps the most atheistic mainstream religion out there. And I opposed Christian values using many of the claims you make. Nothing could persuade me. For twenty plus years, nothing could persuade me, starting around my campus days when a well wisher gave me a copy of the New Testament. During those twenty plus years, I read the Bible, with the intent of attcking Christian claims, but I could never make sense of the New Testament. I never dared step into a church.

    One day, my girl friend and future wife-to-be persuaded me to attend a few meetings, and then finally, to step up to the front so that the Pastor would pray for me. I went to the front, and said in my heart – “Lord, if there is any truth in any of this, please reveal yourself to me.” I never expected what happened next. A surge went through me – and the only way I can describe it is as if the sweetest taste you can imagine entered my heart. Yes, taste. I had never experienced anything like it. I fell flat on the floor, but it felt like I was falling on a bed of pillows.

    This experience is what many Christians call “Baptism of the Spirit”. After it – I had no problem understanding the New Testament. Subsequent experiences proved to me that God is a person with His own volition and that He is pure love.

    The very understanding of what God is cannot be explained in terms of anything worldly, because He exists outside the “linear basis” that comprises this world (to use some math terms). And since I cannot convince you that God exists in terms of what you see and experience, dear friend, I won’t trouble you any more.

    God bless you.

  13. Don’t get the impression that I’m trying to get rid of you, Charles. This is an Ask site so the incoming material is crucial. If you think you’re done here, though, that’s fine.

    I would be very interested to know what had gone on during the service, and how long the service had gone on for, before you were brought to the front. If someone had managed to evoke this effect in you on the street after doing nothing but making you ask God that question, I’d be impressed (I said the same words just now, as sincerely as I could, in the same way I used to pray when I was a Christian, and nothing happened), but this was a charismatic church service (and for those who don’t know, “charismatic” has an entirely different meaning in the context of Christianity).

    Pastors in these kinds of churches are able to create something close to hypnosis, or mass hysteria. You may be viewing everything since in the light of a single, unexplained emotional experience which was carefully induced in you for the church’s gain.

    It’s interesting that you say you can’t convince me that God exists in terms of what I experience, because that’s exactly how you were convinced. I think that if I went to a similar church service, and went with the flow, I might well have a similar moment of ecstasy when that roomful of zealotry was briefly focused entirely on me. Afterwards, because of that emotional high I might have trouble recognising that the pastor and the congregation could have evoked it in me just as easily as God, but it would still be the case.

  14. Dear Friend,

    I remembered another experience of mine that I’d like to tell you about. In your penultimate message you mentioned dreams.

    When I was twelve, I had a lucid dream. In it, I saw limestone buildings covered in ivy. One building was cylindrical in shape with large rooms opening under it. I saw the full moon hanging low over a body of water (which never happens in the deep of night where I lived at that time). I dreamt that I travelled to the airport in a car and boarded a plane evidently for this place. It was a very clear and meaningful dream. None of this occurred round me in the environment I lived in at the time. I could even reconstruct the dream today, and construct a map of what I saw strictly from that dream alone.

    Six years later, I was sick with depression, and had basically failed my university entrance exams in the country where I lived. I was totally lost. Miraculously, I was accepted to a university in the land of my birth. I emigrated back to that country with my family. I travelled to the airport in a red taxi (which had only been recently introduced.) The university which borders the north shore of a large lake in a high Northern latitude, has limestone buildings covered in ivy, and the Physics building is just like what I described above. At night, the moon appears just as it did in the dream. I failed my unversity entance exams in my previous country of residence because I performed poorly in Physics. My marks in Physics were lowest throughout the year and I almost slept through the final exam, but I don’t know how – I ran to the exam with minutes to spare and finished it before everyone else – scored a 92% and Physics ended up my highest mark (the first stupid thing I did though – was not having enough faith at that time to make it my major which I easily could have). It was also at this same university that the well wisher I mentioned introduced me to the gospel, and the second stupid thing I did was to reject it. My depression, which had been in remission for the whole year, soon returned, and I flunked out miserably after two years.

    As I left the place, I found a copy of a Gideon’s bible, which I kept and read. I took a year off and completed my studies with high marks at a different university. My problems soon began a few years later when I gave away that Bible.

    There are several kinds of dreams. Many are generated in your own mind and are easily forgotten Then there are prophetic dreams, which actually come true. These are from God, to whom the past, present, and future are all part of one revelation. But we still have free will. God creates opportunities for us – like opening doors for us, but we can still choose to enter that door or not. But these doors aren’t open forever. Had I entered the doors God opened for me earlier, my life would probably have been quite different today. But I didn’t have faith then. I trusted in my own decisions. As it is written, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

    God does all this very gently, with no pressure, He won’t put you in a life or death situation than ask you to choose Him. It will all be very relaxed.

    God bless you.

    1. Gary, to be as brief as possible (unlike your story) the general atheist response to your account would likely be the question of how we know any one of the supernatural elements is true.

  15. I agree with you and I have been looking into the possibility of DMT and the hallucination side of it. I am staying open about this myself. Just offering my experience for consideration.

    1. Gary – Your story is interesting. With all due respect however, it is in no way provable or verifiable. To be honest, the one thing I took away from it is how in the hell did you let yourself have 10 heart attacks?

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