March 31, 2015

Review: Visits to Heaven and Back—Are They Real? by Mark Hitchcock

Hitchcock, Mark. Visits to Heaven and Back—Are They Real? (Tyndale, 2015), 240 pp.

In recent years, there has been an unfortunate trend in Christian publishing. Interest in books purporting to give firsthand accounts of the afterlife has been steadily increasing. In Visits to Heaven and Back, author Mark Hitchcock offers a much-needed corrective to this recent trend.

In ten short chapters, Hitchcock systematically critiques these "tales of heavenly tourism." He begins by explaining the appeal of the genre and then detailing it's recent rise in popularity (pp. 1-8). From there, he states his concerns. "My worry," he says, "is that people want the message of these books to be true so badly that they are willing to consume these stories . . . with little or no discernment" (p. 9). This is particularly troubling because these books seem to present Heaven as readers want it to be rather than as how Scripture describes it (p. 12).

Hitchcock first tackles NDEs (near-death experiences) in general before taking on each of the major bestsellers in the genre. He concludes that, though some NDEs are real, these popular chronicles of journeys to Heaven and back are not. They can't be because they contradict Scripture (pp. 26-27). In chapters 3-6, Hitchcock critiques all the genre's major bestsellers from Betty Eadie's Embraced by the Light (1992) all the way up to the recent Heaven Is for Real (2010).

In chapter seven, he moves on from individual books and offers several arguments against the genre as a whole. Chapter eight focuses on the related sub-genre of Hell-and-back books. In chapter nine, Hitchcock offers a summary of the Bible's teachings on Heaven before concluding with a brief gospel presentation in chapter ten. The book also includes three helpful appendices (answers to common questions, recommended reading, and Scripture passages about Heaven).

The problems with the heaven-and-back books, according to Hitchcock, are many. They go beyond the teachings of Scripture, claiming to be new revelation (pp. 39, 49, 79, 124-129). They exalt man rather than God (pp. 38, 54). They downplay or deny the exclusivity of Christ (pp. 85-89). They undermine the sufficiency of God's Word (pp. 112-115). They contradict Scripture as well as one another (pp. 130-131). If Hitchcock's criticisms are on point, (and I believe they are), then Christians ought to reject every last one of these tales of Heaven tourism. We have no biblical obligation to believe these stories (p. 114) and many biblical reasons to reject them.

While the book is essentially a polemic, Hitchcock's tone remains gracious (but firm) throughout. Visits to Heaven and Back is a welcome rebuke to the recent Heaven tourism fad. It manages to cover all the necessary ground and does so in a very succinct and readable fashion. Highly Recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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March 26, 2015

Doug Wilson on the Nature of Divine Foreknowledge

Doug Wilson:
The decision to create is causative of all the things that the Creator knows will follow from that particular creation.
This means that divine foreknowledge is not — as mine is — the knowledge of a mere observer. You cannot grapple with the implications of this point unless you combine two points together. God knows exhaustively what will happen in this world if He creates, and because He created it, that act of creation was a decision that willed everything contained within the bundle.
Read the rest here.

Review: The New World Order and the Eugenics Wars by Andrew John Hoffman

The New World Order and the Eugenics Wars: A Christian Perspective
The New World Order and the Eugenics Wars: A Christian Perspective by Andrew John Hoffman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hoffman does a good job of weaving together several seemingly disparate conspiracy theories to form a sort of unified conspiracy theory (think None Dare Call It Conspiracy for Evangelicals). It makes for interesting reading (especially if one has a weakness for conspiracy literature, as I do). Unfortunately (or fortunately given the subject matter), I have doubts about the reliability of many of the sources cited.

View all my reviews

March 23, 2015

Recommended Reading

I've finally completed the reading list (though I will probably continue to update and/or modify it from time to time).

Click on the Recommended Reading tab above to check it out. 

March 11, 2015

What Does God's Voice Sound Like?

"And then, I felt God speak to me and say. . . "

"Hold on there. God spoke to you? What does his voice sound like?"

"Well, uh. . . . You see, it's not like that. I didn't actually hear anything."

"Wait a sec. . . . I thought you said God spoke to you."

"Yes, that's right."

"I must be missing something. God spoke, but you didn't hear anything? If you didn't hear anything then how do you know that God was speaking?"

"When God speaks, you don't hear anything. When you feel it, you just know."

"You keep saying feel. I thought we were talking about God speaking. You say you felt something, but you didn't actually hear anything. It seems to me, then, that you're not actually describing speech of any kind."

"Well, that's not how it works when God speaks."

"So, when God speaks, he doesn't actually speak? That's not how it works in the Bible. That's not how it works when anyone speaks. There's no speech without speaking."

March 07, 2015

Making the World Unsafe for Democracy

Steve Matthews:
An endless parade of American diplomats, military equipment, and of course, money flowed eastward, all which, we were told, were needed to make the world safe for democracy. But the funny thing was, no matter how much time money and effort was expended, the region never seemed very safe or very democratic. If someone did occasionally suggest, even mildly, that maybe, just maybe, the US should reconsider its activist foreign policy and perhaps at some future date possibly consider option of thinking about reducing our presence in this or that country or region, the poor fellow was immediately denounced and labeled with that most heinous of swear words – what really amounted to a scarlet letter for intellectual sinners. He was called the “I” word. He was dubbed an “isolationist.” And an isolationist was, by definition, someone so unstable, so untrustworthy, so obviously out of touch with reality that no serious person need pay him any attention whatsoever. . . . But is so-called isolationism really the foolishness the foreign policy establishment, the press, and much of the public say it is?
Read the rest here.

March 05, 2015

What's So Bad About Crime Prevention?

Steve Hays:
Problem is, shifting resources to prevention treats all law-abiding citizens as suspects. It's not about breaking the law, but monitoring your every move. I understand why that's appealing to police and politicians, but it's antithetical to a free society. It's a Minority Report philosophy.
Read the rest here

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