Alex Malarkey was critically injured in a car crash when he was six years old. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, a book he wrote with his father, tells the story of his experience: an angel took him through the gates of heaven, where he met Jesus. The book sold more than a million copies.
Now Alex says it never happened. In an open letter last week, he states, “I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.” He points to the Bible as “the only source of truth” and calls those who market his book “to repent and hold the Bible as enough.” The publisher immediately withdrew the book and all website materials related to it.
In related bad press for Christians, the lead singer of a Grammy-nominated Christian band now says he’s an atheist and that he lied about his faith to sell records. Timothy Lambesis was also sentenced to six years in prison for trying to hire a man to murder his estranged wife.
Then there is Rickey Wagoner, a bus driver in Dayton, Ohio who claimed he was shot at and stabbed by three teenagers last year. He told authorities his life was saved when a Bible in his shirt pocket stopped the bullets during the attack. Now police say he staged the incident—he stabbed himself and shot his own Bible after placing it on the ground.
What does God think of such deception?
- “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2).
- “Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace” (Zechariah 8:16).
- “Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).
If you’re tempted to exaggerate or outright lie about your Lord or your faith, remember that the Holy Spirit cannot use unholy language. Deception cannot lead to the One who is the Truth (John 14:6). (For more on this subject, see ‘Deflate-gate:’ Why do we cheat?) But telling the truth and trusting the Lord is always the path to God. John Wycliffe was right: “I believe that in the end the truth will conquer.”
The most famous “died and went to Heaven” story to make recent news is Colton Burpo’s Heaven Is For Real. The book sold more than 10 million copies and was made into a movie which earned more than $101 million at the box office. Unlike Alex Malarkey, Colton wants us to know that “I stand by my story . . . I still remember my experience in Heaven. I want to keep telling people about my experience because it has given hope to so many people. . . . I hope that my story continues to point people to Jesus.”