LifeWay Christian Resources has decided to pull all "experimental testimonies about heaven" from its shelves after the controversial story about Alex Malarkey visiting heaven in the afterlife was revealed as a lie earlier this year.
Following the admission from Malarkey, attention immediately turned toward the book and upcoming film "90 Minutes in Heaven" that tells a similar story of a man who experienced heaven while thought to be dead. A 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution from last year was also a determining factor as it proclaimed a consideration toward "the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife."
"Last summer, as we began developing LifeWay's new structure and direction -- what we've now identified as One LifeWay -- the role of heaven visitation resources was included in our considerations," spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press. "We decided these experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer." While this means that the Malarkey story was not the catalyst for the decision, it did play into the final decision.
In January, LifeWay pulled the book "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven" from its retail and online stores after coauthor Alex Malarkey admitted that the story was a fabrication. The 2010 book, based on an event that was said to happen in 2004, had sold over 8 million copies and was made into a documentary in 2010.
"Now that we've begun implementing the new direction, the remaining heaven visitation items have been removed from our stores and website and will not be replenished. We have more work to do aligning the LifeWay Retail Division with LifeWay's vision and core values so we covet your prayers as we continue to provide trustworthy Biblical Solutions for Life," King continued.
During the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in June, the resolution was passed that would warn Christians not to follow these types of books and movies that may describe a version of heaven not described in the Bible. While the resolution didn't specifically name any of these books or movies, there have been quite a few gaining popularity in the last few years, including "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven," "90 Minutes in Heaven," and "Heaven is For Real" by Todd Burpo. Todd's son Colton, whom the book was based upon, reassured that his story is true after the Malarkey confession.
LifeWay says that the overwhelming support for the resolution helped the company realize the importance of staying away from those types of media representations of the afterlife.
"90 Minutes in Heaven" has completed production earlier this week and is expected to hit theaters soon. It stars Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth in a story of a Baptist minister who suffered a fatal accident in 1989 but lived to tell about it and what he saw in heaven while he was dead. The book has so far sold over 6.5 million copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for over five years.