Would confessional Lutherans have ever fallen for the Alex Marlarkey story of dying and going to heaven and coming back to life? (Wasn’t the last name a tip-off?) Would confessional Presbyterians be so gullible for that matter?
Here’s one account of what happened:
Tyndale House Publishers has stopped production of the book and DVD of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven after the book’s coauthor and subject, Alex Malarkey, released a statement retracting the book’s contents.
In an open letter, the self-described “boy who did not come back from heaven” wrote:
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
I did not die. I did not go to heaven.
I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of heaven outside of what is written in the Bible . . . not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.
This isn’t simply a question of good or bad theology, pietist or confessional piety, someone who naively thinks Christians don’t intentionally mislead or someone who has a healthy respect for the ongoing effects of original sin. It is a question of ecclesiology. Belonging to a communion where pastors and others vet who gets admitted to fellowship (the Lord’s Table), where pastors receive scrutiny before being ordained, where church officers monitor what seminaries teach, and where education committees subsidize instructional materials for church members — all of these structures contribute to an identity for church members that prevents individual Christians from being at the mercy of the market and its hucksters (and the editors who enable the hucksters).
Which is to say that not only does evangelicalism lack ecclesiology. In place of the church evangelicalism has the market. The publishers, parachurch agencies, magazine promoters, conference sponsors — these are the structures that “minister” for a price to your average born-again Christian who worships at some independent tabernacle, celebration center, or even a local congregation. And without any shepherds to police the sheep and the wolves, your average Christian has to figure out for himself whether other Christians really do manipulate best-seller lists or turn the NFL into a sacred cow.