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EXPERIENCE IS NOT NECESSARILY ACCURATE, MUCH LESS AUTHORITATIVE
by Philip Owen

             A long-standing phenomenon of extra-biblical revelation has taken a somewhat new and dangerous turn recently, namely out-of-body experiences of or near-death trips to heaven.  One of the most recent and popular of these is that recorded by Todd Burpo (with Lynn Vincent), entitled Heaven Is for Real:  A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.  Many have commented on this and similar descriptions with far more wisdom and perceptiveness than I have—and at far more length than this space conveniently allows.  For that reason, I do not intend to address this or similar works directly, but I wish to reaffirm a truth that all genuine believers should hold:  human experience does not trump revelation, nor is it the equivalent of revelation, nor does it carry the authority of revelation—regardless of how “real” the experience seems to be. 

            Scripture is both definitive and complete.  Isaiah gives us this unerring guide:  “To the law and the testimony:  if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:20).  God has left nothing to speculation, to the whims of men, the visions of little boys, or the imaginations of little girls.  Everything He wants us to know has been recorded in “the law and the testimony,” the Word of God.  Moreover, God pronounces a curse upon anyone who adds to or takes away from His Book (Rev. 22:18, 19)—regardless of how plausible, powerful, precious, or precocious the words may be.  Such is their state, that when anyone comes to us with an extra-biblical revelation or experience, we are to reject it out of hand.  Isaiah does not admit that there may be some truth to them in some cases.  He is emphatic and adamant:  “there is no light in them.”  Period.  Anyone who purports to tell us about God or about heaven as the result of some supernatural experience is telling us something that—no matter how engaging, how emotionally charged, or how compelling—is from the Prince of Darkness:  there is no light in it.  God has revealed in His holy Word all He intends us to know this side of eternity.

            What is the source of these seemingly supernatural experiences and extra-biblical revelations?  That they are not from God is evident from the passages cited above.  (See also Jer. 8:9).  We are left, then, with several more or less sinister possibilities.  Some are the fruit of fanciful dreams, some of vivid imaginations.  Some are the product of deliberate intentions to deceive.  And some may be the result of demonic activity, for demons are privy to information that mortals do not possess; and being totally depraved creatures, they can provide misshapen and erroneous information to willing, gullible lost souls.  In any event, the day of revelation ceased with the closing of the Scripture canon. 

                      Those who find either direction or comfort in such foolishness as the observations of a little child are leaving themselves open to satanic error.  It is unthinkable that the God who has already told us that His revelation is complete would leave the children He loved and saved to be twisted and turned by the wind of every new dream, vision, or purported experience that comes down the pike.  To do so would be to leave us at the mercy of every convincing charlatan, every demonic deceiver, and every dizzy dreamer.  If God’s revelation is not complete, then we have no final authority at all:  literally all truth is up in the air, awaiting the next most recent revelation from God.  If one supposed truth might be superseded by another, we are utterly bereft of hope.  But Peter assures us that “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (II Pet. 1:19).

            Scripture alone is right and true.  It alone accurately reveals both the here-and-now and the hereafter.  Shun all else.   

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