Heaven by Randy Alcorn
Randy Alcorn has chosen to place in one volume just about everything he knows and imagines about heaven. To some degree he is reacting to those who have taught false views of heaven, especially those he calls Christoplatonists. Christoplatonism is a term Alcorn has coined to describe the “philosophy which has blended elements of Platonism with Christianity, and in so doing has poisoned Christianity and blunted its differences from Eastern religions” (p. 459). Christoplatonists teach that physical things, including our bodies, are unimportant; therefore, life in heaven will be a spiritual existence in a spiritual universe. Alcorn argues correctly that believers will live in resurrected bodies in a physical place—the New Earth. A huge portion of Heaven is used to prove this point, a point that seems to be too obvious to require such argumentation. I grew weary of reading the same reasoning over and over again, but no one could accuse Alcorn of being unclear on the matter.
The general thesis of Heaven is sound and quotes and examples abound to press home the point. In addition, Alcorn’s imagination aids us in contemplating the glories of the eternal life that awaits us.
I do take issue with a number of things. First, he favorably quotes several people who would cause me to question his own understanding of the faith including John Eldredge (pp. 77, 79), Teresa of Avila (p. 181), Dallas Willard (pp. 154, 178, 215, 226), The Message (p. 120) and Calvin Miller (p. 447). Next, he does not take a position on the Millennium which is highly problematic for a book on heaven (pp. 138-143). If you are uncertain that a literal Millennium will occur, there will surely be confusion regarding the texts that describe the Millennium. This happens repeatedly throughout the book as Alcorn applies a description of the Millennium to the Eternal State. Third, Alcorn’s argument for a refined or refashioned New Earth (as opposed to a destroyed old earth and a newly created New Earth) is not convincing. Yet much of his understanding of Heaven is based upon the “refined” theory. Fourth, his imagination clearly is over the top. He finally admits, “In much of what I’ve just said, I’m speculating, of course. But because the Bible gives a clear picture of resurrection and of earthly civilization in the eternal state, I’m walking through a door of imagination that Scripture itself opens” (pp. 434-435). Some of the things Alcorn imagines include animals having non-human souls with the results that our pets most likely will be in Heaven. We will write books, play sports, perform dramas, be injured but heal quickly and physical things on earth may survive into eternity. As a matter of fact, I think that Alcorn has written a great 100 page book about Heaven; unfortunately, the book is almost 500 pages long. The excessive pages are filled with “it seems like,” “it appears,” “maybe,” “it is possible” and other conjectures. In addition, as already mentioned, there is the excessive repeating of his thesis.
As a result of these concerns I hesitate to recommend Heaven highly. It takes too long to read, is too filled with speculation and is too repetitious. Read with discernment, however, the volume has value in focusing our attention on the things of Heaven.