I could not help but watch the movie, ‘Heaven is For Real’ starring Greg Kinnear, a very dynamic actor. I also make no apologies for watching it or reading the book of Todd Burpo’s religious account of his son Colton’s heaven experience. My interests were not motivated by the main theme question of whether or not one believes in heaven and if people can visit heaven. What I took away from the movie and book was how God pulls through for people by getting them out of the mess they get themselves into.
People did not believe Pastor Todd’s son went to heaven. Colton had information given to him during his visit in regards to “who” is in heaven such as his grandfather and his sister who died in the womb of his mother. Though Todd did not provide his son this knowledge, nor did he tell him that he was yelling at God while his mother was reaching out to friends in the hospital, he did provide his son the details needed to elaborate on visions that he had while on the operating table. Pastor Todd appears both in the movie and in the book to be spiritually resting on the description of the heaven his son was describing. He wanted something tangible that could prove his faith, and the more Colton delivered, the more restless Todd became as the stories about heaven failed to validate his faith. After all, these were not visions revealed to Todd by God. These were visions likely revealed to his son by the spiritual realm; likely more of a spiritual warfare than a concrete heaven in my opinion. In conjunction, the more he began to feel the need to validate his son’s visit to heaven, the more the church members began to recognize the spiritual struggles in him.
After being made a mockery in the local newspaper, Todd tries to prove his sanity with the assistance of psychological and neurological explanations. I think the movie attempted to make Pastor Todd appear as a progressive Christian who “gets it” but Greg Kinnear does not quite grasp the same character as written in the book. He artificially jumps back and forth from being a works-oriented pastor who feels the need to always be the dependable hero, to the cool guy who knows people don’t always want to turn the other cheek, to a slightly neurotic Pastor who just can’t get himself together. None the less, I was excited to see how Kinnear would deliver this character as it is very different from the other major roles he’s played such as the gay neighbor from, ‘As Good as it Gets’ or the neurotic wanna-be-somebody father from, ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ I think the connection he made to Pastor Todd did not really come together until the end of the movie when he shares his vulnerability with his faith. Even then, I had to read between the lines, literally, to grasp the happy ending of God’s deliverance.
What really restored Pastor Todd was that he swapped that physical yearning of knowing God back to an honest spiritual hunger. In the end, before his church and the media, Todd speaks about heavenly tastes, and how God wouldn’t have us here to dictate each others’ vision. He follows up with his affirmation that there is God, Jesus, heaven, love and hope. I definitely think there were spiritual attacks allowing confusion and bad fruit to rise from what happened to his son and his shaky faith. I am not concerned about whether or not he “went” to heaven as I believe what is said in the book of I Thessalonians, but I also have no reason to doubt the kid’s account. I don’t think there were all “good angels” involved. For instance, the fact that Rose saw her dead son may have very well been a familiar spirit. Colton’s knowledge of the dead baby could have also been meant to mock the mother. I definitely believe he saw a spiritual battleground as described in the book of Ephesians 6 but God is bigger than the adversary’s tricks and proved it by restoring the pastor’s dignity and reminding him of his true calling—that is, showing the love of God through Christ.