President of South Carolina Baptist Convention calls for Perry Noble and NewSpring to correct ‘problematic positions and statements’

Dr. Tommy Kelly, the new President of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which is in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, has issued A Statement by the SCBC President Regarding ‘Problematic Positions and Statements’ by NewSpring Church Pastor. has been covering the events that precipitated this statement.

Writing in the South Carolina Baptist Courier, Kelly states that, notwithstanding Noble’s apology, ‘his 2014 Christmas Eve message and his theological position in that message are evidence of continued problematic positions and statements that are inconsistent with the beliefs of South Carolina Baptists’.

Kelly goes on to exhort SCBC ministers ‘to treat their individual ministry settings as a sacred trust void of coarse, profane language as well as choosing music that is sacred in content’, to ‘engage in accountability groups’ that will ‘hold them to a higher standard morally, ethically and biblically’, and to renew ‘themselves to more sound exegetical study and expository preaching and teaching of God’s word’. Kelly’s exhortations go to the heart of problems exhibited by Perry Noble and NewSpring over many years.

Kelly further elaborates on the responsibility that all ‘church leaders’ have to ‘present well-thought and biblically based sermons and teaching that come from God’s infallible, inerrant Word and lead the lost to Christ’, before issuing a clear warning to NewSpring:

Therefore, we as South Carolina Baptists must publicly state and remove ourselves from these positions and problematic statements and call for NewSpring to correct these positions if it chooses to say that it affiliates with South Carolina Baptist churches.

Phil Johnson confirms that Alex and Beth Malarkey tried to have ‘Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ withdrawn over two years ago, but publisher Tyndale House would not listen

In Setting the Record Straight, Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, gives his perspective on the unfolding Boy-Back-From-Heaven scandal. Particularly noteworthy is Johnson’s testimony that, even as far back as two years ago, Alex Malarkey – subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven – had along with his mother been trying to have the book withdrawn:

Shortly after “The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine” was posted on our blog two years ago, Alex’s mom, Beth Malarkey, contacted me to acknowledge that John MacArthur’s analysis is correct: “These modern testimonies … are simply untrue.” She and Alex had already been doing everything they could to get the word out that The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven told a largely imaginary story, and that most of the details had been greatly embellished and exaggerated in the writing. Publicity about the book had incited a cult of afterlife enthusiasts and hangers-on who wanted to canonize Alex and idolize him as a mystical seer with an open connection to heaven. Alex was uncomfortable with the feeling of moral and spiritual responsibility his sudden fame had thrust on him. Still a child, he nevertheless understood that the truth was more important than his own reputation.

Johnson relates that publisher Tyndale House would not withdraw the book:

The publisher refused to pull or alter the book. Alex’s father, thrilled with the book’s best-seller status, stood with the publisher. Even a pastor from whom Alex sought counsel said he thought the book was “blessing” people. He advised Alex to be quiet and let it ride.

With reference to Alex’s recent repudiation of the book’s claims, Johnson describes how people obstinately refused to hear the truth:

When Alex has tried to make similar statements on Facebook or in other online forums, he has been routinely shouted down, his comments deleted, and his fragile voice silenced. We want to give his testimony maximum exposure, because Alex is right: The truth is more important than how anyone feels about it.

Johnson is in no doubt both as to the danger of books such as these and to the reason why they continue to be culpably sold:

One of the top online reviews of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven says: “I can tend to be a little skeptical of otherworldly experiences, but when I hear it from the words of a child, I am much more open to the idea. A child is not going to be capable of making up these kinds of images and keeping his story straight for month after month after month.”

That, sadly, is what lots of readers think. What they don’t realize is that there is a massive industry behind books like these, heavily populated with decision makers who care more for filthy lucre than for truth. Employed in that industry are some mercenaries who have no scruples whatsoever about making up tales like these, polishing and embellishing them, and buttressing them with details designed to enhance the illusion of believability. It’s the very worst kind of pragmatism gone to seed. What’s “good” is defined by what sells. Scripture calls it “the teaching of Balaam” (Revelation 2:14).

The knowing production and sale of books containing false doctrine and based upon fabricated stories is a stain upon the Church and an impediment to the proclamation of the Gospel. It is long past time for Christians everywhere to hold those responsible to account. Likewise, Christians who purchase such materials ought to repent of their lack of discernment, for publishers and retailers will not sell materials for which there are no buyers. Nevertheless, Christ died even for sins as serious as these, and forgiveness may be found in Him.

Update: Phil Johnson has also published a June 2014 letter he wrote to Tyndale House.

Photo credit: Liane Metzler.

Emails suggest LifeWay’s Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer knew ‘Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ book was false, chose to keep selling it anyway

Dustin Germain is doing stellar work covering the unfolding scandal of LifeWay peddling notoriously unbiblical materials. In his latest article, Germain provides explosive emails from a May 2014 exchange between respected contender-for-the-faith Justin Peters and LifeWay President and CEO Dr. Thom Rainer. This postscript from one of Peters’ emails appears damning:

(PS – if you are not already aware, the book The Boy Who Cam Back from Heaven detailing the story of Alex Malarkey is fiction. It did not happen. I know this because I have exchanged numerous emails and have had personally spoken with Beth Malarkey, Alex’s Mom. Alex does not support the book. His Mom tells me that his father, Kevin, is exploiting his own son for financial gain but is not financially supporting his son with the profits of the book. She is doing everything she can to get the truth out. You might want to pull this, too, if you haven’t already. I know LifeWay used to sell it. I will be glad to give you Mrs. Malarkey’s phone number and email address if you would like to verify that I am telling you the truth.)

Germain reports that Rainer did not respond to this email. For seven further months, until this month’s overwhelming public outcry, LifeWay continued to sell a book containing unsound doctrine that it apparently knew to be based upon a fabricated story.

Germain’s detailed post is essential reading and demonstrates that neither Dr. Thom Rainer nor Dr. Ed Stetzer wished to heed Peters’ appeals. Germain concludes with this plea:

These questions need to be answered. Why did Rainer not seek to stop the book from being sold once he knew the truth? Do Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer really believe that the experiences conveyed in heavenly tourism books are real and have enough sound biblical character to be passed on and sold to the masses? Why did Lifeway not listen to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014, who repudiated these books and passed a resolution accordingly? Do Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer believe these accounts to be true? Could not a lot of shame and embarrassment been spared Lifeway if its executives would have only listened to SBC messengers and honored their wishes? Will Southern Baptists hold Lifeway’s executives to account? Will Christian consumers from across the evangelical spectrum hold book publishers to a higher standard?

Brothers, please. We can do better. We must do better. The love of Christ and the faithfulness to the truth and sufficiency of his word compels us to do better.

continues to await a response from LifeWay to our own enquiries.

Photo credit: Liane Metzler.

LifeWay returns ‘Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ books to publisher. Why, though, was it ever selling them?

On 13 January 2015, Alex Malarkey, subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, definitively repudiated the book’s claims.

In response to a subsequent enquiry by Dr. Warren Throckmorton, Martin King – the Director of Communications at LifeWay – issued a statement saying that LifeWay stores are returning remaining copies of the book to the publisher, Tyndale House:

LifeWay was informed this week that Alex Malarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.” Therefore, we are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our Stores.

Dr. Throckmorton also notes that Alex’s mother has been campaigning against the book for some time. Writing on her blog in April 2014, Beth Malarkey explained that the Gospel was missing from the book, that it ‘leads people away from the Bible not to it’, and that Alex’s ‘name and identity are being used against his wishes’. She also recounted how Alex had previously attempted to enlist the support of a ‘pastor’ to have the book stopped:

When Alex first tried to tell a “pastor” how wrong the book was and how it needed stopped, Alex was told that the book was blessing people. Ok … first, Alex said that while he was struggling physically and trusting this person as someone who seemed to be concerned, so the person was invalidating Alex’s feeling while justifying the wrong that Alex was trying to make that person aware of. The person told Alex to “trust” him.

The real scandal here is that supposedly ‘Christian’ organizations – including LifeWay, which is operated by the Southern Baptist Convention – ever thought that such material was fit for distribution. As has previously noted, though, LifeWay continues to sell works by notoriously unsound authors such as Beth Moore, T.D. Jakes and Sarah Young.

Why do Christian retailers and publishers seem to be so persistently and wilfully undiscerning? Certainly, at least in the case of the SBC’s LifeWay, it is not for lack of an illustrious executive leadership team – theirs includes well-known figures Dr. Thom S. Rainer and Dr. Ed Stetzer. These men surely understand the doctrinal issues involved and the deep human cost of false teaching. Sadly, Todd Pruitt, Lead Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, VA, offers what seems to be the likely answer:

And yet Beth Moore’s books and studies are published by Broadman & Hollman (B&H) and sold in Lifeway stores. Both Lifeway and B&H are Southern Baptist entities and Beth Moore a member of a Southern Baptist Church. So why does the Southern Baptist Convention publish, promote, and sell teaching that clearly departs from historic Protestantism and is against its own doctrinal positions? Follow the money my friends. Follow the money.

has reached out to LifeWay to ask whether there may be a more charitable explanation.

Update: The Washington Post reports that publisher Tyndale House has ‘decided to take the book and related ancillary products out of print’.

Photo credit: Liane Metzler.

‘Boy who came back from heaven’ repudiates story, rebukes LifeWay and other buyers/sellers of ‘heaven tourism’

Update: On 15 January 2015, LifeWay announced it was returning copies of Alex’s book. The publisher, Tyndale House, also decided to take the book out of print. For more information, see our continuing coverage.

The plague of books by those who claim to have visited heaven has been undermining confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for years. ‘Christian’ retailers, such as the Southern Baptist Convention’s 180 LifeWay Christian Stores, have collaborated with this doctrinal downgrade by peddling these sources of supposed extra-biblical revelation. It is therefore notable that the LifeWay Vision, Values, and Mission statement affirms the inerrancy of Scripture, but conspicuously neglects to mention its sufficiency:

We believe the Bible is the eternal, inerrant Word of God, and is the plumb line for all of our resources, and for everything we say and do. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)

Ironically, given that LifeWay sells not only heavenly tourism books, but also works by the likes of Beth Moore, T.D. Jakes and Sarah Young, this statement is made under the ‘Core value’ heading of ‘Trustworthy’. (SBC members may wish to hold accountable LifeWay’s executive leadership, which includes well-known figures Dr. Thom S. Rainer and Dr. Ed Stetzer.)

In a welcome development, Alex Malarkey, subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heavenstill sold by LifeWay at the time of posting – has courageously written an open letter in which he definitively repudiates the book’s claims, rebukes ‘Lifeway and other sellers, buyers, and marketers of heaven tourism’, and affirms the sufficiency of Scripture. His letter has been published through the Pulpit and Pen website in the article, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” Recants Story, Rebukes Christian Retailers.

Photo credit: Liane Metzler.