Several weeks ago I warned of looking for truth in all the wrong places such as the novel The Shack. Well I’d rather spend 90 minutes in The Shack than one minute in 90 Minutes in Heaven.
Don Piper is a Baptist pastor who had a tragic auto accident in 1989. Ninety minutes after being pronounced dead by paramedics he came back to life. He “arose” with only blissful memories of his stay in heaven. Unlike St. Paul what he saw wasn’t too wonderful to relate to us. Unlike The Shack he doesn’t present it as fiction but reality. Unlike the Holy Spirit who didn’t see fit to record what the widow of Nain’s son actually said immediately after Jesus raised him, Piper believes what he has to say is worthy of record. Too bad Lazarus who was raised after being 4 days dead didn’t write something down. It probably would have sold more than the 1.4 million copies Piper’s book has.
And what of it? It’s a free country. As a pastor I’ve heard many “after death” experiences. I never say people didn’t hear or see what they say they did. I only say that their experience can’t be the foundation of their faith. I’ve noticed that those who do make it their faith’s foundation aren’t faithful in hearing the Word or using the Sacraments.
I don’t know about the Rev. Don Piper. He could very well still be a faithful Baptist minister. And why not? It’s not out of keeping with Baptist theology to expect and accept revelation apart from the Means of Grace. It’s supposed to be different with us Lutherans. We say in the Smalcald Articles, “Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments” (III, VIII, 9-11).
Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) of Austin, Texas subscribes to this confession. Here is the announcement from their website about the Rev. Don Piper coming to their congregation:
Is Heaven Real?
Don Piper, author of 90 Minutes in Heaven, answers this question from experience. A semitruck crushed Piper’s car, and medical personnel said he died instantly.
Piper says he stood at the gates of heaven immediately upon impact with the truck. While his body lay lifeless inside the ruins of his car, Piper experienced the glories of heaven, awed by its beauty and music.
Piper miraculously returned to life on earth 90 minutes after the wreck. He remembers inexpressible heavenly bliss. Piper experienced a huge test of faith in God as he faced an uncertain and grueling recovery that included 34 surgeries.
Come hear Don Piper at Redeemer on Wednesday, September 9. Contact Mike Naleieha at xxx-xxx extension 8836. Invite family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others to hear this amazing testimony!
Here’s the latest email announcement:
6:15 p.m. – Pre-service slides begin
6:30 p.m. – Pre-service music begins, childcare opens
7 p.m. – Announcements and introduction made
7:10 p.m. –[Rev.] Don Piper speaks
8 p.m. – Reception and book signing begins
Thirty years ago I read Beyond Death’s Door a book by a cardiologist who had brought back many “dead” people and questioned them afterwards. He reported that about 20 percent were willing to report they had experiences. What was unique about his book at the time is that it contained the experiences of those who went to hell. But at the end of the day good or bad they are just that “experiences.” And experience tells me that those who find comfort in the experience of others inevitably experience something themselves that does away with it. A trip back to The Shack will show this.
A local radio personality returned from his vacation saying The Shack had changed his life by giving him a new, better perspective. That was about 6 weeks ago. Later he reported the experience of watching the movie AI had “bummed him out. Because maybe this is all there is.” A caller reminded him what he said about The Shack. He said, “I guess AI destroyed all that.” I’m quite sure 90 minutes with the Rev. Piper’s experiences can turn him back around. But if you’re a confessional Lutheran, the one thing you believe those experiences can’t do is bring him the Holy Spirit. And Only He can really deliver us from the death that stalks us; He does it in a Divine Service that only lasts about 60 minutes.