June 29th, 2008
Alcorn, Randy. Tell Me About Heaven. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007. 59pp. $19.99.
Randy Alcorn was a pastor before founding Eternal Perspective Ministries in 1990. His ministry is dedicated to teaching Biblical truths. According to their website, www.epm.org, the ministry exists “to meet the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled and unsupported people around the world.” Randy has and his wife, Nanci, are the parents to two grown daughters, Karina and Angela. They have four grandsons, Jake, Matthew, Ty, and Jack.
Tell Me About Heaven is a children’s book by Randy Alcorn and illustrated throughout with the paintings of Ron DiCianni. This book can be read to your children or can be read by your children. It is designed to explain the doctrine of heaven in such a way that even the smallest of minds will be able to capture the grandeur and awe of God’s home.
Summary of Tell Me About Heaven
Jake’s Grammy has recently passed away and now he is on his way to spend two weeks with his Papa like he does every summer. This time, though, it will be different because Grammy will not be there. Immediately, we see Jake struggling with what happened to Grammy as well as how this particular visit is going to go with Grammy not around.
Over the course of the two week visit to Papa’s house, Jake asks a lot of questions about heaven and Grammy. Jake begins with hesitation as he first states that he doesn’t think he would like heaven. However, as Papa explains from the Bible what heaven is all about, Jake begins to understand that life in heaven is going to be so much better than life here on earth.
The book concludes with Jake confessing to Papa that he does not want him to ever die, but is now looking forward to learning more about heaven and can’t wait until his whole family is reunited there-Grammy and Papa and everyone.
Critique of Tell Me About Heaven
I must confess that I was skeptical about a children’s book that would attempt to explain what heaven is like. Given all the recent discussions of how much a kid can learn and should know about Jesus, his crucifixion, and other biblical truths, I was afraid that this book was going to be a disappointment even though it is authored by Randy Alcorn. I was extremely impressed with what I read in the pages of Tell Me About Heaven.
In this children’s book, the reader (or hearer) is introduced to the doctrine of inherited sin, the Incarnation, Penal Substitution, Hell, resurrected bodies, and more. The central theme of the book is that heaven and earth will pass away and God will replace them with a New Heaven and New Earth. Papa quotes scripture heavily (especially Rev. 21 and 22) in explaining what heaven is like to his grandson, Jake.
The story is very believable and at one point, I began wondering if this was a rehearsal for Randy Alcorn as he may have this discussion with his grandsons. The story line is pretty forthright and does not dance around the issues. Nowhere does Papa state something as truth if it is not based in the Bible. At one point, he corrects Jake and says that he is to always pray to Jesus and not Grammy. It is subtle, but significant in that many young children are told to pray to their loved one. However, that is not in the Bible and therefore, Papa (Alcorn) explicitly says that this should not happen.
The greatest aspect of this book is that the gospel message is presented clearly and concisely in the story itself. However, at the end of the book is a page devoted to the Roman Road along with a brief explanation of the gospel. It is very clear that the goal of this book is to be used as a tool for evangelizing children (and perhaps the adult reading to the child) as well as explaining what awaits them in the life to come.
If there is a negative to be found in this book, it is of no significant value. There are some assumptions made that I do not personally agree with, but nothing that causes any concern. For example, in a discussion about pets and animals in heaven, Papa tells Jake that he thought Moses (the dog) would be in heaven because animals were in Eden. I don’t see that as biblical precedent, but I also do not see that as a bad thing. On page 32 of the book it is said, “It’s always about God, isn’t it?” That is perhaps the best way in which to explain the book: It is always about God, isn’t it.
In asking my pastor and some other men in the church I attend about how much their children know about heaven, they said not much. I admit that I have not told my son much about heaven, either. That is, until now. I have already told a these men I talked with to pick up this book and am telling you that if you have children or are involved in children’s ministry, this book is a must own. It explains the doctrine of heaven in a way that a child can understand and a parent can be interested in. The book is solidly rooted in the Scriptures.
Also, throughout the book, there are hints (I say ‘hints’ because certain phrases like “penal substitution” and “inherited sin” do not appear) of other doctrines as mentioned above that will help to lay a foundation for biblical doctrine to be learned as the child grows. As a seminary student, I appreciated Alcorn’s ability to break down systematic theology into easily understood doctrines that do not require a degree to understand.
The conversational tone makes for a good story time book to be read at night, as part of family worship, or during story hour at church or a daycare. I would also highly recommend this book for a young child grieving the loss of a grandparent or parent. It would be a great resource for those who council children after the death of a loved one. This book is worth owning multiple copies of to give away during these times.