Thursday, 25 September 2014

Children who visit Heaven and have Christian visions

I have recently become aware of the phenomenon in the USA of reports of children who claim to have visited Heaven, or had Christian visions. These accounts have no equivalent in the UK, nor have these stories and significant visibility over here - but it seems clear that there is large scale appreciation of these accounts in the USA, to judge by mass media impact and personal testimonials.

Such accounts are easy to reject, and I certainly would have rejected them when I was an atheist - unless there is a basic openness to the possibility.

If it is regarded as possible that children may be chosen as (minor) prophets - then one or more such reports may be essentially valid - and then, since child prophets are not a normal feature of Christian history, we need to make sense of the phenomenon from a perspective of God's purposes in our time.

Why might God choose children to communicate revelations?

1. One reason is that in modern society only children are open to revelation - God uses children because there is nobody else suitable. This may imply that in our faith life modern people need to be more like children.

2. Another might be that adults are more inclined to believe a child than another adult (because the child is less likely to have an 'agenda' - although his parents may).

3. Another is that the simplicity of a child's messages - which God may judge to be the kind of message that we most need. I particular, God may be telling us that we need, more  than anything else, to live in hope and expectation of Heaven.

4. Another reason may be to indicate the kind of place that Heaven fundamentally is (exact details not vital) - at least to a newly-arrived visitor. I think (?) one common theme of these accounts is that Heaven a place of personal relationships, including being reunited with loved family and friends - and meeting Jesus face to face.

That's about as much as I can say from my very limited acquaintance with the genre.


Adam G. said...

*since child prophets are not a normal feature of Christian history*

Certainly not the dominant feature of Christian history. But for Catholics, appearances of the Virgin to children have been pretty significant in the last few hundred years. Fatima is probably the most significant and dramatic apparition--it was to three shepherd children. There is also Medjugorje and others. The Maid of Orleans had her first vision at the age of 12, in an era when the average age of menarche would have been around 14 years old or even later.

Children also seemed to have prophesied when Christ entered Jerusalem just before his death.

If this is a real modern phenomenon, my guess for an explanation is that the modern age has developed significant allergies to authority, and an adult prophet is inherently an authority.

Boethius said...

You might want to see this

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - Good points.

@Boethius - That was the main thing which provoked the post. I didn't reference it explicitly because my knowledge is very superficial - I haven't read the book, although it sounds valid enough. I saw a ref which said 17 million copies had been sold.

Nicholas Fulford said...

My main criticism would be why this is local to the United States. Surely the phenomena would be occurring in other places. Why would it be restricted by a region or national boundary?

I would find the phenomena far more convincing if it sprang up spontaneously in different parts of the world at the same time.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF - My interpretation is that the US is much more interested by Christianity than any other developed nation. Even if it happened twice a week in England, nobody would buy the books!

pyrrhus said...

The Near Death Experiences of children who briefly visit the next world and often are greeted by relatives or angels, world wide, not just in the US, have been extensively written about.

David said...

Hi Bruce,

I post this here for your potential interest after googling a link to your previous posts with a NDE theme. After having watched this video about the Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander I must admit I was impressed by the similarities between the theology/cosmology described by this man, especially when compared to the Wessex group recording/audio of William Arkle describing incarnate mortal life as a 'classroom' in which Spiritual lessons are learned. My initial attitude was one of skepticism and a concern that this man is potentially a fraud but it was very interesting to hear a self-identified former die hard scientist and materialist speak so resolutely in support of a paradigm-shift of replacing currently firmly held cultural metaphysical assumptions with spiritual ones. I doubt however his conclusions will be in accord with your own Christian beliefs, especially with respect to unconditional love and an apparent denial of the existence of sin in a traditional sense. As usual, your thoughts, feedback or reflection in relation to this would be valued; otherwise I post this merely for your interest: