The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church teaches that “private” revelations may be legitimate but should never be viewed as more important than scripture. The catechism leaves it up to the “sense of the faithful” (guided by the church’s teaching authority) to discern what’s authentic and what’s not, adding that Christian faith can’t accept any revelation that claims to surpass or correct the holy scriptures.
Much of Colton’s account bears similarities to Christian visionary culture. Like Perpetua, Colton said he saw a sibling in heaven. Like Augustine, his trip to heaven began with an out-of-body sensation. Like Bede’s monk, Colton said he briefly died. Like medieval nuns Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena, Colton’s heavenly account took place when he was a few years old.
While “‘Heaven Is for Real” lacks the rich descriptions and striking imagery of many previous accounts of the afterlife, it provides an excellent example of a favorite modern view. Where Christians once longed for complete communion with God, many now think of the great hereafter as the best family reunion imaginable, where God is relegated to the role of guest star.