Thursday, February 23, 2006

Here's a Question for You


Good comments from yesterday. Thank you. Just as clarification, I’m not going to turn into a seat-of-the-pants writer. I can’t, with the kinds of stories I write. I’ve got to know the twist I’m writing toward. But I do think the “non-rejection” attitude can be helpful to me in the plotting phase. Not that I can end up keeping every idea, but allowing myself to consider them for a while and see where they go rather than immediately tossing them out may cause me a little less grief.

All right, now turning a sharp corner . . .

Do you believe in ghosts?

Hah. That got your attention.

I can’t decide whether I do or not. On one hand, I can’t figure how to make the idea of ghosts fit with biblical theology. God apparently has places for spirits to go, and it isn’t wandering around this earth like some lost soul.

However . . . there’s that perturbing story of the witch of Endor (I Samuel, chapter 28). Saul asks her to call up the spirit of Samuel, which she does. And he appears, much to her apparent surprise. A definite ghost story. In the Bible.

Then there’s the Transfiguration, with Moses and Elijah—both dead—appearing and talking to Jesus.

Then there’s this interesting scene which proves nothing but is provocative. At the end of Luke, when Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection, they think He’s a ghost. Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey, guys, don’t be idiots—there’s no such thing.” Instead he says (my paraphrase), “Look at me, touch me. A spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

There’s also the scene when Jesus walks on the water, and his disciples think he’s a ghost. (Evidently this ghost belief stuff goes way back). Again, Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey, guys, no such thing.” He simply says, “It is I.”

I do believe many “ghosts” are really demons. And The Bible makes it very clear we are not to consult mediums or chase the dead, or look to any supernatural source for knowledge other than God Himself. So I advocate no séances, got me? In fact séances and the occult in general are undeniably fave lurking grounds for demonic activity.

But what about every ghost story you’ve ever heard? Are they all rubbish? Can they all be explained away? Are they all demonic activity? Can we ever really know the answer this side of heaven?

How should a Christian approach this topic?

13 comments:

johnny dangerous said...

Funny you should ask. The novel I'm working on has a ghost element in it. I'll be commenting on this subject in a bit more depth on my blog, http://jjdesjarlais.blogspot.com, now that I've done some research on this (I've been meaning to do this for a while, but I've been too busy working on the novel itself!). For now, let me just say that we are right to be healthily uncertain, as there are mysteries we cannot fully know now. And we, as Christians, are right to be cautious and skeptical here, since so many people drift easily into occult practices and psychic hooey on this matter and it is easy to be deceived by the Evil One, probably since everyone would like to be assured that there is something else after death - especially for lost loved ones (which explains the popularity of certain TV Shows). But we need not be afraid to seek the truth of the matter, either, as there may be a natural explanation (that is, it is a phenomenon that is part of nature, part of Creation). For example, poltergeist phenomena, in which objects are thrown around the house, are understood mainly as a kind of electrical disturbance peculiar to households where there are teenagers experiencing anger, conflict, or trauma. I've observed this firsthand. It's weird, but not technically "supernatural." As for "ghosts," there are different categories which I will discuss at my blog. Suffice it to say here that while most uninformed people suppose them to be surviving spirits who cannot leave the earthly plane quite yet due to some unfinished business, the most common occurences have a more "natural" explanation whereby an event involving the departed person is played over and over again in the location of the trauma, rather like a looped audiotape playing the same recording over and over. Anyway, my novel revolves around this sort of mystery while at the same time remaining Biblically orthodox in its understanding of the afterlife.
--John J. Desjarlais

Tina said...

How should a Christian approach this topic? Steer clear, unless you can give a full biblical explanation of the spiritual rhelm.

Yes, in the Bible God sent Samuel back to talk to Saul. And what was the witch's reaction? She was scared out of her wits. She expected to talk to one of her spirits--demons--not an actual departed soul. God had His reasons for doing this. Samuel didn't choose to come back. He didn't have any trouble "crossing over". Just because God has the ability to send somone back doesn't mean there are actual ghosts wandering around as a common occurance.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham doesn't say God wouldn't be able to send Lazarus back to speak to the rich man's brothers, he says it wouldn't do any good. What purpose could God have today of sending the dead back? God did things in biblical times that He doesn't do anymore.

I stopped reading a favorite Christian author of mine because one of her books implied she believes in ghosts. You might say I'm overreacting, but my feelings on this topic are that strong. Satan is a great counterfeiter. I think that most ghostly phenomenon is demonic. And whatever the rest is, I don't believe we should go poking into.

Domino said...

If we're Christians, then we want to be like Jesus. He didn't spend a lot of time talking about ghosts. Most of his words were about life and truth. He didn't ignore demons, but he didn't make a big deal about them either. They're under His feet. We're in His arms.

D. Gudger said...

Woah. A very deep and fascinating subject. God can do anything he wants, and as Tina said, he scared that Witch when the real deal showed up! all those men who came back, were Godly men, in His presence before and after. I don't think they would ever quallify as ghosts. Ghosts seem to reek of the demonic. I know people who have been oppressed, not possessed. They have had dreams/visions in which they saw some sort of spectre - the average person would probably call it a ghost, but in reality it was a demon who was defeated in the end by the name of Jesus.
Another interesting point - please comment if you are from Europe...
I work for a mission organization that focuses on Latvia, one of the Baltic states. Their culture goes back thousands of years and supersition runs deep amoung daily behaviours, even the behaviours of Christians! Some believe in ghosts and paranormal entities, others don't. For example, there is a belief that spirits of sickness ride in the breezes, hence busses, homes, businesses, cars are closed up tight - even in the heat of summer! One of my Latvian collegues literally freaked out on the airplane when the blowers came on, she bolted from her seat into the aisle, nearly on the point of tears begging me to shut it off...
I don't know if this mystery can ever be unraveled while we are on this earth.

Becky said...

I admit I haven't thought about this before. I am from the pooh-pooh generation--we pooh-poohed anything that couldn't be rationally determined.

But the Biblical instances you reference, Brandilyn, are interesting.

That being said, I would also note that Jesus gave us no instruction about how to deal with ghosts. Maybe we should be guided by His silence.

OH--there is, of course, info about evil spirits, and yet nothing for us to do (disciples were given power to cast them out--that's it, as I recall). Paul was particularly silent about them. You'd think if they were a problem in the church, Paul would have given some comment or instruction.

Becky

Cheryl Russell said...

I think a Christian should approach this topic with caution (goes w/o saying), but I think it bears learning about. In the world we live in, we can't afford to ignore it.

I don't think all ghost stories are rubbish nor can they all be explained away with our very limited knowledge. All demonic activity? Probably not. Paul tells us in Ephesians another world surrounds us, but we can't see it. But it's there, and it's active, very active. He also states in Hebrews that people have entertained angels without knowing it, blending this world with another.

Maybe sometimes, for certain people, the veil between the two is parted for a very brief time. Beats me.

We live about 8 hours from Gettysburg PA--one of the most haunted places in the US, if the claims are true. Friends of ours went there, after we did, and took a picture of one of the battlefields, the name escapes me at this point. The day was sunny and clear, but when they got the picture developed, there's a fog that hovers above the ground.

Seth is an engineer, Deb is an RN that works for my husband, and both of them are as down to earth as you can get. Explantion? I don't have one.

I do know it drives my scientist-trained husband bonkers when he's asked about it though. :-)

I think, though, that the answers to many of these questions are probably beyond our ability to understand, bound as we are by time and space constraints of our very limited world.

Chris Well said...

God did things in biblical times that He doesn't do anymore.

Um ... since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, this seems like an awfully shaky argument on which to stand.

Stuart said...

Well with me writing things like Sci-fi and fantasy I'm a bit more lenient with ghost usage, though I'd tend to do it in a way that negates the spiritual aspect (i.e. the ghosts wouldn't be spirits of the dead, but instead extra dimensional or etherial beings.) :)

Not sure how I'd do it in a contemporary novel set within our own workings. But it would need to be handled carefully.

Perhaps a psychological thriller that doesn't make it clear (at least at first) if the "ghost" is real or a halucination. Or some technological thriller where some kind of science experiment goes wrong and creates a "city of ghosts" (invisible or translucent people).

But going with a straight defenition of ghosts as the spirits of the dead trapped on earth... don't know if that's something I would mess with, at least not without a long thought out and prepared defense & explanation for how that could be without violating Scripture. :)

CHickey said...

Well...glad you're not a Sunday School student asking. I think the "ghosts" are in actuality demons. How else do you explain the "person" you see walk past you (out of the corner of your eye), but when you turn they aren't there? Or the feeling someone is watching you? No, I'm not paranoid, but until we prayed through our house, these were real events and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one here to have experienced these type of things. Maybe Jesus didn't talk about ghosts, because they weren't worth the short amount of time He had with his disciples, or the stories of ghosts could have been left out by those who put the Bible together. Isn't it probable that our Lord taught on many more than would fit in a simple earthly book? I really don't know the answer to this question, but you did make me think! LOL

Lynetta said...

I don't really believe in ghosts, at least not the aspect of the dead roaming around the earth (demonic activity, of course, is always a possibility).

You're not thinking about writing about ghosts, are you Brandilyn? Because I wasn't afraid of spiders at all until reading Web of Lies. Now, they terrify me!

It's an awesome book! Your readers can find my review on my blog or Amazon.com

http://lynetta.blogspot.com/2006/02/web-of-lies.html

Pammer said...

I can't wait to hear what you have to say on this topic.

Let me first say that I belive that all 'ghosts' are demonic.

Second let me say that I lived in a haunted house, and we were never hurt, but some very strange things happened.

I personally believe that the soul sleeps until God calls them, but that's just my .02 cents.

Waiting with bated breath for your reply. (I won't breathe on ya).

Hugs!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Hmmm...very compelling topic, Brandilyn. This kind of topic could open a bigger Pandora's box than the DaVinci Code did...LOL.

There are a lot of passionate opinions on both sides!

My personal opinion on the witch of Endor's surprise at Samuel...She knew she was really a fake and ready to do some setup theatrics, but when someone really showed up, it blew her mind!

Do I believe in ghosts...I had enough experiences as a child to say...yes...were they all demons...no...would I try to write a book with ghosts in it....it depends on how you approach it!

Lynette Sowell said...

I take your position on it, Brandilyn. I firmly believe there are some areas we shouldn't mess with, either.

I wonder, though, what happens in stages of grief, and people claim to have seen dead relatives. Not looking for them, mind you, but seeing them without expecting it. My husband's 3yo brother was hit by a car and killed, and my husband saw it happen. He was 12. It really ripped into his world, losing Ricky. But one night, while he was lying in bed some months after Ricky's death, he said he saw Ricky standing there next to him, clear as day and wearing the outfit he was buried in. He said, "Don't worry, Joon-yah, they're taking real good care of me here. So don't cry, Joon-yah." (My hubby's brothers and family called him Junior when he was younger.) He tried not to tell anyone about it, but he said he remembered a peace coming over him--his mom wasn't saved at the time, but my husband was sneaking off to a church on Sundays. Then his mom confessed she had seen Ricky once too. So, I dunno. Maybe God allows special times like this. But I don't think we should go looking to talk to them. And *that* is what He pretty specific about. :)