Friday, February 24, 2006
My Take on Ghosts
Well, what a lively bunch of comments yesterday. Thank you for your responses.
Here are some of my thoughts on the subject of ghosts. Disclaimer: I’m no expert, and my opinions should weigh no more than anybody else who commented.
1. Over and over, the most common agreement among Christians to whom I’ve asked this question is that most “ghosts” can be attributed to demons. I agree with this. I’ve witnessed enough demonic activity in my life to believe the critters are quite prevalent (probably more than we’d like to think), and have no end of imagination when it comes to tormenting us. Now why some demons choose to become visible, or hang around particular houses, I don’t know. But they do seem to be rather lazy once they’ve taken up an abode, so it probably has to do with a past history of the place. They like to claim their territory and stick to it, and don’t relish having to leave. I base this opinion on two passages in the Bible. First, when Jesus drove the demons out of the deranged man, and they begged to go into the pigs. (They didn't want to be homeless.) Second, in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 12: 43-45) about a spirit who’s driven out of a man and restlessly seeks a new home, only to return to the man (swept clean but unoccupied) with seven of his buddies. Party time.
One of Paul’s most famous passages (Ephesians 6:11-12) talks about putting on the whole armor of God so we can stand against the “devil’s schemes." He says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” As I understand from the NIV study Bible, this series (rulers, authorities, power of this dark world, etc.,) refers to the hierarchy of demons. Even talking to Christians, Paul made it clear that demons are out there, and we’d better be prepared to stand against them. And that it can be a hard fight.
Christians aren’t without their “ghost” stories. But, again, many of these sightings appear to be demons, not really ghosts. (Of course, these are two entirely different entities. Demons are fallen angels—beings created by God who are not human and never were. Ghosts would be the spirits of dead humans.) One person told me of the “ghost” of a child in her family’s house. It looked to be about four years old. Her children saw it. But it didn’t “have the heart of a child,” as she put it. The thing was evil. She felt it even when she couldn’t see it. They sent it away through prayer.
That “feeling of evil” is the certain common denominator among demons. If you’re ever in one’s presence, you’ll know it. There won’t be an ounce of doubt in your mind.
2. Second point that Christians agree on, biblically based: Do not go there! Don’t consult psychics, don’t attend séances, etc. Again, not because of ghosts, but because demons tend to hang around these kinds of activities. God commands knowledge of the supernatural and the future (and the dead). If he wants to impart supernatural knowledge, He’ll do so through dreams, prophecy, words of wisdom, etc. Or in an extreme case He might even allow a spirit to return to deliver a message, as He did with Samuel. But in any case it’s God’s purview. We’re certainly not to consult psychics for knowledge outside our world. The Bible puts it in absolute black and white. Supernatural knowledge (including what happens to the dead) comes either from God or from Satan. There’s no gray area. So when people choose to go to Satan’s realm for it (mediums, psychics, séances and the like), why should they be surprised to stir up the demons that hang out there?
3. I have a hard time believing in a ghost that’s hanging around earth like it’s stuck. I can’t make the notion jive with the Bible. So I’d tend to think these are demons. But as some of you mentioned, what about a dead relative who appears with a message? Are we to say such instances are all imagination and hooey? Problem with that is, you’re likely to find some pretty rational people with these kinds of stories. Are we to say they’re demons? Then why is there no feeling of evil? (I suppose you could argue here that Satan and his minions can pose as bearers of light, which is true.) But maybe, just as God allowed Samuel to return with a specific message, He sometimes allows a spirit to return to comfort someone today, or to bring a message. I can’t find scripture that absolutely denies the reality of this type of ghostly appearance. In fact, with that story of Samuel, I find just the opposite.
Bottom line, I believe God is in ultimate control. If demons are hanging around, whether posing as restless spirits of the dead or not, prayer in the name of Jesus will drive them away. And if God chooses in His wisdom to send back a spirit to give someone a message, He can do so. He created all, including the curtain of separation between worlds seen and unseen, and if He wants to open that curtain, I imagine He’ll open it. God is ultimately more mysterious and wonderful and awesome than we can imagine and know on this earth. I'm not about to put Him in a box and say no, no, He'd never do that. But I'm gonna leave it up to Him to decide. And when I get to heaven, I'm gonna ask a lot of questions.