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.


Unknown said...

Good way of putting it! Must be why you're such an awesome writer.

Tina Helmuth said...

Brandilyn, I hope you don't think my comments were trying to put God in a box. He can do anything He wants and we humans will never fully understand Him until we get to Heaven, if we even will then. I'm trying to choose my words very carefully here so they won't be misconstrued.

If God wanted to send a message through a dead person, He could. With the history of some of my family, I doubt he'd do that for us. I do have a little trouble with the idea of sending someone back to comfort loved ones who are Christians. By the night of Jesus' betrayal, his disciples should have known very well that Jesus would be resurrected, but they didn't yet understand. Jesus didn't comfort them with, "Hey, don't worry. You'll see me in a few days." He comforted them with Heaven.

Then again, God deals with different people in different ways.

And Chris, thank you for singling me out. This didn't used to be that kind of blog. If you want to know what I meant, post a question for me on the discussion board, and I'll be happy to elaborate, but not here in comments.

Tina Helmuth said...

I'm sorry. This is an emotional topic for me and I had a gut reaction. I don't mean any offense to anyone or anybody's experiences. Most of what I posted yesterday wasn't about what you said, Brandilyn. This issue has affected my family deeply. I'm sorry for hasty words.

Corina Bowen said...

Brandilyn, I enjoyed reading your post and agree with a lot of what you said. I know one thing.. that right now we seem to be in a spiritual war...

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Good summary of Biblical information on the subject, Brandilyn. As to the comfort of those grieving, doesn't Scripture say that is what the Holy Spirit does? I find it unusual to think the spirit of a person could do a better job of comforting than the Spirit of God.

However, I love your conclusion about not putting God in a box. That being said, we must also apply discernment in these matters and hold them up to the light of Scripture (just what you did).

My question (you knew there would be one, right? ; ) What prompted this ghost talk?


johnny dangerous said...

Brandilyn, you're completely right to urge people to avoid seances and other occult practices (such as Ouija Boards and Tarot) which provide doorways and opportunities for evil powers. You're also right to shrug and say in effect, 'there are some things we just don't understand right now.' I've thought about this subject quite a bit, given the fact that it is a factor in my latest mystery, and while I am persuaded that most activity of this kind is demonic, some of it has a natural explanation (I explore these this week in my blog, "Johnny Dangerous"). This seems to be a topic appropriate for mystery writers, dealing as we do with death and ultimate questions regarding the afterlife. As Christians, we have a lot to say about such matters to people in our culture who are largely unfamiliar with what the Scriptures say, and who get their spiritual information instead from Montel, Oprah, and Larry King.

Unknown said...

Interesting discussion. I'm curious Brandilyn, if you've felt yourself under spiritual attack taking on dark issues in your writing.

As I wrote my second novel, Demon Chaser, I was under the biggest spiritual attack of my adult life.

But, greater is He who is in me...

Unknown said...

oops, incidentally "Tim Hines" in your links section is "Tony or TL" hah, little typeo there. Sorry if someone already pointed that out and I'm repeating.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

What a great topic, Brandilyn!

I guess you see from the responses that it's a loaded issue...LOL!

Just tread carefully and you'll be fine...Let God be the pilot! I can't wait to see the result!

May God bless you and keep you!

Dineen A. Miller said...

The Bible also tells us to test the spirits, so we have that back-up too.