Sunday, 27 February 2011

ghosts, séances and so on

I wondered what your views on ghosts, séances and so on are – is it possible to reconcile such ideas with Christian faith (and scientific understanding)?

It seems very unlikely that ghosts exist in the sense supposed by popular imagination. We believe in resurrection, God giving “resurrection bodies” to those whose innermost being is remembered by Him in His love – a bit like playing a beloved tune on a wonderful Steinway that you once heard on a honky-tonk – so we don’t think that human spirits persist “naturally”.

Nevertheless people do remember the departed and there are certainly circumstances in which such memories could cause people to feel that they had seen them. And there is much we don’t understand about the depths of the human psyche – especially when several people are linking their sensitivities in the way that apparently happens at séances.

It is also impossible to ignore the strong biblical references to spiritual beings, both angelic and demonic. Although we cannot take all of it literally and must make allowances for the language of the time it was written in (it would have been hopeless for Jesus to say: “this was not demons, it was chemical imbalances in the brain” there was literally no language to say this in) there are enough reasons to think that there are trans/sub personal evil influences, which may well be involved in at least some of the more disturbing manifestations. I know people who have experienced and grappled with such things. But no demon can withstand the power of Christ.

John adds: “I am more reserved and uncertain than Nicholas about what to believe about subordinate spiritual powers, whether good or bad. For example, both in Hebrew and Greek the word conventionally translated angel is simply the ordinary word for messenger of whatever kind.”

Further comment from Nicholas if I were discussing this with John I’d have suggested he said “I am even more reserved and uncertain than Nicholas” because I’m not trying to be at all dogmatic about this. However there’s no room in Luke 1 or 2 to suggest that these were ordinary messengers, and both Jesus and Paul are very clear that we are not just fighting flesh and blood. But equally this does not mean that the popular images of angels and demons are necessarily valid: the truth in these matters is almost certainly more complex and strange than we are able to understand. The Bible very deliberately does not go into such details and nor should we.

All we know is that, if we walk with Christ, we will be given the strength we need because nothing can separate us from the love of God.

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