It has been said that when someone does not believe in something, that he will believe anything. We live in an age when that saying is being demonstrated in a variety of ways. In Europe and the United States it is now fashionable to say that “we are living in the post-Christian era.” Atheists and naturalists are loudly proclaiming victory over the forces of religion and faith. While one might suggest that such claims are premature, there can be no question but that western civilization is moving headlong into materialism, secularism, and a rejection of the beliefs of the past. With this new belief system has come a rise in bizarre beliefs, including ghosts, demons and demon possession, spirit creatures, voodoo, witchcraft, occult practices, fortune tellers, and a variety of outlandish medical treatments and claimed cures.

We have seen the rise of Scientology in which everyone is said to be a “thetan” (pronounced THAY-ten) or immortal spirit with unlimited powers over its own universe, even though a person might not be aware of this. Wicca, a modern form of witchcraft, is a growing force in western civilization. Wiccans believe in a god-force which is in everything or in personal beings. New Age has grown incredibly in our culture teaching that everything and everyone is God, with people having unlimited inner power and a need to discover it. Mormons teach that Jesus is a separate God created as a spirit child by the Father and Mother in Heaven, and is the “elder brother” of all men and spirit beings. Buddhism rejects the existence of God and speaks of Buddha as a universal enlightened consciousness. Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism teaches there is no God and that there is no separation between Creator and creature with spiritual forces being protectors. The list of beliefs in spirit forces is massive and reflects a culture that is grasping for any replacement for belief in the Christian God of the Bible.

Belief in ghosts, demons, spiritual forces, and the like very quickly find their way into Hollywood. The movie Avatar has strong connections to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, which uses Hindu gods and goddesses as protectors. The Queen Mary ocean liner located in Long beach California has a “Ghosts and Legends” attraction on the ship. This is a tour into the bowels of the Queen Mary that includes narrated stories about ghosts on the ship, along with fog, lights, sound, and other creepy special effects. It is great fun and kind of reminds one of Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction. Psychics do a major business in all countries of the Western world today, and our televisions are full of programs about the paranormal and the psychic world.

Things that become popular in the world around us always seem to find their way into the beliefs of Christians. In the religious market there are books about ghosts, demons, alien spirits, etc., suggesting what they are and what they mean. One popular book suggests that demons are the souls of people who have died and are lost, but have not faced judgment yet. Erratic behavior is sometimes explained away as demons or spirit-based. There are a number of Christians, including several evangelists, who claim to have seen ghosts or demons. Some estimates say that about 50 percent of the people in the Restoration Movement believe in such things. It is vital that Christians understand that this is a dangerous business both spiritually and physically. There are solid biblical and scientific reasons why we should not buy into paranormal claims of any kind, and we need to convince our brothers and sisters in Christ that they have nothing to fear from ghosts, demons, or alien spirits.

REASON 1 — SATAN IS ALIVE AND WELL BUT IS NOT ALLOWED TO FUNCTION IN WAYS THAT DEPRIVE US OF OUR FREE CHOICE. One of the most fundamental truths of the Bible is that God has allowed humans to choose whether or not to obey God and live as God has called them to live. In the Old Testament we see statements like “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve …” (Joshua 24:15, NIV). In the New Testament Jesus confronted the disciples with this choice saying “Will you also go away?” (John 6:67). John 20:31; Philippians 2:12; and James 2:14 all challenge us to realize we must make our own choices. God never forces us to accept God’s way of living or doing things, but there are consequences of making choices that reject God. If a ghost or a demon can take over innocent people, and cause them to do things that they would not do of their own free volition, then a fundamental truth of the Bible is compromised.

The New Testament is full of warnings about those things that can put us at risk as Christians. The Church is warned about false teachers, about scams, about false apostles, about false brothers and sisters in Christ, about governments, about lukewarmness, about being unfruitful — the list is long. (See Acts 20:28 – 31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; and 2 Peter 1:3 – 9). Nowhere in the Bible is there any warning about the threats of ghosts, demons, familiar spirits, witches, seances, or any paranormal phenomena taking over against our will. Surely if this were a legitimate threat to Christians, God would have warned us about it. Second Timothy 3:16 –17 tells us that the scriptures give us everything we need to know to be complete, and no warnings about these things are contained in the Bible.

REASON 2 — THE BIBLE WARNS US NOT TO BE INVOLVED WITH THESE KINDS OF CLAIMS. The serious nature of being involved with paranormal phenomena is underscored throughout the Bible. In Exodus 22:18 the price of being a witch was death and it is listed in the same verses as sodomy. Deuteronomy 18:10 –12 is more specific: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or is a medium or spiritist, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD … .” In Galatians 5:20 witchcraft is listed in a series of behaviors that include sexual immorality, drunkenness, and orgies. (For other references see Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; 1 Samuel 15:23; 28; 2 Kings 9:22; 21:6; 23:24; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3; 29:4; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4.)

REASON 3 — BIBLICAL REFERENCES TO THESE EVENTS ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR US TODAY. We have already mentioned the fact that God does not force us to obey Him or to follow His teachings about how we are to live. One part of our freedom to choose is that God never overwhelms us with such massive force that we have no choice. When Jesus was in the flesh on the earth, there was massive evidence that He was what He said He was. Satan was given greater freedom, and some of that freedom was present in the form of forces that do not exist today — demons, spiritual forces, etc.

Colossians 2:15 and 1 John 3:8 tell us that Jesus overcame these forces. Zechariah 13:2 and 1 Corinthians 13:8 –10 tell us these things would pass away with the coming of the Church. You can argue endlessly about what these forces were and how they functioned, but the early Christians were told “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The devil is not a force against which we have no defense. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will always provide a way of escape when problems come against us as Christians. Romans 8:28 indicates that God can take the worst experience that we endure and make good come from it.

We are not helpless pawns in a war that uses us against our will and without our involvement. What went on in the past, whether real or not, does not go on today. We are called to be a people who choose to live God’s way, but no force comes against us that we cannot handle. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that everything that happens to us is the common experience of humanity. People who claim strange and unique mystical experiences that no one else has may have personal problems that cause misinterpretation of the source of their difficulties. The reality is that our world today only contains what all of us face daily and can handle if we will use the tools God gave us.

This discussion would be incomplete without mentioning the seance of 1 Samuel 28. In this story King Saul is being defeated by the Philistines. He goes to a medium at a place called Endor to contact Samuel, who is dead. The woman does her normal seance, and sure enough, Samuel shows up. When the woman sees Samuel, the Bible tells us she shrieked — screamed at the top of her voice. I would suggest that the woman had a scam which allowed people to see a “deceased relative,” and when the real thing showed up it freaked her out. She was in unfamiliar territory, and she screamed and realized that she was dealing with reality — Samuel was actually there and Saul was also in her presence. This was a miracle of God designed for Saul, and the witch of Endor did not have the power to raise the dead.

REASON 4 — THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE CLAIMS BEING MADE. One major aspect of the Does God Exist? ministry is to deal with evidence. We urge atheists to look at the positive evidence rather than to engage in theological debate about whether they like the way God does things or what God may have allowed in the world. Spiritual things cannot be tested scientifically in any direct way, but evidence can exist for spiritual things, and it can be investigated. The soul of man is one area that falls into this realm. We cannot conduct a scientific experiment directly to measure or physically handle the soul. The fact is, however, that evidence for the spiritual dimension of man is well recognized by almost everyone whether they are religious or atheistic in their beliefs. Man’s concept of self, his creative ability, his language (not his speech), his capacity for worship, and his feelings of guilt, sympathy, and compassion are all evidence for a spiritual component to humans. The debate about the soul revolves around whether the soul can be explained merely in terms of the human brain. That question is the subject of ongoing research and debate.

Research on ghosts, demons, fortune tellers, witchcraft, spirit creatures, demonic possession and exorcism, and paranormal claims in general offers no support of these claimed phenomena. I have personally witnessed several exorcisms and numerous claims of demonic possession. I have attended satanic worship services where “miracles” are performed. I have visited a large number of haunted castles, spook caverns, spirit swamps, and possessed houses. In recent years there have been numerous studies of these phenomena by believers and atheists alike. Magazines like Spiritual Counterfeit Project, Christian Research Journal, Skeptic, and Skeptical Inquirer have case after case where mystic claims are shown to have either a fraudulent base, or an easy physical explanation.

We do not live in a world of spirit creatures and people with superhuman powers. When God tells us to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), He is not telling us to do something we cannot do. You do not have to live in fear of someone putting a hex on you, or Satan having some stranglehold on you that you cannot oppose. That does not mean that life cannot be hard. It does not mean that you are safe around witches or spirit readers or mediums because people can do strange things when their security is threatened. It does mean that God is in control and His promises are true and binding. You can serve the occult, or the magic promoters, or the fantasy ghost world if you wish, but “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15).
--John N. Clayton

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