To start this particular blog, I want to provide a brief section directly from The Death Myth:
“Though the belief that human spirits interact with our world is far from new, it has reached a fever pitch in American society over the last decade or so . . . One of the most recent (2005) Gallop polls that inquired about the belief in ghosts revealed that roughly 75 percent of those interviewed believed in something we would consider to be paranormal. More specifically, 37 percent of people believed that houses can be haunted, and roughly 32 percent of people believed that we can somehow encounter the ghosts or spirits of dead people in particular situations. In 2006, when asking more than four thousand American teens about behaviors regarding the supernatural, the Barna Group found that an astonishing 73 percent of these teens admitted to having made some type of effort to contact spirits. For Christian parents in particular, these numbers should be more than a little alarming” (pg. 136).
Since the publishing of these polls, I would venture to guess that the numbers have only increased. Most Americans believe that deceased human beings exist as disembodied spirits. Nearly 1/3 of us believe that we can personally interact with dead people. Most alarming, nearly 3/4 of our teens have actually made an effort to do so.
From a biblical standpoint, there are two major things to consider on this topic. The first is that communicating with ghosts is not an option, because they do not exist. In its sixty-six books, the Bible mentions the existence of a deceased human spirit returning to earth approximately once. 1 Samuel 28 records that Saul—Israel’s first king—went to a pagan medium (called the “Witch of Endor”), in order to bring the prophet Samuel back to life. He wanted advice, as his kingship spiraled out of control. He desired counsel; what he got was an omen of death. As the “spirit” of Samuel emerged from his slumber, he declared the following:
“Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (1 Sam. 28:18-19).
Since this is the only event in the Bible that records such a thing, and the summoning was performed by witchcraft, many commentators (myself included) suggest that it wasn’t Samuel who came back from the dead at all. Who was it, then? All in good time. Beyond this quirky event, the Bible makes no other reference to the actual existence of ghosts. More than that, all deceased human beings should exist in heaven, hell, Abraham’s bosom, or Hades, according to the “traditional” view of the afterlife. If not, they should be unconscious entirely (i.e. not “living” anywhere). In the book, I argue for the latter.
But let’s be clear: from a biblical perspective, under no circumstances could the dead be roaming the earth in spirit form. As I discussed in my two-part discussion on contacting the dead (see part one and part two), the existence of deceased spirits would not be a good prospect, even if they were real.
The second thing we must consider is that necromancy—the attempt to summon or communicate with the dead—is highly discouraged within the Bible. Both Leviticus 19:31 and 20:6 strictly forbade those of the Jewish faith from making any such effort. Deuteronomy 18:9-13 is equally clear. Before consulting the Witch of Endor, Saul actually banned all mediums and conjurers from the land (1 Sam. 28:3), no doubt from divine command. Paul encountered a woman with related powers in Acts 16:16-18, and he ended up having to cast a demon out of her!
The verdict? Clearly, a biblical worldview supports neither the existence of ghosts nor any attempt to contact them. In fact, it strictly forbids it. However, one question remains: why is it so wrong to try to contact the dead?
In the book, I chronicle an event that occurred with a good friend who believed that his deceased relative haunted his home. He was so sure of this that he made regular attempts to communicate with the entity. This all ended on the day he was pushed down his basement steps by his “dear old uncle.” He had not been communicating with the spirit of a deceased relative, but with some type of malevolent force. The Bible calls these forces “demons.”
All of this tells us one very important thing: we would do well to heed the Bible’s warnings about ghosts and all efforts to contact them. It seems likely that the Jewish people—and by extension, Christians as well—were strictly forbidden to contact the dead because they would not really be contacting “the dead.”
Attempting to communicate with ghosts is like playing with spiritual fire; you may well receive the contact you are searching for, but you may also get burned.
Thank you for reading! If you found this blog interesting, please see all the other posts on this site. You can purchase The Death Myth by clicking here.
Barna, “New Research Explores Teenage Views and Behavior Regarding the Supernatural.” https://www.barna.com/research/new-research-explores-teenage-views-and-behavior-regarding-the-supernatural/
Moore, David W. Three in Four Americans Believe in Paranormal. Gallup, 16 June 2005. Web. 20 May 2015. http://news.gallup.com/poll/16915/three-four-americans-believe-paranormal.aspx
Rossiter, Brian. The Death Myth: Uncovering What the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife. pg. 136. iUniverse. Bloomington, IN. Copyright, 2018. Print.