The topic for this section came up during an online discussion about ghosts. When one of the participants found out that I was Christian, he immediately announced that he thought I was a hypocrite because "The belief in ghosts is in direct defiance of the Christian Bible." Yes, believe it or not, that's an exact quote. It struck me that someone would feel this strongly about the topic. It also got me wondering where they might have gotten this particular point of view.
From other comments that were made, it was obvious that this person had a profound dislike for anything that the Bible might say. Why? I would guess that he might have had some bad experiences in the past. If that was the case, he wouldn't be alone. I've met many, many people who have been completely turned off to what the Bible might have to offer because of past run-ins with "religious" people.
I'm sure you've all met people who throw out broad general ideas that they claim are Biblical. They usually do this in an attempt to prove that they're "right" about some topic and to imply that if you disagree with them you're "wrong" because you also "disagree with God." Unfortunately, people like this are often just re-stating what they think they've heard someone else say. Maybe they're even parroting what a trusted pastor or a teacher has told them. A LOT of people then take these second-hand ideas, assume they are accurate without even checking, and try to push them on people as the absolute truth.
The worst thing about this particularly lazy practice is that it almost always gives the listener a inaccurate and negative image of what the Bible is all about. I guess I can understand some resentment from anyone who's only exposure to the Bible is a sermon from one of these folks. But it becomes a real problem if they take it another step and immediately jump to the conclusion that EVERYONE who reads the Bible is:
In fact, if the person that I mentioned in the first paragraph had been able to overcome his Bible-phobia long enough to do a little bit of research on the topic he could have easily found that ghosts are actually mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Note that neither of the following examples are obscure passages either. Anyone who's been to Sunday School is probably familiar with both of them, but it seems that very few people remember the details they contain.
|Matthew 14: 25-27 (NIV)|
|During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."|
It's obvious from this example that the disciples believed in ghosts. If they had no idea what a ghost was, why would they assume they were seeing one?
Well, I suppose they could have heard stories. Most of us have heard ghost stories, even if we've never seen a ghost. Does that mean that we all believe in ghosts? Not necessarily. Just because we're all pretty much aware of the stories that are out there about hauntings and ghosts doesn't automatically make them real.
Ok, so there's a chance that the disciples might have just been reacting to some ghost stories. Perhaps they were just recalling some urban legends that were going around Galilee when they were younger. Just in case, let's go to their supervisor for further clarification on the topic:
|Luke 24: 36-43 (NIV)|
|While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among
them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
One thing that occurs to me in these passages is how Jesus doesn't say anything like "Don't be silly, ghosts are just a wives tale and don't really exist." He instead lists specific physical traits of ghosts - they don't have flesh and they don't have bones and they certainly don't eat broiled fish. Was he making these traits up about some imaginary entity? Or did he know more about the reality of ghosts than we usually give him credit for?
Keep in mind that this passage was written by Luke. A physician. A scientific mind. If any of the gospel writers would have questioned this idea, it would have been him. Yet he was the one who chose to include it in his account.
So, is the belief in ghosts really "in direct defiance of the Christian Bible?" Develop your own conclusions about the whole thing, but before you do, please read the accounts for yourself and see what is really being said. Also, it's often very useful to get to know the Biblical characters - what they were like and how they acted can tell you a lot about what they knew and believed.
After all, isn't the Bible just that, a book about real people? Even though they lived thousands of years ago, they were pretty much like you and I. You'll find that these people weren't "backward, out-of touch dorks" at all. Most of them were just normal people put in extraordinary circumstances who recorded their eyewitness accounts of these events.
Why did they take the time to do this? Probably just so we can read these accounts now, learn from their experience and hopefully gain some valuable wisdom about how this world really works.
There sure is a lot of that wisdom in there. Just be careful to check the facts before you believe every "ghost story" that you hear about what the Bible supposedly says.
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