“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons….Watch your life and doctrine closely.” (1 Timothy 4:1 & 16)
The topic of the supernatural is at a fevered pitch nowadays. Years ago, I sat in a class led by sociologist, Tony Campolo. I’ll never forget one particular thing he said:
“America is not necessarily a Christian nation, but it is certainly a spiritual nation.”
This is precisely why contemporary shows and movies associated with the paranormal and metaphysical are continually successful.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend about the (then) recently released movie, Paranormal Activity. For those of you who don’t know, Paranormal Activity was produced along the lines of 1999’s hugely successful Blair Witch Project – filmed more in the genre of a documentary filled with raw footage. In other words, it’s hard to tell what’s fact—and what’s fake.
The movie centers around a young couple who begin to try and find out what all the creepy stuff is that keeps happening in their home at night. Little does the guy know that the girl has dealt with this creepy stuff most of her life. The guy gets curious and sets up a video camera during the night to try and “catch a ghost in the act”—much like you see on popular shows like SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Caught on Camera, and a host of other similar shows. But, things go from mischievous to nefarious very quickly as this dark entity becomes more and more hostile and possessive.
This led to some great dialogue between me and my friend —who happens to be a born-again believer— regarding what the Bible teaches about “paranormal activity.”
Before we dive in, let’s get our terms defined. These are the three most common terms used when discussing the topic of ghosts:
Paranormal activity: phenomena unexplained by normal experience.
Metaphysical: Metaphysics is a major branch of philosophy that concerns existence and the nature of things that exist. Something described as “metaphysical” describes something that may or may not exist in reality.
Supernatural: simply put, “beyond natural”, or that which cannot be proven scientifically; outside or beyond that which is natural.
When faced with a paranormal experience, there are only two conclusions at which people almost always arrive: either ghosts/spirits, or demonic.
So, what does the Bible have to say about paranormal activity?
According to the Bible, there are no “disembodied human spirits” (a.k.a. ghosts) roaming this earth. On the contrary, scripture teaches just the opposite.
Jesus told the repentant thief,
Furthermore, in the only parable in Scripture that includes a proper name, Jesus describes the Rich Man in Luke 16 as going immediately to hell after he died, and Lazarus (not the “raised-from-the-dead Lazarus”) going immediately to heaven.
In other words, the Bible consistently teaches human beings are not allowed a “roaming around on earth period” between life & the after-life.
“If that’s true,” you ask, “then WHAT is causing all the ‘paranormal activity’ that cameras appear to catch on film?”
The same thing that caused paranormal activity in the New Testament: demons.
There are two important biblical truths everyone needs to know about demons:
First, by the testimony of scripture, they exist. (There are nine recorded stories of demonic possession in the New Testament with numerous other stories related to demonic activity)
Second, by virtue of their master, they are brilliant strategists in deception.
And they would love for believers to base their understanding of what demons can – and can’t – do on movies, documentaries, etc – anything but the Bible.
There’s no shame in, up to this point in one’s life, believing in ghosts. It’s certainly nothing new. And many Bible-believing people have been deceived. Consider Jesus’ own disciples. Matthew, one of those disciples and eye-witness of Jesus, records:
Before I continue, C.S. Lewis’ warning in the preface to his Screwtape Letters is most appropriate here:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally please by both errors…”
That said, I will address the topic of demons briefly, not giving Satan more “press” than he deserves.
Jesus, himself, described Satan as follows:
His clever, insidious plan is to steal, kill and destroy a person’s peace, joy and, most of all, faith. Where the paranormal is concerned, he uses fear.
Horror flicks can plant within a person a “spirit of fear” which, we know, is not from God. Further (and Satan enjoys this immensely), even a believer, when gripped with fear, can begin to think Satan is more powerful than Christ.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. For Jesus said about Satan,
Indeed, every single time Jesus approached a person in the gospel accounts who was demon-possessed, the demons shrieked in terror, begging Jesus to spare their lives. Further, Satan was helpless to prevent Jesus from uttering from the cross, “It is finished,” or preventing Christ from rising from the dead.
The biblical truth is clear: Christ, over whom Satan has absolutely no power, dwells within the believer. Hence, Satan has no power over one who has placed their faith in the power, risen Christ.
On a side-note, when asked, “Can a Christian be demonically possessed?”, I kindly remind them that a Christian is already possessed – by the Holy Spirit.
Satan and his minions want nothing to do with those who are filled with the Almighty Spirit of God. “The demons tremble in terror” at the mere thought of God, James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote.
The disciple and eye-witness of Christ, John, comforted his readers,
In 1989, I had the opportunity to visit with a former Satanic high priest who had professed his faith in Christ. I’ll never forget what he shared – creepy stories that made the hair stand up on the back my neck. But he concluded by saying,
“I’ve seen some terrifying things within the realm of Satanism. But nothing satanic comes close to the terrifying presence and power of Almighty God.”
Back to my conversation about paranormal activity with my friend. In addition to reminding them of their position/authority in Christ, I said,
“Be very, very careful not to develop your doctrine of demons/evil spirits on anything other than Scripture. When we do that—and a lot of believers do—we open our minds up to what the Bible calls “every wind of doctrine”. (Eph. 4:11-14)
Throughout the history of Hollywood, movies dealing with the paranormal (a.k.a. demonic activity) like The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Conjuring, the list is endless – are filtered through the minds of Hollywood directors and producers.
Stick to the one true Script—the Bible.”
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick