“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)
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 (definition of “paranormal activity” is: phenomena unexplained by normal experience) 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” of pulling some kind of prank—much like you see on popular shows like SyFy’s Ghost Hunters. 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.”
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:
2 Corinthians 5 reminds us that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Jesus told the repentant thief, “Today, you shall be with Me in paradise.” 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 there’s no “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. 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.
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 this topic, but will not give Satan more “press” than he deserves.
There are nine recorded stories of demonic possession in the New Testament with numerous other stories related to demonic activity. My point here is simply: according to God’s own Word, demons exist.
And horror flicks can plant within a person a “spirit of fear” which, we know, is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7). 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, “He has no power over me.”
Indeed, 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. John comforted his readers,
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
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