“Absent from the body” & Ghosts


I found myself discussing whether ghosts were possible from a Christian POV. Most of our discussion revolved around the phrase, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” and Christ’s words to the repentant thief, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

 I personally think that ghosts as restless human souls are prohibited by biblical text. While the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost at first when they saw Jesus walking on water, it was Jesus after all and not a spirit. And while King Saul thought he was talking to the ghost of the prophet Samuel through the Witch of Endor, it was an evil spirit and not Samuel at all.

If the souls of saints immediately enter Paradise, it follows that the souls of damned humans immediately enter Hell. Or perhaps we close our eyes in death only to open them up before the Judgment Seat of Christ to be parted on the left and the right.

Whatever the case, ghosts as human souls seems prohibited. More likely, the Bible seems to indicate that they are the damned spirits of fallen angels.

Another possibility that would not contradict Scripture could be that ghosts are temporal echoes. A lot of ghost stories involve ghosts that simply repeat a pattern each night, going down the same path, appearing in the same window. In the case of these hauntings, maybe a soul’s echo is preserved. In this respect, the ghost would be something like a picture or recording of a person, but really not the person itself except in a superficial appearance as such.

Jonathan Edwards, author of the Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote some on this:

http://www.jonathanedwards.org/AbsentBody.html

I wonder if anyone else has some thoughts on ghosts from a Christian POV?

— Sirius Knott

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. ericburns says:

    I haven’t had many experiences that have lead me to question ghosts that much but I do think about the existence of aliens quite frequently.

    Given the following:
    ““God has given us too little evidence to be sure, but too much to ignore. For Evolutionists, this condition is likely aggravating, though it should be noted that Darwin, in his Origin of the Species, never actually proved his theory; instead, he stated that “are far too ignorant” to argue against its complete impossibility and should be “extremely cautious” before concluding that it could not have occurred.”

    This was taken from one of your other posts and I think think this mindset would also apply when trying to understand what people say and think about UFOs and aliens. What is your opinion on the matter?

    Check this out before you reply, http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/14/ufo.sightings.ap/index.html

  2. Sirius says:

    Aliens and UFOs. OK.

    I hail from West Virginia, home of Gray Barker [credited with possibly inventing the Men In Black], the Mothman of Point Pleasant and the Green Monster of Flatwoods [aka the Flatwoods Monster], all of which have been linked to UFOs and Aliens at one point or another, so I’m somewhat of a pseudoexpert. Well, not really, but I have been exposed to UFO theory quite a bit. We’ve even discussed it from our pulpits.

    The most discussed evidence against the existence of aliens and their interstellar vehicles is that West Virginians will shoot well nigh anything they don’t recognize just in case it might be worth something dead. Call it a hunting fetish, but we simply don’t consider the consequences [possible interstellar war or accidentally giving the alien ballistic signal to begin courtship, for instance] in the face of the temptation to shoot something.

    That aside, we’re conspiracy buffs from way back. Bring on the black choppers, baby, and pass the ammo!

    Now naysayers always say something like, You saw a blimp or a weather ballooon. You saw two airplanes crossing paths. You saw swamp gas refracted off the light of Venus. Silly explanations like this only fuel the fire. Just say, I dunno, but it couldn’t be that, for crying out loud!

    Of course, that brings up the question of whether it COULD be that. Biblically, there’s nothing to prevent it.

    Ufologists usually cite Ezekiel’s Wheel as evidence of UFOs in the Bible. The Wheel seems to be a sort of conveyance possible driven by cherubim or seraphim or whatever. These guys are created beings not indigenous to Earth who drive around flying wheelie things. Technically, we could, tentatively, properly classify angels and even God Himself as extraterrestrials. I say this with due reverence and only in the interests of fairness, because I think the dichotomy between angels as supernatural and aliens as scientific [albeit paranormal science] is completely artificial. If we believe God is real, then we ought to dust off our definitions and consider him and his heavenly hosts a bit more scientifically [albeit with reverence for Someone who is in a larger degree beyond our ability to put in a box].

    To put it a different way, the Bible is God’s Word to Earth. It describes what he has done on Earth and His relations with His Creation here. It does not preclude the Creator from having other creations. In fact, the presence of angels [fallen or otherwise] in His court imply that Earth may not be unique, except possibly where it concerns beings created in His image. You are right to say that we cannot rule out the possibility, but we should be cautious both in the promotion and our skepticism of the idea.

    There are inevitably times where UFO sightings are bunk, but taken by blind faith by those who want to believe. We should not be among these. We should examine the weight of evidence in light of perfect revelation [the Bible].

    As the Church is described as the pillar and ground of truth, Christianity should stand as a reasonable faith in whatever area we choose to investigate.

    That was truly worth pondering,
    So thank you,

    Sirius Knott

  3. ericburns says:

    Thank you for your reply. It is one of the most fair things I have gotten as a response.

  4. Mike says:

    Sirius wrote:

    “I personally think that ghosts as restless human souls are prohibited by biblical text. While the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost at first when they saw Jesus walking on water, it was Jesus after all and not a spirit. And while King Saul thought he was talking to the ghost of the prophet Samuel through the Witch of Endor, it was an evil spirit and not Samuel at all.”

    Actually, I don’t think “prohibited” is an accurate term. I mean, if the disciples and Saul thought they saw ghosts, then that belief must have been based on something, right? They (the principals involved, or even the writer of the scriptures in question) must have already accepted the existence of ghosts to be a reality. Otherwise how could it be admitted they were mistaken?

    I don’t think the bible prohibits a belief in the existence of disembodied human spirits, except to say that we are warned not to communicate with them, and to test all spirits to see if they are from God.

  5. Sirius says:

    Mike,

    Your point is well taken, but I caution the use of the “it must have been based on something” argument as it simply could have been based on fear, superstition and campfire tales. Note, for example, the infamous case of the Fearsome Critters.

    I think it’s more correct to state that they believed that the existence of ghosts to be a possibility, to which notion they could easily admit they were mistaken, just as someone who thinks he sees a UFO admits to their possibility but may admit he was mistaken when he reads about the satellite that passed overhead last night. One need not accept either ghosts or UFOs as a reality to be mistaken; one only has to accept the possibility.

    And I’m not convinced that the spirits we would be communicating with would be dead disembodied humans, though many have been misled into this presumption. In other words, we may go to commune with spirits and may be under the impression that they are human spirits, but what are they really? I think the Bible’s absent from the body clause makes a strong case against this possibility that anyone has ever actaully communicated with a ghost, though they may be under the misapprehension that they did.

    Good discussion. It gave me much to think about.

    –Sirius Knott

  6. Mike says:

    I think you hit on the important point: Seems many people think that if they can somehow communicate with a spirit, then that spirit can be trusted, and must be benevolent.

    PS: Thanks for swinging by the site. I just discovered your blog and there’s lots of great stuff here!

    Mike

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