I once had a friend ask me if I believed in ghosts, and frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer. Despite the countless ghost stories told every year, we rarely discuss how ghosts fit into the Christian worldview. Do the spirits of the dead still dwell among us? Do we see examples of this in scripture? Are ghosts biblical?
The short answer is yes, but not in the way that they are typically portrayed. We do have souls. When we die, that spirit separates from our bodies. As evidenced by near-death experiences, a decent case exists that there is a time in between our soul leaving our body and entering Heaven. With that said, I don’t think there is any Biblical support for the spirits of the dead haunting people or places. The few examples we do have in scripture that refer to ghosts don’t indicate that possibility.
Case #1: Samuel’s Ghost in 1 Samuel 28
There is a story in the Old Testament where King Saul needs advice, but God is silent. Desperate for help, Saul goes to a medium to conjure the ghost of the prophet Samuel. The remarkable thing is that it works. The medium seems just as shocked as Saul does. We get the impression that this was caused not by the woman’s ability to speak to the dead but by God’s power. What does this story tell us about ghosts? They can exist and communicate with us only by God’s allowance, and they usually don’t.
Case #2: Jesus Mistaken for a Ghost
There are a few different points throughout the gospels where the disciples mistake Jesus for a ghost. In Luke 24, Matthew 14, and Mark 6. Notably, Jesus only ever responds by either telling them not to be afraid or that he is not a ghost. He never lets them know that there’s no such thing as ghosts. This response might be significant if we had more references to them throughout scripture, but by itself, it’s hardly conclusive.
What About the Stories?
The only remaining question is what’s going on with all the stories of hauntings, ghost encounters, etc. Obviously, I can’t speak to every situation, but we believe in spiritual beings as Christians. Though it may not be ghosts, it could still be other demonic forces at play. I suspect most of the time it’s little more than stories, but I would always recommend caution before diving into this.
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