What can the past teach us about how to respond to the paranormal? Recently two events occurred that thrust that question into prominence. The two events were: the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and September 11.They may seem unrelated, but let me explain.
King's speech is a painful reminder of past racism; thankfully, I think we have made great strides. I have mentioned before that I had the honor of being introduced to the singular teaching of Dr. Francis Schaeffer...a man who had an uncanny ability to perceive trends in culture, critique them biblically, and show how the Lordship of Christ extends to all aspects of human culture.
He mentioned that our culture had a Christian ethos 100 years ago, but (and this is my main point)there were certainly serious inconsistencies. For example, he noted that we had done a very poor job when it came to race (with some notable exceptions) He further stated that each generation was responsible for applying the changeless gospel to the needs of their own generation. For 35 years since I first heard that assessment and challenge, I was 'haunted' about WHAT ISSUE WAS MY GENERATION OF CHRISTIANS CULPABLY BLIND TO? Was there a "racism" equivalent in our culture that our kids would rise up and call us..uuhh, "blind and obtuse about"?Or,at the very least inconsistent...
I have the same feeling today as I did nearly 40 years ago--how could so many godly Christians be silent regarding an issue that was so obviously grievously wrong? We are all descended from Adam...how could Christians support institutionalized hatred? (that is precisely what it was) So,I kept asking myself and praying: "Lord, please show me if we have a grievous blind spot in my generation." I humbly assert that I believe God answered my prayer.
In 2009 I was as blind as a bat to the raging paranormal inferno, but one fateful Wednesday night I watched an episode of "Ghost Hunters." I almost fell off the couch as I realized two things-I just saw real supernatural, demonic activity, and I had an unsettling feeling that I had been culpably ignorant of a juggernaut that was changing the spiritual landscape of America...indeed the world.Instantly, I felt "called" to research this phenomenon for the glory of our Triune God.
It did not take long for me to realize that the paranormal craze was, in fact, perhaps the most serious blind spot in the Christian community today.My generation was just as guilty of collectively dismissing a hugely significant issue.You will please forgive me if I say that: I have a dream...that the pastors in America would awaken from their lethal slumber and begin equipping their sheep to discern supernatural evil.
I will be more brief with 9/11. It is the anniversary of terrorist attacks on our soil--The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pan Am flight.(the following quote was thought to be from the Reformer, Martin Luther, but apparently there is some doubt. Regardless, I quote it with brief comment).
"If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
If this quote expresses biblical truth (and I believe it does), then the overwhelming majority of bible preachers are not confessing Christ, and are flinching and fleeing. It hurts to write that, but when was the last time you heard a sermon on "What does the Bible say about Ghosts"? What other issue has over 50% of US adults in its grips?
I was a pastor for 15 years, so I know the diverse hats they wear and the many stressors. But in preaching class in seminary, we were taught two main things-prayerfully do the hard work of understanding the Holy Spirit's intent for that text (it's meaning, AND prayerfully and sensitively apply the text to the significant issues we face, as individuals and as a society. Simple...one-two approach to preaching, but the application aspect has been collectively horrendous.
The worst spiritual terrorist attack in our nations history is being ignored or dismissed as so much rubbish (with some notable exceptions). God have mercy on our country...especially our pastors.
To round out my reference to 9/11 let me mention this. Historically, there have three philosophical tests for truth--the correspondence theory (does the belief correspond to reality?); the coherence theory of truth (is the belief or worldview internally consistent?); and the existential test for truth (can the person live with his beliefs?)
I want to apply the existential theory to the notion of ghosts. The tragedy of 9/11 is precisely the kind of deaths that the paranormal community predicts will cause souls to be trapped...(sudden, traumatic deaths...leaving unfinished business). According to the "death criteria" of the paranormal community, most of those who died on 9/11 may well be stuck here."That is a cruel, low blow Hunnemann...how dare you!" On the contrary, 9/11 reminds us that it is impossible to live consistently with your beliefs regarding ghost formation.It is your belief in trapped spirits which is cruel...I am simply extending it out consistently to its logical conclusion. I must stop there for now, but this needs to be spelled out over and over, to break through the fog of fascination with ghosts.