By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Continued from The Necessity of Scripture
Continued from The Necessity of Scripture
Last time we began a series on the attributes of the Word of God, and their ramifications for the paranormal. The necessity of the Word of God, the clarity, sufficiency, and comprehensiveness--all these speak of why scripture is important for us, and the ways it is to have preeminence in our lives. The purpose of this newsletter is to analyze, from a biblical perspective, what is happening in the paranormal community in general, and the notion of ghosts in particular. So, what we have to say about the clarity of the written Word, will be applied to these issues. If you did not read the last one on the necessity of the Word of God, it would be useful if you did, but this should stand on its own.
Why has there been a nuclear explosion in the number of people who have come to believe in ghosts in the last fifteen years? That can be accurately answered in a number of different ways, but for our purposes, folks attitude towards the bible is a huge factor.Last time we looked at the necessity of the written Word of God, and asking the above question brings us to a brief review of what we have already said, as well as sharpening our current application focus.
The bible is the ultimate presupposition for Christians in every area of life--including our reasoning, knowledge acquisition, and interpretation of God's world...this is merely the outworking of the Lordship of Christ in the area of human thought--it applies the the doctrine of scriptural infallibility to the realm of knowing. Human knowledge is servant knowledge (or primary vs. derivative).That is, in seeking to know anything, our first concern is to discover what our Lord thinks about it and to agree with His judgment, to think His thoughts after Him (seeing EVERYTHING through God's eyes!). There are no "neutral" facts because God's pre-interpretation of the facts logically precedes the existence of all facts. Hence, we must align our interpretation of paranormal phenomena with our Lord's infallible interpretation of the same. Put another way, we are obligated to re-interpret accurately what our Lord has already interpreted. Can any Christian seriously suggest otherwise? We shouldn't, but we do--remember what we said about autonomous thinking? Talk about foolish-- how could anyone imagine that contradicting the Master of the universe would be a wise decision? All sin, whether Adam and Eve's or ours today, is a result of sinful, autonomous thinking.
How does this apply to our paranormal focus, and our question? Just this, it is the seeking of knowledge about part of God's creation (the spirit realm), without being subject to God's revelation, that has been the primary cause for the explosion of belief in ghosts. How else can you explain the belief in, or "knowledge" of, something that does not exist? In fact, it would be wrong to speak of "knowledge of ghosts" because the category or class known as "trapped spirits" is the null set...it does not correspond to reality. Put another way, with the marginalizing of the God of the Bible, and the bible of God, in our culture, then intellectual autonomy is the inevitable result...as well as incurring God's wrath (Psalm 2; Rom.1). Folks sinfully prefer their reasoning, their intuition, their years of experience, their perceptions, and their interpretation of the paranormal facts over God Almighty's interpretation of the same facts. This is blatant intellectual arrogance."The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Those in the paranormal community, Christians and otherwise, have spent all their academic training in an environment which disassociates the facts of creation from their Creator--by jettisoning from the classroom His authoritative interpretation of His cosmos (the bible). So, when faced with the facts of the paranormal (and the very real experiences which have become pandemic), the paranormal community does what they have been taught--disassociate the paranormal facts of creation from their Creator. We are not re-interpreting these facts in servant/creaturely submission to God's own authoritative interpretation of these realities. Consequently, they are creating their own fantasy land.
At this point we can now turn our attention to the clarity of the Word of God. The perspicuity or clarity of the bible is how evangelical/Reformed theologians have spoken about one of the attributes of the bible...indeed that is what the written Word of God affirms about itself. Scripture ( as in Deut. 8:3; Pss. 19:7; 119; Matt. 4:4) says that God's written Word is for everybody to understand and live by. The Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of how some doctrines are clearer than others. For example, what is necessary for salvation is very clear. However, it would be a mistake to say that even a single word in the bible does not, in some sense, speak of salvation in a broader sense--every inch of the bible enriches our understanding of the cosmic sweep of the drama of redemption. Nevertheless, that which is required for a credible profession of faith is quite simple (but profound)...and is very clear.
God is THE Great Communicator...He is fully in control of His communication to human beings. When He communicates with us the Lord always does so successfully (human rejection of His successful communication is a commentary regarding mankind's sinfulness...not His Word) But another name for successful communication is clarity. Since God's word is clear, it will always accomplish its purpose (Isa. 55:10-11)--it won't come back void. If a person rejects that Word, then it has still accomplished it's work--much like Jesus perfectly accomplished His Father's work, even though more people rejected the Incarnate Word than accepted Him.
As I point out in Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes, the notion of ghosts touches on several crucial biblical themes--what happens to us when we die? And what is our hope? And others...many others! Certainly the two I mentioned are so significant that we would rightly assume that the Great Communicator would communicate ultra clearly regarding these, and He does! I am aware that there are those who disagree--saying the bible is not clear regarding what happens to us after death--butdo you see what that implies about God's communication skills? Fear of death is the most universal fear of humans...is it any wonder that hope (certain faith applied to the future) is a central Resurrection motif? The perceived un-clarity is inexcusable and sinful--yes, misinterpreting the Word of God is a sin.
When we consider the clarity of the bible in relation to the Lordship of Christ, it creates ethical obligation in its hearers: obligation to believe what it says, to do what it commands, and so on. To quote Frame, "The clarity of God's Word means that we have no excuse for failing to meet it obligations. To say that God's Word is clear is to say that we have no excuse for misunderstanding or disobeying it. So the clarity of Scripture has ethical implications." (pg 206...The Doctrine of the Word of God)
Again, how does all this relate to the notion of trapped spirits? Since it is inextricably tied to the central biblical doctrines of hope, the afterlife, and the Person and Work of Christ...to name but a few, then one would expect that the Word of God will be ultra clear. It is...very clear! Clear enough to create an ethical obligation to reject this demonic fabrication. Clear enough to make it sinful to believe in the notion of ghosts. Clear enough that there is no excuse for misunderstanding the bible's teaching regarding the matter. Clear enough that there is no excuse for believing in or attempting to speak to demons mimicking humans. And it is certainly clear enough that we do not need to hear a supplemental word from the "other side of the veil" to clarify what happens after death...implying that God's Word is unclear and defective. God, in His written Word, has clearly told us what happens when we die. If we are in union with Jesus, then we will see Him, with glorious clarity, face-to-face!
(The biblical texts are so extensive, and clear, regarding the afterlife, and related themes, it would be a monumental task to amass them--all biblical doctrines are inter-related.)