By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Last time we looked at epistemology, which deals with how we acquire knowledge. We noted that it is important to give reasons for why we believe what we believe. When we are not aware of our reasons for believing something, it is difficult to analyze or evaluate that belief, and it is certainly difficult to argue it with someone else (argue in logical sense).
You may not have heard of Sena Naslund as an author, but perhaps you have heard of Dean Koontz. I was surprised to discover that he has devoted an entire novel series on a character named Odd Thomas--a short order cook in a small CA town. He acquired the ability to see and communicate with trapped spirits. In this series he attempts to help spirits who had been treated unjustly. Novels, especially a series written by another bestseller like Koontz, have the ability to substantially alter a person's worldview...without the reader being consciously aware of it. Perhaps before reading his novel/s the reader either did not believe in ghosts or was on the fence, but afterwards it would take a conscious effort to NOT be effected in the direction of belief.
Similarly, I noted Wednesday night that there was a TV show, "Haunted Mine", which I watched--been without TV for several months. What is next: "Haunted Honeymoons"?! This is not a fad and it (the assumption that trapped spirits exist) is particularly compelling when viewed via the medium of TV. Seeing is believing, right? Not if you mis-interpret the data.
A few nights ago I heard an interview with John Zaffis and another well known demonologist. I always enjoy listening to Zaffis because of his immense learning and experience. Much wisdom was shared, and then the host asked how they make decisions.....determining what is there and what to do. John said they leave after a day or 2 of investigating to do some "diagnosing"--a key word they used several times..."they needed to look over the evidence to discern what is trapped spirits and if any demons" (Zaffis). At this point, I groaned out loud.
Is the diagnosing by a demonologist (or investigator) similar to that of a doctor? Yes and No. Yes, in that both deal with studying symptoms, and then seeking to find the cause and cure for a problem. But even in this regard, a case could be made that the "ailments" a demonologist deals with are much more serious than those which a medical doctor handles--which should give pause to anyone seeking to enter this field. No, in that there is a distinct, explicit spiritual component to the paranormal diagnostic process. Please remember that the paranormal is not ultimately a scientific issue but a theological issue, because science is UNABLE to uncover the identity of supernatural entities.What I want us to see is that during this very important diagnostic process, one's worldview WILL effect how we see and interpret the paranormal facts., and we are almost always unaware of these strong, interior influences.
God rejects the false wisdom of the world and calls His people to radical obedience ( 1 Cor. 1-2)--thinking according to God's norms is a crucial aspect of this radical call to discipleship. In a word, God is an intellectual authoritarian. This is a touchy subject for modern man who is insistent on total freedom of speech and thought. However, God's intellectual authoritarianism is the source of true intellectual freedom. Human thinking must be subject to a norm or criterion. If we reject God as our intellectual norm, then we must either create an idol and find some other ultimate norm, or capitulate to skepticism, which is intellectual death....both are, actually. The philosophical trends of rationalism, empiricism, and subjectivism have been created by non-Christian philosophers in a futile attempt to justify human knowledge apart from bowing before the God of the bible.
Everyone has a worldview--a basic commitment of the heart translated into a way of seeing reality--both Christians and non-Christians have a worldview. Hence, it is simply not true to say that Christians are "biased" or "prejudiced" in their presuppositions (worldviews) in diagnosing of paranormal problems, and that nonbelievers are "neutral" or "unbiased" in the same process. Both groups are equally biased and prejudiced., when interpreting the paranormal facts. Jesus said, "He is who is not for Me is against Me." The non-Christian is as passionate about rejecting the true God as the Christian is in loving Him.
In the 1960's Thomas Kuhn wrote a groundbreaking book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolution". Though not a Christian, Kuhn made numerous very astute observations regarding how we "diagnose" scientific facts. He asserted that nobody is fully objective in their viewing and interpreting of data. The scientific community (think paranormal community) has shared beliefs which act as a paradigmatic grid though which they sift all data. If data or facts arise which are contrary to their basic community assumptions, then they will NOT BE ABLE TO SEE THIS DATA OR EVIDENCE. Their perception has been obscured by a distorted paradigm (worldview) to the point that they actually cannot see certain aspects of reality. It is only when the anomalies multiply to a certain point(says Kuhn)...when the contrary evidence is popping up all over the place, that the scientific community awakens from its slumber and is then be able to. begin to "see" what had been there the whole time.
This is leading philosopher of science is stating that pure objectivity is impossible. In fact, for a Christian, "pure objectivity" is the last thing we should desire in study of paranormal phenomena. Pure objectivity implies that there are "neutral or brute facts' out there just waiting for us to give them meaning and identity. Not so! Every square inch of the cosmos belongs to the Lord, upon which He has placed His victory flag, and cries out "MINE!!". Every fact--literally every molecule to every star-- is a theistic fact...a fact ordained from all eternity and thus, pre-interpreted by God Almighty. There are no neutral or brute facts, which just exist in an anonymous void or vacuum, waiting for some human to come along and affirm its existence and meaning. God has already done that, and we are to re-interpret the paranormal phenomena as closely as possible to God's original pre-interpretation. Viewing facts or paranormal phenomena through a biblical worldview enables us to be faithful interpreters of God's world. Pure objectivity is not attainable, nor even desirable.
In conclusion, let is re-visit John Zaffis's diagnosis. May I say humbly and gently that Mr Zaffis, simply by virtue of his belief in trapped spirits, will not be able to consistently re-interpret (diagnose) God's pre-interpretation of the paranormal facts. God has made it clear that trapped spirits do not exist, BUT if we believe in them anyway, then we will see what we want or expect to see in the evidence review. God is an intellectual authoritarian, and it is our duty to humble ourselves before him. Otherwise, we dishonor God, hurt the client by giving them bad advice, and hurt ourselves as well.
Demons can mimic ANYTHING. Since that is the case how can one diagnose or find a criterion that would distinguish between a human spirit and a demon? The host asked him what the diagnosis involved, and he did not specify but gave a general response about sifting through data to make decisions. You affirm that you are a Christian John, please...please think like one.