Category Archives: History/Apologetics

Scripture over tradition, yes, no, maybe, what makes me happy?

A very large part of the debate between Lutherans and Roman Catholics was and still is, the importance of Scripture versus that of tradition. Luther and others, Martin Chemnitz in this particular case, felt that the Roman Church was much more interested in elevating the importance of tradition and the ruling of the Church, via the Pope and the Cardinals. This was in reality, probably much more of a hot button issue in the debate than the discussion over indulgences. The debate over the unique and sole authority of Scripture certainly being inclusive of the debate over indulgences.

I’m reading Chemnitz’s “Examination of the Council of Trent” (Part 1 Translated by Fred Kramer, published by Concordia Publishing House copyright 1971). This council was called by Pope Paul III, as a reply to the Lutheran Reformation in 1547. The original intent was to try and reconcile some of the issues, I do believe it was a good faith attempt by the church to examine if maybe, just maybe, Luther might have a point in some areas. The result didn’t come close, in fact it hardened the position the Roman church held before the Reformation.

But as Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon left the scene a new voice stepped in to further the cause of the Reformation and Christianity. Martin Chemnitz wrote extensively and persuasively in order for the Lutheran Reformation to continue to advance Christianity. Well could be if it weren’t for Chemnitz, the Lutheran Reformation might have been a brief bright flash in the Church, only to be repressed by the Roman Church or limited to an obscure corner of the church.

Chemnitz argued that none of the early church fathers had favored the canon of Scripture that had been organized by the church in the 4th century. While there was a time that the apostles and early church leaders did not have canon and had to preserve and pass on Scripture orally, they never intended for that to be the practice. They had written down the books of the New Testament and as much as possible intended all Christians to rely on the written, universally agreed on, books of the New Testament.

Chemnitz writes: “…Irenaeus says: ‘The apostles delivered to us in the Scriptures what they had preached.’ And for what purpose? What use did the apostles want the church to make of this their Scripture? Irenaeus answers: ‘That that which they delivered to us in writing might in the future be the foundation and pillar of our faith,’ namely, of that faith which the church received from the apostles and delivered to her children. Therefore we have in the Scriptures which the apostles delivered to us by the will of God the foundation and pillar of the only true and life-giving faith of the primitive church, received from the apostles. It is called the foundation of faith, because faith is learned, known, built up and received from it. It is called a pillar because through it that faith which alone is true and gives life is proved, confirmed, defended against all corruptions, and preserved. A faith, therefore, which is built up, received, proved and confirmed from any other source than from the Scriptures transmitted by the apostles is not the true, life-giving, apostolic faith of the primitive church. This lies most clearly and firmly in the argumentation of Irenaeus. And later he says that those are heretics who do not agree with the apostolic writings, and he describes the marks of the heretics in these words in chapter 2: ‘When they are proved wrong from the Scriptures, they turn and accuse the Scriptures themselves, as if they were not correct and were without authority [wow! where do we see that today? Everywhere including the churches from across the spectrum who don’t like to get too dogmatic. Basically so much of Christianity today that likes to pick and choose and make it up]. “both because they speak now one way, now another, and also because the truth cannot be found from Scripture by those who do not know the tradition; for (so they say) the truth was not given through epistles, but through the living voice” etc [kind of the same whiney make-believe rationalism of today].

Chemnitz goes on to quote Irenaeus that the apostles had passed on God’s word and did not intend to leave room for tradition and additions to God’s word, that their writings were to be the foundation of the church: “…Irenaeus shows in this statement for what purpose the apostles delivered their doctrine to us in the Scriptures and what use they wanted made of this Scripture in the church, namely, that it should be the foundation and pillar of our faith who have not heard the living voice of the apostles. And he adds that those are heretics who either cast away those Scriptures or turn and accuse them of speaking inconsistently and say that the truth cannot be found in them, unless besides these Scriptures the traditions are added which are treated as having been handed down by the apostles orally.”

Chemnitz put a lot of weight on Irenaeus’ word on Scripture. Irenaeus was a very early defender of the Christian Church, going back to the second century. He was also a leader in opposing the heresies of the period. He took Scripture seriously and did not take lightly any attempts to dilute what was written by the apostles only about 100 years earlier and passed on through the church from all over the Christian world, Asia, Europe, Africa, which generally subscribed to the canon of the New Testament.

 

Scientism, Values, and the Public Interest Sarah Chaffee July 29, 2016 10:44 AM | Permalink

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Over at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher comments on a recent post by John Michael Greer, who writes The Archdruid Report. Despite their vastly differing worldviews (conservative Christian vs. druid!), Greer and Dreher agree on this: There are many questions that science can’t answer, not least about politics. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a case in point. Dreher’s headline says it all: “Scientists Make Terrible Politicians.”

Why should this be?

First, scientific and political reasoning are very different. Democracy is based on compromise between competing interests and values. One cannot use scientific reasoning to arrive at values. What science does is continually try to disprove hypotheses. It’s not about finding a workable compromise. Greer:

If you’re Lavoisier and you’re trying to figure out how combustion works, you don’t say, hey, here’s the oxygenation theory and there’s the phlogiston theory, let’s agree that half of combustion happens one way and the other half the other; you work out an experiment that will disprove one of them, and accept its verdict. What’s inadmissible in science, though, is the heart of competent politics.

One of the great intellectual crises of the ancient world, in turn, was the discovery that logic was not the solution to every human problem. A similar crisis hangs over the modern world, as claims that science can solve all human problems prove increasingly hard to defend, and the shrill insistence by figures such as Tyson that it just ain’t so should be read as evidence for the imminence of real trouble.

In other words, he’s talking about scientism, which is something we’vecommented on extensively in the past. Dreher also cites science writer Thomas Burnett:

Scientism today is alive and well, as evidenced by the statements of our celebrity scientists:

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” — Carl Sagan, Cosmos

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” — Stephen Weinberg, The First Three Minutes

“We can be proud as a species because, having discovered that we are alone, we owe the gods very little.” — E.O. Wilson, Consilience

While these men are certainly entitled to their personal opinions and the freedom to express them, the fact that they make such bold claims in their popular science literature blurs the line between solid, evidence-based science, and rampant philosophical speculation. Whether one agrees with the sentiments of these scientists or not, the result of these public pronouncements has served to alienate a large segment of American society.

Maybe this is a good reason to think twice about controversial scientific issues. Scientism, which Dreher calls “the ideologically charged fallacious belief that science is the only legitimate way of knowledge,” animates those large scientific bodies that marginalize scientists with dissenting views on certain controversial questions. Discriminating against these minority scientists helps alienate that “large segment of American society” that Burnett worries about.

A 2016 survey probing attitudes about academic freedom suggests as much. Of respondents, 84 percent said that “attempts to censor or punish scientists for holding dissenting views on issues such as evolution or climate change are not appropriate in a free society.” Similarly, 86 percent affirmed that “disagreeing with the current majority view in science can be an important step in the development of new insights and discoveries in science.” And 88 percent said that “scientists who raise scientific criticisms of evolution should have the freedom to make their arguments without being subjected to censorship or discrimination.”

Scientism, it seems, is more problematic, in more ways, than some observers have realized.

Photo: Neil deGrasse Tyson, by NASA Ames Research Center [Public domain],via Wikimedia Commons.

Lucifer Morningstar

ESV Isaiah 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” There are different translations. Lucifer is “Heylel” in Hebrew meaning “light bearer, shining one, morning star, also described the King of Babylon.” (Bible Works) For those who like to claim that the Old Testament doesn’t talk about Hell or Satan, well apparently they haven’t read Job or Isaiah. Matthew Henry notes how the Kings of Babylon were oppressors of Israel, so for the Israelites to think of Satan in these terms would seem natural.

The pericope in Isaiah goes on to say: “ESV Isaiah 14:13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; ESV Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ ESV Isaiah 14:15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. ESV Isaiah 14:16 Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, ESV Isaiah 14:17 who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ ESV Isaiah 14:18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; ESV Isaiah 14:19 but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot.” (BibleWorks)

Seems to be pretty cut and dried, no wiggle room here, Satan chose his own way. Jesus described how Satan was cast out: “ESV Luke 10:18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Revelation makes it very clear what happened before God created man: “ESV Revelation 12:7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, ESV Revelation 12:8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. ESV Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (BibleWorks)

Clearly the issue has been settled. Lucifer was made to be the most perfect, created, being. To such an extent that he convinced himself that he should be “god”, and tried to establish himself as god. He was defeated by the Archangel Michael and tossed out of heaven. Clearly putting himself outside of any possibility of redemption. But that, obviously, hasn’t stopped Satan. He tried to swing Jesus over to his side and Jesus dismissed him. But the effort continues and apparently his PR people make another attempt, among many, in the Fox television series “Lucifer”. I stumbled on it by accident, I was traveling didn’t have my usual list of recorded programs and just happened to land on the program. I did end up recording it and was able to examine it closer.

The program posits that Satan is actually warming up to man, although his track record has been to try to destroy man. Lest we forget he is the one who enticed Eve to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden that got her and Adam kicked out and condemned to a life of sin and out of communion with God the Father. We know that through Jesus, Satan was defeated and our relationship with the Father reestablished through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Let’s also remember that Satan in Hebrew means “adversary” and “accuser”. We’ve taken that to mean God’s adversary, although to quote a New York Times reporter, writing before the 2004 World Series who described the Yankee – Red Sox rivalry has a hammer hitting a nail. That obviously the hammer is the active punisher and the nail receives which would more accurately describe the “rivalry” between God and Satan,. It may be adversarial, but God is clearly the punisher. The Greek word translates diabolos, meaning slanderer, the one who accuses and tries to misrepresent man.

Satan finds a woman police detective fascinating in her convictions as one trying to pursue her job with conviction and also able to resist the advances of Satan. This despite her somewhat unvirtuous background. Apparently in her rebellious period against her parents she made a movie where she appears nude, for which she confesses to her young daughter for forgiveness. Part of the plot is Satan trying to figure out why he doesn’t seem to have an effect on her. It’s obvious in the program that he rather easily affects everyone else. Another power of his being to draw out the desires of those he confronts. He uses his celebrated charm (Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones), to manipulate people who presume to be so much smarter, superior to everyone else, in a kind of Pharisaical way. Lest we forget Satan is beyond redemption, he made his decision by rebelling against God in heaven. Sure we humans rebell, but we were only kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The Father, through the Son, has made a way for us to be in relationship with Him. Satan chose to shoot for the top and ended up in Sheol.

A waitress at Satan’s night club, who is a demon, challenges Satan, accusing him of becoming soft, almost in the sense of selling out. The character makes it clear that he is still very much in control, but maybe becoming, at least, a little more respectful of humans. The Biblical truth is that Satan has an implacable hatred of man and he continues by any means to destroy man and undermine God.

Another character in the program is Ariel. This is a very obscure reference and is not biblical. But it is an apocryphal reference. According to Wikipedia he is an Archangel described in the Book of Enoch. “”Ariel” has been called an ancient name for the leontomorphic Gnostic Demiurge (Creator God).”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_(angel)) Gnosticism is a very early “Christian” heresy that kind of creates a non-Biblical paradigm around Jesus. Ariel is Hebrew meaning Lion of God, hearth of God. Interesting note, the angel is played by an African- American man, who is clearly not the contemporary image of a fluffy, beautiful woman. He is clearly a warrior, so I will give the show credit on this score. Angels are very much warriors and men, not at all the feminine, cuddly, nurturing types.

Now Satan does have the power to punish those under his authority, those being people who are not saved in Christ. Ephesians 2:2 grants that: “ESV Ephesians 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-” (BibleWorks) Having said that Lucifer claims in a couple of instances, that he will be passing judgment on humans. Lucifer is sitting across from a papparazzi, Nick, who is a rather unsympathetic figure, trying to convince him to tell him who the real murderer is. Nick is having some guilt re-assessing his life and the lousy things he’s done to “succeed”, “at what cost to my soul”. Lucifer tells him that he will be deciding the cost to his soul; “Well that someone is sitting opposite of you and it’s not looking good.” No, that is above Satan’s pay-grade. Jesus will be making those calls and even a sleezey papparazzi is not beyond redemption. It’s odd though that Nick would think that he could somehow get redemption from Satan, but it seems as if many in the world today think that they can somehow be justified or protected by Satan and ignore Jesus.

Another scene to try to demonstrate Lucifer’s new found virtue is with a street preacher. It becomes obvious that the man is just putting on an act, has found a way to make money doing this. (Why? I have no idea.) Certainly such a man is guilty of simony, described in the Book of Acts. And certainly this man is also on his way to Hell for this sin. Dante describes the level of Hell from simonists, granted it’s not biblical either, but shows that this sin is historically considered a heinous sin. Lucifer frightens the poser into knowing that Satan is very much real. My question is did Lucifer do this as a way to frighten the man into taking Satan seriously, for mocking Satan? Or is he trying to scare the poser street preacher straight. I have to go with Lucifer was more angry that the man was really mocking him.

There’s more, but I’m not really sure how to posit the rest. I was interested in the depiction of Satan going to a psycho-analyst to hash out his issues. Yea, this may be the cynical wise guy talking, but I found it interesting that he seems to be, somehow, confessing to what many think of as a priestess of this worldly religion of psychology. Why not bring a liberal clergy person in? But the science of self-obsession/self-appraisal and of course for Freudians, that everything in our psyche really comes down to sex, that this is almost confession/worship for him.  Each session begins and ends with Lucifer having sex with the attractive woman who is the psycho analyst. Seems to be in the sense of the temple prostitutes of the various cults in the ancient world.

There is a lot more that could be analyzed. Certainly the writers of the program are trying to portray Satan in a sympathetic light. Calling himself Lucifer Morningstar linguistically speaking, is a much more positive, uplifting name meaning morning star (literally his name would read Shiningone Lightbearer Morningstar) Lucifer also means shining one/lighbearer. Maybe I’m reading too much into the imagination of some writers who really don’t know anything about who Satan really is, but, I don’t know, identify with him more than Jesus. A case could be made that most of the world feels that way. Night clubs, sex, drunkeness, fornication, those are a way of life for most people in the world today, all in all it does seem as if the attempt is “Sympathy for the Devil”. In today’s biblically illiterate world, I’m sure there are lots of people who are buying what the Fox program is selling making Satan attractive, charming, relatable. They did show their hand once with the street preacher, Satan is the Beast, he is unredeemable. Unfortunately anyone buying this and rejecting true salvation in Christ, is condemning themselves with a lie. The sad fact is that God is in control and the rest is another attempt by the Prince of the Power of the Air, to delude people into their own damnation.

We take way too lightly both God and Satan, beings that are far superior to us in so many ways. We really are arrogant enough to think that we can somehow control and sway, both/either. Let’s be clear, God is there for your eternal good, your eternal redemption and salvation in Jesus to true life in the resurrection, the New Jerusalem. Satan is there to corrupt and destroy you, he will try to do this in any winsome way he can or try to terrify you into it, either way that works. Your only refuge is in Jesus, no matter how shiny and pretty Satan looks.

The television show? Really cute, but dangerous as hell.

Science is important, scientism is in denial

I have been baffled as to why any secularist would think of, at least a Christian, as wicked. Yes, there has been a lot of stupid in Christianity, no where near as much as the secular, but let’s move along. This bigotry that people like Richard Dawkins preaches is just stunning in its hatred. Yes, there are some (and that is some not all) fundamentalist types that are just delusional. These people really are not trained in Christian ministry, they’ve been making it up and it’s just going to be their way. They are a minority. The Roman church has certainly had its issues, it has not been vigilant about screening for homosexuals and pedophiles. And again a minority, most of the Roman priests I know are the most upright, self-sacrificing men you will ever know. The public education system up to and including universities, should be spending more time getting their own house in order and not wagging their finger at Christians.

Mark Ward in an article he wrote for Answers Magazine (Oct – Dec 2015 pp 52-55) “Most Western scientists affirm that ‘the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry.’ Dawkins calls those who don’t accept this overwhelming evidence ‘the wicked’. Dr Ward claims that “scientism” perceives those who disagree with what they consider the obvious evidence to be some kind of conspirators. That Christians are trying to over turn what they, in their faith system, consider to be carved in stone fact and that Christians, being ignorant, uneducated, Cretans are simply trying to corrupt and undermine the enlightenment of education and science.

OK, I guess I finally get it. But as Dr Ward points out that charge can certainly be bounced right back at the secularist. For someone who claims to base everything on science, to blindly accept the staggering odds against the entire universe happening by accident, is simply blind faith. It is a faith system that has as its basis no substance. At least a Christian can point to the revelation of an all powerful, infinite, all knowing Creator. Ward quotes Terrence McKenna: “…tongue-in-cheek description of modern secular science: ‘Give us one free miracle and we’ll explain the rest.'” Basically just shut-up and accept our explanation because I have a lot of letters behind my name. Sorry, but that is the definition of arrogance.

Both Dr Ward and I are all for science, you’d have to be in complete denial to think that science hasn’t accomplished remarkable feats. But what they have given us is a world that lives in hopelessness, after all science’s only promise is that when we die we simply blip out of existence and what we do here only matters in terms of what we leave to posterity. As an inner-city pastor I see the hopelessness constantly and for those who buy the secular-scientism, the only answer really lies in a bottle, a joint, a needle, sex, power, money  or eating, among the most common idols. There is no greater being who wants what is best for you, who watches over and provides for you and gives you the promise of eternal life in a perfect world. Sure we Christians want what is best for our posterity, look at all the things that have been left for us from centuries of Christians. But we are also leaving hope and promise, that this isn’t just a dog eat dog Darwinian survival of the fittest world. There is a purpose, a plan, hope and promise and a perfect, holy, just God who has given us that hope and promise.

Dr Ward writes: “But there is no agreed upon definition of science that can solve all disagreements. Science is not a neutral arbiter, as Stanley Fish would say, ‘that sits above the fray, monitoring its progress and keeping the combatants honest.’ Science is, instead, ‘an object of contest.’ Which authority gets to determine what counts as science? Will it be God, or not-god?” Again a survival of the fittest that leaves the weak and vulnerable in a state of constant fear and oppression. Scientism may have the “facts”, but what good does that do if it’s constantly telling you that if you don’t stack up, then, as Ebeneezer Scrooge opined “they should die and thereby decrease the surplus population.” Scientism followers may not declare that, but where do you think that Charles Dickens would have really derived that opinion, certainly not the church.

Dr Ward quotes St Paul “…to describe those who reject the evidence of creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:18-22)

Dr Ward goes on to write: “It is wicked to suppress the truth when we who are made in God’s image have sufficient intelligence and opportunity to process it. Paul reveals that we all have those things, and so he joins Richard Dawkins and me in seeing truth as a moral issue.”

I would certainly join that, it is wicked to suppress the truth, the truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know Jesus was a historical man, we know that He did and taught things that we as Christians know could have only been done and taught by God. We know we have the hope and promise of His death as payment for our sins and resurrection as the promise of our eternal life. Other historical, non-Christian people have attested to who and what Jesus did. And all this He did for those He chose to be saved to eternal life. For we who know that truth and do not actively profess, teach and present it to non-believers, seems to me that could be defined as wicked on our part. If we, as Luther wrote, are beggars, and we know where the bread is, wouldn’t it be incredibly wicked of us to withhold that truth to other beggars? When we leave those around us in hopelessness and despair, leave them to be victims of the Darwinist/scientism, beliefs of the culture, we choose to deprive them of what we are blessed to have and we simply cannot do that. We are called to live and present the Gospel/Good News of Jesus Christ. We then trust what God does in those who we have pointed to true life in Jesus. Are we wicked when we don’t? A case could be made, couldn’t it? Do you want to stand in front of God in judgment and answer why you didn’t point others to Him?

Abraham’s Tomb, another example of Herod the Great’s building genius

The following are some of my pictures of Abraham’s tomb, located in Jerusalem. As you would probably deduce this tomb would not have been built for Abraham upon his death, there would not have been this kind of architecture in this location at this time. The tomb, also described as a fortress, was built by Herod the Great, about 3,000 years after Abraham lived.

01_3This is my picture of Abraham’s tomb, obviously not a product of 3,000 BC. I found it incredibly fascinating that Herod the Great built not just this, he rebuilt the temple, a huge feat in and of itself. He built Masada. He built an amazing fortress on the top of a man-made “mountain”, which, I can’t find any pictures of and I’m very upset. Herod was called “the Great”, because of his amazing architectural accomplishments. I’m not aware of any other rulers who were honored with “Great” because of their building.

Obviously the significance of this “fortress” is not about Herod, but for the reason that this structure was built here. I found a good description of this by Bruce Feiler in his book “Walking The Bible” and the following is his description on pages 67 and 68.

“The fortress that I was about to enter is said to exist on the exact spot where Abraham buried Sarah. It was built two thousand years ago, perhaps by Herod the Great. Despite its scale, the building uses no mortar. Inside, it contains a courtyard and two colonnades containing memorials to Abraham, Sarah and Jacob. The memorials to Isaac and Rebekah are in an adjacent room.”

This is located in an area that is Muslim, and has been divided between Muslim and Jewish. Both Islam and Judaism, as well as Christianity, recognize Abraham as their “Father”, Judaism through Abraham’s and Sarah’s son Isaac, Islam through Abraham’s and Hagar’s son Ishmael.

The following are more of my photographs:

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This picture is of one one of the “cells” containing a tomb. I can’t tell who would have been buried here though. 04_6

07_908_100 This final shot showing part of a Muslim worship area.

God defined Marriage National Association of Evangelicals

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God Defined Marriage

God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage —­­ marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy — displays the relationship between God and his people.[1]

While commentators, politicians and judges may revise their understanding of marriage in response to shifting societal trends, followers of Jesus should embrace his clear vision of marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

In its role as a moral teacher, the law now misleads Americans about the true nature of marriage. Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.

As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage. Those who continue to embrace biblical teaching on marriage will increasingly appeal to the First Amendment protection not just for abstract belief, but for the practice of their faith. The National Association of Evangelicals calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

[1] Theology of Sex (Washington, DC: National Association of Evangelicals, 2012), 10.

Download a PDF version of this statement.

Ghosts, spirits, demons

This may seem like kind of a goofy subject, but frankly considering all the supernatural themed shows on television, and a couple of experiences I’ve had as a parish pastor, this subject really should be raised and discussed from a Christian perspective. I happen to agree with the writer, that there are demons in the world, that they do try to convince people they are  ghosts of relatives, friends that kind of thing. OK, goofy, but the demonic wants only one thing, to take your attention away from Christ. So if you get caught up in doing “ghost hunts” through old houses, hey so much the better, keeps you from being a Christian disciples. So consider the following and I certainly would like to hear back from you to discuss further.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Biblical Worldview

by Rick Barry on June 3, 2010; last featured October 28, 2014

Audio Version

Ghosts. What do you really think about them? If someone pushes us, most will admit a degree of love for scary stories. But what about reports of real ghosts, even by sincere Christians? Few Christians seem to know what to think. If we look to the Scriptures, however, we find solid answers, even on this murky subject.

The Fall of Satan

In The Fall of Satan you will discover who Satan is, when he rebelled, and other biblical teaching about this spiritual adversary and his angels.

Both children and adults alike wonder about the existence of ghosts. Some reject the notion. Others insist that ghosts exist and cite experiences—their own or friend-of-a-friend stories—as proof.

But what is a ghost? Although definitions vary, the most common one is that ghosts are the disembodied spirits of dead people that linger on earth. According to tradition, ghosts are invisible but can permit humans to see them.

Of course, either a thing exists or it doesn’t. No amount of belief will cause ghosts to exist if they don’t; nor could personal opinion cause ghosts not to exist if, in fact, they truly do exist. Because a person’s belief in ghosts creates very serious and far-reaching ramifications, it’s a topic that no Christian should ignore.

Classic Ghost Stories

Tales involving apparitions drift down to us from ancient times. Various languages contributed words such as wraith (Scottish), phantom (French), specter (Latin), shade (Old English), banshee (Gaelic), and poltergeist (German).

In ancient Iraq, the Epic of Gilgamesh portrayed Gilgamesh conversing with the spirit of his dead friend Enkidu. Old Egypt left a cryptic tale about the ghost of Nebusemekh chatting with the high priest of Amun-Re. Such stories prove nothing, of course, except that the concept goes back a long way. In fact, even Christ’s twelve disciples fearfully mistook Jesus for a spirit when He appeared walking on the sea at night (Mark 6:49).

Homer included ghosts in his Odyssey and Iliad, and Shakespeare cast roles for spirits in Hamlet and Macbeth. Whether these authors believed in ghosts is unknown. What they understood, however, is that a truly chilling ghost story can grip an audience.

Growing Interest

Yes, ghost stories have been around for ages, and some (such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol) have become fixtures in modern culture. However, in recent decades the genre has exploded with an abundance of movies (Field of Dreams, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Sixth Sense, as examples) and TV shows (such as Lost and Ghost Whisperer) that depend on spirits to drive the plots. Nonfiction programs such as Ghost Hunters attempt to investigate claims of ghosts using infrared cameras and other devices.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN GHOSTS? THE QUESTION IS HUGE. GETTING PEOPLE TO BELIEVE IN GHOSTS AUTOMATICALLY FORCES THEM TO REJECT KEY BIBLE VERSES.

Does a diet of such entertainment influence anyone? Undoubtedly. In 2006 the Barna Group published the results of nationwide studies involving more than 4,000 teens. The study found that 73% of the youth surveyed had “engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity, beyond mere media exposure or horoscope usage.” One tenth had participated in séances. Nine percent had visited a supposed medium or spiritual guide.1

The Barna Group’s vice president noted that teens “cut and paste supernatural experiences and perspectives from a variety of sources—from the movies and books they read, from their experiences, from the Internet, from their peers and families, from any place they’re comfortable with.” This is a problem for adults as well.

An astounding find is that only 28% of churched teenagers could recall hearing any teaching at church in the past year that helped to define their understanding of the supernatural. Is it any wonder that so many teens enter adulthood without the answers they need on this topic?

Shadows of Doubt

Most reports of ghost sightings include details that defy logic. For instance, most alleged apparitions are clothed. But if a ghost is the spirit of a dead person, shouldn’t a spirit appear unclothed after shedding his earthly body and its garments? Is one to conclude that pants, shirts, dresses, and medieval armor contain spirits of their own that faithfully cling to the ghost of a person?

Further challenges to logic stem from stories of ghost ships (such as the Flying Dutchman), ghost trains, and similar accounts. Does a vehicle constructed by human hands gain a “soul” that reappears later?

People who listen to ghost stories around a campfire understand that their friends have concocted those tales. The wish to embellish a spooky yarn naturally explains the addition of such silly details as ghostly nightgowns and horse carriages. But what about people who insist they really did see spirit manifestations, clothes and all? Is it possible that some individuals—including sincere, Bible-believing Christians—truly observe supernatural apparitions?

God—the Creator of the universe—offers solid answers to man’s questions. His Word, the Bible, is the foundation for understanding both the visible and invisible world because God is Lord of both the natural and the supernatural. Regardless of whether a question concerns the origin of life or human souls, the first resource to check is God’s Word.

Even new students of the Bible quickly notice that it never portrays souls as lingering after death. (The immediate destination of heaven or hell rules out that idea. See, for instance, Luke 16:22–23, Luke 23:43, and 2 Corinthians 5:8.) Yet Scripture bluntly affirms the existence of immaterial intelligences. Mark 5:2–15 details Jesus’s encounter with a man indwelt by a multitude of unclean spirits. Christ ordered them out but permitted them to enter a herd of swine. In Samaria, Philip preached and “unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed” (Acts 8:7). Later, Acts 19:14–17 tells of a man inhabited by a demon. The sons of Sceva tried to exorcise it, but the man attacked them. However, these aren’t ghosts; they’re demons—fallen angels—governed by Satan (Matthew 12:22–28).

Bible scholar Charles Ryrie noted, “The very fact that demons can enter human or animal bodies shows they can pass through barriers that would restrict human beings. . . . Demons are not humans; neither are they God. But they are superhuman with superior intelligence and experience and powers. To deny the existence of demons is not skepticism; it only displays ignorance. To be unrealistic about their power is foolhardy.”2

Interestingly, the Bible records one occasion when the living appeared to contact the dead. King Saul donned a disguise and visited a medium to summon the dead prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7–21). An apparition that looked like Samuel appeared to the witch—causing her to cry out in fright.

However, this passage doesn’t suggest that séances work, and it absolutely doesn’t condone witchcraft. Some scholars believe that God sent Samuel on this unique occasion.3 But others believe a demon was impersonating the prophet based on the fact that he made some false claims. For example, commentator John Gill notes that the apparition warned that all of Saul’s sons would die on the next day, but some survived.4

Either way, the emphasis is that Saul had sunk so low that he tried to dabble in the occult, which God condemns. The next day Saul died.

Grave Conclusions

No evidence has produced a single fact that should sway a Christian into believing that the spirits of deceased people can loiter on earth. In light of the Bible, the only conclusion is that ghost sightings are either the figments of overactive imaginations, or else they are demons.

In his book The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, and Psychic Phenomena, Christian author Ron Rhodes states, “People sometimes genuinely encounter a spirit entity—though not a dead human. Some people encounter demonic spirits who may mimic dead people in order to deceive the living (see 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1–3). Many who claim to have encountered such spirit entities have some prior involvement in the occult.”5

But why would demons want to deceive the living by impersonating the dead?

As servants of Satan and enemies of God, they would have every reason to cast doubt on God’s Word and its warnings about future judgment. Getting people to believe in ghosts automatically forces them to reject key Bible verses (seeHebrews 9:27).

Do you believe in ghosts? The question is huge. Coming to a wrong conclusion about the afterlife has eternal consequences, and the wrong choice on this side of the grave can condemn a soul to eternal agony on the other side.