Are Ghosts Real?

October 11th, 2012

When I was a youth worker, I’d occasionally get asked the question, “Are ghosts real?”

How would you answer that question? Keep in mind, if you say no, you could be unintentionally sending the message that you don’t believe in the supernatural at all. You'd also run the risk of cutting off conversation about the topic, because some people won’t even talk to about something if they feel like you might look down on them for disagreeing with you. But if you say yes, you could appear to be giving tacit approval to necromancy and other occult practices explicitly prohibited by the Bible.

Besides, you may not even know whether or not you actually believe in ghosts.

I usually answer with something along the lines of, “Great question. I don’t know for sure, what do you think?” Most of the time, that response opens the door to an exciting conversation.

Merriam Webster defines ghost as “a disembodied soul; especially: the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world or to appear to the living in bodily likeness.” The next definition given is “spirit, demon”.

Apparently, ghost can mean several things. Most people, however, are referring to the disembodied soul and/or spirit of a dead person when they use the term.

As you might expect, Christians are in disagreement about the existence of ghosts. And those who do believe in ghosts disagree about what they are. The more I research the subject of ghosts, the more it challenges my pre-established views about them. Like many Christians, I sometimes try too hard make my experiences fit my theology. For example, if I read the Bible and take a rigid view that it’s completely impossible for any person who has died to interact with the living in any way, and the evidence appears to suggest otherwise, then I'm forced to take the view that either (1) the apparent evidence was imagined, or (2) the alleged “ghost” is really some other kind of entity (perhaps a demon) that is masquerading as a dead human being.

Once we start connecting those kinds of dots, the theological gymnastics can become almost comical. I've found that being too dogmatic about issues that aren’t at the heart of the gospel can cause us to paint ourselves into corners. That's not a good thing.

I’m going to throw a few of my own thoughts out there for your consideration. You may disagree with some of them. (I may even disagree with some of them by next week!)

  • Some of the paranormal encounters we hear about are probably real. Others originate with charlatans or people with overactive imaginations. As one of my colleagues told me the other day, “Some people are crazy, but everyone isn't crazy.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that ghosts are disembodied human spirits, but some of the alleged experiences people are having are likely genuine.
  • I believe that some of the entities that appear to interact with our reality (e.g. beings that haunt buildings) could be the unredeemed dead. If Sheol (or Hades) is in a dimension that exists parallel to earth, who’s to say that some of the people there aren’t somehow interacting in both dimensions? That could explain why alleged paranormal experiences are so fleeting and mysterious. Perhaps these spirits are operating outside of normal parameters, or going “in and out of phase”. Whatever’s going on, I don’t think it’s normal operating procedure or we’d probably see a lot more paranormal activity. Scripture indicates that those who die in Christ go to be with him, and frankly I have a hard time imagining why someone would stick around haunting an old building or trying to communicate with loved ones (even if they could) when they have access to God’s presence and heaven. But I could easily see an unredeemed person trying to avoid hell and the underworld as long as possible, even if only on a partial level. Remember, the final judgment hasn’t happened yet.
  • Some people pull out Hebrews 9:27 to try to prove that the dead can’t interact with people on earth after they die. “People are destined to die once and then face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27 CEB).” But I don’t read that into this verse at all. The whole point of this passage from Hebrews is that Jesus died once for the sins of humanity, and that after we die, we apparently don’t get another shot if we’ve rejected Christ. It’s not trying to establish a time frame for judgment. Besides, time itself may operate quite differently outside of our physical reality and understanding of space-time. I’ve not found any scriptures that absolutely preclude the possibility of the dead interacting with our world. But there are scriptures that prohibit us from attempting to communicate with the deceased.

I’ve been getting some interesting emails since I started this series. Keep them coming! In the next several days, I'll be writing about ghost hunting and necromancy (the practice of communicating or attempting to communicate with the dead.)

Question: Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Supernatural October Series: For the rest of the month, I’ll be blogging about topics like ghosts, demons, exorcism, spiritual warfare, death, Hell, witchcraft, Satanism, the occult, psychics, vampires, and Halloween. If you have any ideas or experiences you’d like to share, send a message to

Read additional posts from this series.

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