If you aren’t familiar with the phenomenon of ghost hunting, you haven’t surfed through your basic cable channel lineup in a few years. Yes, the medium that brought you Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo also promotes the paranormal each week with shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and The Haunted.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
I generally take reality shows with a grain of salt, but ghost hunters, also known as paranormal investigators, aren’t limited to television. Groups and societies that specialize in investigating paranormal claims are popping up all over the world. There’s probably at least one of them in your city. Some even claim to be Christian-based.
Ghost hunters use technology and fringe science as they attempt to prove or disprove alleged hauntings of houses and other locations. Some also use occult methods and they bring in psychics, mediums, and channelers to assist with their investigations. I’m guessing that real-life ghost hunting is nowhere near as fast-paced and exciting as the reality shows depict it to be. That's because in the real world, there’s no one to edit out all the boring stuff. And some ghost hunters get more than they signed up for. I’ve heard accounts of people experiencing demonic oppression and/or possession after taking part in paranormal investigations. Stirring up trouble in the spiritual realm is never something that should be taken lightly.
That brings us to the question of whether Christians should even be involved in paranormal research and investigations. Before I attempt to answer that, I’ll go out on a limb and say that some of what we see on paranormal reality shows is probably hokum. A portion of the “evidence” they uncover is likely exaggerated, and some of it could even be manufactured. Some shows are probably more trustworthy than others, but none of them can survive without ratings, and it’s hard to get ratings if something exciting isn’t happening on screen.
But assuming that some paranormal events and phenomena are real (and I do), how should Christians respond to it? It depends. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go ghost hunting in places like cemeteries or abandoned buildings for the adventure of it. But a Christian’s purpose is connected to the purpose of Jesus Christ: to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). So when there's a situation where someone is being tormented or harassed by a spiritual entity (whether human or demonic), I believe Christians have the authority to step in and confront it. For example, if a family is dealing with paranormal activity in their house, and they need help getting rid of it, then that’s fair game. But there’s always some degree of risk when you confront evil, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. If you do get involved in any kind of ministry that deals directly with evil, be prepared to pray and learn as much as you can about spiritual warfare.
Some of the methods paranormal investigators use are dangerous. Christians should not be collaborating with psychics or other occult practitioners. And attempting to communicate with the dead in any way, especially to get information or satisfy curiosity should be avoided. Leviticus 19:31 is fairly plain: "Do not resort to dead spirits or inquire of spirits of divination—you will be made unclean by them; I am the Lord your God" (CEB).
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 puts it this way:
There must not be anyone among you who passes his son or daughter through fire; who practices divination, is a sign reader, fortune-teller, sorcerer, or spell caster; who converses with ghosts or spirits or communicates with the dead. All who do these things are detestable to the Lord! (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 CEB)
There are good reasons for these warnings, one being that attempts to consult the dead could open the door to powerful demonic activity.
Ghost hunters often use technological tools to help them with their investigations, but some of these methods seem to me to be little more than high tech séances and Ouija boards. EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recorders, ghost/spirit boxes (modified radios that allegedly can be manipulated by spirits), and electronic speech synthesis devices like the Ovilus should be avoided by Christians. EMF (electromagnetic field) meters probably aren't an issue, provided they aren’t used to gain information from spirits.
There may be a place for Christians in the world of paranormal investigation, but no one should get involved just for the thrill of it. Many of us will likely encounter the supernatural, both good and evil, at various points in our lives, but our fascination with it should be grounded in who we are in Christ. In Luke 10, Jesus had this to say to the 72 followers he’d sent out who came back with their minds blown because demons had actually submitted to them:
I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Look, I have given you authority to crush snakes and scorpions underfoot. I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the spirits submit to you. Rejoice instead that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:18-20 CEB).
The spiritual war between good and evil is real, but getting actively involved with it just for the thrill factor or the entertainment value is never a good idea.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read additional posts from this series.