WORD FROM THE PASTOR:

Ghosts and Aliens

             My son told me about a question one of our youth had raised on the youth group Facebook page: “Are ghosts and aliens real?” Since I’ve never addressed that before in a newsletter, I decided to take a stab at answering the question.

             Whenever I think about ghosts and the Bible, I think about two stories in the Gospels where Jesus’ disciples mistake Him for a ghost:

             Jesus came to His disciples, walking on the sea...When they saw Him walking on

             the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they were terrified. But

             immediately He spoke to them and said, “”Take heart; it is I.” (Mark 6:48-50)

and:

             [When Jesus appeared to His disciples], they were startled and frightened and thought

             they saw a ghost. And He said to them... “Touch me, and see. For a ghost does not

             have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:37, 39)

I am intrigued by what Jesus doesn’t say. In both passages, He has the opportunity to say: “By the way...there’s no such thing as a ghost”...and He doesn’t. He could have solved the question right then and there, and He declined!

But the Bible does indicate that there is no such thing as the spirit of a dead person who continues to walk this earth. Scripture says in Hebrews:

             “For it is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27). So immediately after death there is a judgement–this doesn’t seem to leave any time for the spirits of the dead to walk the earth.

 Yet I have heard many people I respect and trust talk about ghostly experiences. Indeed, one of the most godly men I have ever known once told me: “My house is haunted.” So if there are no spirits of the dead floating around, what’s doing the haunting?

             A theory I favor is this: that sometimes people leave a psychological/emotional impression of themselves in a place where they have lived–kind of like a mental fingerprint. I was looking at a photo my sister-in-law took at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood–of Marilyn Monroe’s handprints in the cement. Marilyn placed her hands there about 50 years ago...but the impression is still there. Marilyn is long gone–but the image of her hands is still there. Now imagine that the soul, the mind, could make some kind of impression on a place–a house, for instance. And under the right circumstances, that impression could be seen–or perhaps heard. It’s not the person’s actual spirit–that has left this world and gone to its eternal destiny. But it’s a lasting imprint of the person.              This explains some noteworthy things about ghosts. Ghosts usually engage in very repetitive behavior. If a ghost were actually a spirit, it would probably attempt to communicate with the living. But no–ghosts generally just walk down halls, sit in rocking chairs, make noises. They never really get into conversations. That’s because they aren’t really spirits. They’re the equivalent of psychic “fingerprints”–mental images that the house has picked up the way a battery picks up a charge. That, anyway, is a theory that I’m fond of.

             If this theory is true, then a ghost can’t hurt you and is really nothing to be afraid of. A ghost is rather like a film or a videotape playing, not a real spirit. If you ever do find yourself scared by “a little man that wasn’t there”, you can simply turn to Jesus, who has all power in heaven and on earth in His holy, loving hands.

             How about aliens? The Bible makes it unlikely that there is any other intelligent life in the

universe. God made us in His own image (Genesis 1:26), which means that we are absolutely unique. To me this indicates there probably aren’t any other beings in the universe similar to the human race (except the angels, of course). The Bible also tells us this about the stars and planets: “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:14).

So it seems that God created the starry sky in its vastness for us, and not for other races of beings. This may sound unlikely–we seem so tiny, and the universe is so vast–how could it exist just for us? Even the Bible admits that it sounds unlikely:

             When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars

             which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of

             man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

And yet, even though we seem tiny compared to the vast universe, we are the most important creatures in it:

             Yet you have made [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him

             with glory and honor, and given him dominion over the works of your hands; you

             have put all things under his feet...(Psalm 8:5-6)

Since we are the high point of God’s creation, I think it doubtful that there are other races out there in space. (A rather disturbing and depressing meditation on this question that takes a different view is Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Star”. Don’t read it close to Christmas.)

             The idea that we are the universe’s only intelligent life is not necessarily an unscientific viewpoint: the conditions required for intelligent life are so narrow and exact that there probably are very few planets actually able to support such life.

             So I don’t think it’s likely that there is other intelligent life (again, other than the holy angels). But if it were proven tomorrow that there is other intelligent life in the universe, it wouldn’t challenge my faith. Indeed, it might even deepen my sense of wonder--God’s world is even more incredible than I thought!

             Still, there is something in us that longs to believe that aliens have visited us, bringing wisdom and healing. Agent Mulder in “The X-Files” had a poster of a flying saucer in his office with the words, “I want to believe”. And actually...the world has been visited by an “alien” bringing wisdom and healing–the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t mean that He’s from another planet or another galaxy. No, He’s from a whole different realm of being–He’s from God’s realm, He is God. Talk about an “alien”! And yet–He became human like you and me. (Bethlehem is even more wondrous than Roswell, the Holy Land more incredible than “Area 51"!) He made this world His home, and died for us, and rose again...so that we can live with God in joy forever!

             So there’s my view on ghosts and aliens. I can’t say I’m totally right on either one–Scripture doesn’t deal directly with either question. But that’s my two cents!

             God loves you and so do I!

Vol. 82 - No. 7
July 2011