(Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking)
Halloween is a holiday known for its haunted houses, late evening costume parties, neighborhood trick-or-treating, and various scary stories on screens big and small.
The end of October holiday is also a time associated with darker ideas such as ghosts, demons, and even spiritual possessions. Throughout the year, and in certain places, such disturbing topics are pondered and debated, with some believing that such things exist and other dismissing them as mythology.
What should Christians believe about the issues of ghosts, demons, and possession of human beings by spirits?
Dr. Rick Walston, author, professor, and president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary, told The Christian Post that demons and spiritual possession are real.
"Christians should mentally acknowledge that demons exist. The reason why is simple: the Bible identifies demons as existing," said Walston.
"And, even Jesus himself dealt with demons (Matthew 8) and taught about their activities…Jesus' apostles also dealt with demonic activity (Luke 10:17-20; Acts 16: 16-18). As most already know, demons are fallen angels that followed Satan during his rebellion against God."
Regarding ghosts, Walston cautioned that a careful definition of terms has to be in play when discussing whether or not "ghosts" exist.
"The way that most define, or understand, the term 'ghost' is that it is the spirit of a dead loved one who stays near living relatives and in some cases even communicates with them," said Walston to CP.
"The reality is that the deceased do not linger in a between-earth-and-heaven state from which they can communicate. The apostle Paul indicates that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). And, in Jesus' parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16), he clearly says that though the rich man wanted to get a message to his living family, he would not be able to do so."
Since people do not remain on earth after death, argued Walston, those who may have experienced ghostly visions that cannot be reasonably explained have encountered demons instead.
"Many claims have been made that houses, for example, are haunted. By this they mean that the malevolent spirit (or ghost) of a deceased person inhabits the house and intends to do harm to those who live there. Others claim that they have encountered good ghosts of deceased persons," said Walston.
"In both cases, if the paranormal activity is real and not the imaginings of the people, these 'ghosts' are really demons impersonating deceased loved ones."