Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

Archive for November, 2018

Afterlife – Our Link

Some Native American religions believe that as long as someone remembers you that your spirit will live on in the afterlife, and that (using ceremonies) contact with them is possible. It’s comforting for those, like Geronimo, whose names are written down in history and will be forever remembered, but for the average person? Even so, I find comfort in their concept of the afterlife where communication isn’t just possible, but also fairly easy.

stthomasxcJesus confirmed with his apostles that the spirit world exists, and that they continue their involvement with this world. Luke 24:36-39 “As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” It is because of this that we know those who have passed on can, on occasion, interact with those of us in the physical world. But the method isn’t so easy as the Native American way, and (so far as Scripture teaches) must be initiated from the other side, we cannot simple call upon them.

Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, acknowledges the ability to conjure spirits from beyond (necromancy) but explicitly forbids its practice. In the New Testament the ban is not explicitly stated, an understanding of 1st C. language is needed:

Galatians 5:19-20 (RSV) “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery…”

Revelation 21:8 (RSV) “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”

Sorcery covered a wide array of acts that were believed to originate in the spiritual world, such as: fortune telling, acts of magic, and the conjuring of spirits.

There are many attestations by noted people in church history (from St. Thomas’ exploits in India to the present day) that spirits can reach out to us, but it is always the spirit that initiates contact. From these contacts it is clear that they do hear us when we pray to them (pray used as “talking to” not to be confused with worshiping prayer) or for them, and that the remembrance is felt.

I remember, when I was a child, my grandmother appearing at the foot of my bed one night – something that startled me enough that I could not get back to sleep. I learned the next morning, from my mother, that she had passed during the night. This is something I have never shared before, something that is as real to me today as it was then. I can still picture her standing there and the words she always said to me still ringing in my ears. I have never experienced anything like that since, and I doubt that I ever will again.

The appearance of spirits is not to be confused with the apparitions known as ghosts. The spirits spoken of in church history appear for a reason and, when the task is completed, return to the heavens. Ghosts, on the other hand are always thought of as haunting a particular place, and stay on indefinately. The church has no proven examples of these types of spirits, and takes no position on their existance (neither does it prohibit belief).

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