Talking with dead people? There’s going to be an app for that.October 31, 2018
The title is total click-bait for a person like me: Psychologist is developing a smart phone to talk to dead people. The article is written with open mockery of the idea and those working to bring products to market which would satisfy a particular consumer demand. The article appears on the Patheos website. The drop-down menu of religions on the site includes 27 options and yet this article appeared under the express heading: nonreligious. I find that curious. Is a religion not about ontology, cosmology and answering – among other questions – what happens to us when we die? The questions of identity, belonging and purpose are answered – along with every aching question of the human mind and soul – by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel makes sense of everything and apart from the Gospel nothing makes sense, and everything is therefore, nonsense.
There are several conversational threads here to pull:
- Why do we want to communicate with people who are no longer living in the here and now?
- What happens to us when this life ends? Who and what is on the other side of the death experience?
For me, these questions became really real when my 43-year-old dad dropped dead of a heart attack when I was 15. I wanted to know where he was, what he was doing, whether or not he could see me. I didn’t question the why of his particular death so much as I wanted to know the why and wherefore of death itself. The 15-year-olds around you right now, want to know the answers to these same questions.
If I die tonight you can rest assured that I will not be dead long. I know where I’m going, how I’m getting there and who I’ll be with. I’ll not be available if you call my name as I’ll be giving my full attention to getting to know fully the One in whom I am already fully known.
But back to the issue at hand – the development of a smartphone app that promises people a connection with the dead. If you listen to the cultural language of our day, you will hear and experience what these psychologists know lies beneath the veneer of Christianity in American culture. Many self-identified Christians are actually syncretists who believe and practice a variety of spiritualities. People who imagine that when people die they become angels. Or when people die their spirit inhabits butterflies or cardinals or rainbows or some other physical object. Or when people die they are looking down from heaven and – not watching our every move because that would be creepy – but seeing all the good and protecting us from evil. Or when people die they become ghosts who have the power to haunt or roll over in their grave or some other lingering earthly experience. None of this is true, according to the Bible.
Let us not mock people whose hearts ache to know what’s on the other side of death’s door. Let us not roll our eyes at the deep desire to know where our loved ones have gone, what they’re doing and how they now live. Let us instead walk with people in the valleys of the shadow of death and, as Jesus did on the Road to Emmaus, open the Word of God to them in such a way that they can know the Truth and be set free.
To do this many of us will have to deal first with the reality of our own syncretism. Many who claim to be Christians are also toying with practices from paganism, new age religions and Eastern mysticism. From meditation with guides other than the Holy Spirit of Christ to sorcery, witchcraft, astrology, dreamcatchers, and magic, Americans mix many strains of the spiritual into, what then becomes, psuedo-Christianity.
Recent Pew Research reveals ‘New Age’ beliefs are common among both religious and non-religious Americans. Six out of 10 Americans have beliefs which include reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects, like mountains or trees. So, before we condemn the SoulPhone dreamers, let’s ask ourselves: would I be interested in an app that held out the promise of talking with my dead father or mother or sister or brother or husband or wife or child or friend? What does that say about where I believe they are and what life on the other side of death is like? If I believe in the revelation of God in the Bible, and my loved one put their faith in Jesus Christ, do I not have confidence and hope?
Jesus talks at length about the Kingdom of Heaven and what it’s like. Jesus tells parables about those who have died and Paul’s letters address questions of resurrection and the afterlife. The Bible also reveals the Liar who is the Enemy of God and prowls around looking for ways to steal and kill and destroy us. Those lies include robbing us of our confidence in God’s Word and enticing us with false ideas about spiritual things. Spiritual forces are real and they are not all good. If you’re looking for a Spirit guide, God offers Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. And if you’re looking to talk to the dead, look around. There are many right here who are perishing without knowledge of the Gospel.
The U.S. Witch Population Sees Astronomical Rise – Here’s a data point for you: there are now more Americans who identify as practicing witches than practicing mainline Presbyterians (PCUSA).