Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why do ghosts wear clothes?

This is a sarcastic question that debunkers like to ask to ridicule belief in ghosts. After all, if ghosts really exist, they don't need to wear clothes. So ghosts are imaginary.
Keep in mind that the Bible affirms the existence of ghosts (i.e. postmortem appearances of Samuel, Moses, Elijah). And even though those are rare, exceptional instances, angelic apparitions raise the equivalent question. So this is a question Christians should have some answers for.
i) To begin with, we might ask why the living wear clothes. Many of us don't wear clothes because we have to. Clothing isn't always necessary to stay warm. Not if you go outside on a hot day.
And even on a chilly day, most of us live and work in buildings with artificial heating. And our cars have heaters. 
ii) We wear clothing for reasons of modesty. Nudity is distracting. Nudity can be provocative or repulsive. Clothing can take the focus away from the body, although some types of clothing are designed to have the opposite effect.
iii) In addition, characteristic clothing is part of what makes someone recognizable. It reflects when and where they lived, before they died. It's part of their life history. Their personal continuity.  
Same thing with hair, or make-up. A particular haircut or hairdo. Or hair color. Or beard. Or pigmentation (eyes, skin). 
Same thing with age. We know people when they were a certain age. Sometimes when they were young, or middle-aged, or elderly. Depends on how long we knew them. But they were always some age.


  1. iii) In addition, characteristic clothing is part of what makes someone recognizable. It reflects when and where they lived, before they died. It's part of their life history. Their personal continuity.

    Yeah, clothing in Biblical cultures had multiple significance both in the natural and spiritual realms. For example Gen. 3:21; 37:3; Isa. 61:10; Zech. 3:3; Matt. 22:12; 23:5; Mark 1:6; 2 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 6:11; James 2:1-5; Rev. 3:4-5, 17-18; 4:4; 7:14; 16:5, 15; 19:8; 14.

    1. Maybe spirits (angels and/or disembodied humans) are able to choose in what form they are perceived by other spirits and/or humans.

    2. Or maybe God chooses how spirits will be perceived and what clothing they will appear to be wearing as a sign of their spiritual status and condition. Whether angels or humans in the afterlife.

    3. Or a combination of both. God may allow righteous spirits to choose different styles of clothing in keeping with their spiritual status. Whereas God might force (some or all) wicked spirits to wear clothing (or no clothing) befitting their status.

    John Piper has repeatedly written on the purpose of clothing.

    Here's a link to a 2 minute video by John Piper on the topic.

    Here's an Article by John Piper on the topic.

  2. Maybe I'm missing something, but is Elijah's appearance really "postmortem?" I get the impression from the end of 2 Kings that he was assumed into heaven, somewhat like Enoch. Is that not the case?

    1. That depends. The Transfiguration took place many centuries after Elijah's translation into heaven. The fact that Elijah didn't die on *earth* doesn't automatically arrest or reverse the aging process. He could still die of old age, unless God also glorified him.

    2. Over two decades ago when I believed in the heresies of Armstrongism I remember it was common for the splinter groups to argue that Elijah wasn't assumed into heaven but continued to live on earth and died a natural death. They were motivated to teach that because of their distinctive theology.

      Their argument for Elijah returning to earth is based on a letter Jehoram received from Elijah AFTER the whirlwind and chariots of fire incident. The letter is recorded in 2 Chron. 21:12-15.

      Here's a LINK to an article by one of the Armstrongite splinter groups.

    3. We must also be careful about how we translate terms. "Heaven" is a loaded word, with connotations that may not be intended in Kings. It could just mean the "sky."

    4. BTW, I'm not persuaded either way regarding Elijah's fate. I didn't cite the Armstrongite article to prove that Elijah didn't die. As if cultists can never get things right. Of course they sometimes can.

      However, I am persuaded that Enoch was taken to heaven similar to how Jesus ascended to heaven. Cultist interpretations denying Enoch's assumption aren't convincing to me.

  3. On a related note...

    Timothy Kauffman wrote a book titled: Quite Contrary: A Biblical Reconsideration of the Apparitions of Mary

    He spoke on the subject of his book in a conference on Christianity and Roman Catholicism. One can download the lecture at the following url (see Collection 3)

    direct link HERE

    In the lecture he points out that in the various alleged apparitians of Mary, those who claim to see her always describe her looking same way in each particular location. Yet, when you compare the descriptions of her from the different locations (Fatima, Medjugorje, Lourdes, etc.) she's wearing different things. Sometimes with different hair and eye color!!!! Either Mary likes to wear contacts and go to the heavenly beauty salon to get her hair dyed, or possibly these are demonic in origin. From my own Christian perspective, I think it's highly likely they're demonic. If all of them are genuine, why not appear with the same clothing, hair color and eye color? Especially since, truth is often distinguished by its consistency. If one (or more) of them is genuine, and some false, has any of the apparitions denounced the others which are false? These apparitions have had many things to say and it's only natural for people (including the real Mary) to want to denounce impostors.

    Also, according to Kauffman, scientists have monitored the brainwaves and eye movements of some of the people "fortunate" enough to be chosen to be able see "Mary" and supposedly the change in brainwaves and eye direction is synchronous. And the focal point of their eyes are at the same coordinates. Which suggests that the experiences are real and that they are actually seeing something.

    1. (Alleged) apparitions of Mary typically reflect artistic traditions and local iconography.

    2. It only makes sense for demons who are trying to convince humans that they are Mary to make themselves appear like the "Mary" the locals imagine her to look like. Of course, a group hallucination would result in the same thing. But group hallucinations don't have the individuals recording the exact same experience and message. I think Jason (the Triablogger here) suggests the possibility of a psychic projection by one multiple people in the group. I suppose that's a possibility, but I don't think it's likely because these type of group experiences (seem to me to) occur in settings where worldviews issues hang in the balance. In other words, in spiritual settings (of one sort or another). This suggests to me a personal agent is (or agents are) intending to deceive those who are experiencing the phenomenon. Why don't similar phenomenon happen in more neutral or non-spiritual settings?

      Maybe they do. Maybe that accounts for why fans of various sports teams can all agree that a ruling on a play was either a good or bad call by the referee. Fans from both sides of the game may be experiencing two different group hallucinations. heh