May 24, 2024

A Magical World: How the Bible Makes Sense of the Supernatural with Matthew McGuire

A Magical World: How the Bible Makes Sense of the Supernatural with Matthew McGuire

Join us as we dive into the captivating world of Matthew McGuire's "A Magical World." Praised as "well written, well researched, engaging... fascinating" by Stephen G. Dempster, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Crandall University. Matthew McGuire bravely treads where many fear to go, offering a thorough examination of supernatural phenomena. Whether you’re a sceptic or a believer, this discussion will challenge your views and reveal the deeper, spiritual dimensions of our universe. Tune in for a thought-provoking journey!

My Special Guest Is Matthew McGuire

Matthew McGuire is a graduate of Crandall University, with a degree in Biblical Studies. He has long had an interest in the supernatural aspect of the Christian faith. His recent book explores the interplay between the Christian tradition and modern paranormal research. In April of 2024, he published A Magical World: How the Bible Makes Sense of the Supernatural, which tackles topics such as ESP, Near-death Experiences, Spirit Possession, and Ghosts. More details at

In this episode, you will be able to:

1. Explore concepts such as the 'unquiet dead' and the 'blessed dead'.

2. Explore the Biblical perspectives on the Supernatural.

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Michelle: Welcome to Haunted History Chronicles, the podcast where we unravel the mysteries of the past one ghostly tale at a time. I'm your host, Michelle, and I'm thrilled to be your guide on this eerie journey through the pages of history. Picture this a realm where the supernatural intertwines with the annals of time, where the echoes of the past reverberate through haunted corridors and forgotten landscapes. That's the realm we invite you to explore with us. Each episode will unearth stories, long buried secrets, dark folklore, tales of the macabre, and discuss parapsychology topics from ancient legends to more recent enigmas. We're delving deep into locations and accounts all around the globe, with guests joining me along the way. But this podcast is also about building a community of curious minds like you. Join the podcast on social media, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share your own ghostly encounters, theories, and historical curiosities. Feel free to share with friends and family. The links are conveniently placed in the description for easy access. So whether you're a history buff with a taste for the supernatural or a paranormal enthusiast with a thirst for knowledge, haunted history chronicles is your passport to the other side. Get ready for a ride through the corridors of time where history and the supernatural converge, because every ghost has a story, and every story has a history. And now let's introduce today's podcast or guest. Welcome to Haunted history Chronicles, where we delve into the mysterious realms that lie beyond the veil of the ordinary. Joining me today is Matthew McGuire, the insightful author behind a magical how the Bible makes sense of the supernatural. In his work, Matthew delves deep into questions such as, are miracles mere violations of natural laws? Or do they hint it deeper spiritual dimensions? Are ghosts and demons relics of ancient mythology? Or do they still roam the shadows of our world? Is there truth behind modern day exorcisms, prophetic abilities, and near death experiences? Through meticulous research, interviews, and personal reflection, Matthew guides us through these haunting inquiries, offering a tapestry of insights that blend theology, history, and human experience. With over 900 endnotes and 400 bibliographic entries, Matthew's work is not just intellectually stimulating, but spiritually enriching, appealing to seekers of truth across all walks of life. Whether you're a devout Christian, a staunch materialist, or a curious explorer of eastern mysticism, there's something to challenge and inspire you. Today, Matthew joins us to shed light on the hesitations christians face regarding ghosts, the biblical perspectives on the supernatural, and the shifting attitudes throughout history, from the ancient and medieval periods to the Reformation and Enlightenment ages. Well explore how different traditions have grappled with the mysteries of the afterlife. We'll unravel the distinctions between protestant and catholic views on ghosts and the soul and uncover universal threads that bind humanity's perceptions across cultures and centuries. And as we delve into the concepts of the unquiet, dead and the blessed, we'll discover how these notions resonate with both past and present beliefs, shaping our understanding of life, death and the beyond. We'll explore the significance of open, respectful dialogue in our exploration of the supernatural. In a world where ridicule often stifles honest conversation, Matthew reminds us of the profound importance of sharing our experiences, fears and hopes surrounding the mysteries of the soul and the afterlife. So prepare to open your minds to the magical, the mysterious, and the miraculous, for in the shadows of history, we may just find the keys to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself. Hi, Matthew. Thank you so much for joining me this evening.

Matthew McGuire: Thanks for having me.

Michelle: Do you want to start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about your background with the listeners?

Matthew McGuire: Yeah, Michelle. So I'm across the pond. I'm living in beautiful Maine in New England of the United States. I grew up here. It's a land of mountains. And your audience will be interested as one of the coastal areas of the United States. We've got plenty of old haunted stories and tales, whether from the Native Americans or just from the early colonists. But anyway, I grew up here. I am a Christian. I grew up in the baptist church. I've always been interested in things supernatural, and that's kind of blossomed in the last five to ten years or so. And I'm happy to be talking with you today.

Michelle: What initially got you interested in the topic of the paranormal and the supernatural?

Matthew McGuire: Yeah. So, as I said, I grew up in the baptist church, and if you know anything, I know you may have some friends or family in the church, whether that's the anglican church or another denomination. But for us, religion and spirituality had a lot to do with memorizing and following the instructions in the Bible. But despite the very bookish nature of that spirituality, it wasn't odd for us to hear miracle stories or miraculous answers to prayer, especially because we were encouraged to read a lot of biographies of people that had a close relationship with God and they saw miraculous things happen. I think of the brother Andrew who smuggled Bibles into the Iron Curtain, and he's just got all kinds of these miraculous accounts that follow his faith in God. And so even in a very traditional christian setting, I always had an interest in miracles. And as I grew older, I encountered someone involved in the charismatic renewal. If any of your audience is familiar with that, essentially, it's a movement in the church that is rediscovering the tangible, visible power of the Holy Spirit in today's world. And so that kind of sparked my interest, and that led into an interest also in paranormal and parapsychological studies. And that's kind of all come to fruition with the book that we're discussing today.

Michelle: And, you know, you've written a book called a magical how the Bible makes sense of the supernatural. You just kind of referenced there a little bit. Do you want to give a brief overview of the book and what readers can expect from it in terms of how it's different maybe from other books out there and kind of areas that you cover?

Matthew McGuire: Absolutely. So, Michelle, this book really, I wrote for myself to answer a lot of questions. I noticed that in christian circles, you have a lot of people talking about, you have books about the power of the Holy Spirit, healing, miracles, the topic of exorcism, prophecy, things like that. And then you also have a whole secular field of parapsychological studies, and there's a lot of similarities between the two. But I didn't find a lot of literature that was from a christian perspective and seeing where the lines cross between the power of the Holy Spirit in christian theology and these studies of the paranormal. And one of the topics that I explore, in addition to things like spirit possession, extrasensory perception, near death experiences, and, of course, as I mentioned, the, the gift of prophecy and miracle healings, one of the big topics that I studied was the topic of ghosts and apparitions. And that has been a real enlightening study for me. And it's brought out a lot of stories from christians that were very reluctant to talk about these sort of things because it's very, it's kind of a hole in the wall thing. It's not polite conversation in my circles.

Michelle: It's something that I've spoken about with a previous guest, Matthew Arnold, that there does seem to be this hesitation in discussing stories and accounts of seeing ghosts or experiencing elements of the paranormal with fellow christians. Why do you think there is that hesitation to have that kind of open dialogue?

Matthew McGuire: So I experienced this myself growing up. I was convinced that ghosts were probably fake in most scenarios, or they could be evil spirits. And I think one of the reasons that me and so many other christians default to that sort of view is the Bible is very clear that there's good in the world and there is evil in the world. And this in many ways is helpful because it can cut through a lot of the wishy washy morals that can cause doubt on a lot of ethical situations. But we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss things as evil just because we don't understand them. And I think this is where I came from, and a lot of christians come from on the topic of ghosts, because they can't clearly see the Bible discussing what's the purpose of ghosts? Are ghosts real? So their main objection to them is that we know there are demons out there. We know that what we call Satan has evil influences. So it's natural to assume this supernatural phenomenon that we don't understand must be demonic.

Michelle: So what was it that caused you to change in terms of that shift in your own personal perception and thinking around some of these issues that you've just been talking about?

Matthew McGuire: So it's funny, because, first of all, while that was my view, it was never a very important view for me. I was never thinking of ghosts. It was just kind of marginalized for me. But even when I didn't really believe in them, I still had that back compartment of my mind where my dad told me this story, which is in the chapter on ghosts, where he is convinced that he witnessed an apparition walk up the stairs of his house when he was a young adult and blew this big breeze of wind at him when all the windows were closed. And he had told me that story from a very young age. And so I always kind of had a cognitive dissonance because I heard his story, and I would hear tell of a few other stories that they just didn't line up with. The idea of, this has to be a demon. It seemed more like it was a departed person that had some unfinished business. And the next step for me was about six years ago when I read Rod Dreher's spiritual autobiography. He's a very conservative Christian. He's an eastern orthodox church. And he recounts an episode where he, his mother, and his father, they all experienced the same apparition of his grandfather. And eventually, with the help of a priest and some catholic sisters, they asked Rod Dreher's father to forgive the grandfather. And after that, the apparitions and the poltergeist activity stopped. And I thought to myself, this is very spooky. It's very weird. But it just seems to me that this fits better with the idea that there's a departed spirit than that there is an evil spirit trying to get someone to forgive his father. It just didn't seem to line up. And then from there on, I began to study many other things, but that was really the turning point for me.

Michelle: And I think something that's becoming more and more kind of apparent in all kinds of circles of interest when it comes to the paranormal is just this kind of jump to an assumption that something is non humanoid, that it is demonic, and it's something skinny. And, you know, we see that on television shows. You see it being kind of put out there in terms of the rhetoric by groups, etcetera. And just from your perspective, why do you think that so many assume that ghosts are something evil, something demonic, that there is something else, you know, of that nature going on, as opposed to what you were just expressing, which is, you know, most of this you can align with something more akin to a departed spirit. That's not something sinister, that shouldn't be having that kind of level of fear and scare tactics attached to it, if you like.

Matthew McGuire: Yes. So this really takes us back, Michelle, to the earliest lore for ghosts. And I know Matthew Arnold, one of your previous guests. He's a big fan of Irving Finkel. He's a curator at the British Museum, and he's wrote this amazing book called the first Ghosts. And he talks about the ghosts of Mesopotamia and how, you know, today we think about ghosts as they have unfinished business or they had a violent death or something like that causes them to want to stick around. And it turns out that this is exactly what the ancient Mesopotamians said about their ghosts. Something horrible happened to them before they died, or they have unfinished business. This is the same thing that Socrates says. He says, you know, there's these apparitions that hang about graves because they're too attached to their earthly lives. We later find a christian theologian, Gregory of Nyssa. He talks about the same thing. These souls are too attached to the world. So it really came to a turning point for me from the demonic theory to the departed human spirit theory, when I came across this concept of the unquiet dead. And I think, to answer your question, why is there so many scare tactics? Why are we so afraid of them? I think part of that is because most of these spirits are indeed unquiet. They're upset. They have unresolved things, and so they're causing havoc. I think it's a situation that should be dealt with, with compassion rather than with demonization. You know, I don't watch a lot of ghost hunting shows. I'm only vaguely familiar with them. In fact, they make me a little bit uncomfortable. And something that has come to my mind recently is that when people are, you know, making these tv programs, trying to hunt down ghosts, and if they do it in a disrespectful way, it's almost like when you put this glorious lion in a tiny little zoo and you coop them up, you're gawking at them. I don't think ghosts should be treated that way. If they really are departed human spirits and they need to move on, they need to, you know, I come from a very strong belief in Christ, and I believe souls on this side of death and on the other side of death, they need to come to Christ and be resolved of their sins and be resolved of their angst and all of those things. So I think the fact that they are distressed is one of the reasons that we see poltergeist activity and spooky phenomenon. And because of the spooky things, we label them evil spirits. But I think it's more a compassion situation where the ghosts, they need to move on. They need to have some kind of resolution.

Michelle: So do you want to just describe some of the biblical author's position in terms of the ideas of ghosts from your research that you kind of touch upon in the book?

Matthew McGuire: Absolutely. So this was another turning point for me, because I always thought the Bible doesn't say anything about ghosts, but just because it doesn't come up in my catechism and my instruction doesn't mean it's not there. And so what we have to do is understand the Bible on its own terms. Instead of post enlightenment materialism and the world in which the Bible was written in the ancient Near east, all the surrounding cultures had been basically the same belief in ghosts, whether it's Egypt or Mesopotamia. You can even go further on and look at ancient India and China. They all had this belief in ghosts of violent deaths and unfinished business. You find it in Homer's odyssey, all sorts of things like that. And so the presumption would be the biblical authors would probably have the same view, unless they specifically state otherwise. And one of the supports for that is that prohibition of necromancy and inquiring of the dead. In the Old Testament, Yahweh, who is the God of the Israelites, he demands to be the source of spiritual knowledge for his people. He is their patron, he is their provider. And so he expressly prohibits people inquiring of dead spirits to get knowledge. Now, my question is for Bible believers. Why would God prohibit something that isn't possible to do? I think instead of him prohibiting inquiring of the dead, just as a polemic against other nations. It's a real prohibition because it's a real thing to do. And this is what a very, very popular Bible scholar, Doctor Michael Heiser, who recently passed away. This was his view. And you see a similar event with Saul through the ghost mistress of Endor conjuring up the ghost of Samuel. The scripture writer says that it was Samuel. Now, when we get to the New Testament, some people would see a shift there, but really, you see the same thing where ghosts are just sort of assumed as part of a supernatural worldview. When Jesus is walking on the waters of Galilee, the disciples are afraid that they have seen a ghost. And one of the reasons behind this is seas and oceans. They're often seen as a place of many ghosts because many sailors have died. And so they naturally believe that he's a ghost. Of course he's not. In this instance, after the crucifixion, they believe that he's a ghost when they see him walking along the seashore, because the crucifixion was a violent death. And it's a classic case. It's, you know, it's like the basics abcs of how do you get a ghost? You have a violent death with unfinished business. And so they're afraid they see a ghost. And then later on in the Book of Acts, when Peter is released from prison, which it's very likely he was released from the Antonia fortress, a very well guarded place, by an angel, he's knocking at the door of their house where they're praying for him. And when the servant girl says, peter's at the door, they say, oh, no, it must be his angel. And that word angel is often used as a euphemism for his ghost. So the disciples, even though they had spent all this time with Jesus, they continued this belief in ghosts before, during, and after the time of Jesus. So I think it's pretty safe to say the biblical authors presumed that ghosts existed, even though they never wrote a treatise on it. There's no book that directly deals with it, but it just was a default assumption, just like all the other ancient.

Michelle: Peoples around them, which I think is really telling. And I've had that conversation in other podcasts with other guests and in so many different guises and forms, just that, that in these very ancient civilizations, this was not something to be disputed. It was fact. It was part of everyday life. And so you can understand how, therefore, in these texts, that actually it is just an assumed fact as opposed to something that you have to keep laboring. And I think that's something very different, that for us to recognize that these very early civilizations, their viewpoint was that this was something very normal and not something to be suspicious or doubtful of. It was part of the everyday human condition in terms of thinking about what could or couldn't happen to the departed. So taking us back through those different generations of writers, do you want to just kind of explore the kind of the progression in terms of the writers and their perspectives on ghosts, say, the ancient and the medieval periods through to the Reformation and the Enlightenment ages, etcetera, and kind of just chart some of those positions and changes and whether there are similarities and differences that maybe you can draw upon that you think are important for the listeners to be aware of.

Matthew McGuire: Absolutely. And, you know, it's a funny thing, Michelle, with the ancient church, you can find, if you look hard enough, you can find all sorts of different beliefs and all sorts of different things. So that's exactly what you'll find with the early church writers. You'll find people like Justin Martyr in the second century who he spoke of the ghosts mentioned by Socrates. He's like, see, yeah, ghosts exists. And he talks about the ghosts in Homer's odyssey, things like that. So he clearly believes in them. But then you have other writers like Tertullian, who's the next century, and he states that all these supposed ghosts are demonic impostors. And I'm not certain he's the first one to think of it. It's very hard to track those things down. But he's certainly the most well known proponent of it, and he's the reason that that view has had a steady stream of supporters for many years. But certainly the view was not changed at his point. There was concurrent thinkers alongside him. Now, you have one of the most famous writers, of course, is Saint Augustine, and he was very reluctant to admit the existence of ghosts. He was very well informed about them. I tracked down a letter where one of his friends talks about these ghostly apparitions at sepulchres and graves. And he just sort of sidesteps that and answers a different question. But with martyrs, he made an exception. He said, yes, sometimes the martyrs, because they have this extra glory from their faithfulness to the Lord, they will appear after their death. And in fact, Augustine's mentor, Ambrose, he passed away before Augustine, of course. And Augustine commissioned the biography of Ambrose. In that biography, it tells of after his death, Ambrose appeared to several holy men to give them instructions about their life. And so Ambrose himself, I don't believe, was a martyr. But Augustine seemed to think that it was a rare exception. It was like water turning into wine or Lazarus coming back from the dead. Ghosts were very rare. So you can find all sorts of views throughout the ancient period. So for me, as a protestant believer, I really try to dig up my sources when it comes to the Reformation era. And beyond that. Catholics, on the one hand, they are more open to the idea of ghosts because they have a much bigger view of the communion of the saints. It's a regular part of their life to communicate with the saints for their needs and just to have this back and forth. Protestants are very wary of that. And when the Reformation happened, there was all the abuses that had to do with indulgences and purgatory. And one of the catholic defenses of the doctrine of purgatory was that they had all these ghosts. And they said, well, these ghosts are obviously in purgatory, so this proves our doctrine as a knee jerk reaction. Most of the early reformers rejected ghosts as real human spirits. Martin Luther would be among them. What's interesting to me, Michelle, is that about 150 years later, they didn't seem to be able to hold down the ghost stories enough, because these giants of the reformed community, especially in England, such as Richard Baxter, Joseph Glanville, some other big names, they started to speak about ghosts as proof of the soul and proof of the afterlife because they were dealing with so much skepticism, which they called sadduceeism, of the human soul or the eternity even existing. And so the reform side, the protestant side of the church, really suppressed ghost stories for a long time. But then they seemed to crop back up here and there, especially around 1660 through the end of that century. And I trace throughout the chapter on ghosts the exceptions to the demonic interpretation all throughout church history, from, as I said, Richard Baxter in the 17th century to Johann Blumhardt in the 18 hundreds, John Wesley before that. And there's even some interesting stories of Cs Lewis appearing to one of his friends after his death. But without getting into all the details, I would just say that christians of all eras have believed in ghosts. So it's not as if this is some superstition. It's just being borrowed from other religions. This has always been a belief in the christian church, although it's oftentimes it has been a minority belief.

Michelle: If you've been enraptured by the chilling tales and enigmas unveiled throughout our podcast spectral journey, now's your chance to become an integral part of our ghostly congregation. You see, as we delve deeper into the mysteries of the past. We need your support now more than ever. But fear not, for there are a myriad of ways you can help keep the supernatural flames burning bright. Firstly, have you ever considered treating our podcast to a virtual coffee? Picture it a humble offering to fuel our relentless pursuit of haunted histories. Just head over to ko hauntedhistorychronicles and join us for a caffeine infused seance. But that's merely the beginning of our spectral soiree. For those intrepid souls yearning for deeper communion with the paranormal, consider joining our exclusive Patreon family. From March onwards, our Patreon page will be a haven of clandestine content with weekly podcasts and daily long and short form offerings. Yes, you heard it right. Daily doses of the supernatural, a veritable paranormal advent calendar for your soul. So why hesitate? Journey forth to forward slash haunted history chronicles and become a patron today. But wait, the spirit of generosity lingers still. If you seek to flaunt your allegiance to the haunted history chronicles in more tangible ways, venture into our newly unearthed merchandise crypt. From mugs that whisper their secrets to clothing that echoes with ghostly laughter, our shop is a sanctuary for the discerning paranormal aficionado. Just visit and traverse to the Haunted History Chronicles shop page to adorn yourself with our spectral regalia. Whether it's bestowing a virtual coffee, joining our spectral society on Patreon, or donning haunted history chronicles apparel, your support keeps the ethereal flames alight. Remember, every spectral contribution fuels our pursuit of unearthly truths, propelling us ever deeper into the realms of shadows and whispers. So heed the call, dear listeners. The links to our spectral sanctuaries await in the shadows of the podcast description notes as well as our haunted haunts on social media, dare to embrace the unknown, to journey deeper into the veiled corridors of history. For only together can we keep the ghostly embers glowing, illuminating the darkness with tales untold. Now let us return to the mysteries that beckon from beyond the veil. What spectres await? What secrets lie dormant, waiting to be unearthed? Let us venture forth, for the journey into the unknown has only just begun. And I think that's the unifying thing about it, that actually, when we really do examine the topic of the supernatural and the belief in ghosts, that this is something that permeates into nearly all religions and all cultures around the world, and that we can trace this back to something so ancient that, you know, I think when you, when you have that element across all religions, etcetera, and all parts of the world. I think that's very unifying, and I think it speaks to these very wide topics that surround the supernatural, that really engage people in these types of conversations, whether it is about the soul, whether it is about what happens after death, the afterlife, ghosts, the supernatural, the paranormal. You know, you can see how they then all come together, because there's something very unifying in just the question itself.

Matthew McGuire: Absolutely.

Michelle: So what would you say? These depictions and positions help to really kind of highlight and show around perceptions of ghosts.

Matthew McGuire: So the universal aspect of it is really important to me. And I think we're entering an era where the new atheism of the, the early two thousands is really on a decline, and we're no longer, at least my intuition is that we're no longer on this religion versus atheism trajectory. It more seems to be a competing panorama of spiritualities. And they all have their own explanations of the world, because I think so many people with the power of the Internet and sharing their stories, people coming out, there's even a website for credentialed scientists to share their mystical experiences. We're coming to an age where people just can't deny the supernatural. You think even of someone like Thomas Nagel that I believe he's recently deceased. He was a philosopher at New York University, and he wrote mind and Cosmos, and he wrote of all the aspects of mind in the universe that a sheer materialism simply cannot account for. And I think he adopted a sort of a panpsychist view. So you've got something like that. You've got esoteric religion, you've got Hinduism. You've got new age strands of thought or paranormal affixionados. You've got all sorts of these spiritual esque views. And no longer, I don't see a strict atheism as very prevalent. So looking at ghosts just kind of adds to that mix. And people see that this is not just confined to one culture or another culture. This is a universal human experience.

Michelle: Which comes back to what I was just saying, that universal, unifying thread that seems to pull us all together, that this is a human question. It's something that at some point or another, I think we all think about what happens to us after death, what happens to our soul, and questions around whether the soul can survive after death and in what form that can take. Yeah, it's something that I think intrigues people at various times of their life, for whatever reason. For most people, anyway.

Matthew McGuire: Absolutely. And that's the other thing I found, is a lot of people are willing to share. Once you have expressed your own earnestness and listening and once you've shared some of your own stories, I've found that everyone, almost without exception, has some sort of supernatural or something they cannot explain. And we're just coming to a point where people are trying to take these experiences and make sense of them. That's something I attempt to do in the book. And one of the chapters, in fact, is on near death experiences. And I pointed out this very curious episode. Some of these experiences, if your audience knows people leave their bodies. Sometimes they go into otherworldly realms. Sometimes they roam the earth. And one of these experiences that. That's on record, a gentleman is taking this tour of the world with a being of light that he interprets to be Jesus Christ. And he's floating around looking at people, and he sees these figures that I believe are ghosts. And he sees a woman that's pestering her son in law and telling them who he should have married. Or he sees this other person barking orders at a factory, but nobody can hear him. He sees another person, lady trying to grab a cigarette, but her hand, you know, goes right through the person. I don't want to put too much stock in one experience, but it's very curious how this vision of people, you know, hovering over their old places of residence and their old attachments, it lines up strikingly well with the idea of the ghost.

Michelle: And I think you touched upon something really relevant in sharing that example and the fact that you do bring this into the book, this element of the importance of being able to have this open discourse around this topic without fear of ridicule. Because I do think, you know, any time you mention a ghost or a story of a ghost or someone has something that they want to share, you know, you're going to get that look from someone, aren't you? And I think that's something that can be very difficult to deal with. If you are experiencing something, if there's something that's happened to you that you can't explain and you can't come to grips with. You know, say, for example, the near death experience that you, you referenced a moment ago. If someone, someone experiences something like that, what do you do? If you have no one that you can speak to and you have had an experience that profound, to feel ridiculed by sharing that is just. I mean, it's mind boggling to me, the, the impact and the effect that, that, that can have. And I just don't think it does any service to not be able to have a discourse around a subject, even if it's not something you necessarily believe in, you know, you should be able to have a healthy discussion. There should be an openness around the topics of death, dying and what happens. Those shouldn't be taboo subjects. And I think this is part of the reason why there aren't that many healthy conversations going on, or as many healthy conversations around this topic going on, because I think it's something that more and more over time, we've. We've become frightened to talk about. It's become something less and less familiar to us in the sense that, you know, compare how we deal with the dead and care for the dead compared to 100 years ago. We're now very distant from it. And I think we can see that in the lack of conversations that we have. And it's so shame. And, you know, I saw it personally, and I spoke of this with, with Matthew Arnold a few weeks ago. You know, I've seen this personally with my brother's fiance, who had a very, very serious traumatic injury a couple of years ago. Now that she's still dealing with. And she was in hospital for several weeks. She was in a coma for several weeks, and she experienced a near death experience. She experienced a number of things during that time. And as a devout Christian, coming out of that experience and wanting to share and talk about something very profound for her, she found she couldn't speak to her community about it because it wasn't something that she could speak about in her church. And, you know, the friends and the community that she had in her church near her. And that was devastating for her. And that's where you can see how, actually we need to be more proactive and more open, I think, to these types of dialogues. And as I say, it's something that you really do bring to the attention of in your book, the importance to have that dialogue and the reasons why, I think, are just so obvious.

Matthew McGuire: Yes, Michelle, I know several people that have had similar unfortunate encounters with their local clergy just not having categories to understand those experiences. And so I try to give charity because clergy have a lot of pastoral work to do, simply with counseling and managing a lot of things. And sometimes I think the seminaries that we train people in are so academic and so divorced from supernatural experience that we just don't prepare our clergy. But I want. I'm speaking a lot to my brothers and sisters in the church. Our faith has so much to offer those who have supernatural experiences just for the topic of ghosts alone or our respect for those that have gone before us. You think of these old white churches, at least around New England, where I live, one thing that you will consistently notice is there is a graveyard right next to the church. People just had this respect and honor of the people that went before them. And they also had an acute awareness of their own incoming death. And so they would walk right through or right past that graveyard and all the headstones of their ancestors as they went to the church, and those ancestors would be on their mind. Now, this doesn't mean they worship their ancestors or anything like that, but they had a respect for them. And one thing that is in my book is I highlight the ministry of someone like Doctor Kenneth McCall. He was a missionary in China, and he had to change his views about not only demons, but also about ghosts through his experiences. And he worked in the anglican church, he worked alongside Roman Catholics, he worked alongside evangelicals, and he had a very unique ministry of performing a lord's Supper or a Eucharist service at haunted locations. And what he found was time and time again as he did this Eucharist service, and he performed what's called a requiem, just a memorial service for these locations. And whatever inhabitants may or may not have been there, the hauntings and the poltergeist activity would consistently stop. And so what he sees is the power of Christ. And we know Christ is associated with self sacrifice, forgiveness of sins and eternal glory. That eucharist that reenacts that whole gospel message brings peace to these haunted locations. And I think as Christians, it's a shame that we don't think more of the power of Christ over the spiritual realm, which is a. I address this in the topic of spirit possession, universally of miracle healings, the gift of prophecy. You see the power of Christ over so many supernatural areas of life. And I want my christian brothers and sisters not to be afraid of these things, but to hold up the name of Christ and offer something to the world that is being inundated with supernatural experiences.

Michelle: So coming back to something that you touched upon really briefly earlier that you do obviously talk about in the book, which are these terms of blessed dead and unquiet dead. And I know you've spoken a little about the unquiet dead in the conversation that we've had so far. Do you want to just explain what those terms are and maybe elaborate how they relate to previous and current positions on ghosts and perceptions of ghosts?

Matthew McGuire: So this was interesting for me to see a categorization of ghosts. So the unquiet dead that you mentioned, that seems to be the majority report for cultures all around the world, mostly they're recounting the negative stories, the poltergeist activity, the ghosts that come back with some unfinished business. You think of the play Hamlet and the father that wants revenge for his killer. That's the sort of unquiet dead or the unquiet ghost. But the other type that I found, especially reading all the church writers, is that of the blessed dead. And so this would include people like the martyrs that would visit people and give instruction. And I found that starting with Moses and Elijah, if you know your scripture, in Matthew, chapter 17, Jesus ascends the mount of transfiguration, and he's visited by Moses and Elijah. Elijah never experienced physical death, but he was taken up into heaven, whereas Moses had definitely died. They come down to the land of the living and they confer with Christ. And so this is an example of the blessed. They don't have unfinished business. They don't have an axe to grind. They're just visiting for what's what I call a holy errand. And so I found examples of this all throughout church history and coming to the 20th century. As I mentioned earlier, CS Lewis passed away, and three days later, one of his friends. It wasn't a super close friend. They'd only met once, and they'd written several letters. But he's a very well respected New Testament scholar and translator, JB Phillips. He reports that on two occasions, the apparition of CS Lewis not only appeared to him while he was watching television, but he gave him some very specific words of encouragement and instruction on a project that he was working on or a certain circumstance in his life, and that propelled him to overcome some difficulties. It was a special two occasion visit. It wasn't this prolonged haunting. And so Dale Allison, he's a Princeton scholar. He reports after his friend Barbara died, she appeared at his bedside a few days later. And it was just this one time thing. It gave him an assurance that she's okay, and he received this assurance that life continues beyond the grave. So the blessed dead is this whole other category where the people that have peace with God, they come down for a special errands, for encouragement or some other thing that God has ordained.

Michelle: And just kind of to finally bring to light something again that I think you briefly touched upon, but you talk about, you know, in depth in the book is this notion of requiem healing. Do you want to just explain what that term means and then explain the tradition and what's in involved?

Matthew McGuire: So this is interesting. I used to think this topic was a little bit superstitious. I was very anti, anti ritual and that sort of thing. Like you can't perform a ritual or an act and bring peace to a, you know, a spirit. It just. I grew up with a very anti ritual perspective on this. However, as I looked at, as I mentioned, Doctor Kenneth McCall's ministry and I reflected on my own experience. Even in our baptist church when someone passes away as part of the service, we pray, we commend their soul to the hands of the Lord and we commend them to the mercy of the Lord. There's something special about commemorating someone that has gone on to their final destination. And it's curious. As I was researching this, I found in some jewish works written in the first century AD. One of them is the book of fourth Ezra and the other one is the book of the life of Adam and Eve. And both of them have these curious sections where it talks about a spirit hovering around for seven days after they die. So they get like this little, few extra days to kind of see what goes on after. I thought that was very curious. Not to say that I take it at face value, but there was a tradition that people seem to linger for a few days after their death. And I think we tell these jokes about, hey, I'm gonna see who's at my funeral and things like that. I think there might actually be something to it. And even someone like Doctor Michael Heiser has shared experiences of mutual friends just appearing at funerals and then disappearing. Things like that. I think the idea of a requiem or a memorial to give peace to a ghost or just to bring closure, it was something I resisted at first, but I think there really is something to it. And in fact, when I started asking around, I found a gentleman at my own church that he and the elders of the church, they prayed at this haunted location. They anointed the places with oil because in the christian tradition oil has a sacredness to it. They preached the message of forgiveness of sins and they really felt that this resolved that ghosts being stuck. And after that there was no more poltergeist activity. There was no more haunting at that location. So requiem healing simply means committing a spirit to the Lord, committing a lingering soul or a troubled soul to the care of Christ. Who is the Lord of forgiveness. He's the Lord of grace. And this is something the church has to offer. But it's a very forgotten and neglected tool.

Michelle: And again, I think it's worth talking about it because I think again, the go to perception that many people will have is the images that they can conjure from television, from media, where you see something more dramatic like an exorcism. And that's the go to assumption of how you deal with something along these lines. But actually, you know, having spoken to deliverance ministers before, what they do and the work that the church can provide, the support and the help that they can provide is so very different. And again, I think it's important and relevant to raise that with people so that there is, I think, a deeper understanding of, like you said, what can be offered to people who have a need for this kind of support or this kind of community, I suppose, is, again, the right word, something that you can tap into it as and when you may or may not need it.

Matthew McGuire: Absolutely.

Michelle: Matthew, it's been so interesting talking to you. I mean, it's an incredible book, and it's one that I really highly recommend for anybody who has an interest. I don't think it's just some, something that would interest somebody if they are of faith. I think, you know, this is for any person of any walk of life who has an interest in the soul, the afterlife, the supernatural, the christian position. I mean, you can come at this from so many different viewpoints and different angles. It's an incredibly immersive book. It's so incredibly well researched. There are so many reference points and, and you can see the meticulous, meticulous research that you've done in bringing all those threads together. Do you want to just, again, share with, you know, what they can expect, the kinds of things that they will be able to take away from picking up your book if they grab a copy?

Matthew McGuire: Yeah. Well, thank you for inviting me to do that, Michelle. So the book is really in two parts. The first part is all about worldviews, what presuppositions we bring to the table. My first chapter addresses the objection that miracles violate nature, which is more for the skeptical side, the atheist side. The next chapter is mainly written to my fellow christians that are hesitant about the supernatural. In the third chapter kind of gives a biblical basis for the rest of the book. But then once you get past that, into the real meat of the book, I talk about extrasensory perception, christian prophecy, spirit possession, near death experiences and healing miracles, and of course, ghosts. All those things I found are universal to human experience, and I painstakingly show the objective data that point to it. So the first part of every chapter shows the objective data for these supernatural experiences. And I think it would be very difficult to walk away from the book in good faith and not believe in these supernatural things. And then every chapter also has a second part, which is me as a Christian, I'm trying to make sense of it all and see how Christ as Lord of all creation, how he fits in with all this. And I point out those areas where the name of Christ, things like when the Christians came on the scene, they could expel demons, or they could do exorcisms where the other exorcists couldn't. And you can even find this in the greek magical papyri, where non Christians would use the name of Jesus because they found it was so effective in exorcism. So I point out little things like that that show a christian take on these topics. And I think it's very inviting, as you said, not only to Christians, but really to people from all walks of life that are curious about how all of these threads intersect with each other.

Michelle: As I say, it's just so fascinating to talk to you. And the book is a reflection of the type of conversation that we've had this evening. You know, it's just so enriching and like I said, it's so immersive, it's so well researched and it's for everybody. So, you know, it's one I recommend. And I will make sure to put the links in the description notes for the podcast and on the website as to where people can find the book so that they can be easily signposted to it and yourself. And you know, I encourage people to, to take a look if they are interested and to follow up by seeing more of what you're doing. And yeah, honestly, I appreciate you giving your time to share your insight and your thoughts on the topic this evening. Thank you so much. It's just been incredible to talk to you.

Matthew McGuire: I very much appreciate the hospitality. For anyone that's interested, the book website is amagicalworld info and you can go go straight to Amazon from there, see some more information. I also have a author website,, where you can see a few other things that I've written in other appearances. And I just want to thank all of you guys that have listened and I just, it is my prayer that these subjects would not be just for mere curiosity or for spookiness, but they would just be enriching to your personal life and spiritual maturity.

Michelle: Honestly, thank you. It's been such a privilege to chat with you. It's been really wonderful. So thank you so much and I will say goodbye to everybody listening. Bye everyone.

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Matthew McGuire

Author of A Magical World: How the Bible Makes Sense of the Supernatural

Matthew McGuire is a graduate of Crandall University, with a degree in Biblical Studies. He has long had an interest in the supernatural aspect of the Christian faith. His recent book explores the interplay between the Christian tradition and modern paranormal research. In April of 2024, he published A Magical World: How the Bible Makes Sense of the Supernatural, which tackles topics such as ESP, Near-death Experiences, Spirit Possession, and Ghosts. More details at