It’s That Time of Year Again: Halloween

trick-or-treating1
It’s that time of year again. This is the season where God displays his beauty in the shades of orange, yellow, red and brown through the leaves that hang from trees. For me, it is also a time of anticipation as we lead up to the season of Advent-Christmas. But during this period, it also launches the infamous day of Halloween. And thus, I share my annual Halloween post.

Halloween, marked every year by the calendar date of October 31st, is a debated day, at least for many a Christians. It is quite a celebrated day amongst Americans. The stores are stocked with all things orange and black. It started nearly 2 months ago!

Certainly Christians have deliberated on the value of this day for decades on end. And, no doubt, many Christians would rather decline an invitation to dress-up in a costume and march around the neighborhood, all with the intent of speaking the infamous words, “Trick or Treat,” at each door knocked upon.

So, is Halloween harmful, even evil? Or is it just a simple ploy to get some free candy? I mean, can’t we just dress up as clowns or firemen (or Bible characters) in our attempt to collect some complimentary candy? What are we to make of all this hype, for America does know how to hype its holidays? Those are the questions that might just beg themselves.

History of Halloween

What many of us don’t realize is that all commercialized holidays actually have a history – how they came to be what they are today. The current practices of festivals and holidays are usually a small shadow of what they started out as, taking a few noted twists and turns over the decades, even centuries. The same is true of Halloween.

In short, Halloween is connected to an ancient Gaelic festival long ago in which the Celtic people celebrated the end of the harvest, as well as the Celtic New Year (known as Samhain, pronounced sow-en). It was also a time used to stock up on supplies, slaughter livestock in preparation for the winter, as well as burn crops and livestock during a special fire for the Druids (these were simply the learned class amongst the Celts, despite many other tales about them). These ancient Gaels also believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between the living and the dead would disappear and, thus, this could result in certain problems for the living.

Sounds spooky, right?

Well, doubtless this festival was part of a pagan culture, though, interestingly enough, the people would later be reached and impacted with the gospel. But, instead of labeling it all as part of an evil society full of demonic practices, the festival should probably be seen as consisting of some simple superstitions of that ancient Gaelic culture. Nothing more, nothing less.

Specifically, Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV were responsible for bringing a Christian emphasis into this holiday during the 7th and 8th centuries AD. October 31st became known as All Hallows’ Eve and November 1 became known as All Hallows’ Day, or now known as All Saint’s Day (now an annual national holiday celebrated by many European countries). This is where we get the current name Halloween.

Thus, a very brief history.

Halloween for the Christian Today

It is true that Halloween has some very strange practices that have become more recently linked with it – ghosts, goblins, monsters, witches, black-magic, occultic practices, divination, etc, etc. But, what is noteworthy, yet contrary to much Christian teaching, is that hardly any of this stuff was actually initially connected to the Gaelic festival of centuries and centuries past.

So, what’s my point?

I am taking somewhat of a long route in looking to hint that we do not have to get bent out of shape at the thought of some people, even some Christians, participating in Halloween festivities. No, I am not advocating witchcraft or occultic practices. But what I am advocating might be summed up in these well-known words: Be in the world but not of the world.

Thus, for the Christ-follower, though they would never desire to join in evil practices, they do know, or at least I hope they do know, that they are called to be salt and light in this world (Matt 5:13-16). Our call is to consider how we can faithfully walk into situations with a missional perspective of interacting with real human beings in our real world.

We are not called to hide, we are not called to crawl under baskets. Rather, light is given that it might be seen.

If we all simply stay in our houses during the night of October 31st, or we simply create our own alternative festivals in our own buildings on the same eve, how will we ever be able to interact with those who need to take a step into the renewal of all things in Christ? I believe this is all part of a misguided and unhelpful desire to build what we call “Christian-ghettos.” We fear our interaction with the world, so we make our own bookshops, our own sports gymnasiums, our own clubs, our own everything. And the motto of such a practice ends up sounding something like this: “We’re doing the Christian thing over here. We will go over here and play. You guys stay over there.”

This may just be diametrically opposed to Christ’s call that we be salt and light. A reverse response to Christ’s prayer (John 17) and sending us into the world.

Fall Festivals (as alternatives to Halloween) aren’t wrong. But no one will ever know the salt and no one will ever see the light if we merely lock ourselves in our homes or if we only ever drive to our church structures for alternative parties.

Now, in the end, my call is not that we all run out and buy costumes and get ready to hit the streets in a few days’ time. And, of course, with young children, we need to be wise and consider these things faithfully (I have a 1, 6 and 8-year old). But, if you get invited to a Halloween party, then I encourage you to go, for who knows what God might be working behind the scenes. If they start reading-palms, which is probably few and far between, then don’t participate. And if asked why, then let them know, but, as a quick reminder, do let your words be filled with grace (Col 4:6).

Or, if your kids want to dress up and go around the neighborhood to collect some candy, know it’s really ok. If kids stop by your house voicing, “Trick or Treat!”, then give them some candy, and you don’t even have to secretly drop a cheesy tract into their bag. Bless them, smile at them, speak kindly. And I’m sure you can think of other helpful connections for the gospel that are authentic and real. Don’t take up the job description of “Halloween scrooge.”

Again, you don’t have to search out a party to attend, you don’t have to dress up as a clown (which could prove scarier than a witch!), and you most assuredly don’t have to participate in anything outright evil. But, if the opportunity presents itself, might I encourage us to consider how we can live out the call of God in the midst of a people that have no idea of the grace of God? Might I challenge us to ponder the possibilities of a grace-empowered person walking into a house full of non-Christians who all have on costumes while playing games and dancing to some tunes?

Sure, some will participate in evil activities on this day. And we should pray for protection, pray for right-living, pray for God’s heart to be known to our neighbors. But, for the majority of the hundreds of thousands that will participate in Halloween, they won’t be pulling out the tarot cards. So, might this coming Halloween night be an opportunity to sprinkle a little salt and shine a little light into the lives of people whom our God is just waiting to draw to himself?

It just might be so.

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24 thoughts on “It’s That Time of Year Again: Halloween

  1. Amen, Scott! Let us “redeem the day” back for the Lord. Why LET things be “given over to Satan”. We should deny him ANY power over us, and celebrate God’s deliverance from superstitious nonsense and His handiwork we see in nature during the fall.

    Happy Halloween!

  2. FiveCentFather “Amen, Scott! Let us “redeem the day” back for the Lord.”

    Some scripture please where something overtly and manifestly pagan was redeemed “back” for the Lord? Either testament? Precept or example? Just one will do. I’ll be waiting.

    • Hey, Tribiulus. Nice to hear from you.

      Well, you know me, I’m not one to need a specific scripture for every situation in life.

      But I see it like this.

      1. it somewhat falls under “Christian liberty” as defined by Rom 14. (though I admit it fits rather weakly there). The main idea being different people view different days as “bad” or “good” according to their own experiences, upbringing, etc. I won’t “diss” someone for NOT partaking, but I don’t see any reason why not to personally.

      2. Jesus is redeeming EVERYTHING back to Himself. That would include EVERY day, whether it was a supposed “pagan” day or not. The Catholic church really took to this idea, purposefully REPLACING pagan holidays with “spiritual” ones. I don’t think we need to go that far, but to each his own.

      3. I’m sure you don’t think we should just “give up” the day to Satan with our hands in the air. “Oh, well, he won that round.” Um, no, he doesn’t WIN anything. Use the day to celebrate whatever you find that is GOOD about this time of year. (“Dwell on these things.”) And frankly, the devil be damned.

      • I wasn’t even talking about Halloween specifically. (I remember you now 🙂 You showed yourself a man of Character over there at Lyndon Unger’s blog, waaaay last year. I was favorably impressed. Most men won’t stand up like that )

        Romans 14 has no application here though brother. You know that. Jewish holy days dedicated to Yahweh are what is under discussion there.
        “Jesus is redeeming EVERYTHING back to Himself. “
        Where do we find this? Are we to expect Christian belly dancers or Christian seances, or Christian gladiators for instance? Where do we see the call for Israel to take back the high places, the Asherah pole and temples of Baal, Marduk and Molech for the worship of the LORD? When was any of this EVER for the Lord in the first place?

        What I see are commands to kill every man, woman and beast because not even the pagan animals are to be used in sacrifice to celebrate the victories of God’s people over His enemies. I see commands to touch not the unclean thing and to come out from among them and be separate. I see the love of the world and the things therein, which while not strictly synonymous with culture, certainly includes it, being declared as evidence of the absence of the love of the Father.

        I see the promise of rescue from the evil age. I see PEOPLE being redeemed everywhere in scripture AND even the elemental creation itself awaiting the deliverance of the sons of God.

        What I don’t see is even one example of a thing of intrinsically evil and vulgar origin being redeemed by God for His use. Do you? That was my question. I’m just gonna need to see scripture for something with those kind of ramifications. It is a night and day difference in the mission of the church. I say when the Lord redeems enough PEOPLE in one place at the same time it has a transformational effect on that society. That is vastly different than trying to Christianize paganism.

        You might want to find a different reason to observe Halloween. Maybe there is one, but this isn’t it. Yes, it’s genuinely nice to bump into you again too. 🙂

      • “What I see are commands to kill every man, woman and beast because not even the pagan animals are to be used in sacrifice to celebrate the victories of God’s people over His enemies. I see commands to touch not the unclean thing and to come out from among them and be separate. I see the love of the world and the things therein, which while not strictly synonymous with culture, certainly includes it, being declared as evidence of the absence of the love of the Father.”

        How do you see this being played out on our modern stage in regards to Halloween, and also in light of Jesus’ message of enemy-love and non-violence? In other words, what do YOU think we should do with the day that would be an “appropriate” response as you understand the scriptures.

        I also don’t see how Halloween, at least as it is widely practiced today, does not show love. Isn’t opening your door and sharing candy with your neighbors an act of love? Isn’t taking your kids out into the neighborhood so they can GET candy not an act of love? Isn’t mingling with your neighbors both out “in the trenches” and at neighborhood parties a vehicle by which we can show love?

        I just don’t understand the call to retreat from something that can be used for good, ONLY because SOME people use (or USED to use) it for evil. Celebrating this day does not make us “unclean”. That is such an OT way of looking at the world. There is no “clean” or “unclean” in Christ. ALL is lawful, even it if MAY not be profitable (and I think this CAN be). To me, it’s no different than not using rock or rap music to glorify God, because that’s the “devil’s music”. Music is music, and it can all be used to glorify God. A day is a day, and they ALL can be used to glorify God, no matter what LABEL we stick on it. Do we REALLY think that God CARES about the labels of days? It’s so petty and trivial. To retreat from or fear the day is to give SUBSTANCE to the very things that the day USED to represent – superstitions. It’s exactly the OPPOSITE of what we should be doing – tearing down superstitions by shining the light of Christ into every shadowed corner. Showing that there really is NOTHING to fear from the devil, and everything he represents, because Christ’s perfect love casts out all fear.

  3. That was a great response Ken. I actually really man that. The trouble is you have still brought no scriptural support.
    You say: “I’m not one to need a specific scripture for every situation in life.”

    The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. Westminster Confession of Faith Ch.I Sect. VI

    I suspect you would agree with the above in principle. Here’s my issue. The worship of God and His people’s representation of Him in the earth are of first order importance to the Lord as evinced by their constant treatment as such in the scriptures. “Love”, as we see it, is NOT the primary hermeneutical principle we are to take to the word for our lives.

    What you have said above is a glowing testament to the autonomous self exalting wisdom of men. It is the EXACT same mindset that was in Saul that brought the Amalekite livestock back to Jerusalem.
    We went to the trouble of separating the best so we could bring it back as spoils and sacrifice it to the LORD!!!. Isn’t that great?!?!?!?
    SOUNDS great. BUT it is not what God said. God lamented making Saul king over that.

    It is the EXACT same mindset that made Uzzah save the ark from falling in 2nd Samuel 6. What God loving, God fearing man wouldn’t want to save the holy ark of the covenant from falling over onto the ground? Uzzah’s reflex reaction was NOOO!!!, I must save our Lord’s ark quickly!!. See, his instinct was noble and with absolutely the very best of human intentions. But that’s the trouble. They were HIS intentions and as unassailably right his motivation and actions might have been to him or us, it’s NOT what God said.

    God defines love. Not you or me. As lovingly plausible as your view is, even to me, the question remains, “is it what God says”. The proposition that the church “christianize” pagan practices in the name of “love” is a radical one and one with FAAAAR reaching implications which I am just not going to be able to get behind without it being “either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence … deduced from Scripture”

    See Ken, I love my fellow fallen brethren in father Adam every day. I pray that God make me usable in His service that I may faithfully represent Him by my words and my life and my deeds. I don’t need a pagan holiday to provide me that opportunity. Until someone like you brings me a scriptural case, things like Halloween will be for me an opportunity to display God’s love and holiness exactly by NOT participating. Not in a self righteous condemning hyper fundie manner, pointing a finger of condemnation at unbelievers who do. No sir, but simply explaining that I cannot biblically justify it and in the interest of obedience to my God I find it best not to participate. Now THERE is an actually biblical opportunity for testimony. They could forsake Halloween right now and be just as lost anyway. Halloween isn’t the point of anything.

    What I’m preaching isn’t retreat at all either btw. Quite the contrary. It’s a campaign powered by the God who chooses the things that are foolish to the world to confound the wise.

    Take this subject to 1st Corinthians 1 Ken and tell me what you see.

    • Well, no, I don’t see how the subject of Halloween has anything to do with being foolish OR wise. I think Paul was talking about deeper subjects than what we do with a formerly pagan holiday.

      Oh, and your assumption about my attitude concerning the Westminster Confession of Faith was wrong. I don’t believe that at ALL, although I would have maybe a few years ago.

      So, no, I don’t view the Bible that way, as a rule- or guidebook for living.

      And I don’t view the role of the Spirit as being confined to simply explaining scriptures. If it IS, He’s doing a terrible job because there is more division concerning the interpretation of scripture NOW as their ever HAS been (as this discussion is a testament to). So maybe we have REDEFINED His job out of convenience to our desire to have a concrete “life text” rather than having real faith in a real, living, active, REVEALING God.

      Treating the scripture in this matter is a way to cement control over Christians and alienate all those who don’t agree with your particular interpretation of Biblical texts. It doesn’t allow for freedom or for the Spirit to teach. It gives the authority to MAN and causes the same divisions they had at Corinth. It makes everyone stand up and say, “Well, we’d all agree if you’d just all see that MY interpretation is the correct one.”, which of course, will NEVER happen. I actually believe that’s sometimes OK, because the stuff we were to agree on (as Paul plainly states) wasn’t the Bible as a guidebook for life, but in the saving work of Christ alone.

      Your view of God as someone who makes up arbitrary rules just because He’s God and He can really bothers me. God has reasons for things. It’s not “just because I said so.”

      God was unhappy with Saul because he did what he did in an attempt to try to “impress” God with his “booty” of cattle. It was his PRIDE that was the problem. A recurring problem for Saul throughout his reign.

      As for Uzzah. David (and/or Samuel) INTERPRETED the event as God’s punishment on Uzzah, but is that what REALLY happened? Or did Uzzah die from some unknown cause? A stroke? Heart attack? We don’t know. David was angry because he THOUGHT that God struck down Uzzah, but we don’t know what REALLY happened. All we know is He was afraid of God and the ark after that, which wasn’t a good thing in the long term. So why would God do something that would make David fear having the ark? Doesn’t make much sense, although Obed-Edom enjoyed it. 🙂 Could it be they had it wrong?

      All that to say God simply isn’t like what you’re describing. He does what He does for reasons beyond “you obey me just because I said so”.

      You state that you will not partake of Halloween because there is no instruction given on the matter in the Bible. I find it somewhat sad that the lack of specific revelation effectively ties your hands in this matter (and likely many other matters). You DO have the Spirit to guide you, no? What does He tell you? To keep yourself “clean”? To distance yourself from “evil”? That “obedience” is more important than love? Is that what Jesus would be doing? I just don’t see it.

      • Nevermind? Did you give up on me? Am I too far gone to engage with any further? 🙂 😉 Or maybe you just want to devote your time to other matters. Whatever the case, I understand. Thanks for the discussion. I enjoyed it, brother.

  4. Your emergent view of God and the bible makes any further dialog pointless Ken. Your God is created in your own image and is not allowed to do anything that “bothers” you. We simply have entirely incompatible foundations of thought akin to speaking different languages. Picture one exclusively Spanish and one exclusively German speaking man throwing words at each other. You make me sad man 😦 . I should be used to this by now.

    • Yes, and it saddens me that your image of God (which you have also constructed from your own interpretation of scripture (with the help of other historical theologians) and whom also makes you comfortable – it’s something EVERYBODY does, dude, even if you label it something else.) appears to be less loving than an earthly father when it comes to their human children. Your father ever kill you because you disrespected him? After all, God said he could and be justified under the law. No. Because he knew that life and love were more important than obedience or even the sting of disrespect. Just because you’ve become comfortable with a grumpy, wrathful, arbitrary God like that, doesn’t make Him any more real than mine. And I AM used to this. I grew up in a family and a church like this. I’m so happy that I now have a vision of God that actually is cohesive between the Father and the Son. The OT writers got it wrong. That’s one reason why Jesus came, to show us what God was REALLY like. And He’s not the monster you’ve made Him out to be.

      BTW, I love that term you used, “emergent view”. So true. It’s like emerging out of the scornful shadows of an oppresive God who wants to CONTROL every part of our lives through a rulebook into the glorious light of the love of God as manifested through Christ who wants to be living IN our lives, good and bad, ‘warts’ and all. AMEN!

      • Ken says: “The OT writers got it wrong. “
        I see. Then when Paul says they are inspired of God, he got it wrong too I suppose. How bout when he says they were written for our instruction? That was wrong too? What do you make of the fact of hundreds of direct citations of and clear allusions to the old testament in the new testament from nearly every book, including numerous ones from Jesus Himself? The same Jesus that without fail treated them as the very words of God His Father?

        Looks like Marcion has some long lost descendants. There truly is nothing new under the sun. Oh wait. That was a quote from an old testament book. That’s probably wrong too. I was simply not able to let that stand Scott. That will be the last time I address the authority of the old covenant scriptures here in this thread.

      • Trib, inspired does not mean “dictated”. Jesus and the Spirit (and Paul) use(d) the scriptures to find and share truth. It is useful for that. That doesn’t mean every word and sentence is as from the mouth of God. Neither are all the words of Paul as if God was speaking. Every scripture writer approached the subject from their own unique, biased, cultured, experience. I don’t know why when it comes to the Bible, we COMPLETELY change the meaning of the word “inspired” to mean something greater than it means. “God breathed” ALSO doesn’t mean “God dictated” It means His Spirit was involved. His Spirit is involved in our OWN lives, and we can produce “God breathed” thoughts and ideas as well. There wasn’t some magical spell that fell only on the scripture writers to never be felt again by man that made these particular canonized writings PERFECT when compared to all other writings about God past, present and future. The Bible is a fantastic resource of thoughts and ideas about God and most importantly contains the incredible eye-witness acounts of Jesus’ mission here on earth. But the OT writers did get some concepts wrong about God. Jesus even EXPLAINS this to us. Their understanding of God was incomplete. Believe it or not, even Paul’s understanding of God was incomplete. And your and my understanding of God is ALSO incomplete. But we can still utter truths that our “God breathed” but not part of written scripture, because the Spirit “writes” the Word on our HEARTS. His Spirit is SO much better than a book (as great as that book is, and it IS amazingly great. But it’s NOT perfect.)

  5. Alrighty guys. Let’s try & stay focused on the topic at hand.

    Trib – Is it not possible at all to be involved at some level with folk on Halloween, without simply retreating into corners with our own “fall festivals”? Could we actually attend a Halloween party dressed up as, say, Captain America, engage with our neighbors, share stories, live rightly, offer laughs at times, words of comfort if needed, love on kids in the neighborhood, etc?

  6. “Sure. It’s a both/and situation.”
    The trouble remains that there is no biblical warrant. If I am being what I should be the rest of the year then it buys me credibility when I graciously explain that my Christian convictions forbid me from participating in this holiday.

    That is a wide open door to explain why and give almost a Sunday school lesson on the history of biblical worship and the holiness of God and my once death in sin and now life in Christ that produces in me a joy to worship Him as HE pleases in Spirit and in truth. I’ll tell them to go and be safe with a warm smile, but it will have to be without my family

    I’m not for finding alternatives either. That’s just a rose by any other name. I simply ignore it. Like I ignore most of the stuff the world’s into. They are won not by Christians being like them, but by our being totally different.

    • There is no “biblical warrant” for Christmas, including stockings, trees, etc. Of course, I don’t bow at the altar of consumerism. But it’s a beautiful holiday, both it’s religious focus & family focus (which is religious in nature anyways).

      If you’re being a Christian the whole year (365 days a year, though that’s a western-mindset rather than God-mindset), then that would include Oct 31st. Doesn’t mean you need to seek out a party to be a faithful Christian on Oct 31st. It just opens opportunities as opportunities arise. Again, STAY AWAY from the occult, palm reading, pagan idolatry. STAY AWAY from what one’s conscience will not allow. But dressing as Captain America, hanging with friends (including non-Christians), having a few drinks, passing out candy, dancing all in good fun is not problematic with the Lord of all.

      By your arguments, we should pretty much stay away from sporting events, all holidays, bars & pubs, etc. If you need to stay in retreat, that’s your prerogative. Some will be out & about sprinkling salt, shining light, being a sweet aroma of Jesus in all different kinds of settings, including some Halloween parties (at least as far as one’s conscience will allow).

      Thanks

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