Oct 30, 2006

Glorifying God on Halloween

“I Dream of Jeannie” was my favorite TV show when I was growing up. I was fascinated by how she could just clean the whole house in a wink or make crazy things happen to other people. Not understanding Hollywood at that time, I thought she had real powers and I only had to find the right “magic” combination and I would be able to do them also. I started reading books about “good” witches, dressing like witches at Halloween, and practiced saying all kinds of “abra-ca-dabras,” trying to work my magic.

Some Christians might justify this by saying that I was only a child or I was only trying to be a “good” witch, or that it wasn’t real. But God calls all forms of witchcraft, spells, sorcery, and anything associated with the occult an abomination. There is no “good” witchcraft; it is all evil and dark.

Halloween is dark. Have you ever noticed that trick-or-treating doesn’t start until after dark? Or that the Halloween parties don’t begin until after dark? As Christians, God has called us out of the darkness into His marvelous light. But just how dark is Halloween really?

The history of Halloween begins hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, when the Celts, inhabitants of Britain and Ireland, and their priests, the Druids, celebrated Samhain, a festival that marked the eve of the Celtic New Year, which began on November 1. The fall harvest was complete and winter loomed. The Celts believed the power of the sun was fading. For the next several months, darkness would prevail.

The Celts believed that during Samhain, the veil separating the living from the dead was at its thinnest, that on the evening of October 31, evil spirits and the souls of the dead passed through the barrier and entered the world of the living and departed family members would revisit their earthly homes. They also believed these spirits and dead souls could torment the living. Crops might be destroyed, babies stolen, farm animals killed. But this was also an opportunity to commune with the spirits and divine the future. Satan, the lord of darkness, was ordinarily feared, but during Samhain, his power would be called on to foretell the future.

The Druids were charged with appeasing the goblins and preventing harm to the people. Huge Samhain bonfires were lit to guide the way of the spirits. Various sacrifices, including human, were performed to assure a good year. Ancient authors commented on the gory religious rites of the Druids. It is believed that, like many pagan cultures around the world, the Celts left out food for the spirits, hoping that a "treat" would prevent an evil "trick."

Centuries later, descendants of the Celts continued to observe the Samhain festival by dressing as evil spirits. They roamed from house to house demanding food in exchange for the "spirits" leaving the home. They carved demon faces in hollowed-out turnips and put candles inside.

That night they also practiced many customs designed to divine the future. Young people threw nuts into Samhain fires to see which would crack first and tell them who they would marry. The person who retrieved an apple with his mouth from a tub of water assured himself of a lucky year.

When Christianity began to spread through Europe in the third and fourth centuries, the pagan temples were torn down. But pagan worship never completely disappeared. The festival of Samhain remained a primary pagan festival. Belief in spirits may have waned, but many of the old Samhain traditions continued to be practiced, especially by the children. Primarily in Ireland, children dressed as spirits went from house to house demanding a treat. If they received none, they performed an unwelcomed trick. They were play-acting the part of evil spirits that had to be appeased, just as in the old Samhain festival the people believed they really did have to appease spirits.

In the 700s, the church chose to recognize the saints (hallowed) instead of honoring evil spirits and the souls of the dead. So November 1 came to be called All Saints' Day or All Hallows' Day. The evening before was called All Hallows' Evening. From that we get the modern name of Halloween. But pagan customs continued. And with the growth of witchcraft in the Middle Ages, additional symbols became associated with Halloween - black cats, witches, bats, and skulls.

Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s brought to America the Halloween customs we're familiar with - costumes, trick-or-treat, carved Jack-o-lanterns, bonfires, bobbing for apples, etc. They also brought "tricks" with them, which often involved breaking windows and over-turning outhouses.

Even though the practice of actually performing a trick if no treat is given has changed to egging cars or TPing a yard, the custom of children going "trick-or-treating" has become an established American tradition. But while children and adults "innocently" imitate ancient Celtic customs, darker practices persist. Witches and Satanists still consider Halloween to be one of the strongest times during the year to cast a spell. On Halloween, most practitioners participate in a ritual called "drawing down the moon." In this, the chief witch of the coven becomes, they believe, a channel for the moon goddess. During this ritual the participants are “sky-clad" - that is, naked.

Stonehenge, the mysterious ancient stone formation in England, is often the site for bizarre gatherings of occultists on October 31, some of whom believe they are modern-day Druids. (Many people believe that Stonehenge was a Druid religious site.) And evidence persists that some Satanist and voodoo groups offer sacrifices - usually animals, (check the missing cat count on November 1) but, possibly, human babies.

When your children ask you why they go trick-or-treating, what will you tell them? That it is another opportunity to glorify God, which is why we were created? Halloween is dark, and even though some of the original intents for the customs of Halloween are no longer with us, it is nonetheless not only based upon pagan, evil culture, but it is still FULL of evil. Check out the costumes and tell me they promote godliness. Check out the attitudes and see what fruit of the Spirit you find amongst those buckets of candy.

Up until approximately the age of 12, children are very concrete thinkers, which means that they see everything fairly literally. Abstract thinking comes with puberty, so when a young child dresses up as a witch, for instance, they really think they can be one. Pretending to them is very real. Their minds work so different than adults' do, so it may be hard to remember how we thought when we were young, but the pretending of Halloween is very real to them. Watch a young one (it doesn't really even matter what age, if they haven't been before) the first time they go trick-or-treating and see all the other kids, and observe their fright and fear and nightmares. Oh, yes, they can grow accustomed to the evil of Halloween, but is that what we really want for our children? Halloween sparks an interest in the occult, an interest in scary things, an interest in evil. Satan hates Christians, and Satan hates children. What an opportunity Satan has to delude well-meaning Christian parents on Halloween night.

Here are a few Scriptures to meditate on concerning this day:

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just. whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

What should Christians do on the eve of October 31? I will give you several ideas, and I'm sure there are many more, but note that one idea I do NOT list is a Christian version of a Halloween party, no matter what you call it. (If celebrating is what you desire, I would suggest looking to the Feasts that God has already so graciously given us as real Holy Days to celebrate!) Here are a few ideas:

Stay home and keep the front of the house dark. Don't answer the door. When God tells us to be holy even as He is holy, He is telling us to separate ourselves from the world. October 31st is a good day to do that.

Have a Bible study that evening with family and/or friends on what God thinks about witchcraft and the occult.

Study the reformation that day, since that date is also Reformation Day and applies to all protestants, not just those who are Reformed. I know one church that is showing a movie about the reformation then.

Have a normal day, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.

Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God!


OnceaWes said...

Concerning Halloween

by James B. Jordan

It has become routine in October for some Christian schools to send out letters warning parents about the evils of Halloween, and it has become equally routine for me to be asked questions about this matter.

"Halloween" is simply a contraction for All Hallows' Eve. The word "hallow" means "saint," in that "hallow" is just an alternative form of the word "holy" ("hallowed be Thy name"). All Saints' Day is November 1. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ. The observance of various celebrations of All Saints arose in the late 300s, and these were united and _xed on November 1 in the late 700s. The origin of All Saints Day and of All Saints Eve in Mediterranean Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic Druidism or the Church's _ght against Druidism (assuming there ever even was any such thing as Druidism, which is actually a myth concocted in the 19th century by neo-pagans.)

In the First Covenant, the war between God's people and God's enemies was fought on the human level against Egyptians, Assyrians, etc. With the coming of the New Covenant, however, we are told that our primary battle is against principalities and powers, against fallen angels who bind the hearts and minds of men in ignorance and fear. We are assured that through faith, prayer, and obedience, the saints will be victorious in our battle against these demonic forces. The Spirit assures us: "The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly" ( Romans 16:20).

The Festival of All Saints reminds us that though Jesus has _nished His work, we have not _nished ours. He has struck the decisive blow, but we have the privilege of working in the mopping up operation. Thus, century by century the Christian faith has rolled back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition. Though things look bad in the Western world today, this work continues to make progress in Asia and Africa and Latin America.

The Biblical day begins in the preceding evening, and thus in the Church calendar, the eve of a day is the actual beginning of the festive day. Christmas Eve is most familiar to us, but there is also the Vigil of Holy Saturday that precedes Easter Morn. Similarly, All Saints' Eve precedes All Saints' Day.

The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom.

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan's great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.

(The tradition of mocking Satan and defeating him through joy and laughter plays a large role in Ray Bradbury's classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a Halloween novel.)

The gargoyles that were placed on the churches of old had the same meaning. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy. They stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles are not demonic; they are believers ridiculing the defeated demonic army.

Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween. For this reason, Martin Luther posted his 95 challenges to the wicked practices of the Church to the bulletin board on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on Halloween. He picked his day with care, and ever since Halloween has also been Reformation Day.

Similarly, on All Hallows' Eve (Hallow-Even – Hallow-E'en – Halloween), the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, our children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that we can dress our children this way shows our supreme con_dence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ – we have NO FEAR!

I don't have the resources to check the historical origins of all Halloween customs, and doubtless they have varied from time to time and from Christian land to Christian land. "Trick or treat" doubtless originated simply enough: something fun for kids to do. Like anything else, this custom can be perverted, and there have been times when "tricking" involved really mean actions by teenagers and was banned from some localities.

We can hardly object, however, to children collecting candy from friends and neighbors. This might not mean much to us today, because we are so prosperous that we have candy whenever we want, but in earlier generations people were not so well o_, and obtaining some candy or other treats was something special. There is no reason to pour cold water on an innocent custom like this.

Similarly, the jack-o'-lantern's origins are unknown. Hollowing out a gourd or some other vegetable, carving a face, and putting a lamp inside of it is something that no doubt has occurred quite independently to tens of thousands of ordinary people in hundreds of cultures worldwide over the centuries. Since people lit their homes with candles, decorating the candles and the candle-holders was a routine part of life designed to make the home pretty or interesting. Potatoes, turnips, beets, and any number of other items were used.

Wynn Parks writes of an incident he observed: "An English friend had managed to remove the skin of a tangerine in two intact halves. After carving eyes and nose in one hemisphere and a mouth in the other, he poured cooking oil over the pith sticking up in the lower half and lit the readymade wick. With its upper half on, the tangerine skin formed a miniature jack-o'-lantern. But my friend seemed puzzled that I should call it by that name. `What would I call it? Why a "tangerine head," I suppose.'" (Parks, "The Head of the Dead," The World & I, November 1994, p. 270.)

In the New World, people soon learned that pumpkins were admirably suited for this purpose. The jack-o'-lantern is nothing but a decoration; and the leftover pumpkin can be scraped again, roasted, and turned into pies and mu_ns.

In some cultures, what we call a jack-o'-lantern represented the face of a dead person, whose soul continued to have a presence in the fruit or vegetable used. But this has no particular relevance to Halloween customs. Did your mother tell you, while she carved the pumpkin, that this represented the head of a dead person and with his soul trapped inside? Of course not. Symbols and decorations, like words, mean di_erent things in di_erent cultures, in di_erent languages, and in di_erent periods of history. The only relevant question is what does it mean now, and nowadays it is only a decoration.

And even if some earlier generations did associate the jack-o'-lantern with a soul in a head, so what? They did not take it seriously. It was just part of the joking mockery of heathendom by Christian people.

This is a good place to note that many articles in books, magazines, and encyclopedias are written by secular humanists or even the pop-pagans of the so-called "New Age" movement. (An example is the article by Wynn Parks cited above.) These people actively suppress the Christian associations of historic customs, and try to magnify the pagan associations. They do this to try and make paganism acceptable and to downplay Christianity. Thus, Halloween, Chrismas, Easter, etc., are said to have pagan origins. Not true.

Oddly, some fundamentalists have been in_uenced by these slanted views of history. These fundamentalists do not accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of Western history, American history, and science, but sometimes they do accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of the origins of Halloween and Christmas, the Christmas tree, etc. We can hope that in time these brethren will reexamine these matters as well. We ought not to let the pagans do our thinking for us.

Nowadays, children often dress up as superheroes, and the original Christian meaning of Halloween has been absorbed into popular culture. Also, with the present fad of "designer paganism" in the so-called New Age movement, some Christians are uneasy with dressing their children as spooks. So be it. But we should not forget that originally Halloween was a Christian custom, and there is no solid reason why Christians cannot enjoy it as such even today.

"He who sits in the heavens laughs; Yahweh ridicules them" says Psalm 2. Let us join in His holy laughter, and mock the enemies of Christ on October 31.

Jen said...

Onceawes (and James), mocking Satan? I find no Scriptural basis for this. I live my life by following what God's Word says, not by looking for loopholes for doing things that aren't expressly forbidden. While secular holidays aren't expressly forbidden, I have to ask why we would want to participate in the first place? October, for example, is a month full of God-given Holy Days, and since we've already had a month full of celebration, we find no need to join in the pagan, evil celebrations of the world. No one truly thinks that Halloween is mocking Satan and his demons, especially children. Children are very much led astray by this wicked day.

My Bible does tell me, however, to avoid all APPEARANCE of evil. I don't care what church history has or has not done regarding gargoyles, mocking Satan, etc., but dressing like evil is not avoiding the appearance of evil, it is imitating evil, and that is plain wrong.

You clearly state that you haven't checked out the history of this day. That is too bad; that is why you have come to faulty conclusions. Jeremiah 10 tells us not to learn the way of the Gentiles, that the customs of the people are futile. Check out how the customs are described. This passage taught me to stay away from pagan traditions.

I will repeat, avoid ALL appearance of evil.

David Chalkley said...

Jennifer, your posting was such a helpful one. Gold. I really appreciate what you presented.

darrin said...

James Jordan is in the same camp with NT Wright and the other New Perspective teachers. He can't understand biblical justification so it's no wonder he doesn't understand the inherent wickedness and evil of Halloween either. Historical arguments matter not one whit in this discussion! The only thing that matters is what God says about such practises.

Lindon said...

I always felt kind of sorry for the kids who came to our house thinking they could just get their candy and go. My mom used halloween (I refuse to capitalize) as a chance to witness. Every year she prepared scripture verses to be given out with candy. (Because as she said, the Word works) She engaged every parent who came with them. For years she gave out books of the Gospel of John!

My mom was very bold. She would ask them, Do you know Jesus? Her attitude was one of planting seeds that God would water in His own time and way.

I agree that it is a dark and evil time. But my mom used to say, how many chances do you get for so many people to come to YOUR door?

I can see how even participating at that level could be construed as putting a stamp of approval on such a day. In the end, I think most people are ignorant of what halloween is all about.

It is a very controversial subject as to how to respond in many Christian circles. My daughter's school refuses to even acknowledge this day. (Christian School) I am grateful for that.

I still look back fondly of my mom's boldness on this day every year. She did this until she got sick and died two years ago. You would think her home would have gotten TP'd or egged or something in all those years, but it never happened.

Jen, like you, I have chosen to ignore it.

Jen said...

Lindon, I considered addressing the issue of passing out tracts, but didn't want to detract from my main message. I think you underscored well my reservations: children asking for candy and getting a sermon in return, or having to wait while their parents "talk" or listen to a sermon. I'm sure your mother, and many other Christians mean well by witnessing and I would never tell anyone NOT to witness, but we do need to be careful about timing, relationship, etc. I guess I've never heard a testimony where someone was converted by a Halloween tract in their candy bag, but I don't suppose it hurts. I'm just not sure it's the best way to handle it.

Now, if Christians were to go out on the street and talk with other parents who were waiting for their children, that might be a good opportunity to share the gospel and get to know the neighbors. That would only work in neighborhoods where children still actually go door-to-door though.

If God provides an opportunity to share the gospel on this night, then I pray we would take advantage of that opportunity, whatever form it might take.

Jennifer Worch said...

More on the witnessing aspect... Our family uses this prime opportunity to go "Trick or Tracting". Our older children went out tonight with their dad (we do not dress up, as we do not want to participate in the event), and went door to door, handing out tracts to everyone in our neighborhood. They also handed tracts (and candy that people insisted they take) to any parents and children they passed. So, they were able to give tracts to both parents and children out Trick or Treating, as well as the adults (maybe no children?) who remained at home. To me, this is even better than staying home and handing tracts out from your door, as you are able to reach both sets of people. What a great opportunity! We look forward to halloween every year, as a chance to glorify God on a day that satan has tried to claim.

Jen said...

Great idea, Jennifer! (Yes, I already knew about it, but I didn't want to steal your thunder!)