A Pastor’s Thoughts on Halloween
Just the other day I saw a post on social media from someone who asked the question, “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” That question was immediately met with a snarky response that questioned if Christians should celebrate birthdays, Christmas, or New Years. The underlying logic in the response seems to be that of biblical mandate. If the Bible doesn’t prescribe it, then we don’t celebrate it. The internet expert seems to assume that the question was asked in this light and then self-righteously proved the fallacy of this thinking. For example: there is no biblical mandate to celebrate Independence Day, yet no believer is in sin when they celebrate the birth of our nation. But maybe, just maybe, this question was asked with genuine concern from a Christian who desires to obey Christ in every aspect of his life. What do I do with Halloween?
As long as I’ve been a Christian I can remember there being tension and debate within the church around Halloween. What is the Christian’s response to Halloween? Should we participate? Should we hand out tracts instead of candy? What is a biblical approach to Halloween?
I want to answer this question, but first I’m going to lay down some ground rules.
1) I will remain objective
We must deal with Halloween as it truly and objectively is and not what it means to you. That sort of subjective thinking is unhelpful and only works to cloud the issue.
2) I will remain biblical
I do not care one iota what the world has to say, what your “Christian” friends have to say, or what your children have to say regarding this or any matter. Let us look at what God has said and conform our thinking to His.
A brief history of Halloween
Most historians (at least those who don’t try to re-write history) trace Halloween’s origins to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. This festival marked the end of summer and its life giving bounty and the beginning of winter, a season associated with dark, cold, and death. It was believed by these ancient pagans that this transition time between the season of life and the season of death blurred the gap between the world of the living and the abode of the dead. On the eve of Samhain the spirits of the dead would be free to wander the land of the living causing all sorts of mischief. To appease these spirits and hopefully gain insight into the future through visions and prophecies, Celtic druids (pagan priests) would don costumes and offer sacrifices upon a bonfire with all the people looking on.
In the eighth century, the Roman church through Pope Gregory III established “All Saint’s Day” on November 1st. This corresponded with the Celtic festival of Samhain perfectly. The evening before (the night of October 31st) was named “All Hallows Eve” later turned into “Halloween.”
The bold move of Gregory to “paint over” Samhain with All Saint’s Day was typical of the church at that time. It had become customary for the church to blend native paganism with Christianity in order to make it more palatable for the natives. Celtic culture and practices had left its mark from Ireland to central France and thus reflected a large portion of “Christendom.” Yet whitewashing the pagan celebration with a sanctimonious veneer did nothing to redeem it. It was still a day dedicated to observing death and appeasing dead spirits.
The reality of modern Halloween
It hardly takes a degree in sociology to see that our modern equivalent of Halloween has not fallen far from its pagan tree. Every store, school, and home that is decorated with festive flare is adorned with death. Skeletons and ghosts can be found in nearly every elementary classroom in America. Children take to the streets disguised as zombies, vampires, frankensteins and other “undead” monsters.
Just turn on your TV during the month of October and you will be bombarded with haunts, ghouls, and goblins. People actually pay to be terrified to the point of cardiac arrest at various “haunted houses.” Every fall theaters line up with this year’s scariest and most terrifying thriller depicting some sort of curse, murder, mayhem, or haunting.
There are no two ways about it. Our culture is a culture of death. We love death. We thrive on death. We worship death. Halloween has always been and continues to be a celebration of death.
Halloween compared to other “holidays”
To compare Halloween to other holidays is frankly asinine. While it is true that there is zero biblical support for the celebration of Christmas, there is also zero connection to our celebration of Christ’s birth and ancient pagan Satanism. The very word indicates the Mass (church service) dedicated and reserved for the celebration of Christ. The world’s attempt at removing Christ from Christmas has simply (and obviously) left the day utterly devoid of meaning.
We can make the same argument for birthdays. Is it wrong, or foundationally pagan to thank God for the gift of life found in one of our family members? What is so profoundly Satanic in that?
How do these compare with Halloween? Not only is the root of Halloween completely anti-Christ and thoroughly pro-pagan, but the fruit it continues to bear has not significantly changed.
A Christian response to Halloween
To revel in fear is wholly unchristian in thinking: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity [or fear] but of power and love and discipline” – 2 Timothy 1:7
There is nothing within Christianity that makes the celebration of death acceptable. Death is intrinsically tied with sin: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the work and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” – Romans 5:12
To celebrate death is to celebrate sin as victorious. We remember and celebrate the death of Christ only because He rose from the grave! Christ is victorious over death and sin!
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is our victory? O death, where is your sting?; The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
But what of our unbelieving neighbors? Will not our rejection of the culture of death be offensive to them? There is always that one Christian who suddenly becomes concerned for their witness if they start acting like a Christian.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that we are to pander to the unbeliever. Rather we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), an example to those who believe (1 Timothy 1:16; 4:12), and holy as only God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Where are the Christians who are actually concerned with obeying Christ?
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2
It is impossible to separate our current culture and its craving for death along with the utterly pagan roots of Samhain from Halloween. The day exalts everything that Christ defeated on the cross and through His resurrection. To celebrate literally means to proclaim, to make known, to honor, or to commemorate. What about this day is worthy of proclaiming or commemorating?
It matters very little what this day means to you. We do not live in a post-modern reality where meaning is in the eye of the beholder. Objectively speaking, Halloween celebrates death. It matters very little how cute your toddler looks walking around as a tiny transformer. You are participating in a wider cultural celebration of death. What is worse, you are training your child that this is acceptable and even laudable.
Just like the Celts before us, our culture worships death. What do you think a Christian’s response to the culture should be? What does Scripture tell us? Are we to conform to the Christlessness of the culture? Or are we to be transformed from the culture and prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect in His eyes?