A Few Thoughts on the Believer and Halloween

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pumpkinHalloween has become one the biggest holidays on the American calendar, spending over $6 billion last year on decorations, candy and costumes. What was once essentially a children’s holiday has become a cultural juggernaut, and as it has, Halloween has become an increasingly controversial and at times divisive topic in the Christian community. But it doesn’t have to be, and to that end I humbly offer a few thoughts.

  1. There is no clear teaching in scripture about whether or not it is permissible to participate in Halloween observances. It is what might be considered a gray area of the Christian life. That does not mean that there are no passages of scripture that should informgray area your decision about celebrating Halloween. Addressing the issue of eating meat purchased in the meat market in ancient Corinth  which may have been sacrificed to an idol, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, stated that it is a matter of conscience, but the key to eating or not eating, was to eat or not eat for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 8:4-13) .  You must ask yourself, is your motivation in celebrating or not celebrating Halloween glorifying to God.
  1. Remember whether or not you celebrate Halloween is a matter of conscience, your conscience. You have no biblical grounds to either approve or condemn another believer’s decision. Who are you to judge the servant of another (Romans 14:4)? Remember when you mistake your conscience for the moral will of God, you are the one guilty of sin, the sin of legalism.
  1. Another key principle that Paul gave to the Corinthians, is that they are not to cause a brother (or sister) to stumble in matters of stumbleconscience. It is not your responsibility to correct another believer’s understanding of Christian freedom as it relates to Halloween. If you convince a fellow believer to ignore the conviction of their conscience, whether you believe it is sinful or acceptable to celebrate Halloween, you have caused them to stumble, and that is a profound sin.
  1. Sinful behavior is sinful behavior regardless of the day of the year. Drunkenness is always a sin, and it is a serious sin (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21). To look on sinful behavior and evil approvingly is always a sin (Romans 1:32). If you wouldn’t wear that blood spattered zombie killer or naughty pirate costume to a church party, you shouldn’t wear it to your office party either.
  1. Yes many of the traditions associated with Halloween have pagan origins, but so do many of the secular traditions associated with other holidays. Chocolate rabbits and hard boiled eggs at Easternoxmastree harkens back to pagan springtime fertility festivals and evergreen trees at Christmas have roots in Celtic winter solstice celebrations. If you are going to get worked up about pumpkins, you should be outraged by Christmas trees and candy canes too. (Witches, devils, and skeletons are a different matter, see point 4.)
  1. Handing out gospel tracts instead of candy to trick-or-treaters is not a good evangelism strategy. If you are going to answer the door on Halloween, it is far better if you hand out Gospel tracts in addition to candy. And better yet talk with your neighbors about Christ the other 364 days of the year too. (And by the way, if you are going to leave a Way of the Master $1,000,000 bill for a tip in a restaurant, it should be in addition to a 20% tip, not instead of it.)

While believers may have differing, and even very strongly held beliefs, there is nothing about the holiday that should believers cause to divide over it.  Although I personally don’t celebrate Halloween (it is easy when you live in a neighborhood that has centralized candy distribution), I do have a pair of pumpkins on the front porch.  And if you plan to send your kids out to ring door bells and ask for candy, my prayer is that they will be safe and that you made that decision for the Glory of God.  After all it is between you and Him.

 

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John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.

  • Karl Heitman

    Fair article, John. Since I became a Christian, I have not participated in Halloween mainly because of #4, although like you we have pumpkins on our front porch. It still makes me shudder and do a face-palm when I see Bible-believing Christians prance around in witch, devil, and zombie costumes. Not to mention the “adult” Halloween costumes…. The God of the Bible does not take that stuff lightly (Dt 18:9-12; Gal 5:20). Therefore, I think there’s a line. In other words, I think the issue CAN come down to ignorance and/or hermeneutics rather than just conscience. And the conscience argument still needs to be employed with much caution because some worldly Christians may be led to think that the brother/sister who does not want anything to do with Halloween may be “weaker.” That whole mindset begins to take on its own flavor of Phariseeism.

    Just for the sake of discussion, though I agree that there’s no clear cut “Thus says the LORD” passage that would speak to the issue of Halloween, please let me add another point: in thinking more deeply about this, as I’m forced to every year, I can’t understand why Christians want to get wrapped up in a “holiday” that’s centered about darkness, evil, death, and horror. Christ died that we may live (2 Cor 5:15). The Bible says that we are to dwell on things above (Col 3:1-4). The Bible says we are to dwell on lovely and pure things (Phil 4:8). The Bible says we are to hate evil (Rom 12:9). The Bible says we have nothing in common with the darkness of this world (1 Cor 6:14-15). In the end, there’s no reason to have a conflict, which is why I don’t even bring it up at all unless asked. In that case, I have a wonderful opportunity to teach a Christian about their spiritual heritage. Happy Reformation Day!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Karl, they are insightful as always. I agree that people can sin ignorantly, and when they do they should be lovingly and gently corrected (Gal 6:1). And you bring some valid scripture to bear, but you seem also to bring plenty of conscience informing presuppositions as well. Where you wonder why any bible believing Christian would want to celebrate a holiday focused on death & evil, others might wonder why any bible believing Christian would object to participation in one of the few holidays that focuses on communal celebration, candy, and dressing as astronauts? I think it is a matter of perspective and liberty.

      Should liberty ever be used as an excuse to sin? Of course not! But God has graciously gives His people freedom in certain areas and that freedom is to be tempered by a biblically informed conscience. I think this is one of those areas.

      • Karl Heitman
          • Karl Heitman

            How could I disagree with my former pastor? 😉

        • As we would say in Pittsburgh, I hear you clucking, but I fundamentally don’t buy into the argument that because some import their understanding of the pagan origins of Halloween into their decision making, that needs to be normative for everyone. I’m old enough to remember when halloween wasn’t attended with the latest horror movie releases, and widespread drunken debauchery, it was just a kid’s holiday and no one (that I knew of) objected to it on religious grounds, this is a recent innvovation regarding an almost exclusively secular North American holiday (it would be an interesting research project of ThM thesis, but I would bet the “no halloween, its pagan” position had its origins in the weird demon obsessed corners of charismaticism in the 80’s). Would you initiate church discipline on someone that participates Halloween? If not why not? If it is a sin it should be confronted.

          • Karl Heitman

            I’m not saying that participating in Halloween is sin. What I am saying is this: considering what the “holiday” flamboyantly represents (death, blood, evil, witchcraft, murder, crime, immodesty, darkness, ect.), it can easily go from being a gray area to not. For example, as you’ve alluded to in paragraph #4, if it’s a sin to practice such things as witchcraft/sorcery (Gal 5:20), then why pretend to be a witch? No Christian with a biblically informed conscience would take that lightly. We agree that some level of participation comes down to conscience, but if some of my Christian friends had their kids dressed up as witch or devil or killer (e.g., “Jason” or “Freddy Kruger”), I’d be deeply concerned about their discernment and spiritual wisdom. Again, I don’t a make a big deal about Halloween at my church. I don’t bring it up unless asked. I try to turn the conversation towards Reformation Day because I do think it’s a better thing to celebrate than being involved in a culture of death, violence, and horror. Plus, as innocent as it is to dress up as a supper hero or princess, you can’t tell me that my kids wouldn’t run into a plethora of scary costumes and decorations if I took them trick-or-treating. BOTH my kids would have nightmares for days! As a kid who grew up in a small Midwestern town (early 90s), we never dressed up in grotesque costumes but we saw plenty who did, including one man at a party with a real live chain saw pretending to be “Jason.”

          • Jason

            well, I feel bad if he pretended to be me . . . 😉

            but, I was reading through your discussion and thought of something Paul said.

            “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.” — Rom 14:5-8

            How does this factor into the discussion?

  • Ooohhh… you stepped on my toes here John! I’ll take you up on the origin of the Christmas tree debate! I prefer the Martin Luther theory 😉 http://www.parkingspace23.com/the-greatest-gift/#.VFFzcjTF-Io

    • Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t Luther the first to bring the tree inside and put lights on it? The tree was already around as I have read.