Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
Ten years ago I was working for a non-profit “Christian” organization in the area. It was approaching Halloween, and it was decided that the staff would celebrate by dressing up in costumes; “scary” costumes were encouraged. I thought it was odd for a “Christian” organization to “go all out” like that for celebration of what is arguably the most pagan of all pagan holidays. So, I addressed the following email to all staff. I had been working there more than 90 days, and had received countless “junk” emails from other staff members, so I saw no harm in sharing my sentiments with all the staff. The email read as follows …
Remember the movie “Multiplicity” staring Michael Keaton? In the movie, Doug Kinney, played by Michael Keaton, can’t seem to find enough time to do all the things he needs or wants to do, so he finds a solution in duplicating himself by cloning. As the plot develops, the first clone then clones himself, then the second clone clones himself and so on. With each duplication the resultant product greatly degenerated from the previous – a lot like when one makes a copy of a copy of a copy, etc. Finally, the last clone ends up being a slobbering idiot. Doug Kinney then finds himself in the dilemma of how to deal with his “offspring.”
What does that have to do with Halloween? Well, I’m getting to that.
The first five books of the Bible tell, among other things, of how God brought the children of Israel (Jacob) out from Egyptian bondage through His servant Moses. Now Moses was not perfect, and because of one act of disobedience, he was not allowed to enter the “Promised Land.” But Moses had a protégé, a clone, if you will, that would take over for him and complete the task of taking the children of Israel into the Promised Land. His name was Joshua. Now, Joshua was a great leader, but he was no Moses.
The sixth book of the book of the Bible takes its name from him, Joshua. It tells the history of how the children of Israel conquered the Promised Land – the land of Canaan. God’s instruction to the children of Israel through Joshua was to completely wipe out the inhabitants of the land – every man, woman, child and every beast. (There are good reasons why God commanded the annihilation of an entire race of people from the land, but that is another story, which will really get me off track.) When you come to the end of Joshua, you find that Israel failed in their God-given task. Instead, they started living in and among the people of the land and started adopting their customs and their pagan religions. This act of disobedience plagued Israel throughout their history.
So, what does that have to do with Halloween? Hang on; I’m getting there.
At the end of the book of Joshua we find Joshua calling the children together for one final word. Most of the land had been conquered, but the Canaanites were still in the land. The probability was very great that the children of Israel would turn to worshipping other gods, and so Joshua gave this final admonition:
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15)
Great admonition, but not as strongly phrased as I think Moses would have put it. To me, it sounds a lot like our post-modern, relativistic rhetoric that says, “That’s your truth, but it’s not my truth,” or “You’re entitled to your truth, and I’m entitled to mine.” (Many of you may be thinking that very thing about this discourse.) In essence, what Joshua was saying was, “If you want to worship other gods, go ahead; I and mine will serve the LORD.” He started out strong: “Serve the LORD,” but then he took the edge off by giving them an option.
When you read the next book, Judges, you see how the degeneration progressed. The further the children of Israel got away from the Exodus, the further they got away from God. That’s what the movie, “Multiplicity” reminds me of. The further we get away from the original, the fuzzier the lines become. What used to be sharp lines of contrast become so blurred that one cannot tell where one line ends and another begins. What used to be considered evil is now a minor indiscretion or just another lifestyle choice or not evil at all. Black and white has blended into an indistinguishable gray.
So, what does that have to do with Halloween? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Halloween has become one of those national pastimes that are given no thought at all. Haunted houses attract the thrill seeker looking for that rush of adrenaline. Horror flicks offer the same allure. Vampires, zombies, demons, ghosts and witches all wait in the darkness ready to pounce on us at the moment we expect them least. Of course, all of this is intended for fun, and we wholeheartedly participate in the same spirit of frivolity as we don our favorite scary costumes. What’s the harm in that? The harm is that the sharp lines of contrast between good and evil have been blurred almost to the point of oblivion.
Halloween, in its origins, was not a harmless pastime. It originated in the dark ages when, due to ignorance, people genuinely feared the “things that go bump in the night.” They feared demons and ghosts and witches and vampires. The church was no help in dispelling those fears, and to a certain extent, was responsible for propagating many of those fears.
My intent here is not to go into a history of Halloween, but rather sharpen the lines of contrast that have been blurred though the passing of time. Demons are real. The Devil is real. I have no fear of them because I know the One in whose hands I’m kept, but that does not negate the reality of their work, which is primarily that of deception. Jesus identified Satan as the father of all lies. In His debate with the Jewish leaders, He leveled the following accusation against them:
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:43-44)
So, the lie is that Halloween is a harmless pastime. It’s a lie because the root and the source of Halloween is evil, not good; however, the lines have been blurred to the point where we can’t tell the difference. We have accepted it into our culture for so long that we have lost all sensitivity to the danger – like a frog in a kettle.
I then offered an article by Kerby Anderson, of Probe Ministries, entitled “Ten Reasons Christians Should Not Celebrate Halloween.” It is no longer on his site. He must have caught a lot of flack over it and decided to take it down, or else he decided it was no longer relevant. Whatever the reason, I cannot offer a link to it, but I did keep it over these many years. Here are the ten reasons he offered:
- October 31st has long been known as “The Festival of the Dead.” The Celtic tribes and their priests the Druids celebrated this day as a marker for the change from life to death.
- Halloween today is performed usually by adherents of witchcraft who use the night for their rituals. Witches celebrate Halloween as the “Feast of Samhain,” the first feast of the witchcraft year. Being a festival of the dead, Halloween is a time when witches attempt to communicate with the dead through various forms of divination.
- Christians should not be involved with occultic practice or divination. Note God’s command against divination in Deuteronomy 18.
- Occultists believe Halloween is a time of transition between life and death. Some occult practitioners practiced divination and believed you could learn the secrets of life and wisdom by lying on a grave and listening to the messages from the long-departed.
- Occultists also taught that spirits and ghosts left the grave during this night and would seek out warmth in their previous homes. Villagers, fearful of the possibility of being visited by the ghosts of past occupants, would dress up in costumes to scare the spirits on their way. They would also leave food and other treats at their door to appease the spirits so they would not destroy their homes or crops but instead move on down the road. That is the real reason why kids dress up in costumes today and go door-to-door seeking treats.
- Occultists also would try to scare away the spirits by carving a scary face into a pumpkin. This horrible visage would hopefully move the spirit on to another home or village and spare that home from destruction. Sometimes the villagers would light a candle and place it within the pumpkin and use it as a lantern (hence the name, Jack-o-Lantern). This is the origin of carving pumpkins at Halloween.
- In some witchcraft covens, the closing ritual includes eating an apple or engaging in fertility rites. In the Bible (Genesis 3), eating a piece of fruit brought sin and death into the world. In witchcraft, eating an apple is symbolic of bringing life. The practice of bobbing for apples brings together two pagan traditions: divination and the fertility ritual.
- Schools are removing any religious significance from Christmas (often called winter break) and Easter (spring break). Isn’t it ironic that most public schools still celebrate Halloween even though it has occultic origins?
- Participating in Halloween gives sanction to a holiday that promotes witches, divination, haunted houses, and other occultic practices.
- Christians should avoid Halloween and develop creative alternatives. Churches can hold a Fall Fun Festival and/or celebrate Reformation Day (also October 31). They should not endorse or promote Halloween.
Allow me to offer an eleventh reason why Christians should not celebrate Halloween. As Christians, the Bible exhorts us to abstain from any appearance of evil. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians said, “Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) The Greek word translated “form” is “eidous,” which means the “visible form” or the “outward show” – the appearance of something. The lines of distinction between the original form of Halloween may have been blurred by hundreds of years of “cloning,” but it still has, if nothing else, the “appearance” of evil – kind of like Doug Kinney’s last clone. It looked like him, but was really nothing like him except for his appearance.
This coming Halloween, we have been invited to dress up in costumes in celebration of the day. I, for one, do not plan to participate. I will stand with Joshua and in paraphrase say, “As for me and my house, we will not do Halloween.” If you find that odd, I will simply respond in a typical post-modern, relativistic fashion by wagging my head from side to side and exclaiming, “Whatever.” You do whatever you think is right in your own eyes, but I will abstain, as far as God will strengthen me, from any appearance of evil.
The day after the email went out, I was fired. I missed out on all of the Halloween doings at that office. But I was not left destitute. God in His faithfulness provided and has continued to bless even now. I still do not celebrate Halloween in any form or fashion, although, I will partake of Halloween candy!