by Johnathan Arnold
Christians have taken a variety of stances on Halloween. Most churches have avoided it altogether, opting for a Fall Festival or something similar. Of course, we have a more faith-centered alternative in Reformation Day, celebrated each October 31st. Still, ignoring Halloween doesn’t change the fact that horror movies will be streaming on Netflix and our neighbors’ houses will be littered with ghoulish pumpkins and dangling corpses. (For the first time last year, I saw bloody hand-prints on someone's front windows.)
Christian families and churches must strive to honor God and the gospel when deciding how to approach Halloween observance. Here are a few Biblical principles to study, weigh, and meditate on while making your decision.
We can always find reasons to justify our participation in something, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.
Light and Darkness Have No Middle Ground
In Western culture, there is—at best—a squiggly semblance of a line between light and darkness. Everything has been blurred into grim, gray dusk. When a culture ceases to believe in moral absolutes and denies accountability to a moral Lawgiver, it is very difficult to argue that anything is truly right or wrong—good or evil.
This is unacceptable for Christians who believe that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The prophet's warning seems especially relevant in our day: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
Christians are to preoccupy themselves with things that are light—true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, and praise-worthy (Philippians 4:8). During Halloween, the world casts light’s excellencies to the wind. Fear, the emotion of the darkness, becomes the desirable good. Amusement park haunted houses have escalated to gruesome images and violent scenes that would have been unacceptable a century ago. Large facilities are prepared to provide the ultimate thrill, glorifying murder and suicide with crime-scene caution tape, nooses, and fake blood. It is no wonder that people are mesmerized with serial killers, zombies, and violence for the other 364 days of the year. Sadism is in vogue.
Fear, the emotion of the darkness, has become the desirable good.
Light and Darkness Have No Fellowship
While there may be some aspects of Halloween that seem innocuous, the holiday is characterized by darkness. It is synonymous with fear, death, and evil spirits. We are children of light, and “what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Christians are to be marked by separation and holiness rather than compromise and indifference. When we choose to participate in Halloween, we set a dangerous precedent. Little tikes cavorting around town in adorable pumpkin costumes may have been harmless at one time, but in 2018 it almost certainly means exposure to a dangerous atmosphere. Someday, when our children are invited to a Halloween party with alcoholic drinks and indecent costumes (a norm on college campuses), do we want them to avoid the party altogether or go and participate in the few innocent parts? We can always find reasons to justify our participation in something, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.
But won’t my child be disappointed and miss out on the fun? Not necessarily. As a child, my wife’s parents took her to Toys-R-Us. She and her siblings ran around the near-empty store making their Christmas lists while everyone else was out trick-or-treating. Last year, I held a Reformation Party for my youth group, with a Martin Luther cake, Reformation-themed games, and a history walk-through. Silly? Maybe. But we had a good time, and they learned a lot about our Christian heritage. If we are serious about our children’s spiritual formation, we will find creative, faith-based alternatives to redeem secular amusements.
But won’t my child be made fun of by other children? Maybe, but probably not. One benefit of our hyper-tolerant culture is that people are usually understanding about faith-based convictions—as long as they do not infringe on or conflict with their own lifestyle choices. In a worst case scenario, it is an opportunity to teach children that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Why? Because light has no fellowship with darkness, and the two will inevitably come into conflict.
Light Must Be Sensitive to the Darkness
Our culture is increasingly comfortable with dark things. Pop stars like Katy Perry, preying on millions with her demonic subliminal—and sometimes explicit—messages, have desensitized many to the occult. Witch costumes are the most popular option for adults thirty-five and older according to one CNN survey. The devil is favorite option number five.
Deuteronomy 18:9-13 warns about the abomination of witchcraft and its associated practices. Galatians 5:19-21 says that “The acts of the flesh are obvious" and among them is witchcraft. Paul writes, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Romans 1:31 is a solemn reminder that not only those who do such things, but also those who approve of them, fall under condemnation.
Trivializing witchcraft is a serious offense to God because the practice of witchcraft damns living souls. Spells, witchcraft, and consulting with the dead are no small matters to the Lord. There are no “good” witches. The ouija board is not a joke. Harry Potter is not a cool role model. White magic is not an “okay” alternative to black magic. New age spirituality is not woke. Wicca is not an innocent religion. These things are rooted in the occult.
(See also Acts 8:9-25 and 19:19 for occult practices in the New Testament, and 1 Samuel 28:3-25, 2 Kings 17:17, and 2 Chronicles 33:6 for occult practices in the Old Testament.)
Trivializing witchcraft is a serious offense to God because the practice of witchcraft damns living souls.
Light Must Confront and Dispel the Darkness
Christians are in direct conflict with the occult spirituality of this world, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). “COEXIST” is not an option for us—at least in the sense that is intended by trending bumper stickers, flags, and banners, which place a Christian cross and a pagan pentagram side-by-side.
We are called to shine brightly, dispelling the darkness in every sphere of life.
Jesus, the Light of the world, came to confront the darkness. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).
The church of Jesus is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14-16). It is impossible for the light to blend in to a world of darkness. We are called to shine brightly, dispelling the darkness in every sphere of life. We must wage war on the darkness, guarding the lines between good and evil. If we do not take a stand against darkness, the darkness will overshadow the light. For many, this has meant a decisive stand against Halloween, which makes light of witchcraft, spirits, and Satanic symbols.
Martin Luther (1529) wrote in his hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God,"
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
We are messengers of light in an age of darkness. We are people of life in an age filled with cruelty and death. We are saints, holy ones, in an age of perversion and wickedness. We are stewards of joy in a fearful, superstitious age. If Halloween observance does not glorify God—who is light and no darkness at all—we cannot celebrate Halloween.
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