Is not celebrating Halloween a matter of conscience or sin?

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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
To answer the opening question... I find strong parallels between Halloween and the food-offered-to-idols discussion in 1 Corinthians 8. This means that, yes, it is a freedom-of-conscience matter, but one with an important caveat: we are to use our freedom in a way that puts concern for others ahead of what we personally would otherwise like to do. The parallels:
  1. Just as there was a clear way to connect the dots from the meat in Corinth to idol worship, it isn't hard to connect Halloween to the celebration of things ghoulish and theologically wrongheaded. To claim no connection requires quite a stretch. But that's okay, Halloween observer. A connection doesn't necessarily mean we must have nothing to do with it. So relax, and admit the connection exists.
  2. Just as eating meat is not sinful in itself, and in fact is a God-given part of life so that a clear-minded Corinthian believer might eat meat without sinning by the mere act, many parts of American Halloween observance are not sinful in themselves. For instance, showing hospitality to one's neighbors by handing out candy to visiting kids is not sinful in itself and actually fits a God-glorifying lifestyle rather well.
  3. The main point of Paul's instruction to the Corinthians is that their freedom on this matter does NOT mean they should just go ahead and eat meat, nor that they are better than "weak" believers if they do. Rather, they should be careful and always ready to abstain—because the connections that exist are potentially dangerous. Likewise, we should probably be asking ourselves some serious questions about Halloween: Am I encouraging others to respond to death by embracing the trappings of Halloween rather than by turning to Christ? Do I personally find some macabre spiritual fulfillment in spooky things when I should be looking to Christ? Even if not, might my participation be leading others down that road? Anyone who asks himself these or similar questions is to be commended, not dismissed as weak. And anyone who abstains because he finds he has answered yes should be praised for honoring God and loving his brother.
  4. The Corinthian believers who had knowledge that idol worship was pointless were not therefore free to eat meat if it might cause others to think there might actually be some power in idols. In the same way, our knowledge that spooky Halloween stuff is all a bunch of hooey, or that it has no power against the supreme reign of Christ, is not a license to do whatever we like. A significant number of people do fall prey to superstition. And the law of love for others trumps the law of "I'm more theologically sound."
  5. That said, you might still survey the situation and decide you can eat the meat, or hand out treat-or-treat candy, to the glory of God. At my house, we usually do hand out candy with the goal of being neighborly, though we'll be in our church fellowship this year as Halloween falls on Sunday. I don't think our participation causes others to stumble, and in fact, I hope that the way we participate speaks against much of Halloween's faults. There's room to consider this and act out of love rather than out of a blanket rule or thoughtless assimilation.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
TWO LENSES:

1). THE VICTORY LENS: The tribe where I lived were afraid of witches. After a number of years I saw the kids playing tag. They were playing, "Witch tag" and their former object of fear also became an object of mockery and play.

In similar fashion the country in which this tribe is located got their independence from the Dutch after WWII. So citizens will dress up a guy as a Dutch guy and ride on his back out of town to celebrate their independence in many towns.

We can view Halloween as well as Easter and Christmas as much the same, a declaration of victory over enemy forces, the Church replacing pagan rites with their own.

Whether such association with "spooky" things is helpful or hurtful is debatable. But it seems Halloween can be viewed as a victory. Few people know anything about Samhain. People in the Middle Ages took measures to fight evil forces during the day in which the veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest. Maybe the veil is, indeed, thinnest, during that night...who knows. But seen through this "victory lens" then Halloween becomes a signal of victory over the dark rather than joining the forces of the dark. This became the Catholic Medieval view it seems.

2. THE CONTAMINATION LENS: However, another tribe I work with in the same country used to play bamboo flutes during pagan rites. To this day the churches can play a guitar or drum during worship, but never the bamboo flute due to its pagan links. Thus this tribe sees the flute through a "Contamination Lens" - i.e. adopting anything associated with paganism is not declaring victory over that object or rite, but is a sign that you are mixing with paganism instead of conquering paganism. This largely became the Puritan view.

THESE TWO LENSES APPLIED TO HOLIDAYS: Overall, I favor the Contamination Lens. It is difficult to adopt things or rites or days associated with paganism and "convert" them to Christian holidays. Paganism will always bleed through. But I don't think participating in all of these things is inherently evil. We call the days of the week and months of the year mostly after pagan Gods, after all, and are not sinning by referring to Thor's Day. If we bring such celebrations into the church, however, instead of relegating them as mere civil holidays, then there is an added danger. But of course even church calendars use the pagan days and months.

As far back as the days of the Nicene Creed, the Church was trying to fix the day of Easter with accuracy. I am not ready to charge the Church Fathers with sin for fixing the date or celebrating Easter. In like manner, many Dutch Reformed churches observe Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost. This feature has been adopted overseas in former Dutch colonies as well. I am undecided myself, but find it hard to get livid or upset over these Dutch Reformed practices. And when overseas, it is not productive for me to wage a war against these church observances. I have been invited many times to preach at Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost services in these overseas churches, and I simply stuck to their theme assigned and did not wage war against their observance from the pulpit.

Finally, I'd like to ask what exactly entails "celebrating" Halloween? What does "celebrating" exactly mean? If the kids dress up as Paw Patrol and get candy at a school event? Is this also nefarious paganism? If I partake of some candy that has been trick-or-treated am I thus partaking of a feast of demons? You can call my conscience weak and not sharp enough to cut me perhaps, but I have a hard time seeing this as sinful. If the USA creates a new holiday like Earth Day, for example, there is nothing sinful about planting a tree on that day if one does not believe in the New Age beliefs behind this holiday.

I do know that there is a certain type of Christian who gets their shorts all in a wad every year about Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, and must tell everybody about how evil it all is over and over and over....... it all gets tedious. Overall these types are best to be avoided for peace of mind.
 

Morgan

Puritan Board Freshman
I do not participate in Halloween. Do you consider the glorification of evil (how can dressing up like witches, murderers, evil spirits/ghosts etc. not be glorfyng that?) or the totally inappropriate sexually provocative costumes to fit within the image of Christianity we are supposed to portray? Even if I dress like Martin Luther, by my doing that I give the image that I condone all else that is done within this holiday. I would not participate with a religious group that practiced heretical beliefs lest I be seen as advocating that and I see Halloween in the same light. I also have very limited participation in our countries Christmas holiday (and most other ones). It is certainly not practiced in a way that is religious although many see it like that. Now that I think of it I really do not uphold our numerous holidays, I really have no interest in them.

So how about the churches that put a spin on the name and do the same thing within the church? They call it trunk or treat and basically do the same thing. You know, in the name of getting the gospel out.
 

CovenantWord

Puritan Board Freshman
I doen't know whether my response to Halloween counts as "celebration," but I thought it might be mildly interesting:
1) I never, under any circumstances, supply concentrated refined sugar to children. Diabetes runs in my family, and as a teacher, I wrestle with hyperactive students daily.
2) When I pass ghost or witch decorations, I recall that evil spirits are real and powerful (Eph. 6:12) and I rejoice that He sovereignly protects us (Eph. 1:20-21). When I pass skeleton or gravestone decorations, I treat them as memento mori. A distant neighbor has displayed a plastic skeleton of Cerberus. (I kid you not; Halloween is a big deal hereabouts.) For that, I rejoice that the intellectual beauty and spiritual power of Christianity has delivered us from the ghastly senselessness of pagan mythology.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Halloween this year falls on the Sabbath, which to me highlights the dilemma in which we find ourselves as a society, in countenancing such annual observances in the first place.

(I do appreciate that thanksgiving is always on a Thursday.)
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
Halloween this year falls on the Sabbath, which to me highlights the dilemma in which we find ourselves as a society, in countenancing such annual observances in the first place.
Amen! What reason one can give for any participation in this "festival" on the Lord's day is beyond me. But sadly, I do not doubt that some will venture an answer.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Halloween this year falls on the Sabbath, which to me highlights the dilemma in which we find ourselves as a society, in countenancing such annual observances in the first place.

(I do appreciate that thanksgiving is always on a Thursday.)
Very good point.
 
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