Can Halloween Be an Entirely Innocent Practice?/Part 1
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2002|
|With Halloween coming up at the end of the month, many churches and Christian parents are going to start wondering what their position on this holiday should be. The authors will present a brief case for abstinence in this two-part article.|
In the following material, we will present a brief case for abstinence from participation in Halloween. This is not to say that Christians who choose to participate in Halloween are necessarily sinning; however, they need to decide whether, by their participation, they bring honor to the Lord. We hope Christians will take a closer look at involvement based on the following discussion.
Not everything in life is clear-cut and not everything has easy answers. All things considered, however, we think the most prudent and wise decision for Halloween is abstinence. Why? In our The Facts on Halloween we showed that Halloween symbolism and activities today, although technically removed from their ancient practices, nevertheless retain the underlying associations for which they were intended. In other words, the very act of dressing or costuming oneself heralds back to the original purpose for which this was done.
As you evaluate this issue, here are some questions and comments to consider.
1) Can we truly align ourselves innocently with something traditionally and currently involved with the occult and be certain we will never be affected in any possible manner? In other words, in merely participating in Halloween, are we ignorantly skirting the territory of the devil? Historically, isn’t this day the very day that the evil powers have chosen for themselves as special above all others—from the ancient Druids to the modern Druids, witches, and Satanists? Unfortunately, isn’t it also true that most Christians don’t even know this? But if the purpose of the Christian life is to glorify God, is it really possible to glorify God by imitating what occultists do on their special day, however innocently? Should Christians be out on the occultist’s favorite day imitating the things that historically and today are traced to something evil or occult, including even costuming, trick or treating, and setting out displays of fruit? The purpose of setting out fruits and other food was to appease the spirits: “This appeasement of the spirits was celebrated in various ways according to locale and custom, with minor differences. One way to appease the dead was to set out bowls of fruit and other treats so they could partake of them and, once satisfied, they would leave in peace. Your child, when he goes door to door in the ritual of ‘trick or treat,’ is reenacting the ancient superstition.”
Costuming, etc., in good taste, are certainly neutral practices on any other day, e.g., costume parties. So it is not the practice per se but their association to this particular day and their original purpose on this day that raises the issue of involvement. Does this mean it is wrong for a mother to take her child out dressed as a carrot top to a few friends’ houses in the neighborhood for some candy? Again, we cannot say this is a sin, but only that it is probably not the best choice. Even some well-respected Christian scholars who oppose Halloween altogether aren’t sure whether something like this falls under the individual conscience prescriptions in 1 Corinthians 10:23-29 and Romans 14. But even in cases like this, however innocent, one is still participating in Halloween. And 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24—based on everything we know of Halloween—would seem to suggest that abstinence is the better of two choices: ” ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:23,24, NIV).
2) Most people think that imitating these things on Halloween is innocent enough since we are not engaging in the original practices or intent. Nevertheless, as we will see, the Scripture repeatedly tells us not to imitate the evil practices of the pagan nations. For example, when it says in 3 John 11, “Do not imitate that which is evil,” it means do not copy it, imitate it or act it out. A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures of the Greek New Testament points out that the Greek word translated “do not imitate” is derived from a word that means “an actor or mimic”. So Scripture would seem to teach that we are not even to mimic, act out or copy that which the ancient occultists did on Halloween. Wouldn’t this logically seem to apply to the current activities of Halloween? Isn’t participation a form of imitation?
3) In partaking of Halloween, do we help, even indirectly, to publicize what may be the single most important day in the world of the occult? By our participation, do we give at least some credence to the occult simply because we participate in a day that originates in the world of the occult and is so special within it?
4) Can we, even indirectly, be setting up our own children to become familiar with the “flavor” or practices of the occult? Isn’t it true that even when we send out our children dressed as something other than occult characters that it is impossible for them not to be intermingling with other kids who are dressed up as witches, sorcerers, the devil and demons, ghosts, and other occult themes? In fact, it is impossible for our children to avoid this. But could this exposure help pique at least some children’s interest in such things? When our kids ask us why they and other kids dress up in costumes and why they trick or treat—i.e., where such practices came from—can we as their parents give them any answer that is not tied back to evil, pagan, occult practice?
5) Isn’t it also true that many kids enjoy Halloween merely for the “trick” aspect of it? And in this sense, aren’t they “imitating” the ancient evil spirits that Samhain released on Halloween eve? And, in a day of burgeoning juvenile crime, do we want our youngsters out on this particular night when so many kids are planning mischief or property destruction? Isn’t it also true that many other children are secretly fascinated by the scary and evil side to Halloween—witches, ghosts, demons, goblins and forbidden things? And is all this in harmony with what we read in Philippians 4:8 and other scriptures: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” When the Apostle Paul tells us that we are to be imitators of God, and of him as he is the imitator of Jesus, can we be imitators of God and godliness when we imitate the things of the devil on Halloween night?
In essence, can we pretend that we are not part of something when we cannot really avoid it? If it is impossible to participate in Halloween innocently because of the very nature of Halloween day and its implications, how can we logically think we aren’t at least in some sense part of what it represents?
Now, let’s look at some Scriptures to see if they have a bearing upon Halloween.
- “… Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
- “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality; or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:1-3).
- “When you enter the land the Lord God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there” (Deuteronomy 18:9).
- “Hear what the Lord says to you… do not learn the ways of the nations… For the customs of the peoples are worthless…” (Jeremiah 10:1-3).
- “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and l will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
- “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
- “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
- “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil” (3 John 11).
- “Be imitators of God…. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:1, 8-11).
Do you think these Scriptures relate to the issue of Christian participation in Halloween? Is it possible to abstain from every form (or appearance) of evil and also send your child out dressed as a devil? Is it possible to not imitate or learn evil while imitating or “learning” modern symbolism of ancient evil practices? Is it possible to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness—and still participate in Halloween? “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth” (1 John 1:5, 6). Can Halloween be considered, at least in some sense, “walking in the darkness”?
When Scripture tells us we are not to learn the ways of the pagan nations, but that we are to learn that which is good (Deuteronomy 18:9; Hebrews 13:7; 3 John 11), the term “learn” involves the following definition as given by A. T. Robertson in his Word Pictures of the New Testament: the “directing of one’s mind to something and producing an external effect, learn; 1) as learning through instruction, be taught, learn from someone (John 7:15); 2) as learning through inquiry, ascertain, discover, find out (Acts 23:27); 3) as learning through practice or experience, come to know, come to realize (Philippians 4:11; Hebrews 5:8); 4) as achieving comprehension, understand, learn (Revelation 14:3).” This is the sense in which we should understand Deuteronomy 5:1, “And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.’” The issue then, is whether our kids are imitating and learning something they shouldn’t on Halloween.
- John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on Halloween (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996), passim.
- Albert James Dager, “Halloween: Should Christians Be Apart?”, Media Spotlight, 1986, P. O. Box 1288, Costa Mesa, CA 92628-1288.)