Halloween: Should Christians Participate?/Program 5

By: Dr. John Weldon, Dr. James Bjornstad; ©1996
Why do we buy pumpkins, carve a face in them, and place a candle inside to light up the face? What does that symbolize? Why are Ouija boards, séances, white witchcraft, black witchcraft, even Satanism associated with Halloween?



Ankerberg: This week Halloween will be here, and hundreds of thousands of children will put on costumes and go door-to-door yelling “Trick or Treat!” Many of these children will dress up as ghosts and skeletons and they’ll visit haunted houses. The question we’re looking at is, should Christians participate in these activities? Should they let their children go Trick or Treating? To answer these questions, we must ask, “Where do the customs and symbols of Halloween come from?”
Dr. John Weldon, who has three Masters degrees and two Doctorates, one in Comparative Religions and the other in Contemporary Religious Movements, tells us where in history these practices originated.
Weldon: John, I think it’s very important for parents, especially Christian parents, to realize that Halloween is not a Christian holiday. In fact, its roots go back to ancient paganism and the Celtic and Druid beliefs that involved such things as divination, contact with spirits, and even something as horrible as human sacrifice.
Who were the Celts? The Celts were a group of people that came from Asia and migrated north to northern France and the British Isles. Their priestly class was known as the Druids, and they’re the ones that regulated the religious observances and practices of the Celts.
Halloween relates to this ancient pagan religion in a variety of ways. For example, there were two key days celebrated in the Celtic religion. One of those days was the day in which the god of the dead or the “God of Death,” Samhain, actually was believed to release the souls of the good and evil spirits. And these good and evil spirits were released for a period of time to go back and mingle among the living. Today, the idea that Halloween involves good and evil spirits that are roaming about actually is traced back to this ancient Druidic belief.
Ankerberg: Now, it is our opinion, based on Scripture, that Christians should not allow their children to go Trick or Treating. Why? Dr. Bjornstad tells us.
Bjornstad: Where do we get the idea in our day and age of children going house to house collecting goods—you know, candy and things—and also saying, “Trick or Treat”? Well, back in the time of the Celts, in order to prepare for the bonfire, children would go around the neighborhood, the villages, and they would look for things they could bring for that particular fire. It seems to me also that as I’ve read parts of the history that they also went around gathering things that they could use or put around so that they could appease spirits. But the going of house to house was the collection of things. The “Trick or Treat” part comes that in order to deal with the evil spirits you had to placate them. And so people might put a table outside with some food or they might leave some things so that the evil spirits would take it and not play a trick on them. And so they would say, “Trick or Treat!” as they would go about, and simply the fact is they would look for the treat obviously to keep the evil spirits away so that they would not trick them or harm them or do anything that’s destruction.
Ankerberg: Why is Halloween a special day to Satanists and witches? Dr. James Bjornstad, Professor of Philosophy at Cedarville College, who has talked to many Satanists and witches, tells us what they have told him.
Bjornstad: I’ve often thought to myself, “Why October 31? Why Halloween, why all the activities on that particular day?” I look around today and I consider that and I look at Satanists. I’ve talked with some of them. And one of the things that they indicate to me is that this is a special day. And what they’re saying is that this is the best time really to contact Satan. You look at witches and they tell you that, “Hey, this is the time when nature is really alive. The power is there. This is the time to contact spirits, because the veil between our world and their world is at its thinnest.” And I began to think about that. See, Halloween really is their day. It’s Satanists’ day. It’s witchcraft day. It’s spiritists’ day. It’s occult day. It’s really what the day is all about. Nothing more, nothing less.
Ankerberg: Now at Halloween, do you dress up your children in masks and costumes of ghosts, goblins, witches or little devils? If so, listen to this from our two guests.
Bjornstad: Why do people wear masks on Halloween, on October 31, and why do they wear the masks that they do on that particular day? I think there are a number of reasons in history in the development that would help us to understand this. First of all, there were those witches, those people, who were perhaps going to a meeting, a coven. And so, not to be recognized by the villagers, they would don a mask to disguise themselves to keep their identity secretive.
A second reason might be the idea of disguising themselves from the evil spirits so that the evil spirits who were looking for a particular person couldn’t find them. The reason they couldn’t find them is because they couldn’t identify them with a mask on.
A third reason might be the fact of wearing the masks and sometimes they would celebrate around the fire and dance, and then what would happen is, these people would wander off out of town hoping that the spirits would follow them out of town because they wore masks that were similar to the spirits—ghosts and things like that.
Weldon: I think if we understand what Halloween really means historically and what it really means today in the world of the occult, we have to ask ourselves, “How does God view Christians participating in Halloween?” As God looks down and sees Christian children out dressed in costumes, whether they’re costumes of the occult or not, what does He think when He knows the true reality of this day and actually what’s going on on this day in the world of the occult? Is this something that honors Him and pleases Him when He has told us so strongly in His Word not to imitate the evil things that the pagans do and to avoid all semblance of evil? I think that a question like this should be answered by every parent before they allow their children to go Trick or Treating.
Ankerberg: Do you know why it is that at Halloween there is such an emphasis put on cemeteries, tombstones, and haunted houses? Here’s why.
Bjornstad: Why on Halloween are we so concerned about graveyards and tombstones and poltergeists and ghosts and Halloween? Well, again, when we go back in history on this day we discover that it is the day that is given over to the Lord of the Dead. That’s the tradition in Celtic history. And so what the Celts would do is, they understood that the spirits of the dead were wandering around the area, and therefore if you were going to have contact with them, one of the practices we know that happened is that people would go over and they would lie on the grave of a loved ones. So graves were very important. Tombstones were important, because it was the place where the dead would be roaming. And so we see parts of that even today, the interest in that.
When you think of ghosts, again, the roaming of allegedly the dead, good and evil, that were here, ghosts today. You think of haunted houses as the ghosts went around, as the dead went around back at that time. There would be certain manifestations. They would see certain signs; there would be certain places they would inhabit. And the idea of the haunted house comes out of that. And so the things that we associate with Halloween are really nothing new. What we are doing is celebrating the things that existed back then in the time prior to Christ in the world of the occult, the world of things that relate to Satan and not of God.
Ankerberg: Now, I think a lot of Christians and non-Christians who are listening to all of this are saying, “So what? That might have been what these Halloween practices meant in the past, but it certainly doesn’t mean that to me today. I’m just doing it for fun.” If that’s where you’re at, then listen first to Dr. Bjornstad and then Dr. Weldon.
Bjornstad: Now, you may be sitting there and listening to what I’ve said, and you’ve heard me say that virtually everything associated with Halloween, everything that is practiced, everything from Trick or Treating to the wearing of masks and a costume, they all have their origin in paganism, in the occult. And you may say, “I don’t really believe in that stuff anyway. I just do it for fun.” If you think of that for a moment, that may well be a perception that you have of it; but let me remind that perceptions are not always reality. You may think that it’s fun; that there’s nothing to it. But one of the things I can assure you is that there is a reality to it. And, furthermore, I can assure you from God’s Word that’s a very serious reality, because that reality stands in opposition to God. And what God is saying is, you shouldn’t be involved in things like that. It doesn’t glorify Him, and it can, if you get involved in the occult, lead to disastrous results. So God says, “Stay away from it.”
Weldon: I think a very strong argument can be made that Christians should not be involved in Halloween principally because of everything that is involved in the day of Halloween itself historically and today. Historically it’s related to paganism and spiritism and things like human sacrifice. Today it’s related to exactly those same things. Therefore, to dress up one’s child in costumes and to have them go Trick or Treating and to have all the other symbols and practices and activities associated with Halloween in some way, even indirectly, is associating oneself or giving some kind of credence to what occurs on a day that the world of the occult has made one of its most special days. I don’t think this is something that Christians should be involved in when God is so very clear in His Word telling us that we are to avoid all appearances of evil; that we are not to learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations and because they are profitless.
Ankerberg: Another question Christians ask me is, should churches and church organizations put on haunted houses on Halloween so that they can present the Gospel afterwards? Here is why I would advise them not to do this.
Bjornstad: Through the years I’ve been asked the question of Operation Nightmare, haunted houses. Can we not use those things in order to bring people to Christ? And what about a Halloween party with all the costumes and everything, why not have that in order to introduce the Gospel? The thought that crosses my mind is that it seems to me that what we are saying is the end justifies the means; that is, in order to give salvation we can use whatever means we need in order to accomplish that. As I think about that another thought crosses my mind, that when you consider the means, are we not sending out contrary signals, contradictory signals? Are we saying it’s okay to dress up like this, it’s okay to mimic the occult, and we’re even giving that means, by the way, to our Christian kids and children as well? If we’re going to do that, give credence to it, is that not contrary to what the Christian message is all about? That those things are antithetical to God, that they are in opposition to God, that they are demonic? And I would say I don’t think that we should be doing those things.
Weldon: I think we have to ask a question: Why do we want to use haunted houses? What is the purpose? Are we attempting to make fun of the idea of ghosts or simply to entertain our children with a haunted house? We have to remember that we’re in the middle of a spiritistic revival. Los Angeles alone has at least a thousand channelers. There are many other cities that are experiencing a revival of spiritism and the occult. Poltergeist events happen every day of the week somewhere in the country. So there’s definitely a revival of the occult. And what are we doing when we offer something like a haunted house as an innocent pastime or as a form of entertainment to our kids? I think our kids need to realize that haunted houses are real and that what haunts them is ultimately something evil. In Scripture we’re warned to “abstain from every form [or appearance] of evil.” [1 Thess. 5:22] We are not to imitate what is evil. “Do not learn the ways of the nations.” [Jer. 10:2] There are many Scriptures like this that indicate that we’re to strictly avoid that which is pagan, that which has associations to the occult.
So I think it’s probably unwise to use the theme of haunted houses as a form of entertainment for children on Halloween. We know that haunted houses do represent a reality and that reality is clearly something demonic. Unfortunately, there are children that have been led astray through something like this, become fascinated with the world of the occult, with seeking contact with ghosts through the Ouija board and things of this nature. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 18:6—and this applies to the entire area of Halloween and the occult—“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck and he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” In other words, God loves little children. And to take a chance that little children could be led astray into the occult, which is an extremely dark reality fraught with dangers, is something that simply we cannot take a chance on.
Ankerberg: What would you say to those Christians who say, “Look, Romans 14 and other passages in the New Testament leave this matter up to me. It’s an individual’s personal choice before God,” preference. Dr. Bjornstad looks at the Scripture and disagrees.
Bjornstad: Many times when I talk with Christians about Halloween, they have said to me, “Have you ever looked at Romans 14? You see, whether we take our children out, whether we do the things on Halloween or not really is an individual preference, and that discretion belongs to me. After all, Paul says in that passage, there are people that eat certain foods and other people that do not. There are people that worship on one day, there are people that worship on another day. And it really doesn’t matter. So, since this thing is removed, you know, from the demonic and the occult, as is the food or whatever, that we have a right, then to be able to go out to celebrate.” Now, I think about that for a moment, but as I look at the passage, I see something. “Whoever eats food….he eats it to the Lord. Whoever worships on the day or honors the day does so for the Lord.” And I always ask these people a question. In what way is what you are doing on Halloween, how is it “to the Lord”? How is it?
Ankerberg: Is there anything Christians can do on Halloween? How can we use this day to introduce Jesus Christ to our neighbors and friends? Dr. Bjornstad explains.
Bjornstad: I find that night a particularly good night to get to know my neighbors, to get to know the kids, and even to have an opportunity to share with them. Oh, yes, I have candy at the door; I have some tracts, but I just find it a very valuable time, almost a pre-evangelistic way of getting to know them and then perhaps having further contact where I can introduce them to Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: Some people may ask, “Why is it that we can’t celebrate Halloween if we can celebrate Christmas and Easter? After all, those celebrations also grew out of pagan holidays, didn’t they?” Dr. Bjornstad disagrees and gives the reasons why these holidays are different.
Bjornstad: Well, John, there’s no denying the fact that Christmas, of course, goes back to the Roman Saturnalia, which was a pagan festival. And Easter goes back to the idea of the fertility cults. And certainly, Halloween goes back to the Celts and their understanding of the dead and involvement in activity and things that they did. So they all have a commonality, as you mentioned, in terms of heathen pagan religions. But there’s a difference.
When the Church went and took those holidays, what they did was to add to them to try to make something that was Christian. For Christmas, of course, they put the birth of Christ. Now, I know that when Christmas comes there are secular items to it because we’re very mass market oriented in terms of gifts and everything else. You know the Christmas tree is there and that has some roots in paganism. But what I think about Christmas, and there’s a solid biblical content to it, is that it is the day when God entered human history, the Lord Jesus Christ was born.
When I think of Easter, I don’t think of Easter eggs and little chickens and bunny rabbits and all the rest. What I think about is the fact that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead.
However, when I come to Halloween, it’s very different. When I think of Halloween, what is that? What is that? Some might say, “Well, let’s go back to All Hallows Day and we’re going to worship the saints and remember the saints.” That’s Roman Catholic tradition and the idea basically on that night was to pray for the dead, to do expiatory, to do sacrifices, to do prayers on behalf of the dead so somehow we might gain merit for them in terms of the afterlife. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. What is there in the tradition of Halloween, in Halloween today, that is in any way a Christian message, a godly message? What is there? It’s nothing more than that which emulates paganism.
Ankerberg: If you’ve participated in the activities of Halloween all your life and you’re hearing this information and feeling a little guilty, what should you do?
Bjornstad: So many of us growing up have been involved in “Trick or Treat,” had costumes on, have gone through the neighborhood and perhaps the thought might come at this point, if that is wrong, if it’s associated with the occult, if it’s paganism, what am I going to do about that? And the thing that I would tell you is simply confess it to God that something is wrong and receive His forgiveness.


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