Sunday, October 15, 2006

I am finding myself becoming less and less interested in reading books or listening to sermons that detail out “principles” from the Bible. Why? Well, it’s not because there are no principles in the Bible it’s just that more and more the principles being promoted are sounding like nothing more than subjective interpretations of the Bible with the label “principle” slapped onto it. Charismatic’s have books or preach series with titles like “God’s principles for healing” or “The 5 principles of prosperity” and so forth. The seeker crowd promote books and sermon series with titles such as “The Nehemiah principles of financial planning…” or “The principles of starting your day the Jesus way…” or some other such silly topics aimed at peeking the interest of the disinterested.

There seem to be two avenues that God uses to deliver truth while reading the Bible, the final authority in life. The first is the straightforward command. “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another”. Fairly straight forward is it not? Not much room for discussion or confusion or misunderstand. It’s a very simple command. Then there are indeed truths found not so much in direct command but in drawing logical conclusions based upon the parameters set forth in the Bible. There are truths found in learn “principles”. For example, smoking tobacco is not directly prohibited in the Bible. But, mistreating your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (for those who believe) is directly forbidden. So the logic is simple: 1. it is a sin to mistreat our body. 2. It can be demonstrated scientifically that smoking damages the lungs and is linked with cancer. 3. Therefore smoking is a sin. So, it is safe to say “smoking is a sin” not because that is a direct quotation of the Bible but it can easily be demonstrated to be in harmony with a true principle of the Bible.

Obviously direct commands of the Bible are not debatable. Many times principles are. Therein lies the seemingly endless struggle between having fidelity to God and His Word and crossing the line into the realm of legalism. People as dogged about their view of “principles” as they are about direct commands usually end up legalistic. Why? Well, many reasons I suppose. First is ignorance of the art and science of Biblical interpretation. For example, when Paul instructed women to not braid their hair what exactly did he mean? Or when it is said that it is a shame for a man to have long hair, how long was “long” back then and what were the issues surrounding men with “long” hair? So obviously a text needs to be properly interpreted in order to glean a principle. Second is the use of logic. I’ve known Armenians who did not believe in playing any card games because cards were used for gambling…and gambling is clearly wrong. So, they would say, in order to avoid “all appearances” of evil they were prohibited from playing euchre or any other card game, even when there was no gambling taking place in order “to avoid even the appearance of evil”. Another example of “principles” gone wrong is my two Jehovah’s Witnesses friends that I’ve been working with. They refuse blood transfusions because the Bible forbids the drinking of blood. That is an example of out of context interpretation AND a lack of logic.

I say all of that to ask this straightforward question: Is it wrong for Christian parents to celebrate Halloween with their children? As the final authority in matters of faith and conduct it is to the Bible that Christians turn to for the answer. And as you can see from the first section today, gleaning the answers are not always cut and dry.

So what about Halloween? Is it harmless fun? Or, will allowing your kids to celebrate Halloween turn them into devil worshiping, Slipknot/Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson listening, depressed “Goth” teens? Wow, growing up my experience was more like the first option…I never drank blood, killed cats or even cared for that Goth music. Halloween was just fun for me, the devil was the furthest thing from my mind. One year I was Dracula, with “blood” coming down my chin and with a black cape (that black cape was the coolest). Then one year I was the Incredible Hulk and my brother Steve was Spider Man…I can remember “feeling” stronger than normal after my mom finished dressing me up! Then we really walked the edge of insanity…Steve and I were dressed up like Rock Stars on year! We were not allowed to listen to rock music mind you, we were raised in a Fundamental Baptist church, but if Dracula was ok then I guess my dad thought being a Rock Star was ok. I also remember how TICKED my dad got when he came home from work as we were about to head out for trick or treat one year and he saw my little sister, Sarah, dressed up like a witch. Oh man, he about flipped. She was already dressed up and my mom about pushed us out the door before he had a chance to put a stop to it…I don’t know why that made him so mad but me being Dracula didn’t upset him… We Baptists do have a legacy of picking and choosing what things bother us while we ignore other things of equal implication.

So, that was my experience. I was raised celebrating Halloween. We’d put on things in our windows like spiders and black cats. We’d carve jack-o-lanterns, we’d go to Halloween parties. My parents didn’t dress up…but me and my brother and sister did. As an adult and a student of the Bible I am now convinced that my parents simply were wrong in allowing us to celebrate Halloween. I assume both my parents now agree.

In order to understand the issues I strongly encourage you to study (even briefly) the origins of Halloween. Without any doubt whatsoever, it is, historically speaking, a pagan “holiday”.

I don’t think I could argue against participation if it simply USED TO BE something tied to paganism…if it were a shell of what USED TO BE I’d shrug my shoulders and say “who cares?”

The truth is that Halloween is still a very sacred, maybe the most sacred, evening of the pagan year. A 15 minute investigation on “Google” will show you that pagans all around the world are gearing up for their big night, Halloween. For both the pagan Wiccan and for the occultic devil worshiper, Halloween IS a “holiday” today, as much as ever, and they rejoice to see how popular their sacred day has become. Clearly, Halloween is historically and very much remains today a PAGAN “holiday”. That fact simply can not be denied.

So the question is this: Are God’s people permitted to join and participate in pagan worship? And that is the question, it is that cut and dry. What does God say about His chosen people celebrating and participating in pagan worship or even just false worship? In particular, what does Yahweh say about His chosen people being involved in occultic practice? Does He not speak about witches, wizards, psychics and communing with “the dead” and does He not call those practices darkness and evil? Or is that just metaphor?

Let me give you a couple passage that I believe support a “principle” of abstaining from Halloween. Then, I’ll give you the passage that I believe, without a doubt, forbids such celebration amongst God’s chosen people.

First, the case for the passages to support a principle:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “ Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 niv

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.
3 John 1:11 niv

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8 niv

Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Romans 12:9 niv

Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 niv

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1 John 1:5-6 niv

Those all, I believe, build a strong case for the “principle” that Christians should not celebrate Halloween. But the Bible goes further than just “principle”. It clearly rules out the option of God’s chosen people celebrating a pagan “holiday” such as Halloween by direct command, here it is…

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. “For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you. “ You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. “For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so.
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 niv

Notice here, not only are God’s chosen people not to practice witchcraft, sorcery, spell casting, omen interpreting or speaking with the dead…but God’s chosen people are not to learn to IMITATE those things either! Game, set, match. Strike three. Turn over on downs. There is NO WAY that it is ok for Christian parents to decorate their house with occultic images or dress their kids up like witches, demons, devils, ghouls, the dead, vampires, monsters or even Harry Potter…the occult is forbidden and imitating the occult is equally forbidden. Why? Because, simply put, we are people of the Light.

What about trick or treat? Is it acceptable for Christian parents to abstain from all the occultic themes of Halloween, things like Jack-o-Lanterns, demons, witches…darkness and fear... and do nothing more than dress their kids up in “neutral” costumes like football players or princesses and take their kids around to get candy for an hour or two? Can’t Christian parents truly make trick or treat harmless fun?

In my judgment, that is an issue of prayer and “work(ing) out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Why do I say that? Is it not true that the roots of costumes on that night and going for treats and “tricking” those who did not pass out treats go STRAIGHT back to the most fundamental aspects of ancient paganism? Um, yes, yes it does, actually. In fact, it was thought that demons and other ghouls would prowl around the night, on what we now call Halloween, and the people would dress up like those very demons and ghouls in order to “blend in” and not be attacked…they’d be “under cover” and would trick the demons into thinking that they were “one of them”. So indeed, even the practice of dressing up and looking for treats that night comes straight out of pagan mysticism. Just “google” it and you’ll see that is exactly the case. But, I believe that it can be strongly argued that that particular aspect of “Halloween” has been so diluted and so taken from it’s original context (much like the secular world has done to Christmas and Easter) that in my opinion a Christian could in good conscious take their kids out for the candy if they are not dressed up in occultic outfits or themes. There are many Christians who disagree with me and many who do agree and I don’t criticize either view. Naomi and I will not be taking our kids out on trick or treat, ever…we just want nothing to do with it to be honest and we don’t believe it will kill our kids to abstain, so long as it is clearly understood why we don’t participate. Our kids will not be attending, if it all possible and if I have breath in my lungs, public school. BUT, if they were I would have the kids stay home on the days of "Halloween" parties at school... or if they really wanted to go on that day, I'd let them go, but they would not be dressed up in a custum...those are just my rules. I’m sure McDonalds play land area will be in order those nights…

But at the same time I can’t, I don’t believe, push that strict of a view onto other Christians…I just don’t believe the case against dressing up in neutral outfits to get candy for an hour is strong enough to say that it is “forbidden”. Always remember this passage when you as a parent take this issue to the Lord in prayer: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 niv. Regardless of your view, as Christians we understand that we do not live by the scales…we don’t get to heaven if our “good out ways our bad”. So when we obey the Lord, it is truly not for selfish reasons, like, “well I would but I don’t want to end up in hell over it…” We obey for no other reason then we truly love Him. Our salvation is unconditionally secure and that is why “all things are lawful” for the Christian. We can, indeed, do "anything" we want; we “choose” not to sin out of our love for Christ and nothing else. We also understand that every action has a reaction and those whom God loves (His people in particular) he "chastens". Christians are chasten but never forsaken.

Finally, let me speak to those firmly opposed to ALL aspects of Halloween. I respect your resolve and I support your decision. But please, REFUSE to hand that night over to Satan. Refuse to turn your “light” out, so to speak. You are going to having dozens and dozens of kids walking right past your doors that night, most whom are being raised in homes where God’s Word is not honored. Why pass up opportunities to spread “the light”? Turn your porch light on that night and pass out candy. But don’t just pass out candy, slip in a gospel tract or an invitation to visit your church in the bag. Heck, put candy and a pocket sized New Testament in the bag. The kids will enjoy the candy and the parents might just look at the tract or information. That kid might not even have a Bible, maybe the pocket sized Bible will be kept by the youngster for years. Talk about “door to door” evangelism…this is the one time in the year that the sinners knock on YOUR door. What point are you actually proving to the unsaved world when you don’t pass out candy? You know your motivation, but if they don’t then what is the point? Do you think that they understand your conviction? How does that come across to your neighbors? I’ll give you a clue…you look like a kook! Or, you look cold, cheap, rude or that you are not neighborly. Open that door with a big smile, say hello to the moms and dads at the bottom of the steps and spread LIGHT on that night and put that information in those bags….don’t give that night up to Satan, that is forbidden by God as well!

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 niv

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK...you convinced me.
But I still have to talk with Tim.
Ya know...the one who decides everything!!! :)

crystal said...

Ok, I must say that if you wrote more often your blogs wouldn't have TO BE SO LONG!!! Love to read 'em anyway.

irreverend fox said...

anonymous,

oh sure, blame everything on Tim!

crystal,

I know, I know, you are SO right! If you think my blogs are long...you should endure my preaching...wow...
I used to be real good about blogging, then this summer hit and I've yet to get back into a regular groove...I will cause I love to write. Thanks for enduring!