Halloween

In an age of sophisticated call blockers and upfront “no solicitation” signs, it is not often in our society that many of our neighbors actually invite us to ring their doorbells. Such is the case, however, on Halloween. For whatever reason, our culture has sustained this tradition of walking from house to house, ringing the doorbell, and giving/receiving candy. I find it to be a fascinating situation and worthy of our reflection.

To start, I will briefly take up the age-old question of whether or not we should participate in Halloween. To do so, I will begin by quoting the theologian John Frame, who presents well my own position:

People often ask whether Christians should celebrate Halloween. I myself prefer to celebrate Reformation Day at that time of year. But the word Halloween is a form of “All Hallows Eve,” the evening that precedes All Saints Day in the church calendar. In its missionary labors in Europe, the church substituted its own holiday for some pagan observances. In the modern West, Halloween is essentially a mockery of ancient paganism. It is not paganism, but a celebration of the gospel’s victory over paganism. I see no spiritual danger in observing that celebration, as long as we, and our children, understand the difference between mocking paganism and endorsing it.[1]

Note here that Frame does not deny that there are elements of the occult wrapped up in this night. His point, rather, is to say that the church has, in the past, taken the opportunity to do what God has done with paganism: mock its power and value in light of the surpassing power and worth of knowing and living for the one, true, and living God.

I would also add that in the modern West the thorough-going materialist worldview of most people makes our participation less about a chance of participating in the occult and more about participating in the commercialism and consumerism that serves the god of the modern West. But, then again, you are equally at risk of doing so when you celebrate Christmas.

The point, then, is that in all that we do we exercise wisdom. For some, it would be inappropriate to celebrate Halloween because their consciences would not allow it to be done without harm to themselves. For others, it is an indifferent matter. Settle in your mind how you will engage with the world on All Hallows Eve, and then do it with a clear conscience.

That said, if you are going to celebrate Halloween, I have some additional thoughts, and I want to start with the idea that you not only live in a culture but also participate in its shaping. If you think about culture as the dynamic product of a variety of people with a variety of worldviews living according to those worldviews, then culture is something quite malleable. As the people change or as their worldviews change, so the culture is affected—positively or negatively. As a person with a worldview, by virtue of participating in society you are participating in shaping the culture in which you live. Since you are going to celebrate Halloween, you should do so mindfully and with the goal of positively shaping the culture as you live out your worldview.

The practical matters on this point are, I hope, fairly obvious. Don’t decorate your house in such a way that feeds the lie that Christ hasn’t in fact put to open shame the rulers and authorities (Col 2:15), which are rebellious spiritual beings.[2] Don’t dress up—or dress your children up—in costumes that celebrate the last enemy, death, which Christ has defeated. Instead, go for the princess or cowboy or something else like that. Mindfully and productively engage with the goal of testifying through your words and works that the gospel is central to your entire life, even your celebration of Halloween.

On the topic of mindfully engaging, remember that as you engage with the world you are not engaging with worldviews but with people. And, as I’ve said before, people are people not projects. This means that as we walk door to door, we are interested in engaging with the people who answer the door. In my opinion, it is unlikely that you will make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you on All Hallows Eve, but it is likely that you’ll learn your neighbor’s name and begin to build a relationship that ought to yield, in due time, an opportunity to give that defense. People are people, but be mindful how you engage.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’re only giving out the candy this year, buy the good stuff.


[1] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), 426–27. [2] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 196, 212.

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