by Jan Young

A Christian worldview is based on comparing all things to the Bible, our standard and authority. Every year at Halloween there are voices either supporting or disagreeing with Christians or churches participating in this holiday, or saying we should not take a stance on it at all. Some say that regardless of the true meaning of this holiday, it is now only about fun and candy and is innocuous if you are not observing the true meaning (similar to the reasoning used by Christians who do yoga). Some say the Bible does not speak to this question, so it falls into the category of freedom of conscience--Christian liberty. What is Halloween and does the Bible say anything about it?

Irish and Scotch immigrants brought their customs to this country, including the Gaelic festival of Samhain--Oct. 31--the day when the veil between this world and the unseen world, between the living and the dead, is believed to be thinnest, to be an opening in space-time: the dead can be contacted, the spirits are active, ghosts of the dead roam the earth. The evil spirits were appeased with food offerings and lit candles. Some believed they would be protected by wearing disguises and by carrying lanterns of turnips carved with grotesque faces (in America pumpkins were used, being larger and easier to carve.) Others dressed as supernatural beings and went door to door threatening mischief unless they were placated by food offerings. There were also festivities involving food, drink, and divination games including apple bobbing. In the 1930s Halloween morphed from parties into the practice of children trick or treating, along with the advent of haunted houses. Favored themes are witches and their black cats, skulls, ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and vampires; dark themes are popular--death, evil, haunting, horror, malevolent beings, spirits of the dead, superstition.

When Christianity (or at least the Catholic version of it) was brought into the Celtic regions, All Saints' Day was created on Nov. 1 to honor the saints and martyrs, and was celebrated in similar manner as Samhain; pre-Christian pagan practices were often integrated with Catholic practices, similar to the history of Christmas traditions. Today Wiccans/witches, Satanists, and neo-pagans still observe Samhain--the time of the thinning of the veil--as the most powerful time to perform their rituals and spells. It is their high holy day (holiday). Of the eight Wiccan holidays, Halloween is the most important. (Whether they engage in black magic or white magic, spells are still spells and call upon occult powers. There are no good or cute witches.)

In the Old Testament we read that Israel, while following the one true God, also engaged in the pagan religious practices of their neighbors. Much of the Old Testament is about what God had to say to them about these practices, and what resulted from engaging in them.

Deut. 32:16-17, "They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known."

In the New Testament's first century church, we read of Christians who had previously been pagans still dabbling in pagan practices and bringing these into the church. In both the Old Testament and New Testament times, witches, witchcraft/sorcery/magic, demons/false gods/idols, mediums/familiar spirits, divination, were common, and God had quite a bit to say about them, especially concerning believers.

A sampling of passages regarding witches from both Old and New Testaments:

Exo. 7:11-12, sorcery (witchcraft) is not an illusion but accesses occult powers.

Exo, 22:18, a sorceress (witch) was to be put to death.

Deut. 18:10-11, witches are classed with the sin of offering your child to Molech, the fiery idol of child sacrifice, and listed with divination, omens, sorcery, casting spells, mediums, spiritists, calling up the dead. These things are all detestable to God, 12.

II Chron. 33:6, God associates witches with divination, sorcery, mediums, spiritists; all are termed "evil."

Acts 19:19, pagans who were converted had a public burning of their magic books; divination/witches/witchcraft were not things for believers to hold onto, to play with.

Gal. 5:19-21, sorcery (witchcraft) is listed among things that are not acceptable to God. Would we have a holiday with candy based on anything else in that list? Are witches OK for a holiday theme?

Some see I Cor. 8 as giving Christians freedom of conscience on questions such as Halloween. It speaks to an issue in the early church of eating meat bought in the meat market that had previously been sacrificed to idols. Apparently some Christians saw this as wrong and others had no problem with it. Paul says this does not actually affect the meat because, 4, "we know that there is no such thing as an idol," but if it bothers you or whoever you are eating with, just don't do it. Is he saying that because an idol is manmade, that idols are not dangerous and idol-worship is not really a thing? No; much of the Bible speaks against any involvement with idols/false gods by those who worship the true God.

Paul says in I Cor. 8:8 that what we consume does not affect our spiritual condition. He clarifies in I Cor. 10:19-20, "What do I imply then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons." But might it be OK to play with idols one day a year as long as it was only for fun and and centered around candy?

Isa. 44:9-17 speaks of the futility of worshiping an object that man himself has created. Idols, created by men, are not intrinsically divine or powerful, but they are representations of demonic powers that are not to be worshiped or even toyed with. Paul says there is nothing wrong with buying and eating that meat, that the meat itself was not affected. Is eating meat evil and forbidden by God? Are witches evil and forbidden by God? Can the same principle be applied to meat and to witches?

The New Testament teaches that Christians have the freedom to observe "days" according to their own conscience; does this teach freedom of choice regarding Halloween?

Rom. 14:5, "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind."

Col. 2:16, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day."

The context of "days" was the issue of Jewish Christians believing in Jesus plus the law of Moses, particularly Sabbath-keeping, along with observing the required Jewish feast days. Sabbath-keeping was a very important part of Judaism. Paul is saying that Jewish Christians have the freedom to observe or not observe these Jewish special days, as long as they understand they are no longer under the obligations of the law of Moses. Would pagan celebrations based on witches be included in this freedom?

In all these scenarios, was the issue how the people felt about doing these things, or how God felt about them?

If Halloween is merely the fun of dressing up and getting candy, that can be done on any day of the year--what is the attraction of doing it on this particular date? If Halloween is no longer about its pagan origin, just fun and candy, then why is it about witches and spooky stuff? Are witch costumes and decorations OK on days other than Halloween, if we find them fun? And maybe the most pertinent question: Can I participate in this witch-themed holiday as long as costumes and decorations are not about witches or any of the other traditional Halloween images?

The Bible teaches that each Christian has liberty to follow their biblically-informed conscience in matters where Scripture does not speak. Be biblically informed.

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