What part — if any — should Halloween play in the life of a Christian? Today AMBrewster and Luke Gilkerson help Christian parents answer this question in a Christ-honoring way.
Read “Redeeming Halloween: How Should Christians Approach Halloween?”
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Click "Read More" for today’s Transcript.
Should Halloween have any place in your home?
That’s a fantastic question!
But I’d also like to remind you of a better question. Episode 102 was called “Should My Kids Go Trick-Or-Treating? Is Not the Best Question.”
We could say the same thing here: “Should Halloween have any place in your home?” is not the best question.
So, if you haven’t heard episode 102, I encourage you to check it out first. Before we seek to answer any question like this, we need to make sure our foundation is solid.
And if you have heard that episode, then let’s jump right in.
There are so many opinions out there, and I’m not a huge fan of reinventing the wheel, so today I’m going to lean heavily on a gentlemen by the name of Luke Gilkerson.
To be honest, I’m really not familiar with much else that he’s written or said. I’m not putting my stamp of approval on him per se, but his article “Redeeming Halloween: How Should Christians Approach Halloween?” was very good, and I want to share it with you here.
I’m going to cite and quote the article, but I want you to read it for yourself, so I’ve linked the full article in the description of today’s show.
So Luke starts his post with this example:
“The evening of Halloween approaches. Down the street, a mother dresses her kids for Trick-or-Treat. Her daughter is dressed like a busty pirate wench. Her son looks like a twisted cross between something from Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellraiser. Their lawn decorations are nothing short of a celebration of death. This family also regularly attends church and calls Jesus Lord.
“Next door, a mother cloisters her kids inside for the evening. She avoids the use of harvest decorations in order to not associate with the day. Her children neither receive nor hand out candy. Every year, she reminds her children about the demonic elements of Halloween and warns them not to return any “Happy Halloween” greetings. She sternly rebukes any fellow Christian who would attend a so-called “Halloween replacement” party on October 31. Her family also faithfully goes to church and calls Jesus Lord.”
And then he says, “I believe neither of these extremes is the wisest way for Christians to handle the subject of Halloween.” And then he asks the question, “But is it possible that a middle ground can help with redeeming Halloween?”
Now, if you don’t believe that Halloween can or should be redeemed and you’re tempted to stop listening, just hear what Luke and I to say. At least then you’ve done your due diligence.
In the next section of the article, Mr. Gilkerson explains the three choices Christians have when they encounter questionable elements within the culture. He says we may choose to receive them, reject them, or redeem them.
He’s clearly making the argument that — at least for his family — redeeming Halloween is a legitimate option. He uses Paul’s words and action in Athens as an example of this. Paul redeemed a completely worthless and sinful idol as well as the writings of a pagan poet to point to the Gospel. He took the otherwise sinful, empty idols and philosophies and used them for God’s glory.
He provides a “very, very brief history of Halloween” which I encourage you to read. I think too many people make uninformed decisions. I recently listened to a parenting podcast where the hosts openly admitted that they had no idea what the origins of Halloween are.
Now, I’m not saying that we can’t make a Christ-honoring choice without having studied the topic ad nauseum, but I am saying that I believe wisdom dictates that we be as informed as possible before making a decision, and that we strive to become more informed as we are able.
Moving on, the author shares some caveats. He says, “For some Christians, the notion of ‘redeeming’ Halloween will sound ridiculous. How can something so rife with demonic symbolism be redeemed? Perhaps this is just one of those things that fits into the ‘reject’ category. Is there anything positive to redeem?
“Undoubtedly, some will read this and remind me about Halloween’s pagan roots, telling me about Druids, pagan sacrifices, rituals to commune with the dead, Celtic deities, and the questionable origins of trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns.” And he says, “I’m quite aware of all these facts.”
And then he shares 4 caveats.
The first is that “It’s important not to treat this as a cut and dry issue.”
Second, he reminds us that “many Halloween traditions are a far cry from their ancient or medieval counterparts.”
I would add to this that the same is true for the modern celebrations of Christmas and Easter. The point to be made is that in the same way that secular individuals no longer celebrate the incarnation at Christmas, most people in the United States aren’t celebrating anything demonic at Halloween.
His third caveat is really important. He says, “It is also important to note that this issue is a matter of conscience.”
And lastly he gives a very powerful admonition: “We should never become prideful about our approach on the subject.”
This is true regardless of on which side the debate you side.
And again, I want to encourage you to click on the link below, read the full article, and see the important biblical references he provides.
And then he takes the rest of his article to list 4 fantastic ways to redeem Halloween.
And I think the reason I’m leaning so heavily on Luke’s article today is that I was so happy to find someone who thinks the same way I do!
Seriously, I don’t love it because he agrees with me. His applications are very biblical and consistent with Scripture.
So, I’m going to share his four ways of redeeming Halloween, discuss them a bit, and then share some additional ways my family attempts to redeem it.
1. He says that we need to show love to our neighbors.
Halloween is a time that people are willing to invite others over and be invited over more than nearly any other time of the year.
Think about it, we’ve often said that Easter and Christmas are the only times that some people are willing to darken the door of a church, but more and more even this is changing.
Some people have absolutely no interest in church, and receiving an invitation from you — someone who, hopefully, they know is a Christian — during Christmas or Easter may put them on guard.
But, they may easily feel like you couldn’t possibly push God on them during a Halloween party!
And perhaps you won’t, but it can be a great time to invest in them and show them how much you love them and their family.
2. Luke’s second encouragement is that we could try to “unearth the good roots of Halloween.”
“What are the good roots of Halloween?” you ask. Well, I’m going to let you read the article yourself for these, but they are legitimate and good.
Another version of this same point is something that my family has done nearly every year since my kids were old enough to dress themselves. I swear that my son spent more time in costumes than he did normal clothes.
I thought it was funny that we would ask him not to dress up on October 31st when he did so every other day of the year. This was just one element of Halloween that we could enjoy because dressing up was a natural and innocent way my children played.
However, if your children never dress up, perhaps that wouldn’t work was well for you.
3. Luke suggests that we can “make use of holy horror.”
I plan to do a future episode about being honest with your children about death. I’d like to talk about what that looks like and share important implications of giving our children a biblical understanding of death.
I believe it’s hugely important to their understanding of God and maturity.
But Luke also rightly argues that, “The portrayal of good and evil, as well as their consequences, are two sides of the truth. Uncovering the real nature of evil is part of what it means to dwell on what is good.”
Mr. Gilkerson also make the very wise observation that “God is not opposed to the use of horror—in fact He does it Himself. . . The prophet Daniel wrote horror literature, based on images and drama pitched by God to him in Babylon. Not only did God turn the blaspheming king Nebuchadnezzar into an insane wolfman to humble his idolatrous pride (Dan. 4), but He storyboarded horror epics for kings Belshazzar and Darius as allegories of the historical battle between good and evil to come. Huge hybrid carnivorous monsters come out of the sea like Godzilla, one of them with large fangs and ravishing claws to devour, crush, and trample over the earth (7:1–8) until it is slain and its flesh roasted in fire (7:11); there are blasphemous sacrileges causing horror (8:13), including an abomination of desolation (9:26–27); angels and demons engaging in spiritual warfare (10:13); rivers of fire (7:10); deep impact comets and meteors colliding with the earth, Armageddon style (8:10); wars, desolation, and complete destruction (9:26-27). The book of Daniel reads like God’s own horror film festival. And . . .” he continues, “This all gives glory to God in the highest.”
Luke then says, “Help your children see how classical archetypes of evil—monsters, dragons, vampires, werewolves, ghosts—show the true nature of sin and evil.” And after he rightly points out some very real evils of modern horror films, he gives some very practical and down-to-earth examples of how to use vampires, zombies, Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein to illustrate important biblical truths.
Please read the article to glean his great ideas.
And 4. The author finishes his exhortations by saying that we should “teach children Halloween is really a mockery of the devil.”
He quotes Dr. John Frame as saying, “In its missionary labors in Europe, the church substituted its own holiday for some pagan observance. 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.”
He also links to a video from evangelist Glen Scrivener who discusses this in more detail.
Luke ends this section by observing, “Medieval Christians used the eve of All Saints’ Day as a time to dress as sinister creatures, not as a way to celebrate evil but to mock it, to tease it. “They hand to the damned just one final frolic” because they know the darkness will be overcome by the coming dawn.”
And he ends his article by saying, “In the end, you have to choose how best to approach redeeming Halloween. The evil atmosphere of the day may loom large, but He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.”
Again, let me say how much I appreciate Luke’s article. I think his applications are fantastic, and I — once again — encourage you to read the article linked below.
We also aren’t going to have any episode notes today as Luke’s article does just that. But the transcript will still be available.
Now, let me share with you a couple additional ways my family likes to redeem Halloween.
Yes, we try to use the time to build relationships in our community. We love Autumn and harvest decorations, but we also don’t mind using cobwebs and Jack o’ Lanterns in our decorating. We don’t celebrate the darkness, but we love celebrating the light. Fallen leaves, spiders and their webs, pumpkins, and shocks of corn stalks are God’s creation. They are beautiful and we can enjoy them to His glory.
I take nearly every opportunity I can to use Halloween decorations and movies to teach biblical truth and to show how Satan is to be rejected.
But we also just use it as another really great time to build family ties. My daughter was born in October, she’s our pumpkin, and we celebrate the whole month of October because of Autumn, Ivy’s birthday, and Halloween.
And then the festivities continue on throughout the beginning of November in preparation for Thanksgiving, which them fuels the flame for Christmas and New Years!
We believe there’s a very natural progression from Halloween through Easter. Track with me here for a second.
During Halloween we see the failed attempts of Satan and his forces to bring any kind of ultimate satisfaction. You can use the kids’ candy collection as an example of that. Eaten the wrong way, the candy will turn from joy to sickness. And even if it’s enjoyed the right way, eventually it will be gone. None of these world’s dainties will ever last.
Then we move to Thanksgiving where we can praise God for His promises, both the fulfilled ones and the yet unfulfilled ones.
That sets the stage nicely for Christmas which celebrates the incarnation, and then leads into Good Friday and Easter which are the substitutionary atonement and resurrection which are the beginning of our redemption!
I also am looking forward to creating and presenting to you a Holiday celebration plan that doesn’t view each holiday as an individual Occassion, but ties together a 365 day of the year celebration that is constantly pointing forward and looking backward to previous holidays in order to keep a unified focus and organic year-long celebration of God.
And the small bit I shared about Halloween through Easter is just a part of that glorious whole.
So, we use Halloween to have family fun, but we also use it as an integral part of our family’s celebration of God.
Now, after hearing all of this, you may still believe it best for your family to not participate in anything Halloween or Harvest oriented.
If that’s the case and you believe that refraining is the best way you and your family can glorify God, then you should definitely refrain.
But remember what Luke Gilkerson said — this is not a cut and dry issue, and we all need to flee the pride that is associated with an “I’m right and you’re wrong” type of thinking.
If, however, this episode was a blessing to you, please share it on social media.
And don’t miss our next episode where we discuss The Circle of Learning and learn to teach our kids to learn.
I love this material, and I’ve presented it every year to my students since 2007.
And, lastly, please allow me to publicly thank Scott and Mindee for being faithful Patrons. Their sacrificial gifts make it possible for us to continue producing these free parenting and family resources.
We are a listener-supported ministry, and if you’d like to learn how you can play a part in sharing God’s Truth with families all over the globe, please click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description.
Halloween doesn’t have to be a scary time of year. In fact, it can be a glorious time of love, relationship building, and celebration of God’s goodness and grace.
Have a great week.
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