Should Christians participate in Halloween? Is it possible to worship God during this pagan holiday? How is the God of life to be celebrated during a time everyone else is reveling in death? Today AMBrewster and Luke Gilkerson grapple with these questions and more in an attempt to help born again believers better worship God every day of every year.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
“Redeeming Halloween: How Should Christians Approach Halloween?”
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Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
I am your host, and this is The Celebration of God, and now I’m sensing some significant deja vu. Either that or it’s my stutter acting up again.
Regardless, TeamTLP and I are glad that you are hear, and I pray that today’s show will do the following:
That pretty much is the reality for all born again believers. We must glorify God even if we’re the only ones doing it, and we should be eternal students. We have an eternal God, it’s ridiculous for us to think we know everything about any subject, and we should be willing to consider new ideas, compare them with the Scriptures, and — if they align with God’s revealed Word — incorporate them into our celebration of God.
But before we get into all of that, I sometimes like to share some personal anecdote. And I’ll introduce my personal anecdote by sharing someone else's’ personal anecdote.
So, there’s this pastor named Burk Parsons, and a number of years ago it came out that he was one of the original Backstreet Boys, but the Lord got ahold of his life, and he decided that he couldn’t live that lifestyle. He was even later invited to join ’N Sync, but he turned that down too.
So, all you ladies out there who grew up during the 90’s, you’re probably having crazy flashbacks right now, but I share his story simply to say that my story isn’t nearly as cool.
I too was in the music industry for quite a long time and had the opportunity to meet and perform with a number of people who are huge stars today . . . but I was never in any of their groups . . . or even invited. I had a garage band that cut a number of albums and gained very modest popularity . . . and that’s it.
I started off as the drummer, later became one of the guitarists, and then later became the lead singer/songwriter. I’m not sure if that was such a great choice, but it was my band, so . . . you know.
Anyway, to answer the questions you haven’t asked, “No, I’m not going to tell you the name of the group. No, you won’t be able to Google it because every band member we ever had used a pseudonym, and no, I’m not going to let you listen to any of the songs.
Maybe one day I’ll play an acoustic version on a YouTube video or something, but you’re going to have to really cajole me to make that happen.
So, that’s something about me you probably didn’t know, and now we have to talk about something of far more substance.
Should you or should you not participate in Halloween?
And that’s a fantastic question that many people ask every year around this time.
And — specifically — within the context of the Celebration of God, we need to grapple with whether or not God can be worshipped in, around, and through the common Halloween activities.
Now, if anything perks your ears, and you want to have the information at your fingertips, you can read today’s transcript at CelebrationOfGod.com.
When it comes to Halloween, 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 not really familiar with much else he’s written or said. So, understand that I’m not putting my stamp of approval on him per se, but he wrote a very good article discussing our question today, and I want to discuss some of it with you. His article is called “Redeeming Halloween: How Should Christians Approach Halloween?” and I’ll link it in the description if you’re interested in reading it in its entirety.
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 in order to celebrate God, and you’re tempted to just stop listening, please hear what Luke and I have to say. Remember, it’s wise to to be a student — especially when someone is claiming to be able to support their viewpoint from the Scriptures. Even if you end up rejecting the viewpoint, at least then you’ve done your due diligence.
So, 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.
Now, there’s no reason to pretend like anyone is in any suspense to know which option Mr. Gilkerson chooses. He’s clearly making the argument that — at least for his family — redeeming Halloween is a legitimate option. In the article he uses Paul’s words and action in Athens as an example of this.
In Acts 17 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.
Then the author provides a “very, very brief history of Halloween” which I encourage you to read. I think too many people make a lot of uninformed decisions. For example, I once listened to a parenting podcast where the hosts openly admitted that they had no idea what the origins of Halloween are, and yet they had very strong beliefs that it was born from the spawn of wickedness and depravity.
Now, I’m not saying that we can’t make a Christ-honoring choice without having studied a topic ad nauseum, but I am saying that I believe wisdom dictates that we be as informed as possible before making a decision. We also should strive to become more informed as we are able.
Moving on, the author shares some important 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.”
There is no Scripture passage that can be applied to this discussion with a 100% certain application for all believers.
Sure, if people are actually practicing witchcraft and sacrificing children and worshipping the devil and participating in other wicked deeds, the Bible has a lot to say about that, but a child putting on a costume is not addressed.
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. This is one of the reasons that I created The Celebration of God. Far too many professing Christians “celebrate” Christmas and Easter in a way that does not bring glory to God. That should not be!
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.”
In episode 4 we discussed "The Freedom to Celebrate God.” We learned that we are commanded by God to celebrate God, and that He defines the heart posture in which we are to celebrate Him, and — in some cases — He has very specific expectations for exactly how He is to be celebrated. But we also learned that we have freedom to celebrate Him with unique festivals, feasts, and special days.
Lastly, God gave us everything we need to guide our conscience in these decisions, and commands that we do everything we do with the faith that this is the best way we can glorify God with our lives.
And lastly Luke Gilkerson 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 fall. It is impossible to celebrate God while being prideful. I don’t care what you’re doing, the Lord will not accept worship that is prideful.
James 4:6 is a petrifying reminder that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I believe the Lord opposes many people on both sides of this debate because they are arrogantly parading their own preferences and they’re not being loving.
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.
Moving on — 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 the article because it agrees with my beliefs. Luke’s applications are very biblical and consistent with Scripture.
Now, before I share his four ways of redeeming Halloween, I want to address those of you who are still dubious. Listen, I don’t want to be a stumbling-block. Unless you are 100% certain that God would be glorified in you celebrating Him by participating in Halloween-themed activities, then you had better not do it.
Still, continue listening because you may be surprised to hear how easy it is to celebrate God with this day.
And for those of you who would have participated in Halloween regardless of what you heard here today, please be warned . . . it doesn’t matter how wholesome the activity, unless you are consciously participating as an act of worship to God in faith . . . He’s not pleased with you.
We need to be intentional in our worship of God. He doesn’t want us mindlessly floating through life doing things because it feels good. That’s the very definition of self-worship.
Okay, so I’m going to explain his four ways of redeeming Halloween, discuss them a bit, and then share some additional ways my family attempts to redeem it.
1. 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, you’ve probably heard it said that Easter and Christmas are the only times that some people are willing to darken the door of a church, but I’m pretty sure this is changing as our society become less and less tolerant of any kind of religion — especially exclusive ones.
There are some people who 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 very 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. Growing up, I swear my son spent more time in costumes than he did normal clothes.
I actually thought it would be ridiculous if we asked him not to dress up on October 31st because he did so every other day of the year. For us, 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. We can “make use of holy horror.”
Now, if you go to CelebrationOfGod.com and click on the Holidays option, you can select the Halloween tab and access all of the content I’m going to put there.
You will find a list of Bible passages you can use to Prepare and Observe. We’ll have another list of Anticipations. This episode will be linked there as well as our next episode which will discuss how to Prepare, Observe, and Disciple during Halloween, but I’ll also share some Halloween-themed episodes I did for Truth.Love.Parent. — one of which deals with this suggestion.
The episode is called “The Value of Horror Movies” and discusses this point.
I’ll also share another episode I did about being honest with your children concerning death. In it I talk about what that looks like to give our children a biblical understanding of death.
I believe it’s hugely important to their relationship with God and their spiritual 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.”
One of the things we’ll discuss next time is that Halloween is the perfect time of year to teach and remind our kids about the consequences of sin. Fear, death, slavery, and the like are featured so prominently, how could we not use them to point back to God’s thoughts on the subject?
As if Luke knew exactly what I was going to say, he writes “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.
Again, please read the article to glean his great ideas.
And then — lastly — 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 point in more detail.
Luke then 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 the content and tone of Luke’s article. I think his applications are fantastic, and I encourage you to follow the link in the description. In fact, we normally have episodes notes with all of our episodes, but we aren’t going to do that today because Luke’s article does just that. Of course, the transcript will still be available.
Now, as we wrap up, please 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 also 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 my family also just uses it as another really great time to build family ties. My daughter was born in October — no matter how big she gets, she’ll always be our little pumpkin — and we celebrate the whole month of October because of the Season of Mercy, Ivy’s birthday, and Halloween.
And then the festivities continue on throughout the beginning of November in preparation for Thanksgiving, which then fuels the flame for Christmas and New Years!
As I’ve pointed out on this show a number of times, the Brewster family believes there’s a very natural progression from Halloween through Easter. Allow me to unravel it yet one more time.
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 this 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 Easter which celebrates the substitutionary atonement and resurrection which are the beginning of our redemption!
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. 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.
And don’t miss our next episode where I present some ways we can intentionally and premeditatedly celebrate God during Halloween. We’ll discuss how to prepare for it, observe it, and even disciple our community through it.
And, lastly, please know that we are a listener-supported ministry, and if you’d like to learn how you can support The Celebration of God so that we can continue creating these free resources, just click on the handy link in the description.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.