Can Christians Enjoy God Through Halloween?

Halloween, Christian Freedom, and Conscience

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

1 Corinthians 8:8

Can Christians Enjoy God Through Halloween?

A brief historical introduction to Halloween:

Halloween’s origins date back two thousand years to the Celtic New Year festival of “Samhain” (pronounced sow-in) named after their god of the dead. (If it’s been a while since World History class, the Celts occupied England, Ireland and northern France.) Samhain was also one of the four high days (sabbats) of witchcraft or, more accurately, Wicca.

On the night before the November 1 new year, Celts believed that Samhain and the dead would roam the earth causing all kinds of trouble. So the Celtic priests, Druids, would demand that all light be extinguished on Halloween night and sacrifices be made to prevent trouble.

To avoid “tricks,” the villagers would bake up “treats” to appease the dead. They would also dress up in ghoulish costumes and parade to the outskirts of town hoping the departed souls would follow them out of town.

After sacrifices, villagers would carry the fire, thought to be sacred, back to their homes in carved out vegetable shells.

In the eighth century Pope Gregory II moved the church festival honoring martyrs of “All Saints” to November 1 as a Christian alternative to the Celtic New Year celebrations. “All Hallow’s Eve” or “Halloween” means the “evening of holy persons” and was to be used in spiritual preparation for All Saints Day.

(Souce: http://www.jameswatkins.com/halloween2.htm).

How should a Christian respond to a holiday that has obvious pagan origins?

We must get the question right before we can answer. The question is not, “What are the origins of Halloween,” the question is rather, “What does our surrounding culture believe about Halloween today?” Most people who celebrate Halloween today do not worship the dead or even use Halloween to prepare to honor the saints on November 1. The purpose of Halloween today is largely to have fun as people pretend, eat candy, and attend festivals and haunted houses. I don’t understand why Christians would not be able to participate in a cultural event? Since people around us are not worshiping any deity through these festivities, then why can’t we participate? I could understand Christians abstaining if people around them were worshiping false gods through these festivities; however, this is largely not the case. The origin is irrelevant if it is not intact in the festivities. Thus, I believe it is possible to enjoy Halloween for the glory of God.

Not convinced yet? Well, listen to what the apostle Paul says,

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor. 8:4-6).

An idol is nothing. Just because someone on earth may worship “nothing” on Halloween through dressing up, carving jack-o-lanterns, and trick or treating, it does not mean that Christians are forbidden to do the same things for different reasons and meanings on the same day. Is dressing up wrong only on Halloween? Is going door to door asking for candy wrong only on Oct. 31? I believe we have freedom in Christ to do what we want that does not violate the Scriptures or our consciences. Scripturally speaking, it is not sinful for Christians to play pretend, go door to door for candy, and attend fun festivals on any day in God’s world. We must not participate in immorality; but, these things in and of themselves are not immoral. And a cultural holiday does not make them immoral either. Now, we don’t want to communicate to pagans that we are participating in worshiping their god(s), but I know of no one worshiping pagan gods through Halloween festivities.  So, until I know (1 Cor. 10:25, 27-30), I am free in Christ to do what I want on Halloween that does not violate Scripture.

Thus, I believe if you are against participating in Halloween, then you must be against what takes place on Halloween as well. If your children cannot play pretend, receive presents, or attend carnivals on Halloween, then they cannot any other time during the year either. You cannot live as if Oct. 31 belongs to the Druids or the Devil unless you know of Druids or Devil-worshipers near you; for, there is no God but our God… and He owns all days.

Nevertheless, if your conscience will not allow you to enjoy the festivities of Halloween as a cultural holiday, submit to your conscience. But, be careful about judging others based on your conscience. Your conscience governs no one but yourself and your young children. God has freed Christians from the commandments of men. Your conscience does not own me, and my conscience does not own you. Christ owns both of us. We must submit to Him; we must submit to Scripture and hold others accountable to Scripture. We must submit to our consciences as well, while holding no one else accountable to our consciences.

In conclusion, can Christians enjoy God through Halloween? We obviously cannot enjoy God by worshiping false gods or by participating in a pagan holiday, but if we’re merely participating in a cultural holiday and we’re not violating Scripture or our consciences, we are free in Christ to enjoy God through Halloween. Remember, abstaining from Halloween festivities does not bring you near to God; we are no better if we abstain, and no worse if we participate (1 Cor. 8:8).

What do you think?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Comments

  1. says

    The origin of the holiday is not the issue, if this were the case we would not celebrate Christmas or Easter; both came to the church through pagan Roman culture. The question is, “Can we celebrate and affirm Christ in a holiday?” This is much like Paul’s note on the eating of meat offered to idols, consumption with Godly thankfulness is key.

  2. says

    Very well stated, Jared. I have not problem with those who abstain. Nor with those who celebrate. But those who insist I must participate in the same way they do are the real problem.

  3. says

    I don’t have a problem with the cultural issue, per se. My own grandkids all dress up and celebrate Halloween, just as their parents did. However, I am concerned that there is so much emphasis on death and evil. It’s one thing to dress up as a harmless character, but witches, slashers, zombies, and the like flirt too close to the demonic for my taste.

  4. Richard Beal says

    We started a “Hallowed Family Fun Night” with games. sweets, movies, etc. as an alternative to having the kids on the streets at night. Turned out many non-believers had the same need, and it became our biggest outreach to the community. The church still does it today, 35 years later.

  5. says

    I find most discussions that start off quoting 1 Corinthians 8 without also dealing with 1 Corinthians 10 are doing a disservice to God’s Word (IMHO) by not honoring the whole counsel of Paul to the Corinthians specifically on this issue. Specifically what are Paul’s words concerning who is the power source of the idols that the meat was sacrificed on? (demons = see 1 Corinthians 10:20-22). Also, what is Paul’s hypothetical way in which he would approach the eating of meat? (10:25-29 – if an unbeliever makes an invitation, eat the meat without asking questions – if ANYONE says the meat was sacrificed to an idol, don’t partake for the sake of the other person). Where are your words of admonition for those who would partake or abstain in cultural holidays in the same vein as Paul’s teaching here on meat sacrificed to idols?

    I also find these columns all the one more one sided. Lots of challenging words to those who would seek to restrict a practice, while few admonitions to those who are libertines in practice. Lots of bell weather trip words like “judging” are used in a negative way = again mainly fired at those who for the sake of conscience cannot see themselves in practicing and celebrating (in the main) the dark forces of the world once a year. Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians is apt for consideration for the sake of conscience; “…abstain from every form of evil.”

    I don’t know, but I have a hard time not sharing and keeping silent on what is on my conscience for the sake of warning and bearing admonition. I do it quiet frequently in fact, for to keep silent to me would be a sin. All I seek is the betterment of believers so that they will Glorify God both in Spirit and in Truth. This also includes what I see is a dangerous flirtation with the things of darkness. I do battle and am at war with the enemy 365 days of the year and refuse to give in one inch of one day to whit in there is knowledge: that to mimic and model for children activities that in times past where used to glorify demons for the sake of “fun” without much redeeming value is not very glorifying to Him who is worthy in my opinion.

    Rob

    • says

      Rob, I appreciate the comment. I think I dealt with every admonition you brought in your comment in my original article. For example, I said, “Now, we don’t want to communicate to pagans that we are participating in worshiping their god(s), but I know of no one worshiping pagan gods through Halloween festivities. So, until I know (1 Cor. 10:25, 27-30), I am free in Christ to do what I want on Halloween that does not violate Scripture.”

      Also, I agree that we should abstain from every form of evil.

    • says

      Oh, I might add your lack of research “until I do know” is all the more saddening in the face of those who work with, study, and minister to those who have been darkened by the occult practices. Google them sometime. They will till you (and have told anyone who would want to listen) as to the activities of darkness on the day. I just suspect you really don’t want to know – for to know would then bring a choice you would prefer not to make for Paul (vis a vis the Holy Spirit) would then force you to choose. But then again, we have the warning of Malachi to consider for those who would remain ignorant.

      To those who are attempting to redeem the day through positive outreach and alternatives such as the brother above = you have my admiration and blessing.

      Rob

      • says

        Rob, we don’t have to submit to someone else’s conscience that we don’t know. You said the same thing in your comment. If I don’t know anyone around me who is participating in Halloween as pagan worship, I’m free to have fun on Halloween. The same goes for Christmas as well. Unless I know someone around me who will think I’m using a Christmas tree as an act of pagan worship, I’m free to put one up. After all, it’s just a tree and decorations; and Halloween is just dressing up and going door-to-door getting candy.

        • says

          So your conscience is only limited to people “you know.” How convenient! (and no, I did not say that in my comment). Never get to know people living in darkness esp. evil darkness, so one can indulge in any activity they please! Geeze Louise, the door bell rang – get out the bowl of candy! (sorry, I don’t always indulge in sarcasm – and it is nothing personal :-) ). Paul said “Anyone” not those you know – and you do know that occult groups in the past as well as now worship on their high holy day. Right? Or do you just prefer to remain in ignorance?

          Rob

          • says

            Rob, if your conscience is not limited to people you know, and is limited by everyone in the world, then you can no longer eat meat or a whole host of other things (since many religions abstain from certain foods). That’s an unlivable position to take.

            You said in your original comment, “(10:25-29 – if an unbeliever makes an invitation, eat the meat without asking questions – if ANYONE says the meat was sacrificed to an idol, don’t partake for the sake of the other person).”

            That limits your conscience based on who you know (I don’t mean personally know, but you limit your conscience based on what you know about others near you, not based on what “might” be.). Paul said the same thing when he spoke of becoming like a Jew to the Jews, and like a Gentile to the Gentiles. He didn’t consider the conscience of the Jews when he was with Gentiles. See 1 Cor. 9:19-23. He limited his conscience based on those around him. I’m trying to do the same thing. If those who practice the occult are near me, around me, I wouldn’t participate or give the hint that I am. But, since I know of none near us, I’m taking my kids to church members’ homes to get candy.

          • says

            Jared,

            This is why I do not believe that your use of the Spirit’s Words as dealing with the eating of meat sacrificed to idols from 1 Corinthians is appropriate in this instance. I understand that it is the easy and popular reference to justify actions that may be considered edgy by some of the audience; this is done to give those who desire to justify the activity some scriptural cover. Paul in his admonition was specific as to the eating of meat that may or may not have been used as a sacrifice:

            1) Food is given as a blessing from the Lord for the use of the body – food in other words as a valuable redeeming quality (10:26)
            2)Odds were that the meat had been used as a sacrifice to one of many altars in Corinth, and was now being sold in the market. Paul encouraged believers not to ask questions when purchasing the meat for use – and if told by anyone that it was from a poisoned source not to eat it for the sake of conscience of the other (10:28)

            To then use this as a scriptural principle then one must follow the guidelines – the activity should have a redeeming value that is not connected to the principle spiritual value of “abstaining from evil” and, in the process Glorify Christ in all things as well as love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, the principle of eating meat to idols has a neutral activity (eating meat that most everybody does) that has been connected to an evil action (sacrifice to demons) – the meat itself is not evil, nor the eating of the meat. Yet for the sake of the unbeliever (who is watching) or the weak believer (who is watching) Paul will not eat the meat if he knows it is sacrificed to demons – and implores his audience to follow his example, for “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?” (10:21-22)

            To use then your activity that you wish to shield under the banner of liberty and personal conscience using the 1 Corinthian passage:

            1) The action must be neutral with a redeeming value
            2) Those who have liberty would be willing to lay it aside for the other who has objection because of a competing spiritual value in order that Christ be magnified.

            1)Does taking kids around dressed up in other characters (some spooky some not) to get candy, sweets, or other treats have a redeeming value at all – for the body, or the Body of Christ. You have full knowledge of it’s auspicious beginnings, and even though you may not know of anyone around you that is hooked in the occult, do you really believe that absolutely no one around you is in the occult?

            2)How willing would you lay it aside? My short conversation with you (and past conversations with those in your position) has led me to believe (rightly or wrongly) that you would be very skeptical of any evidence to the contrary, and would absolutely refuse to countenance any person close to you and their conscience on this issue preferring instead liberty over caution.

            Again, I do not believe that your scriptural shield is applicable. Unlike meat or food used for the body, going out trick or treating is not necessary or redeeming. Enough is known that culturally the celebration centers on the macabre and darkness and not light. Churches can redeem the day by celebrating the activities of light over darkness (I prefer the celebration of All Saints Day, with people dressed up like biblical and historical characters, and reflecting on their contributions and sacrifice for the cause of Christ – a truly uplifting and spiritual event).

            Rob

          • says

            Rob, I think exercising one’s freedom in Christ, and enjoying His common grace (creativity, candy, fun, etc.) has redeeming qualities.

            1. Can you show me in Scripture here where Paul tells us to live based on “what someone might believe?” He doesn’t say that. He tells us to live based on what we know. If you want to live based on “what people around you might believe,” feel free to do so, but I’m not held captive to your conscience, and neither is any other Christian. Furthermore, it’s an unlivable position to take. You’d have to know all the religions of the world, and then submit your conscience to all of them. You can’t do it. (As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t be on the Internet right now, if you tried to apply this principle, since some religions reject technology.).

            2. I have said numerous times, both in the original post and in my comments, that I’m willing to limit my Christian freedom based on what I know about those around me. Come show me evidence that there are those near me who will think my kids dressing up as Marie Antoinette and George Washington and getting candy at church members’ homes on Oct. 31 is participation in the occult, and we won’t do it. Based on what I know about those in my community, Halloween is a cultural holiday.

            Finally, it’s very interesting that you think a church “can redeem the day.” So, you believe Halloween can be “Christianized?” Will people think you’re participating in the occult if you participate in dressing up? I understand why my position allows for it, but I don’t understand why your position allows for it.

          • says

            Jared,

            1) “I think exercising one’s freedom in Christ, and enjoying His common grace (creativity, candy, fun, etc.) has redeeming qualities.” I “think” you also will need to show that through Scripture. The issue here is if your justification can be applied to the scriptural principle you yourself brought out contained in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10. You have just imagined something (IMHO) out of whole cloth – a very creative interpretation that gives you complete covering. I say again, “how convenient!” If you merely want to say “I have freedom in Christ” then produce that Scripture – there are myriads of them. But to try to roughshod this one is a bit uncool – and my teacher’s gift really starts raising some eyebrows when someone attempts this.

            2) Paul was willing to say he would be limited in “what he knew” – alone = if he knew through his own knowledge or another that the meat came from the temple he would not eat it, even though he knew the meat itself was good – because he saw himself as a slave of the Gospel, and not one who would helter/skelter use his freedom(s) without considering others first weather he was in Corinth or Jerusalem. The transmission of the knowledge of the meat’s source would also not be limited to people whom he knew – a stranger could inform him of the meat’s contaminated source at the moment of purchase or thereafter. Some would call this a “heckler’s veto.” I would call it someone (Paul) who was sensitive to his primary mission – true freedom in Christ is not something you flaunt, it is something that is humbly received and humbly used for the Glory of God. Now that is something that I believe above all else this Scripture teaches, and we should all take this heart before we do anything in “freedom”.

            3)When we really want to put the screws in an argument, we bring up the children, do we not? It is immaterial to me what you kids dress up as – and in fact that you use your Christian freedom that allows them to do so. Your choice! Be free! Own whatever comes! Godspeed! The real reason why I jumped in here in the first place was a correction to the Scripture used (unworthily IMHO) and the fact that while you claim that you are for tolerance of all views, you have (if I may so humbly) a fairly critical, judgmental view of mine (IMHO) by your unmeasured approach to the topic (if I may be so critical a viewer). I am not legalistic as a vast majority of those who hold my view are not. We wish to teach and disciple the nations the grace of God who as Truth has come to save those who will believe = and in the light garnered from God’s Word we give admonitions, warnings, and caution flags of any activity or contrivance, that would keep the Body of Christ from fully magnifying Him who is Worthy. No more – no less.

            Grace to you,

            Rob

          • says

            Rob,

            1. Do I really have to prove from Scripture that it’s okay to eat candy? I’m free from the commandments of men. I must love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as myself (Matt. 22:37-39). That’s what I’m doing by participating in a cultural holiday. I know of no one in the occult who will think I’m worshiping a false god by taking my kids to get candy at church members’ homes. Thus, I’m free in Christ to do so. There’s no Scripture forbidding it. Something someone did thousands of years ago doesn’t matter to me today, unless my neighbor will be offended. To my knowledge, they won’t be.

            2. I agree as well, but you’ve yet to prove that Paul submitted his conscience to others when he’s not around them. He never commands the Corinthians to submit to the consciences of others when they’re not around. For example, around Mormons, I won’t drink tea or coffee, but when I’m away from Mormons, I’m gonna drink tea and coffee. I think that’s what Paul is arguing. That’s what I’m applying to the Halloween issue. Around the occult, I won’t dress up or trick-or-treat, but away from the occult at church members’ homes, we’re going goof off. We’re free in Christ to do so.

            3. I don’t see how I’ve been judgmental? I haven’t called you names, accused you of “how convenient” as if you’re using the Scripture to justify your wants, etc. as you have me. I still don’t understand how you’ve “corrected” my interpretation of 1 Corinthians. Paul told them to eat the meat without question, unless someone told them it was offered to idols, then they were to abstain. I’ll participate in nothing cultic on Halloween, and anyone tells me they’re participating in the occult, I won’t participate.

  6. Rich Starnes says

    “Is going door to door asking for candy wrong only on Oct. 31?”

    I don’t think it is on Oct. 31, but it would be really, really weird/tacky/unsettling any other day of the year.

  7. John Fariss says

    I quite agree in your position that one must be thorough-going in observances, and in refraining from observances. The question I usually ask at this point is, “What is today?” If Sunday, that is the day dedicated to the worship of the sun (s-u-n, not S-o-n) god; if Monday, the moon god; I forget where Tuesday comes from, but in German, it is “dianastag,” the day dedicated to the goddess Diana; Wednesday is Wotan’s Day, and Thursday is Thor’s; Friday I forget, but Saturday is Saturn’s Day, the god of the underworld if I recall correctly. The same thing holds with the names of most of our months: January for Janus (the two-faced Roman god), March for Mars the god of war, June for the deified Julius Caesar and August for his nephew Augustus, etc. The only people I know of who were thorough-going in this matter were the 19th Century Quakers who simply called them days one through seven and months one through twelve. They even put the dates as such on their postmarks–find a letter bearing these postmarks today and it will be worth thousands.

    John

    • says

      Nobody, and I mean nobody, is into the naming of the days on the calendar except for those who wish to give edgy activities some sort of cover, or for the libertines among us who would grace about anything, and nothing would be worthy to abstain as evil – Save except for those they would label as “fundamentalist.” :-)

      Rob

      • John Fariss says

        Rob, my point is simply that if you are going to refuse involvement in one thing because of its pagan origins, you should be thorough and treat everything with a pagan origin the same way.

        John

        • Christiane Smith says

          John, I don’t think some people can handle knowing about the pagan roots of football.

          Out of kindness, a call for integrity in avoiding celebrations with ‘pagan’ roots really should be avoided . . . at least until after football season . . . let the guys enjoy their football for now, yes even them what would take Halloween fun away from the little ones

          :)

          • says

            How nice Christiane — yet you have to prove that football has pagan origins. I have taken away and shielded my children from things in the past (taken knives out of their hands, kept some ugly stuff away from their eyes, controlled their television viewing, did not allow them to indulge themselves on mountains of sweets) and all the while they complained I was taking things away from them the liked. Oh well, maybe I should have allowed my son to play with the box cutters – he thought it was fun.

            Rob

          • Christiane says

            Hi ROB AYERS,
            remember to read AFTER football season is over:
            http://www.amazon.com/The-Same-Game-Volumes-ebook/dp/B006F6WRD6#reader_B006F6WRD6

            I love football. What’s not to like? My husband is happy watching this annual fall fertility rite set in beautiful temples they call stadiums, with supervising priests (called refs), and dancing priestesses (cheerleaders), and the adoring assemblage of thousands . . .

            he has NO idea of the origins of the game, and I would be the LAST person to tell him, and truth be told, he wouldn’t believe it anyway . . .

            football season is the reason for me gifting him with a ‘man-cave’ upstairs in our home, with recliners, enormous screen television, satellite-ordered season, and tons of man-food for the game day

            it’s about enjoyment, not ‘paganism’ . . . if my husband is happy for a few hours, he forgets about medical problems and other worries, and that’s a good thing

            like the little children . . . they love the fun, the dressing up, spending time out with their parents, having the neighbors laugh and comment about their cute costumes, and all that candy . . . to take that away them seems more than mean-spirited . . . let children be children for as long as they can have some innocence in this strange world . . . you can preach your hell at them and scare them if you wish, but I have the nicest selection of candy and our cute decorations are up, and we will welcome the little ones with joy, something you may not approve of, I suppose.

            So we differ.

          • says

            My dear Christiane – I preach God’s goodness, grace and mercy to my children daily. I shield them from the hell of the world until they are more able to tackle it themselves. It is my children’s innocence you see I am protecting – without your help or kindly disposition it seems – and that is okay by me. What you do is immaterial to me – do it freely, Godspeed. We all will be held accountable one day – and I am comfortable at this point (rightly or wrongly) to stand before my Master in His joy – not because I am worthy but because He is worthy. If I am overprotective and a bit zealous, then I will be corrected.

            Rob

          • Christiane says

            Hi ROB AYERS,

            sorry for my unkind tone in that last comment I made . . .

            I can see that you love your children very, very much and are trying to do what is right for them as you see it . . . so you are to be commended for trying to do your best for them

            We do differ, but unkindness on my part is not the way I want us to differ, ROB . . . I am sorry for my unkind remark, and I do value your loving care for your little ones and your integrity

            God Bless

  8. Bob Browning says

    Jared, I’d like to know how the following situation would strike you. A church decides it wants to participate in Halloween so that the kids have a safe place to have fun. In so doing, they turn the entire Sundayschool building into a haunted house, complete with spider webs and spooks. One lady in the church dresses up like a witch and cackles as she “hovers” about. Kids and families come and get to be scared (for fun) and then get free candy. Very little (if any) emphasis is placed on evangelism or exalting God – the emphasis is on fun and excitement.

    This was before my time, but my father remembers this actually happening at the church I grew up in (just for the record, he was/is not a pastor nor was he in support of this event).

    I am reminded of this story almost every Halloween when these types of discussions arise. While I tend to agree with what you’ve said (or at least with the theological assertions), I think you may be treating the situation as if there are only extreme options, i.e. worshiping demons or enjoying our freedom or passing legalistic hypocritical judgment.

    Unfortunately, we all know that the Christian life is not this black and white, especially when it comes to cultural engagement. What could seem like an exercise of freedom to some may seem like an unrighteous compromise to others. I think that the strong brothers need to be especially mindful of the weak brothers and I think the church needs to be especially mindful of not mixing its worship with worldliness.

    I could say more but so many other brothers have already shared many good thoughts. Thanks for the discussion.

    • says

      Bob, the church’s primary responsibility is to preach the gospel. I’d be fine if Christians participated in a haunted house, but a church doing it is odd to me. That’s not why the church exists. Hopefully, churches are coming together for more ministerial indeavors. Also, there may some consciences in the congregation that would be needlessly offended over the entire church participating in a haunted house?

      I agree with this statement, “I think that the strong brothers need to be especially mindful of the weak brothers and I think the church needs to be especially mindful of not mixing its worship with worldliness.”

      We need to be mindful of the weaker brothers, but the weaker brothers are those who will ignore their own conscience and follow ours’. The weaker brother is not someone who gets offended, but someone who is too weak to follow his own conscience, and instead will violate his conscience in order to follow someone else.

  9. Andrew Barker says

    Jared, it is not always immediately clear which question you are asking.

    You commence with the heading Can Christians Enjoy God Through Halloween?
    Your next image asks the similar but slightly different question How Should Christians Treat Halloween?
    Then you revert to the original question followed by another question ..How should a Christian respond to a holiday that has obvious pagan origins?

    After this the next paragraph contains yet another question … “The question is not, What are the origins of Halloween, the question is rather, What does our surrounding culture believe about Halloween today?”

    You then proceed to answer this question and state that since the world today does not view Halloween as a pagan festival, it is not a pagan festival and therefore Christians are free to participate. Not only that, you draw the conclusion that since the world does not see Halloween as a pagan festival “Thus, I believe it is possible to enjoy Halloween for the glory of God.”

    I have reservations about your argument which seems to suggest that our attitude as Christians towards something, in this case Halloween, should be determined by how “our surrounding culture” believes in it. To play devils advocate here I could substitute in something like the Christian attitude towards marriage. So we would re-write the question using your format as …. The question is not what are the origins of marriage, the question is rather, “What does our surrounding culture believe about marriage today?”

    I think you can see that the above approach does have its drawbacks. I suppose the stock answer would be to say “whatever you do, do to God’s glory”. That doesn’t really answer all the difficulties with something like Halloween, but I believe at least starting from God’s word and seeing how that plays out in our lives is a better approach than starting with whether or not the world sees something as wrong or not?

    It may be of course, that I’ve totally misunderstood your blog. Maybe I was having difficulty in knowing which question you were really asking?

    • says

      Andrew, thanks for the questions.

      First, Paul is the one who said we’re to treat issues that are not discussed in Scripture based on how our culture perceives them. That’s what Paul argues concerning meat offered to idols. If you don’t know where the meat came from it, eat it with thanksgiving. If they say it’s been offered to idols, refuse it so they don’t think you’re participating in idol worship. Marriage is clearly defined in Scripture. I don’t care what the culture believes about it. But, concerning Halloween, I do care, since I don’t want my neighbors to think I’m participating in pagan worship. If the Scriptures are clear on a specific issue, what the culture says is irrelevant. Sola Scriptura.

      Second, I thought answered all the questions I asked in the original post. Feel free to ask more clarifying questions.

      • Christiane Smith says

        JARED, concerning your statement, this:

        “But, concerning Halloween, I do care, since I don’t want my neighbors to think I’m participating in pagan worship.”

        Do you REALLY think that your neighbors who bring their little ones in cute Halloween costumes around for candy treats are engaged in ‘pagan worship’?

  10. Andrew Barker says

    Jared, I can’t see any reference that says we should treat any issue based on how our culture percieves it. Please advise.

    • says

      Andrew, I said in the original post: “Now, we don’t want to communicate to pagans that we are participating in worshiping their god(s), but I know of no one worshiping pagan gods through Halloween festivities. So, until I know (1 Cor. 10:25, 27-30), I am free in Christ to do what I want on Halloween that does not violate Scripture.”

  11. Andrew Barker says

    Sorry Jared, I think we may talking at cross purposes here. When I said references, I meant Bible references which support the idea that we should treat any issue based on how our culture perceives it.

    • says

      Andrew, there’s a Scripture reference in my quote above: 1 Cor. 10:25-30 – “25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?”

      Concerning issues that aren’t in Scripture, we live based on our own conscience, but if we’re around an unbeliever who thinks we’ll be doing something evil, we limit our conscience. Concerning Halloween, we know that trick-or-treating is not evil in and of itself. Giving and getting candy aren’t evil things. Yet, if idolaters think we’ll be worshiping false gods by doing these things, then we should limit our consciences for their sake. But, if we know of no one who will think we’re worshiping a false God, we are free to participate.

  12. Andrew Barker says

    Jared, I believe you are conflating two different types if people in this passage, with the result that your conclusions are not well founded.

    There are three distinct entities in this passage who Paul is addressing. The reader (us if you will) the Unbeliever and the Other person. (aka the weaker believing brother).

    The Unbeliever doesn’t care two hoots what you do or eat. You’re not in danger of offending him. That’s verse .27.

    But in verse .28 the anyone or Other person as I’ve termed him can take offence. Wrongly, some might argue, but this is Paul’s point. Those who are stronger are asked to give way a bit and bear with them. But at no point is the choice or preference of the unbeliever used to modify the action of the believer. What you have done is merged the unbeliever with the weaker brother and I think they should remain as two distinct entities.

    Our culture holds many different views. Some will be ok, some not so and others plainly against what God reveals in his word for us. While the passage in Corinthians 10 shows us that we should carefully consider our actions in the light of what our weaker brothers may think, it does not support your view that we can treat any issue based on how our culture perceives it.

    For situations such as Halloween which are not specifically mentioned in the Bible I agree we need to apply basicprinciples, but these need to be firmly based on what scripture says and not how our culture percieves it.

    • says

      Andrew, I think you’re wrong brother. We’re not supposed to offend the consciences of unbelievers with our freedom either. In verses 1 Cor. 10:32-33 Paul says, “32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” Paul allowed unbelievers to modify his actions as well. If an unbeliever thinks you’re worshiping his god through your actions on Halloween, then you need to modify your actions (like him telling you the meat is offered to idols; don’t eat it.). Otherwise, you’re free in Christ to go trick-or-treating (or, to eat the meat offered to idols).

      • Andrew Barker says

        Jared, if you seriously believe that Paul took his cue from how his culture perceived things, then I think you don’t know the man at all. Sure, he was willing to become all things to all men to win some but he didn’t get that concept from his culture did he?! Here’s the guy who wants to take every thought and make it subject to ….. Christ! He didn’t get that from his cultural studies course either!

        Halloween is an awkward topic for Christians. It can be seen as totally innocent fun by some and the work of the devil by others. But if I want to enjoy God, I don’t think I would ever start with or from the viewpoint of Halloween.

      • Andrew Barker says

        Jared, just a couple of other points.
        1. We’re not supposed to offend the consciences of unbelievers with our freedom either.

        Jared, going around offending people is never our first port of call. However it was Paul who said the preaching of the cross was an offense to some and a stumbling block to others. But this never seemed to hold him back did it!

        2. Paul allowed unbelievers to modify his actions as well. If an unbeliever thinks you’re worshiping his god through your actions on Halloween, then you need to modify your actions.

        So this *unbeliever* has a ‘god’?! Tell me, if the unbeliever was offended by you worshipping your God, would you modify your actions? I think not. Being careful not to give unnecessary offense is quite different from allowing an unbeliever’s beliefs to dictate your actions. Paul may have become all things to all men that he might win some, but that was a choice HE made and it wasn’t something which he got from his culture. In fact, some would say he was quite ‘counter culture’ in his attitude.

        Again as I mentioned before, you are in danger of conflating two separate identities here. The anyone mentioned in v.28 is not going to be an unbeliever is he! The ‘anyone’ refers to a brother who sees things differently.

        • says

          Andrew, we’re talking about matters of conscience here, not Scriptural issues. If Scripture says it, do it. Sola Scriptura. But, if Scripture is silent on the issue, then we must submit to our own consciences. We also have a Scriptural command from Paul to limit our consciences based on the consciences of those around us. We don’t want to give the impression we’re participating in idolatry. We also don’t want to needlessly offend our hearers. And, we don’t want to sear the weak consciences of our brethren.

          Let me be very clear:

          1. I’m saying submit to Scripture regardless who it offends.

          2. I’m saying we should limit our consciences on non-Scriptural issues (like eating meat that has been offered to idols) based on our own consciences and the consciences of those around us. We should be willing to limit our Christian freedom for the sake of the gospel and the weak consciences of our brethren.

          You’re acting like it’s “either” “or,” when it’s really “both,” “and.” Submit to Scripture alone, and when Scripture is silent, submit to your conscience and limit your freedom in Christ for the sake of love and the gospel concerning weak believers and unbelievers.

          • Andrew Barker says

            Jared, the point I took issue with was your comment ….

            ” the question is rather, “What does our surrounding culture believe about Halloween today?”

            I didn’t think this was on the money and still don’t. You’ve also mistakenly conflated two separate identities in your attempts to justify your original statement. You have also constructed a ‘god’ for the ‘unbeliever’ and attempted to draw conclusions on the basis of this statement!

            Of course scripture doesn’t mention halloween, but it doesn’t mention 1001 other situations either. So it becomes a matter of applying general principles to each case as it arises. But in any situation, I fail to see how you can justify framing the question in terms of what our surrounding culture believes about x,y or z, which is what you tried to do with this question.

  13. Darian says

    We must not stop at verse 8. If you keep reading…

    9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

    We are stewards and representatives.