Christians shouldn’t celebrate Halloween, thus sayeth the Lord.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find this passage anywhere in my Bible. Must be tucked away somewhere in the Minor Prophets along with the “Thou shall not read Harry Potter” or “Giving Christmas gifts is Satan’s domain” verses I always hear about.
Or maybe it just isn’t in there? And if I am a Christian and the Bible is my standard, then I am, you know, kind of supposed to follow its lead on, well, everything.
So since the Bible is silent on Halloween, does that mean I can do whatever I want and should get on my vandalism shoes for a night of sweet debauchery? I hate to do it, but we might need to sprinkle that thought with some garlic or plunge a wooden stake in it.
While the Bible does not forbid Halloween, a Christian does need consider what it says about life in a fallen world, and live in light of those teachings. These teachings do impact Halloween, and the associated actions we sanction in our families. (Just a quick aside: It is not our job to impose biblical morality on those who do not follow God’s Word. Sure we can be salt and light, and we can share our beliefs, but to judge, ridicule, henpeck, and impose Christian standards on the Christ-less isn’t our domain.)
First, I’d say the Bible is against evil (Eph. 6:12; Eph. 5:15-16; Psalm 34:6; Romans 13:1-4; Proverbs 14:22). Um, really, we could list the whole of the Book here. Yes, there is evil in the Bible—evil people and evil practices—but the Bible is never condoning this evil; it is reporting the activities in a realistic fashion: This is what happened. So the question then becomes: Well, what is evil? And my simplistic answer is that which God does not approve. The more we know God, the more we know what He does and does not approve. It is like visiting a friend’s house for the first time and not knowing if you are supposed to take your shoes off at the front door. You will look around the house for clues—is it a nice house? Is it clean? Are there other shoes piled up here at the front door? These questions are there the first time, but the twentieth time you visit, you know the expectation. Want to know what is evil? Meet God daily and learn who He is, what He values, and what He frowns upon. Additionally—per Romans 1—there is an intrinsic knowledge inside (and around) all of us (for some it is too far gone to work effectively, but for most it is somewhat intact) that sort of informs us of some measure of right and wrong. This is why most everyone will bristle at certain heinous acts on the news. Like hurting a kid. When a kid is hurt in a terrible way, nearly everyone will recognize that this act is not “right.” It ought not to be this way. That is put inside us, this sense of justice, of wrong and of right, and when we participate in something that goes against this internal compass, we feel a tinge of guilt, of shame, of secrecy in our actions. A simple test: am I proud of this thing in a way where if it appeared on the front page, I’d be pumped? If the answer is in any way “no”, there might be some evil going on that needs sorting.
Second, and more specifically, the Bible is against witchcraft and certain spiritual interaction (Deut. 18:9-10; Gal. 5:20; 2 Chron. 33:6; Acts 8:9-25; etc.). I mentioned Harry Potter earlier. I do not think these verses prohibit fictional enterprise, especially when the point of such is not to delve someone into dark magic, but rather to make an expression of a deeper narrative. In the case of Potter books, the major theme is good triumphing over evil via love–a fairly biblical notion! Should some people avoid these sorts of things? Absolutely, but it should not be a blanketed demand imposed on everyone because the Bible doesn’t apply itself this way on many things, and the things it does so with are crystal clear throughout: things like, “Don’t murder,” “Do not commit adultery,” and so on. But just because some things are permissible for some, it doesn’t mean all things are. There is witchcraft that is real (not fiction): People who do dark things in dark ways toward dark ends. There is a sort of real-life “magic” that consumes people who are seeking out secret power or secret knowledge, and these practices are condemned throughout Scripture. And it isn’t because it is fake or result-less either. More so, the Bible condemns such things because there is a dangerous reality at work that we do not see. Ephesians 6:12 speaks to this end, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Elsewhere the Bible speaks of Satan appearing as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and also as him prowling about like a lion seeking out ones to devour (1 Pet 5:8). When we open ourselves up to dark forces, we allow dark forces access to us. It seems inherently logical, and yet people flock to movies laden with spirits, seek prophecy, and consult with mediums with utter disregard for any lingering spiritual implications and consequent confusion. God’s commands always exist as a means of human flourishing and not merely as a restrictive set of demands. His warnings against witchcraft and spiritism are no different.
Third, Christians are commanded not to yoke themselves to this world. Does this mean we shun everything the world accepts? Not quite, but it does mean that we seek to redeem that which can be redeemed and we dismiss that which can’t. So can pumpkins be carved in a redeemed way? I mean, why not! Can thrilling movies be viewed in a redeemed way? Sure! Can trick or treating be done with lessons built-in about gifts and grace and hospitality? Sure! Can getting dressed up in scandalous outfits and getting into a drunken stupor and fornicating and burning some stuff down be redeemed? Obviously we’ve hit the line and catapulted over it! Dressing up and spending time with friends and family and enjoying God’s good gifts . . . all of these things can be shadows of the heavenly (in Heaven: we will put on new, perfect bodies; we will be joined by every tribe and nation; we will be in true familial harmony.. It is actions and activities that mirror Hell (or even an unredeemed earth) that need to be questioned and avoided.
Fourth, death is real and it is not right. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom 6:23). When we celebrate death, we are celebrating the very curse of transgression (Gen 3). We are cheering on being separated from God. We are embracing the utter darkness of the human condition. We are scoffing the life offered us, and making mockery of death, even death on the cross. I know that sounds drastic, but when one considers what death really is, anything that makes light of such (in a non-hopeful fashion) or numbs to death’s drastic reality is obscuring the gospel and our need of redemption. That is why even certain imagery and thematic elements should repel the transformed heart. We have no union with death if Christ is in us, so we need to be careful with how we join in an occasion that, for many, celebrates or ignores the darkness of death. Again, certain elements can be used for teaching moments, and aspects of death can be discussed at this time of year with children, but their attention should be turned to light and not darkness; we should at all times point to the hope we have in Christ and our coming redemption in Him.
Fifth, idolatry of any type is toxic. I love Christmas, for instance, but when this becomes divorced from my Creator, it robs of true joy and will become destructive. The same is true for Halloween—or anything for that matter. When we love anything in a fashion that causes it to rob worship from God or becomes part of our identity that we cannot fathom losing, we have delved into the darkness of idolatry.
I like Halloween. My wife and I usually hand out candy to neighbor kids and watch some sort of thrilling movie. I used to build a costume each year (went as a stocked fridge one year, an iron another year), but I’ve gotten old and lazy. However, I’m sure we’ll resume costume-making when we have kids. We’ll visit a pumpkin patch, carve a pumpkin, eat special food, attend a party. There is a lot we are willing and excited to do to celebrate the day, and there is much we won’t do, according to our collective conscious that is driven by the Scriptures. And while our practices might look very different than yours, if Scripture in context is the basis for your decisions, you are being true to faith and honoring God; however those traditions might end up playing out for you.
So with that, I can say—and mean—happy Halloween to you and yours, and may God glorify Himself through you in it.