Every year around this time, the Halloween chatter begins. An upswing of intense debates arises. Christians quibble amidst one another like babbling Raymonds from Rain Man. These deliberations are smacking bouts that keep on giving year after year. By the sound of Christmas bells jingling, the shrieking will have spiraled into a full fledge Fight Club, over holidays and their traditions.
Except from the surface roles appear quite awkward…Rather than the legendary character Tyler Durden being portrayed by the anarchist Brad Pitt, and the daring Edward Norton, the dogmatic faithful put on their MMA Gloves. Wearing their ankle length skirts, high water pants, and boat shoes, the fist throwing begins. I joke…I joke. But most Evangelical Christians do not have washboard abs like the rebels of Project Mayhem, much less fight the same. I should know. I am both a very conservative minister and a boxer. Absent too is Mr. Pitt’s contagious swagger. If the Church strutted like Durden, God’s kingdom would expand tenfold. Christ followers would never pass up an opportunity to share the Gospel with the lost. Christians would exhibit a fiery passion for a spiritual freedom in our worship and intimacy with Jesus- an autonomy that transcends all understanding given only from the Lord. And we wouldn’t be so concerned about what people thought of us.
Before establishing a position, let’s first consider the antiquities of the holiday. According to www.historychannel.com the day was indeed derived from dark traditions:
“Halloween’s origin’s date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of the summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.”
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory lll designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the same traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns.”
Obviously these kind of traditions can be concerning. Many quote Romans 12:2 in their defense for not participating. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is good, pleasing, and the perfect will of God.”
However, when examining a verse the entire context must be analyzed to determine what the writer intended. “Paul’s primary purpose in writing Romans was to teach the great truths of the gospel of grace to believers who had never received apostolic instruction.” (The MacArthur Study Bible pg. 1655) The objective of 12:2 is to focus on the transforming power of God, and be grounded in His righteousness. In other words, our lives should not be lived by feelings, emotions or self-indulgence, but by the authority of the Holy Spirit and love of Jesus.
Simply from a theological perspective Romans 12:2 does not support the assertions made by the anti-Halloween crowd. Consider the details of the original language the text was written in. The transliteration word for conform is syschematizo, which in Greek means to conform one’s self, to another pattern of mind and character. Transformation means to be changed into another form. The same Greek word metamorphoo is used to describe Jesus in His transfiguration on the mountain, in Mark 9: 2-3. The word “describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside. It is the opposite of masquerade which is an outward change that does not come from within,” Warren Wiersbe.
On October 31st, I will be taking both of my boys to a festival at a local church. There will be Christian fellowship, booths set up for the children in the parking lot, and an opportunity for lost individuals to hear the Gospel of Christ. Most importantly, for my family, the environment will be safe. Most believers I know will join together in similar events like I will- within neighborhood friendly atmospheres often with other like-minded individuals. No one will be dancing for demons, casting spells on people, or practicing witchcraft rituals. In fact, just the opposite will occur. Lost people will be exposed to the love of Jesus through the outreach and genuine expressions of His people. And kids will hopefully experience genuine love and perhaps even a little bit of fun.
Yes, children will be dressing up and trick-or-treating-a practice, which began centuries ago that possibly once had a dark Samhain influence. However, our nation is grounded on millions of traditions that have altered over the course of the years-not all stem from innocence. But, does this really affect our children today? Is there harm if my sons dress up like Batman and Spiderman for Halloween, and we spend an evening at a local Church playing games and eating candy?
To quote my More Than Judas counterpart, Stephen Agnew, a sentiment I share, “Halloween falls into the area of our conscience rather than doctrine, a grey region…God cares more about where our heart is when it comes to this day. If our heart is to celebrate evil and witchcraft, then yeah, you might want to not do that. But if your heart is to dress up and eat candy then I think God cares more about that- the condition of our hearts in the matter.” Personally, I think this assessment is a commonsensical approach for all Christians to recognize, and exercise for all holidays.
“The battle ground between conforming to the world and being transformed is within the mind of the believer,” David Guzik.
Just like Tyler Durden, Christians should have an appreciation for the nonconformist, who genuinely seeks to be consumed by Jesus Christ- nonetheless, someone who is not of this world yet very much involved in this world. However, at the end of the day, it is a matter of consciousness. If you feel that taking part in Halloween is not appropriate for your children, then by all means…that is your right and prerogative as a parent, which you definitely should exercise. But when is this verse appropriate to suggest? Evangelicals showing off their Mixed Martial Arts skills and beating up one another accomplishes nothing. Was Paul addressing little children in the 21st Century, harmlessly dressing up as their favorite Disney character and begging for candy? No. The Apostle wanted everyone to worship the Lord with their entire hearts and minds.
To close, I’d like to quote from the great Dr. R.C. Sproul, who encapsulates Romans 12:2 up extremely well, “Anyone can be a nonconformist for nonconformity’s sake. Again I want to emphasize this is a cheap piety. What we are ultimately called to is more than nonconformity; we are called to transformation. We notice that the words conform and transform both contain the same root word form. The only difference between the two words is found in the prefixes. The prefix con means ‘with.’ To conform, then, is to be ‘with the structures of forms.’ In our culture, a conformist is someone who is ‘with it.’ A nonconformist may be regarded as someone who is ‘out of it.’ If the goal of the Christian is to be ‘out of it,’ then I am afraid we have been all too successful…The prefix trans means ‘across’ or ‘beyond.’ When we are called to be transformed, it means that we are to rise above the forms and the structures of this world. We are not to follow the worlds lead but to cut across it and rise above it to a higher calling and style. This is a call to transcendent excellence, not a call to sloppy ‘out-of-it-ness.’”