October 31, 2011
Is Halloween Really that Significant?
Albert Mohler President
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Hermann Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would "witness a gigantic conflict of spirits." His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.
The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?
Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. According to David J. Skal, "Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations."
Furthermore, historian Nicholas Rogers claims that "Halloween is currently the second most important party night in North America. In terms of its retail potential, it is second only to Christmas. This commercialism fortifies its significance as a time of public license, a custom-designed opportunity to have a blast. Regardless of its spiritual complications, Halloween is big business."
Rogers and Skal have each produced books dealing with the origin and significance of Halloween. Nicholas Rogers is author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. Professor of History at York University in Canada, Rogers has written a celebration of Halloween as a transgressive holiday that allows the bizarre and elements from the dark side to enter the mainstream. Skal, a specialist on the culture of Hollywood, has written Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. Skal's approach is more dispassionate and focused on entertainment, looking at the cultural impact of Halloween on the rise of horror movies and the nation's fascination with violence.
The pagan roots of Halloween are well documented. The holiday is rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain, which came at summer's end. As Rogers explains, "Paired with the feast of Beltane, which celebrated the life-generating powers of the sun, Samhain beckoned to winter and the dark nights ahead." Scholars dispute whether Samhain was celebrated as a festival of the dead, but the pagan roots of the festival are indisputable. Questions of human and animal sacrifices and various occultic sexual practices continue as issues of debate, but the reality of the celebration as an occultic festival focused on the changing of seasons undoubtedly involved practices pointing to winter as a season of death.
As Rogers comments: "In fact, the pagan origins of Halloween generally flow not from this sacrificial evidence, but from a different set of symbolic practices. These revolve around the notion of Samhain as a festival of the dead and as a time of supernatural intensity heralding the onset of winter.
How should Christians respond to this pagan background? Harold L. Myra of Christianity Today argues that these pagan roots were well known to Christians of the past. "More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween's unsavory beginnings preceded Christ's birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking live evil spirits themselves."
Thus, the custom of wearing costumes, especially costumes imitating evil spirits, is rooted in the Celtic pagan culture. As Myra summarizes, "Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions."
The Dark Side
The complications of Halloween go far beyond its pagan roots, however. In modern culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Even as the society has pressed the limits on issues such as sexuality, the culture's confrontation with the "dark side" has also pushed far beyond boundaries honored in the past.
As David J. Skal makes clear, the modern concept of Halloween is inseparable from the portrayal of the holiday presented by Hollywood. As Skal comments, "The Halloween machine turns the world upside down. One's identity can be discarded with impunity. Men dress as women, and vise versa. Authority can be mocked and circumvented, and, most important, graves open and the departed return."
This is the kind of material that keeps Hollywood in business. "Few holidays have a cinematic potential that equals Halloween's," comments Skal. "Visually, the subject is unparalleled, if only considered in terms of costume design and art direction. Dramatically, Halloween's ancient roots evoke dark and melodramatic themes, ripe for transformation into film's language of shadow and light."
But television's "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (which debuted in 1966) has given way to Hollywood's "Halloween" series and the rise of violent "slasher" films. Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff have been replaced by Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger. This fascination with the occult comes as America has been sliding into post-Christian secularism. While the courts remove all theistic references from America's public square, the void is being filled with a pervasive fascination with evil, paganism, and new forms of occultism.
In addition to all this, Halloween has become downright dangerous in many neighborhoods. Scares about razor blades hidden in apples and poisoned candy have spread across the nation in recurring cycles. For most parents, the greater fear is the encounter with occultic symbols and the society's fascination with moral darkness.
For this reason, many families withdraw from the holiday completely. Their children do not go trick-or-treating, they wear no costumes, and attend no parties related to the holiday. Some churches have organized alternative festivals, capitalizing on the holiday opportunity, but turning the event away from pagan roots and the fascination with evil spirits. For others, the holiday presents no special challenges at all.
These Christians argue that the pagan roots of Halloween are no more significant than the pagan origins of Christmas and other church festivals. Without doubt, the church has progressively Christianized the calendar, seizing secular and pagan holidays as opportunities for Christian witness and celebration. Anderson M. Rearick, III argues that Christians should not surrender the holiday. As he relates, "I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Imposter and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his."
Nevertheless, the issue is a bit more complicated than that. While affirming that make-believe and imagination are part and parcel of God's gift of imagination, Christians should still be very concerned about the focus of that imagination and creativity. Arguing against Halloween is not equivalent to arguing against Christmas. The old church festival of "All Hallow's Eve" is by no means as universally understood among Christians as the celebration of the incarnation at Christmas.
Christian parents should make careful decisions based on a biblically-informed Christian conscience. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds, others may be strategically transformed, but this takes hard work and may meet with mixed success.
The coming of Halloween is a good time for Christians to remember that evil spirits are real and that the Devil will seize every opportunity to trumpet his own celebrity. Perhaps the best response to the Devil at Halloween is that offered by Martin Luther, the great Reformer: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn."
On October 31, 1517 (what is now known as Reformation Day), Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God's Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween, might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ's church on earth. Let's put the dark side on the defensive.
October 28, 2011
This is a wonderful devotional. There are so many who do not understand faith and exactly what Christ's death upon the cross meant. This is one of the best explanations that I have personally read in a very long time.
For those stuck in a church run by legalistic leaders, find freedom in Christ. Find redemption in Christ. You are free from condemnation because of the work done on the cross.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. —Roman 5:10
I am not saved by believing; I realize I am saved by believing. It is not repentance that saves me, repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause. It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration. Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died. When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly the stupendous Atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God; and by the supernatural miracle of God’s grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, not because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done. The Spirit of God brings it with a breaking, all-over light, and I know, though I do not know how, that I am saved.
The salvation of God does not stand on human logic, it stands on the sacrificial Death of Jesus. We can be born again because of the Atonement of Our Lord. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures, not by their repentance or their belief, but by the marvellous work of God in Christ Jesus which is prior to all experience. The impregnable safety of justification and sanctification is God Himself. We have not to work out these things ourselves; they have been worked out by the Atonement. The supernatural becomes natural by the miracle of God; there is the realization of what Jesus Christ has already done – “It is finished.”
October 27, 2011
Love this! Totally worth sharing with all those who have daughters.
Five Questions to Ask Your Future Son-in-Law Deborah J. Thompson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Featured Content Bible Study Tools
John Croyle is known as the star football player from the University of Alabama who gave up a lucrative NFL career opportunity to open the Big Oak Ranch — a place for abandoned, abused and neglected children.
On a recent visit to both the boys and girls ranches, I had the opportunity to talk with John. He is full of wit and wisdom and shared these five questions he has posed to numerous young men through the years who asked for his blessing to marry one of the young women at the ranch.
1. Are you going to take care of my daughter financially? I want you to work hard, provide for her and your family, and never use money as a weapon. Many divorces are a result of money issues. She doesn’t have to live in a Taj Mahal, but she should have a safe and comfortable home, clothing and food.
2. Are you going to take care of her mentally? I know how smart she is right now, and you should too. I want her to be smarter after living with you than she is now. You should challenger her mentally, encourage her, build her up, help her to achieve her goals, and assist her in growing closer to God in wisdom and knowledge.
3. Are you going to take care of her emotionally? Two things will destroy your marriage: self-centeredness and bitterness. Guard against these. Inside my daughter’s heart is a round hole I call “emotional need.” Inside of your heart as a man is a square peg that is somehow going to have to “fit” with her. Are you willing to knock off the edges of that square peg in order to fulfill her emotional requirements? She doesn’t think or react like you do. You may see something and laugh — she may see it and cry. You may say something that you thought was the sweetest thing in the world, and it may make her madder than a hornet! God designed you to be the one who can meet her needs; are you willing to guard against self-centeredness and bitterness and take care of my daughter’s emotional needs?
4. Are you going to take care of her physically? As a father, it has been my job to protect my “princess.” As her husband, your job is to protect your “queen.” I want to know that if someone threatened her, you would step in front of her. And protecting her physically also means intimately. What you see on TV, the movies and pornography — that is not real life. Don’t get kinky or stupid with my daughter. And it goes without saying that she had better never live in fear of you physically! Just take care of her in every way possible.
5. Last and perhaps most importantly — Are you going to take care of her spiritually? Do you know that in the Bible, it tells men to love their wives 33 times? But it tells wives to love their husbands only twice. You are asking for my daughter’s hand. I know what a woman of God she is right now. When I place her hand in yours in marriage, I am no longer responsible for her spiritual health and training. One day, after living together for many, many years — you are going to present her hand to God. Will she be more of a godly woman then than the day I gave her to you? Your job is to be the spiritual leader of your family and raise your children (my grandchildren) according to God’s design. When you meet God in heaven one day, I want him to smile and say, “They are better after having lived with you.”
"If you can take care of my daughter financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, then you have my blessing. If you can’t do these five things — I need to know now."
John told me that he has only had one young man who couldn’t answer these questions to his satisfaction. So John refused to give his blessing; the young man needed work on one of these areas. John told him to “fix it, come back, and then we’ll talk.”
That young man went away, worked diligently on that one area and came back to John after “fixing” it. He gave his blessing, and that couple is happily married today.
The Big Oak Ranches for boys and girls are a testament to the faith, dedication and hard work of John Croyle and his wife, Tee. They have raised two of their biological children on the ranch—Reagan who now serves as the Childcare Team Director on the ranch, and Brodie, a quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. For more information on Big Oak, please visit their website at: www.bigoak.org.
October 19, 2011
October 16, 2011
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. (Job 42:5)
In his time, Job was the most righteous person on earth. He was so godly that the Lord took pleasure in pointing him out to Satan (Job 1:8). Yet, despite his love for God and his diligent obedience to His commands, even Job had not fully come to know God. The blessings God had given to Job had not revealed everything about God’s character. There were characteristics that Job would come to realize only through adversity. So the Lord allowed Satan to test Job through suffering.
Although Job lost everything he had, even his seven children, Job discovered that God was still with him. Though he faced the most difficult and bewildering tribulations imaginable, Job came to understand that God was infinitely wiser than he (Job 42:1–4). As Job endured the insensitivity of his friends, he learned that God is the only One who is absolutely trustworthy. Job learned much about God through his anguish. Finally, he confessed that at first he had only heard about God, but now, through his suffering, he had come to see God (Job 42:5).
When you are in the midst of your trials, your Lord will reveal His character to you in ways you never knew. You will experience His strong and comforting presence. Like Job, you will learn that your Lord will remain, even when everyone else abandons you. You will see God more clearly as He takes you through the dark times. Then you will experience God in ways you had previously only heard about from others.
October 14, 2011
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
3 But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
4 I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
they spend their days plotting to harm me.
6 They come together to spy on me—
watching my every step, eager to kill me.
7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
in your anger, O God, bring them down.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
13 For you have rescued me from death;
you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
in your life-giving light.
October 4, 2011
In the process, He strips us of all our pride! And then He begins to lay the foundation blocks of heroic courage, and a new kind of confidence, if you will—the kind that no longer defends us but defends Him. What a magnificent change that is. And how essential in our journey toward maturity! Again, it's all part of being cut down to size.
I cannot sleep. This time last year I couldn't sleep because of fear and anxious thoughts. Oh how things have changed. Tonight I cannot sleep because I am so crazy, over-the-top excited because of God's goodness. It's like being a kid again and anticipating Christmas morning.
In less than seven days my life went from crazy to calm. Last Monday I had no job, no money and was used to the feeling of the breeze felt when another door slammed in my face. Last Tuesday that all changed.
For the past seven days I have see God work. I have seen Him provide. I have experienced His love and been enveloped by His peace. These moments are amazing. I have truly learned to step out off the edge of the cliff with complete confidence that Jesus will in fact catch me if I only trust.
What a journey! An amazing adventure that I believe has only just begun.
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