Today, I want to take some time to discuss the significance of October 31 from a Christian perspective. While I will be sharing passages of Scripture, the lesson being taught today will not be something pulled from Scripture as our normal approach. The reason being that there is absolutely, positively, unequivocally nothing Scriptural about Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Soul’s Day. Nothing. How Christians are to engage the culture in this season is an important discussion, but we must first dispense with the lies, rationalizations, and ignorance regarding this “holiday” so that we can address real concerns in a Biblical way.
Let’s start with the obvious, Halloween didn’t start in the Scriptures, nor in the Church.
Evolving from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, modern Halloween has become less about literal ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candy. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead. Over the millennia the holiday transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.
Halloween is a celebration of evil and sin. Ghouls, ghosts, witches, mediums, demons, prostitutes, divination, and sexual immorality are all celebrated (just think about the costumes). Even the non-occult costumes tend to be overly sexualized for teens. Immodesty and cross-dressing is celebrated and tolerated on this night. This is a night of indulgence in sinful behavior while wearing a disguise, any attempt to argue to the contrary is dishonesty. If you are thinking, “what about All Hallow’s Eve?”… let’s talk about it next.
All Hallow’s Eve
The bulk of our research today will be from Catholic historians, since this is their creation. Let’s look at a snapshot of the history of All Hallows’ Eve from the following CatholicCulture.org.
The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on November 1. It is a holyday of obligation, and it is the day that the Church honors all of God’s saints, even those who have not been canonized by the Church. It is a family day of celebration — we celebrate the memory of our family members (members of the Mystical Body, the communion of saints) now sharing eternal happiness in the presence of God. We rejoice that they have reached their eternal goal and ask their prayers on our behalf so that we, too, may join them in heaven and praise God through all eternity.
The honoring of all Christian martyrs of the Faith was originally celebrated on May 13, the date established by the fourth century. Pope Boniface IV in 615 established it as the “Feast of All Martyrs” commemorating the dedication of the Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple, into a Christian church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. In 844, Pope Gregory IV transferred the feast to November 1st. Some scholars believe this was to substitute a feast for the pagan celebrations during that time of year.
By 741, the feast included not only martyrs, but all the saints in heaven as well, with the title changing to “Feast of All Saints” by 840. Pope Sixtus IV in 1484 established November 1 as a holyday of obligation and gave it both a vigil (known today as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallowe’en”) and an eight-day period or octave to celebrate the feast. By 1955, the octave of All Saints was removed.
Since Vatican II, some liturgical observances have been altered, one example being “fast before the feast” is no longer required. Originally, the days preceding great solemnities, like Christmas and All Saints Day, had a penitential nature, requiring abstinence from meat and fasting and prayer. Although not required by the Church, it is a good practice to prepare before great feast days, spiritually and physically.
Holyday of obligation, eh? On what authority? Definitely not Scripture. This was a man-made holiday commemorating all saints. But notice how quickly we are introduced to the notion of asking the dead to pray on our behalf “so that we, too, may join them in heaven”. None of this comes from scripture. The Roman Catholic traditions of purgatory and praying for the dead don’t come from scripture. They are derived from the Apocrypha, texts that were never recognized by Jews nor Christians as Scripture until the Roman Catholic Church cannonized them at the Council of Trent (1546 AD) (to justify their practices and to declare the doctrine of Salvation by Grace alone to be anathema).
So, on the one hand we have clear indication that this was purely a man-made tradition, though it might be considered to have been conceived from good intentions. However, remember the Roman Catholic Church’s false teachings on purgatory, Canonization of Saints, and prayer for the dead all come from II Maccabees, part of the Apocrypha that wasn’t officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent (1546AD). These texts which were inserted into the Old Testament, were never found written in Hebrew, and have never been accepted as Scripture by the Jewish leaders. Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Miletus (170 AD), Origen, and Jerome (400AD) all rejected them, still they persisted.
If we set aside (briefly) the false doctrines of purgatory and praying for the dead that they might still be forgiven of sin; does inventing a holiday for “good reasons” and then superimposing it onto a different pagan holiday “redeem” both the date and customs of the pagan holiday?
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 (ESV) | Warning Against Idolatry
29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
We looked at this passage and its implications in You Shall Not Worship God That Way. Getting back to the false teachings regarding purgatory, we have serious theological problems. There is an unhealthy mixing of the concept of the spirit of men and that of unclean spirits or demons. How is that different, or set-apart, from pagan religions? There is neither Law nor Gospel in this doctrine, only traditions of men and doctrines of demons. If you feel I am exaggerating my case, then let’s look at another apologetic for this holyday from the Catholic Education Resource Center.
All Hallow’s Eve
MARY REED NEWLAND
One of the nicest surprises of living around the year with the Church is to find that Halloween is part of it. Not that the Mass of the day has mention of black cats, or the Divine Office of witches, but for so long Halloween meant nothing but parties and vandalism that when someone first proposed that it came out of the liturgy, I asked: “Are you sure?”
You still hear people doubt it, even when you show them that Halloween is All-Hallows’-Eve which is the night-before-All-Saints’- Day. Some tell me they understand that Halloween pranks were a post-Reformation contribution to plague Catholics who kept the vigil of All Saints. Now it is possible that Halloween was abused for such a purpose; nevertheless, during all the Christian centuries up until the simplification of the Church calendar in 1956, it was a liturgical vigil in its own right and thus has a reason for being….
…It was in the eighth century that the Church appointed a special date for the feast of All Saints, followed by a day in honor of her soon-to-be saints, the feast of All Souls. She chose this time of year, it is supposed, because in her part of the world it was the time of barrenness on the earth. The harvest was in, the summer done, the world brown and drab and mindful of death. Snow had not yet descended to comfort and hide the bony trees or blackened fields; so with little effort man could look about and see a meditation on death and life hereafter.
Apparently how you spent the vigil of All Saints depended on where you lived in Christendom. In Brittany the night was solemn and without a trace of merriment. On their “night of the dead” and for forty-eight hours thereafter, the Bretons believed the poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes…
…Breton families prayed by their beloveds’ graves during the day, attended church for “black vespers” in the evening and in some parishes proceeded thence to the charnel house in the cemetery to pray by the bones of those not yet buried or for whom no room could be found in the cemetery. Here they sang hymns to call on all Christians to pray for the dead and, speaking for the dead, they asked prayers and more prayers.
Late in the evening in the country parishes, after supper was over, the housewives would spread a clean cloth on the table, set out pancakes, curds, and cider. And after the fire was banked and chairs set round the table for the returning loved ones, the family would recite the De Profundis (Psalm 129) again and go to bed. During the night a townsman would go about the streets ringing a bell to warn them that it was unwise to roam abroad at the time of returning souls…
Still not even remotely resembling the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor of the Christian faith. In fact, this is all reminding me a great deal of the warning of Jude.
Jude 1:3-13 (ESV) | Judgment on False Teachers
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is serious. The false teachings that under-gird the All Hallows’ Eve and Halloween are decidedly anti-Christian. For anyone holding to Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria as a standard for theology… this “holiday” earns a 0/5 rating.
Reformation Day | October 31, 1517
There is one event, worthy of remembrance at least for those of Protestant faith. Let’s read a portion from a 2-part series on Reformation Day on TheologicalMatters.com:
In the autumn of 1517, Martin Luther, professor at the newly formed University of Wittenberg, made history. As he nailed his debating points to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, he intended that the students in the small town university would be informed of his intent to debate on the posted subject. However, Luther’s 95 Theses did more than spark an academic debate. They set Germany ablaze. When word of Luther’s theses spread through the town, they were quickly sent to the printing press to be distributed in places much removed from the remote, German town. Years later, pastors and professors would look back at Oct. 31, 1517, as the day the Reformation began.
At the time, Martin Luther was merely trying to bring correction on the abuses of Church Doctrine, particularly with indulgences… but this was merely the beginning. In many ways, the work is still ongoing. Have we truly gone back to Sola Scriptura? I can’t truly say that we have. Extra-biblical writing is being falsely elevated to the level of Scripture today, some claiming to be “newly inspired works of direct revelation” while others claim to be “discovering doctrines long-buried and thought lost”. The reformation was no more a one-and-done event than our repentance for sinful behavior. The Bible warns us to guard our doctrine, to keep the faith, and to resist the devil. Spiritual warfare isn’t nearly as mystical as many would make it out to be. It begins and ends with Scripture.
2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (ESV) | Paul Defends His Ministry
1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience,when your obedience is complete.
Martin Luther wasn’t waging war according to the flesh, but he did take up the fight to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and so should we. His goal was to debate the Scriptures so that the Church might return to Truth. Why, then, are we so willing to accept error in these days, when each of us has ready access to the Inspired Word of God?
Is it a sin for Christians, who are made free by the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to attend a party, play dress-up, or greet trick-or-treaters warmly? Well, let’s throw out the obvious answers. How you dress (at all times), how you behave (at all times, particularly parties), and the theme or focus of your celebration is individually or as a whole become a witness or a stumbling block to both fellow Christian and lost person. “It’s Halloween” does NOTHING to excuse or exonerate someone for sinful living. Having said that, we all sin, daily… and we must always repent and ask God for forgiveness in Jesus Name. Regarding this pagan holiday, we dare not claim it to be a Holy Day, or any type of ordained observance for the Church. However, if Christians gather together in fellowship on this day in a manner that brings honor to God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then who is to judge them?
Romans 14 (ESV) | Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
The false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and of Samhain must be rebuked, that is not a matter of opinion. The prayer to and for the dead, fear of the wandering spirits on this night, reviling, debauchery, witchcraft,… all of it, must be rebuked and silenced. There is no redeeming the sinful practices of the world, for God has made clear in Scripture how He is to be worshiped. Does that mean that pumpkin pie, candied apples, and other seasonal food and drink are unclean? No, and we who are called to Life in the Body of Christ would do well to uplift one another in love. As far as the world is concerned, it is a ministry opportunity, inasmuch as you are willing to minister, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are perishing in their unbelief.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,