Monday, October 29, 2012

Reforming Our Thoughts of Halloween - Pastor Jeff Pennington

     "Halloween" is a contraction for All Hallows’ Eve.  "Hallow” is a form of the word “holy.” In the Lord's Prayer we pray, Hallowed be Thy name -- “May Your Name be holy, sanctified, set apart.” The word “saint” has the same meaning as "hallow."  In the Church calendar, November 1 is All Saints' Day. It is not a day to worship saints but to celebrate the victory that saints have in their union with Christ. Many great hymns rejoice in this victory, eg. “Faith of our Fathers,” “The Son of God goes forth to War,”  “For all the saints.”
     The Festival of All Saints reminds us that Jesus has finished His atoning work, but He still has work for His Church on earth to do. He struck the decisive blow on the cross (John 12:31-33; Col 2:14-15; Heb 10:12-14), but He is working through His Church “in the mopping up operation (Matt 28:18-20). Thus, century by century the Christian faith has rolled back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition” (Jordan).
     In God's creative order a day begins the preceding evening (the evening and the morning were the first day). The Church imitated this in its calendar so that All Saints' Eve (Hallow-even) begins the festival of All Saints' Day (Nov 1). “The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom. What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us. Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween.
     “For this reason, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses (challenges) to the wicked practices of the Church to the bulletin board on the door of the Wittenberg chapel. He picked his day with care, and ever since Halloween has also been Reformation Day” (Jordan) Luther understood from the Scriptures that the Church in his day needed reforming, sanctifying. The Gospel had been corrupted. The Church officers had become tyrants. The congregations had become ignorant and left out of participating in the Lord's Service of Worship. Luther proclaimed the Gospel that we are saved by Christ alone, by grace alone, by faith alone, to the glory of God alone (solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, Soli Deo Gloria). He taught that the Church has authority, but not infallible authority. Scripture alone is the ulimate and only infallible rule for the faith and practice of the Church (sola Scriptura). Luther was accused of being a heretic for these teachings. His defense was: "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."  
    Luther also took his battle beyond the flesh and blood of the wicked Church leaders to the principalities, powers and rulers of darkness of this age (Eph 6:12). He seriously mocked the devil: “I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away.”  He also wrestled with our ancient foe by fleeing to Christ: “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: "I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!” 
     Therefore, despite what the popular death culture has done with Halloween, we should not forget that originally Halloween was a Christian custom to mock our enemy, that old dragon, and to rejoice in Christ's victory which has become the victory of all saints. Furthermore, we can celebrate Reformation Day, for Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, is “restraining and conquering all His and our enemies” (WSC 26), and He is “renewing us in the whole man after the image of God, enabling us more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness” (WSC 35). He is also reforming His Bride corporately. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word (Eph 5:25-26).  How does Christ do that? Through His saints. He who sits in the heavens laughs; Yahweh ridicules them says Psalm 2. Let us join in His holy laughter, and mock the enemies of Christ on October 31. So, have a Happy Hallow eve, all ye saints. Get a group of your friends together and have a Reformation Day party. Sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Watch the Luther video. Eat some treats; the trick is on the devil! 

     Pastor Jeff Pennington

Sources for further reading:
Open Book Newsletter Concerning Halloween by James B. Jordan,  August 1996

Westminster Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs

Image by Klipsie

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting read. I grew up believing that Holloween is evil and that you should have no part in it. Now that I am older and on my own I'm not sure what to think. Perhaps I should do more research before I make up my mind. Thank you for the wonderful article.