Halloween is a touchy subject for most Christian families. Much like Santa Claus and Christmas, well-intentioned Christian families must use discernment with this holiday.
Let’s be reminded, first, that it is a holiday, as in holy day. The roots of this day within the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar juxtapose Halloween to All Saints Day. Recall that “hallow” means “holy” or “saint.” Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, is the day before All Hallow’s Day, All Saints Day.
All Saints Day reminds us of resurrection hope and salvation from death and decay.
On the other hand, Halloween is observed as the day of the dead. Biblically, it is a reminder of death and decay. It reminds us of the fall. Unfortunately, it also has become popular to view this holiday as the day of the undead as well.
Ghosts and Culture
Zombies, mummies, ghosts, lycans, vampires, witches and other occultic figures receive much attention on this holiday. Sadly, many are preoccupied with these figures. Those who are ensnared by the dangerous practices within the occult, or are allured by them, turn around what ought to be vilified. They exalt those figures. At minimum they create disturbing entertainment from them. Horror movies and haunted houses are en vogue during this time of year.
Though the trend of Dungeons and Dragons in the 80’s has passed, other RPG’s, movies, and television shows have found their place in D&D’s space. There is a seamless strand of such entertainment. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is replaced with the Vampire Diaries. Charmed is replaced with Supernatural.
This sort of entertainment risks entering homes earlier on in childhood development than many suppose. Don’t assume that Harry Potter first popularized sorcery. Before Harry Potter a child encounters the darkness of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia.
If you do not agree, then take your child to the evening show at Hollywood Studios in Disney World. There you will not just witness an outstanding firework display, you will see how Disney magisterially plays on fear and awakens relief in young minds as Mickey, the sorcerer, battles Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty, and defeats that evil dragon.
And though Wizards of Waverly Place followed the release of Harry Potter, today’s developing child will watch this show on the Disney Channel before their parent will permit them to watch Harry Potter. At least that seems to be the reasonable case.
Quite honestly, the unaware parent might be surprised by the darkness and magic that accompanies the Disney tradition. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Escape to Witch Mountain, and the Black Cauldron are less recognized entertainment within this franchise. More popular movies that employ magic include Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and the Little Mermaid. Yes, all princess movies.
There is a subtle danger that lurks in the shadow of this entertainment we ingest throughout the year. This danger is less subversive at Halloween. Christian parents become more sensitized to it.
Ghosts and Fantasy
Thus, this season stirs spirited discussions about magic, death, afterlife, and if there is something between the two. Are there hauntings?
The accepted reaction by Christians is to dispel these activities and figures as myths and legends. We fantasize magic and the undead. We say that there is no such thing. These dark beings do not exist. Neither are these figures real, nor is magic.
Since the versions we find acceptable are animated, we effortlessly fantasize them for our children. This flawed philosophy is witlessly adopted. Protective in nature is this response. It is equally dangerous to allow this entertainment in the home without discernment and education, as it is to glibly regard it as myth.
Another post for another day is to discuss whether this entertainment should enter the home. The purpose of this post is to stress the foolishness of treating such things as simple legend.
I can attest to this. It is deeply tempting to look into your daughters’ eyes and tell her witches are not real when she wakes in the night from a bad dream about witches and is convinced that one could be in her room. I appeal to you. Please do not cave to this temptation.
Yes, we do not want small ears to become influenced by these matters but that does not excuse us from dismissing them as fantasy. We know how dangerous they are. Those with family who have fallen prey to occultic practices know this all too well. We have seen the self-destructive result. We must treat these matters honestly and seriously.
Have we considered that danger lies in how we flippantly regard magic and the undead as lore? Is this what the Bible portrays?
Ghosts and the Bible
If we are Bible believing people who hold to the inspiration, inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of scripture, we would not be swift to draw this conclusion. Let’s look at the Scripture’s attestation.
The bible provides clear instruction on what to do with those who engage in these practices. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 says, “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divinations or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord…”
Guess what? The God of all creation says that these practices can be done. There is no purpose in a Law against that which is mythical. If God decrees that these practices should not be done, implicitly understood is that they could be done. They are real practices!
If God’s Law is not sufficient to qualify the reality of what many deem as mythological, the bible provides historical narrative of those who engaged in these practices. One such person is King Mannaseh, the son of King Hezekiah. It is said of him, “And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.” (2 Chronicles 33.6)
Upon reading the narrative one sees that it falls in step with Deuteronomy 18. The Chronicler connects that God’s forbidden Law was practiced by a lawbreaker, a lawbreaking King of Judah at that. The Law against such practices is necessary because there are those who successfully engage in these practices.
If these practices are fantasy, they are simply fantastical. Not evil. They cannot be evil because they are not actual. Yet, God says that Mannaseh “did much evil in the sight of the Lord.” Be alarmed. Magic, undead and occult are real, not fantastical. They are evil.
There are other examples in scripture. Saul employs the medium of Endor. She raises the spirit of Samuel from the dead. (1 Samuel 28.7-15) Though the medium seems surprised that Samuel’s spirit is brought up, nonetheless, we have Samuel’s testimony to verify what happened. “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” There are such things as apparitions or ghosts. The ghost of Samuel testifies to this.
Going to the New Testament we see that characters in the gospel and acts narrative perceive these practices and figures as actual. When Jesus walked the Sea of Galilee at night, his disciples exclaimed from the boat, “It is a ghost!” (Matthew 14.26)
In Acts 8 Simon, a magician, offers Peter and John money for the power of the Holy Spirit. Simon is described as one who “practiced magic” and “amazed them with his magic.”
When Peter escaped prison, Rhoda told the disciples he was at the gate. They responded, “It is his angel!” (Acts 12.15) By angel, some scholars assume this is referring to his departed spirit or guardian angel that assumes the appearance and voice of that person. (cf IVP-NB, BKC, NIBC)
Finally, in Ephesus many who practiced magic confessed this practice and burned their books of magic. (Acts 18.17-19) The text records that the value of these spellbooks was 50,000 pieces of silver. This means that not only was magic practiced, but magic was widespread in Ephesus.
Ghosts and the Gospel
We should be weary of mythologizing what the Bible portrays as genuine, harmful, evil. Parents, tonight you will drive past a haunted house or costumed undead figure. Your children will observe these embodiments of evil and have questions to answer and fears to be comforted. What will you say? Will you tell them that there are no such things?
I hope not. Instead, tell your children that there is a real enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10.10) Tell them that magic is authentic and dangerous. Point them to the scripture that says so. Tell them that it ensnares people to the enemy, therefore God has given us commandments against such practices.
Above all, create a gospel opportunity for your children. Set the gospel against the backdrop of death and decay reveled by others tonight. Convey that Christ conquered death. He sets captives free from the prison of death. He has risen!
Remind them of 1 John 4.4. “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Ask them, “Is He in you? Do you have union with Him?”
Offer your children the opportunity to repent and turn to God, for the first time or from today’s sin. Pray for your children tonight. Ask that the Lord will protect them from the evil one. Thank him for protection.
Be safe and sober tonight. Don’t waste a gospel opportunity by calling evil opposition myth. If that is myth, then the gospel is myth. If the gospel is real, then be sure, that the enemy, magic, and undead are real. We serve the risen Savior who battles against a bona fide, evil enemy.