Halloween & the Gospel

Is it OK for followers of Christ to celebrate Halloween? Should Christians participate in festivities that seem to do nothing more than glorify evil? Most importantly, can the Gospel win out on this day? How should we respond to this time of year? That’s what I want to address.

Halloween is largely based off old superstitions—right down to the carving of pumpkins. As much as all of that fascinates me, I will spare you the history of Halloween and simply address the issue as it comes to us today. My desire is that this would help us creatively navigate our own culture.

The Options

I have noticed that most Christians feel they have two or three options when it comes to how they handle Halloween:

1.  Embrace all of Halloween (jack-o-lanterns, witches, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, decorate with eerie lights and skeletons, satanic rituals, etc.)  It’s all good fun. Just don’t hurt anyone.

2.  Create alternatives to compete with the culture through “fall festivals” (i.e. Christian carnivals) and “Christian” haunted houses (e.g. “Hell House”).

3.  Reject everything and stay home. Pretend you’re not home when little children come to your door for candy. Try to put it all out of your mind and ignore it, or sit in your living room upset about it.

Let’s briefly think about each of these options with serious consideration of what the Gospel of Jesus means to us. The way you view the Gospel and the person of Christ will steer you in one direction or the other.

Think About It

Option #1 – Can believers embrace all of Halloween? Would the Jesus who casted out devils, dress up like one? Would Jesus pretend to be a devil to scare people? Would Jesus sport symbols of witchcraft for fun?  The early church witnessed the conversion of witches and sorcerers (Acts 19:18-20). I don’t want to be a party pooper, but the Scriptures do not allow for a “fun” Harry Potter version of witchcraft and sorcery (Deut. 18:10; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8).  It seems to me that believers could not possibly embrace all aspects of Halloween—not if you’re taking serious the life of Jesus and his Gospel.

Option #2 – What is the motivation to create “alternatives” to rival what is evil? Was Jesus proclaiming an “alternative” message? If churches want to design a carnival for children to enjoy, fine. I see nothing wrong with that. But if it’s done out of anger, fear, and the belief that Christians shouldn’t carve pumpkins and trick-or-treat, I think it sends the wrong message. It gets a little silly when we do “alternative” events for the sole purpose of sticking it to the world. “Christian” haunted houses like “Hell House” just goes to show how confused we are about the Gospel of Jesus. Fear isn’t of the Lord.

Option #3 – Did Jesus have the attitude of a spiritual elitist? Did he retreat into the hills with the Essenes and communicate the attitude that he wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world? We learn a great deal by taking notice of the religious traditions Jesus did reject—like those of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes. Jesus was not afraid of being accused of being a “sinner” or being caught hanging out with them. He was not motivated by fear, anger, or self-righteousness. His zeal led him to be light in the darkest of places.  I can’t see Jesus choosing option #3. So where does that leave us?

Is There Another Option?

Is there a way to participate in Halloween while upholding good over evil? I think so. In our American culture, I think there is another option that allows the Gospel to creatively and intentionally engage Halloween.

Truthfully, I think Halloween can be one of the most memorable childhood experiences! I think it can be real healthy fun.

It is a great opportunity to teach children about good and evil.

I don’t think that means we should make our children dress up like Bible characters (nothing wrong with that of course!), but it would be inconsistent to encourage or to allow them to glorify evil with their actions, costumes, behavior, etc. Surely we all know this to be true.

Evil can be appealing. That’s a great lesson children and adults need to learn. The real appeal of evil is only in the costume, of course. It’s worth remembering that the devil masquerades around as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

There are many lessons we can teach our children and be soberly reminded of ourselves. Primarily, there is a cosmic battle of good and evil going on every day we live in this present age. That which is unseen is made visible on Halloween. It’s a perfect time to be reminded that we battle not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).

I’ve been married for almost 15 years. My wife and I have two boys: a 4 year old and a 5 month old. We have settled it in our hearts that we want to use the culture to teach our children biblical truths, instead of sheltering them from it entirely when and where good can and should triumph. Sooner or later our children must live in the world on their own. Teach them to confront evil, not run from it.

Working with students as long as we have, we are convinced of this much: Engagement with the culture is inevitable, and frankly, we’ve been called to do it. Halloween shouldn’t be any different than the rest of the year. Every day belongs to God. I seriously question the effectiveness of “alternative” festivities and the creation of “Christian” options in any area of living. And retreating from the world is unthinkable. The Gospel engages the darkness.

Some parents worry that they are going along with the glorification of evil if they let their kids participate. I personally don’t agree with this thinking. I believe we should be more concerned that we are not teaching our children that there is one night of the year (or any night of the year) when evil gets the upper hand. What kind of Gospel is that? It’s not the hopeful message of Christ.

It seems to me that fear is not what you want to teach children, but I do acknowledge that parents may choose to do whatever based off their convictions. I assume each Christian home will do what they think is best for their children. You have this right and responsibility. I would never base a person’s commitment to Christ on this issue.

After working with students for 15 years and observing their parents, I’d say that the only “bad” parents are the ones who are not intentional in leading their children to know and love Christ. Those who are intentional about serving Christ and leading their children in the way of Jesus are good parents in my book. And I think there are many acceptable ways of doing that.

Conclusion—The Gospel of Jesus

If a person has reduced the Gospel to having their sins forgiven and sees us escaping earth for a spiritual existence on the other side of the cosmos, I submit that this will greatly influence that person’s response to this and many other issues. I have actually noticed that this view propagates an attitude of fear, anger, and self-righteousness. Escapism is their gospel.

However, if the Gospel is about heaven coming to earth, that Jesus has defeated evil and plans to transform this world—starting with us in the here and now—then this most certainly comes into play when responding to Halloween.

Understanding the greatness of the Gospel message (i.e. heaven coming to this earth) will free us up to see ourselves as agents of new creation. God is transforming this world now and the fullness of his coming is just around the corner. This worldview changes everything!

We have been called to declare that Christ is Lord of the day and night. We are called to live in this world where “the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 Jn 2:8).

So, how do you understand the Gospel? How you answer this question will shape your living. I believe that it will make a difference in your response to the culture where it glorifies evil and refuses to acknowledge Christ as Lord.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus, Matt. 5:14-16

D.D. Flowers, 2010.

[Updated & Revised – October 2016]

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

24 responses to “Halloween & the Gospel

  • alice scott-ferguson

    well thought out and conveyed as is your wont. take a bit of issue with your analysis and conclusion re option #1. in taking the life and teachings of jesus seriously, i would be MUCH more concerned about teaching my children about the wiles and trappings of satan disguised as an angel of light versus an external costume that is simply make believe–not believed, relatively harmless and–just fun!

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Alice, I think we are in agreement. However, I wouldn’t say that evil costumes are “relatively harmless” when you consider that it is a glorification of evil. It is an external representation of a spiritual reality. I am concerned with the trappings of Satan in every form. Thanks for reading!

  • Andrew L. Bonds

    Hmm… Teaching everyone that we can about the truth of the matter…. that is truly making disciples.(Matt28). Let’s not forget two things with all of this. 1. That our Gospel message should include both comings of Christ. The first was to declare amnesty (God’s love through the Cross of Christ is available). The second is to pour out his wraith on all who do not repent of sin and trust in Jesus. 2. October 31 is also Reformation Day! OH YEA!!!!

  • Hayley

    The trappings and disguises of Halloween are not to be played with. God told me to have nothing to do with the Pagan revelry of this festival. I was saved from a lifestyle of drugs, occult and practiced witchcraft. Your right, there is no alternative. Halloween is a dark, lurid celebration of evil and people dressed up to disguise themselves from the evil spirits. The root meaning into all the paraphernalia that goes on, comes from an evil place and the world invites the dark forces into their homes and families lives. Yes, Satan is worshiped and children die. While our children are out and about having fun, there is blood being shed.
    My daughter was 7yrs old when she asked if she could dress up and have fun like her Christian friends do. I said, she could if we would sit down and look into the history and root meaning and cause of Halloween. We did, and when we had finished researching, my daughter turned to me and said, “I will never celebrate Halloween, and my children’s children will never celebrate it either”. Out of the mouth of babes!

  • John Wilson

    Great article David! Liked how you boiled it down to just Jesus and the freedom we have in Christ to follow Him. You are a blessing bro!

  • Seth

    This was a great article. I appreciate that you made a point to leave room for people’s convictions without passing judgment. It seems to fall into the same category of Romans 14 and the issue of conscience. Although as you so clearly put freedom isn’t just an excuse to do what we want without taking Christ and His witness through us seriously.

  • BobbyJo Newell

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it helped me alot to answer a question I had yesterday… going to share this!

  • G$

    Really enjoyed the writing bro!!! I always enjoy your perspectives and usually agree with them . How good it is when fellow pupils of Christ can share notes and communicate Christ to one another! The battle is real, and thankfully we have One who has already overcome the world!

  • David Glosup

    Awesome and interesting Article! I agree with your stance whole-heartedly. In conjunction with the “confront evil and not run from it” idea, I had a good friend in my first two years of high school whose parents never allowed him to participate in anything…..(he could not go to any movies with his friends, participate in Halloween in any way….his parents wouldn’t even let him eat raw cookie dough!….that’s just wrong)

    When he got out of the house on his own….it was like letting a rat out of a cage, he got into all kinds of mischief and evil. I think the root cause was because his parents succeeded in prohibiting him from doing evil things while they had control but they failed to teach him WHY and HOW to confront it. The minute he was out of the cage and he went to college where evil is around every corner….he didn’t stand a chance.

    Just adding some evidence to your claims……really enjoyed reading this man. God bless!

  • David D. Flowers

    Hey Glosup, thanks for commenting. Yes, you help prove my point. It would appear that there are two extremes with many parents: smother your children and make decisions for them OR let them do whatever they like and make excuses for them.

    As an outside observer, parenting is hard work! There are no perfect parents, but there are plenty of bad parents. Adults should work through some of their own childhood issues and bad theology (which has made many people selfish and bitter) before they have children. It is terribly troubling to see how quick people have children only to pass on all of their junk to them. It’s one reason why we have waited.

    We must be more intentional when bringing another human being into the world. We are bringing children into a raging battle between good and evil. The worst thing we can do is to shield them from the world. Instead, we must teach them how Christ has called us to live in it. We must deal honestly with the world and equip them for battle.

    Real parenting is a serious calling. It shouldn’t be something married people do when they’re bored with each other or tired of their dog. It should be an intentional decision to raise up men and women who will be salt and light in a dirty world that Christ has claimed his own. It’s not for our sake that we have children, it is for the Lord and his Kingdom come.

  • Michael Young

    Well, as a single, childless, 21 year-old male, I would have to disagree with some points. I know my opinion would be quite different if I had kids.
    For me, I think it’s a bit of fun and lots of FREE candy! It’s also a good kick-off to the other winter holidays that I enjoy so much. But I can certainly see your point, David. So, I guess what I’m saying is that the Spirit has never PERSONALLY convicted me of haloween festives. But again, I don’t have kids.
    I believe in liberty in the Lord and how if we’re not actually worshiping pagan relics and indulging in evil behavior, I feel that I’m more than free to enjoy the fun. But I also can see why it could be considered bad because Jesus certainly wouldn’t sport a devil costume (or any for that matter). So, I’m neutral. I’m in the middle on this one David.
    But thinks for sharing your thoughts. Always good to see other perspectives than my own.

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Michael, did you read the entire article? I’m only proposing that certain elements of Halloween be rejected. I’m also leaving room for liberty on this issue. It sounds like we are on the same page.

  • Michael Young

    Ugh, no 😦
    I did the thing that irritates me the most…not reading the whole article. Honestly, I was at work and in a hurry. I just skimmed through it real fast. So, I’ll have to read the whole thing.

    Sorry Dave. lol

  • Noble

    Romans 14:5-10 says it best, first of all we are called to live in the spirit, if we are concerned of every little issue of the world, how can we be seeking Jesus at the same time. As for Romans 14 if you are fully convinced what you are doing is fine, God will also see it fine, the whole point of Christianity is to remain focused on Christ our savior, we cannot waist a moment concerning if this is ok is that ok, I know Jesus is Ok, and everything I do is to his glory, I have 5 boys, so keeping them from dressing up like pirate is Christian like, or telling them everything we do give glory to God, bless every home you trick or treat at, God said he works everything to his glory, how dare anyone who try’s to give the devil any kind of credit, my bible says the devil has been defeated over 2000 years ago, my Lord on the cross said “It is finished!”. I adore halloween, I feel like a child myself, and isn’t that the only way to enter the kingdom of Heaven!

  • cheeriosandlattes1

    Great post David! I completely agree with your points and enjoy the fact that we can enjoy a fun time of year to allow our kids to dress up in harmless costumes and get to know our neighbors! A great way to to be in the world but not OF the world. Sometimes I think we forget that as Christians we don’t have to fear the world; we fear the Lord. If he gives your family freedom to trick-or-treat or carve pumpkins then do it, if not, then don’t. To everyone their own conviction… let the the Holy Spirit guide us; not fear or pressure from others!

  • Warren Aldrich

    It seems to me that much of the reaction to Halloween is a form of the heresy of dualism. As Paul said about food given to idols, what we make of something is what it is.

    Evil is not as bad or as powerful as some folks make it out to be. Evil is anything that relationally separates us from God or doesn’t promote a sense of being a son or daughter of God.

    A gossiping moment on the phone before sending the kids out to treat or treat may well be as “evil” as any kid dressed up as a witch or goblin that showed up on the doorstep.

  • Steve Kline

    Interesting thoughts. One thing I did notice right off the bat, is that you said that you think there is a way to participate in Halloween without embracing the evil aspects, but I would like to have seen some elaboration of what you think that entails. What would YOUR family observance of Halloween look like?

    • David D. Flowers

      Steve, I read your lengthy comment, but cut it down to size. Long comments hinder discussion. Please see the blog Rules #6.

      I think you have assumed too much about my position. Christians should carefully decide how they are going to navigate Halloween, and other holidays that embrace pagan practices. I agree that some items of “pagan origin” are so far removed from contemporary culture that it shouldn’t matter so much. But once again, parents should use wisdom in what they choose to do with their kids, extending grace to others who disagree.

      Personally, we carved a pumpkin, trick-or-treated, and even watched Garfield and Charlie Brown’s Halloween specials. But we are careful to not celebrate blatantly evil aspects of Halloween (witches, devils, haunted houses, ghosts, goblins, etc.).

      As for stories and films that use sorcery and witchcraft, the same applies. Parents should use wisdom as to whether or not it’s appropriate to let their children read and watch such things.

      I’m more inclined to accept the over-the-top (sci-fi) sorcery that shows up in say, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. I’m less inclined to accept that of Harry Potter. The author of these books (J.K. Rowling) has admitted to a mysterious voice communicating the ideas of the story to her. The witchcraft in Harry Potter is too close to the real deal. The “lightening bolt” on Harry’s forehead is what is called a “Satanic S”. Marilyn Manson has even used this symbol on one of this album covers.

      While most children may see through this as being imaginary story-telling, I know of others that have been drawn to Wicca and other beliefs in magic, sorcery, and paganism.

      So, I personally conclude that adult and children miss nothing by choosing other forms of story-telling.

  • Ava

    As an adult (and now parent to two) who was raised in a home where my mother turned off all the lights and forced us to pray for hours while trick or treaters rang the doorbell (the outside light was left on to “ward off evil”) I can share MY OWN feelings:
    1. A deep resentment growing up, of a faith that would rob my childhood of the simple joy of dressing up in costume and getting free candy, and
    2. A determination to not repeat the same with my own children (even after my faith was renewed and re strengthened.)
    This is my story. Not a judgement on others. The Lord calls on us, differently. In our home, we do the fun things, w/o the evil/scary characters. But also, we’ve established a very regular presence in our neighborhood as available and involved neighbors, interacting with others outside of just these holidays. We believe that’s how we can best share our faith.
    As for “harvest” and “fall” events – we have always wondered how the acts of dressing up in costume, in October, collecting treats, at a party, would be anything other than Halloween, with a different label.
    Great article – thank you!

  • Amy

    David, I totally agree with your thoughts on the subject. In fact, we had a wonderful block party with Christians and unbelievers the other night. The high school kids in our neighborhood dressed up in silly costumes, collected canned goods for their “boo to hunger” youth group campaign and took the little ones around the neighborhood for treats around the ‘hood. What great examples these teens were for our young children.

    Also, you are right. We have to somewhat engage the culture to change it. I do that everyday with my students. We keep it “real” in my classroom and talk about things in popular culture that interest them. Often, I have to give them the benefit of my experience when I was NOT following God’s will for my life to help them navigate these tumultuous waters and I think that is why they trust me as a confidant when it comes to spiritual matters.

    Well said, my friend.

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