If you have spent any time in the church at all, you have probably heard or been involved in a discussion about Halloween. It seems that Christians are all over the board regarding whether or not they can participate in one of our culture’s most popular holidays. Some send their kids out trick-or-treating without a second thought, some hold “Harvest Parties” at their churches, and some stay home with the lights turned out and don’t answer the door for anyone. In the post below, I will give my answer for the question of Christian participation in Halloween, based on the principles of 1 Corinthians 8 and 10.
The Two Extremes
As we know, Halloween is a divisive issue. Its imagery is full of scary and evil creatures, and its history is full of witchcraft and general misbehavior. But how does that impact our decision to participate?
On one hand, there are Christians who do participate in all sorts of Halloween celebrations. These Christians point to Christian liberty and the opportunity to evangelize as reasons for their participation.
On the other hand, there are Christians who look at the evil that is done on that night, particularly by cultic and satanic groups, as well as the general adoration of evil in costumes and movies related to Halloween, and decide to abstain completely from the holiday.
The Corinthian church had issues. Lots of them. One such problem was that much of the meat sold in Corinth had been sacrificed to idols. This was a problem because most of the new Christians had once been idol-worshiping pagans, and it troubled some of them to eat anything that was associated with their former life. In attempting to help the Corinthian church, Paul laid out the following principles:
- Knowledge makes people proud, but love builds others up. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)
- Idols are not real gods. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
- Not every Christian can treat things associated with idols as though they have no power. A Christian who is strong enough to dismiss the idol should limit his own freedom for the sake of his brother. To fail to do this is to sin against one’s brother and against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:7-13)
- No Christian has the right to participate in idolatry. Idols are nothing, but to participate in the sacrifices to them is to participate in a sacrifice to demons. Also linked to idolatry are wild feasting and sexual sin. (1 Corinthians 10:6-23, Exodus 32:17-18)
- A Christian is free to do many things, but not all of these things are profitable (1 Corinthians 10:23)
- A Christian has a great deal of freedom, but he or she may need to limit their freedom because of what an unbeliever attributes to something they have freedom to do. (1 Corinthians 10:23-30)
- A Christian should do all things to the glory of God, and in so doing should strive as much as is possible to avoid offending others, both inside and outside of the church. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
Does a Christian have the right to participate in Halloween?
Based on 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, the answer depends on the manner in which one participates. Below are some applications drawn from the text:
- Paul is clear that a Christian cannot participate in idolatrous worship. In 1 Corinthians 10, he links idolatrous worship with the feasting and sexual immorality that was associated with the worship of the golden calf in Exodus 32. Based on that, it seems reasonable and prudent to say that a Christian cannot participate in Halloween activities that involve witchcraft, sexually perverse actions, and sexually explicit movies.
- All Christians are called to be willing to limit their own freedom for the sake of other believer’s conscience. Practically speaking, this means that if you pressure another believer to participate in a Halloween celebration when you know that it troubles their conscience, you are sinning. It also means that, as a parent, you are responsible for limiting your freedom to avoid causing your children to stumble. Does this mean a total lack of participation? Maybe. That depends upon your children. Pray about it, do the best that you can, and if you mess up, repent and try again.
- Christians must avoid doing things that make outsiders question their commitment to the faith. Simply put, if participating in a certain Halloween activity or celebration would cause your atheist, Satanist, or Wiccan friends think of you as a hypocrite, then you shouldn’t be doing it. (Note: it seems that this passage applies to someone who is known to the Christian, as such, it does not seem that a Christian should abstain from something simply because someone somewhere might call them a hypocrite for it).
- Not all things are profitable. Some Christians may decide not to participate due to safety concerns or an aversion to giving their children large amounts of candy.
- Do all things to the Glory of God. Can God be glorified by his people using a historically pagan holiday to spread his word? Can God be glorified in his people using their creative gifts for and in events that do not contradict the principles stated above? It seems so. On the other hand, is God glorified when his people are indistinct from the world, or sin against him and others by their abuse of Christian liberty? Certainly not.
There are certain Halloween activities that a Christian absolutely may not participate in. Most other activities are up to the individual or family to decide. Such decisions should be made with a desire to protect the conscience of other Christians (and especially children), present a consistent Christian faith to the outside world, and glorify God.