For those who are scratching their heads, Halloween is not the only holiday celebrated on October 31st. Today is also Reformation Day, as a few calendars still note. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famed 95-Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. This act was the catalyst for what became known as The Protestant Reformation.
I was rather disappointed when I recently mentioned this fact to a group of friends and I was met with blank stares. They were discussing plans for a Halloween Party, and I countered by
inviting them to my exclusive (think "me, myself, and I") Reformation Party instead. I got puzzled looks, like "Oh, here Susan goes again. Another one of her soapboxes. . ."
I have in the past trick-or-treated and attended "Fall Festivals" (a euphemism for Halloween Parties hosted by churches and schools, for those unfamiliar with the term). Tonight I won't be doing either, no surprise since I am a little old for such events. But then, I also don't plan on participating in these events with my own (hypothetical) children. Why may you ask would I deprive my own children of that rite of childhood? Don't I want them to have a good life? As R.C. Sproul Jr. would say, "yes, but not the world's definition of 'the good life'".
As I set forward in my previous post on Christian Culture, Christians are to establish a separate and distinct culture in the world, as they are conformed more to Christ's image and as they fulfill the dominion mandate. Participating in a pagan holiday like Halloween certainly does not jive with this mandate of cultivating a separate culture for Christ; instead it merges the world's culture with the church. We are to replace the world's culture, not merely "Christianize" it.
Evangelical Christianity has adopted the philosophy of taking aspects of the world's culture and "Christianizing" them. Take a look at evangelical music, fiction books, clothing, movies, and other forms of entertainment for a sampling. Often we spend so much time "Christianizing" perversion that we would be better served by discarding it instead. The movie editing industry is a good example of this.
I admire those who take great pains to edit perverted movies for profanity, sex, nudity, and violence, but in all honesty a lot of the movies that are edited are just not worth watching even with the editing. I could pick on many movies, but I'll choose Titanic. My applause for editers that removed graphic sex, nudity, and profanity from the film, but they were still left with a movie brimming with an ungodly message. They would have done better to ignore the movie altogether or make a new film on the Titanic that was historically accurate and morally upright.
Christians have likewise tried to clean up Halloween by removing mentions of witches, even moving a celebration of the holiday to the previous Saturday and calling it a "Fall Festival" instead, thus seeking to make the celebration "neutral." We leave the candy, the costumes, many of the same terms, but leave our witch costumes at homes. Is the holiday neutral, though?
Not for a high priestess of Wicca that our local paper interviewed. As she said, for her and other witches, Halloween is a sacred time. Fall Festivals? Fine with her:
Zoeller [the witch] doesn't mind that some schools hold "fall festivals] instead
of Halloween carnvials because of pagan associations. As long as people are
celebrating the harvest and the change of seasons, they're celebrating
important facets of Wicca, she says. "That's the important thing, no matter
what they call it.
I've never been to a Fall Festival that resembled the meeting of a coven, but as this witch notes, even a "neutral" festival for Halloween celebrates important facets of Wicca. I'm not talking about any gathering that takes place in fall. I'm specifically talking about events that are meant to be "alternatives" to Halloween by "cleaning up" the holiday.
If we've managed to remove all pagan aspects of Halloween from our "Fall Festival" celebration, then what reason do we have left to celebrate? The reason left to celebrate, sometimes unspoken but usually admitted, is to fit in with the secular American culture. After all, who wants to be labeled a wacko for not celebrating a holiday, even if it is a pagan one? We're not supposed to be different from the world. A city on a hill is a bit much, after all. . .
Now tell me whether the seed of the woman or the seed of the devil is ahead in this culture war.
The Second Corinthians passage on being unequally yoked with unbelievers is most often cited in reference to marriage, but the original intent was likely much broader and I think applicable to issues like the celebration of Halloween. The following passage underscores the importance of the antithesis, as it was established in the Garden of Eden and carried throughout the Old Testament and then through the New Testament:
14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has
righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15What accord has Christ with Belial?
Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16What agreement has
the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God
"I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I
will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Therefore go out from their
midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord,and touch no unclean thing; then
I will welcome you, 18and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and
daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."
On October 31st, rather than yoking with unbelievers and participating in a pagan holiday - whether the unedited or edited version - Christians can instead celebrate a genuinely Christian holiday - Reformation Day. As I mentioned, October 31st is the day Martin Luther posted his 95-Theses and launched what became known as the Protestant Reformation. The general ignorance and apathy of reformation history is truly saddening to me. Every Christian should take the opportunity to learn about the great men who came before us, purging a very corrupt Christendom from heresy and paving the way for the religious freedom and clarity we enjoy today.
I am currently enjoying a biography on Martin Luther. It has taken me a great deal of time to read through it, as I have not been diligent in my reading of late and I am trying to savor it, rather than speed through it. There are so many weighty quotes to record for future ponderance. It was eye-opening to experience through Luther the newfound truths of the gospel, as he shed the shackles of Catholicism for a salvation by faith alone. It made me so thankful for men like him who established and nurtured the true gospel. His own hunger for truth was used of God to change the world.
What Karl Barth said of his own unexpected emergence as a reformer could be said
equally of Luther, that he was like a man climbing in the darkness a winding
staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral. In the blackness he reached
out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of a rope. He was startled to hear
the clanging of a bell.
We owe to men like Luther the championing of the five great Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Solo Christo, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide - the scripture alone is standard, to God alone be the glory, salvation is by Christ's work alone, salvation is by grace alone, justification is by faith alone. These are truths that most protestants take for granted, yet they were major issues in Luther's day. The reformers risked their lives that we may know these truths and be freely taught them today.
Who can hear the bold words of Luther at his hearing at the Diet of Worms without being moved?
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the
authority of 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
I encourage you to take the time sometime soon to study the men who risked their lives so that you might worship God today in spirit and in truth. Study Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others and be thankful for the undeniable influence they have had on Christianity. We are reaping the rewards of their dedication several hundred years ago.
Tonight, while most of Americans are dressing up in costumes and participating in a holiday of pagan origins, this reformed girl will be finishing her biography on Martin Luther and thanking God for the events that He orchestrated from one seemingly insignificant act that happened on this day almost 500 years ago. . .
Soli Deo Gloria