Thoughts on Halloween and Reformation Day


We interrupt this Cerulean Sanctum “Being the Body” series to bring you the ubiquitous Godblogger posturing on Halloween and Reformation Day. I’ve seen scads of previous analyses of the former over the last few years, but now there’s a push to bring the latter out from under the covers. Better discuss both.


As to Halloween, last year I wrote a piece detailing why I now opt out even though I was raised in a Christian household that had no problems with the “holiday.”

The Obligatory “Halloween Is Bad” Post

Rob Wilkerson over at Miscellanies on the Gospel is one of my favorite bloggers. His recent post on Halloween is outstanding:

A Gospel Perspective on Halloween Horror

I don’t know what it is about folks from charismatic and Pentecostal backgrounds, but they seem most leery of Halloween, almost without exception. Meanwhile, Christian folks on the far, far side away from that perspective seem to be more tolerant of trick or treating.


Celebrating Reformation Day, for me, is a little like remembering someone you loved dearly who has passed away. As a dyed-in-the-wool, anti-RCC Protestant, I would love to rousingly celebrate the anniversary of Luther’s pounding his 95 Theses into the cathedral door at Wittenberg. But I think we’ve squandered a lot of what the Reformation bought us.

I don’t think we practice most of the backbone concepts of the Reformation, even in the most ardent Reformed churches. I grew up Lutheran, and even so I ran into disconnects all over the place.

Take the idea of the priesthood of all believers. Nothing in our practice of our church life proves that we believe this foundational truth of the Reformation one iota. Too many of our churches have pastors who lord it over their congregations, disempowered congregants who are routinely told that only the specially trained (read “seminarians”) are equipped to minister, Martin Luther sticks it to the RCCand vicious church factions debating the same “who is greater?” nonsense that got the disciples in hot water with Jesus. Truthfully, our practice of the priesthood of all believers better resembles that classic line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

I know in my own life I’ve encountered that hypocrisy more times than I can count, none more glaring than my experience in the church Martin Luther founded. I worked at a Lutheran camp a couple summers and got in serious trouble with the leadership of the camp for baptizing kids who converted to Christ. Seems like a perfectly ordinary action to take with new believers, baptizing them and all. From the reaction of the leadership, though, you would’ve thought I’d killed those kids à la Jason of Friday the 13th movie fame.

At sole issue was the fact that I wasn’t a pastor. When I countered that the Philip who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch wasn’t an apostle but a guy who waited on the tables, I was lucky not to be stuffed into a canvas sack and thrown into the lake right then and there. So much for the priesthood of all believers. I guess some priests are more equal than others.

I could walk through the Reformation’s five solas and ask how we practice them in reality. Just the other day, I experimented by Googling the phrase “What must I do to be saved?” and perused the answers provided by leading Protestant Web sites. If that cursory survey is any indication, we’ve got to do a whole lot more to be saved than have faith in Christ, trust His Scriptures, and receive His grace. (Though I think soli Deo gloria still holds up in all cases.) Sadly, at the site of one prominent Reformed blogger, the list of requirements for salvation (according to the sermon by Cotton Mather posted there) included a whole lot more than what we got out of the entirety of the Reformation. Somehow, we Protestants have found a way to obscure the simple answer to that most necessary question. In many ways, we’re back where we were just prior to the Reformation.

But I guess the main reason that I’m not quite as pumped about Reformation Day as some others is my speculation about Martin Luther. I fear that some of the loudest celebrants of Reformation Day might be the very same people who would call for a good old burning at the stake for Martin Luther if he showed up today and pounded a new set of 95 Theses on the doors of our modern Evangelical churches. Love to see them Catholics squirm, but don’t tell us to give up our modern indulgences.

Too many of us Protestants have capped Christianity at the Reformation. We believe that nothing more can come out of Christ’s Church than what we got out of the Reformation nearly five hundred years ago. In some ways, we’re like the fifty-year-old shoe salesman at K-Mart who once quarterbacked his high-school team to a state championship. Our entire lives revolve around that day when we threw the winning touchdown. We relive it, revel in it, and on and on. But we let that one event in time become the be all and end all of our existence. It can never get better than that time, nor can we ever let it possibly come close.

But oh what we may be missing because we can’t see the opportunities that lie before us today!

Don’t get me wrong. I supremely value the Reformation. I also supremely value practicing what we preach and asking if we need a new reformation even better than the old one.

Now what church will let me nail that to their door today?

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on Halloween and Reformation Day

  1. francisco

    Nail it brother, nail it!
    I had some thoughts for the day in an undeveloped file but I guess I just sit back and read the minds of people far more gifted.
    Enjoy reformation day!

    • Francisco,

      If the Holy Spirit is inspiring you, Francisco, then don’t hold back. You may very well be the mouthpiece God is using to better His Church!

      As to “nailing it,” that’s what Cerulean Sanctum is all about. It may not be on the church door, but it is on the Web.

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  3. As for Halloween: I believe what matters is what’s in the heart. I celebrate simply because it’s a blast to watch my 6 year old get so excited, temporarily overcoming his shyness and knocking on doors for the reward of a piece of candy.

  4. How many of us want to relive the day of our birth? How many of us want to live our lives as a newborn? But how many of us do just that! Mouths firmly attached to the nipple, we are milk-drinkers, avoiding the meat of the LIVING!

    I’m not one on Luther. I did discover this site by looking for a quote attributed to Luther “Love the Lord, and sin boldly.” Don’t know much about him, appreciate that his ideas were revolutionary, but only in a scholarly way. But I do know this…Christians need to stop trying to be Christians, and start living the life of Christ. If we fail, and we will, we have grace. But to never live, we might as well have never been born. We do need to love God, above all things, and sin boldly.

  5. Dee

    When our oldest child was small, we tried ever so passionately to refrain from trick-or-treating. We heard the history of the “holiday” but it was so hard to see her miss out on all the fun. Eventually we began letting her dress up for the church “harvest parties” and even hosted some of our own. Then we allowed her to trick-or-treat at grandma’s or a trusted neighbor’s house. We eventually gave in to the whole deal. After all, we did trick-or-treating when we were growing up and suffered no apparent ill effects.

    Now that our youngest is seven, we don’t even pretend anymore. It is a given that we do trick-or-treating. I figure we are one of those “safe” houses and our presence in the neighborhood tonight will make it a little safer for all our young neighbors.

    I still prefer to think of today as Reformation Day. I am amazed that I had never heard of Luther’s ninety-five theses until I was in college. How sad that many of us brought up in Pentecostal circles were denied that part of our church’s history in our formative years.

    Happy Reformation Day!

  6. Don Costello

    Hey Christian!
    I like your thoughts on Holloween and agree with Rob Wilkerson thoughts also. There is too much information out there on the history of the roots of Halloween that reveal it as a very demonic practice. Information we can’t ignore. It is becoming a very big money maker for retailers in candy, outfits and the like; as Rob Wilkerson’s piece shows, Hellywood (I’m sorry, slip of the keyboard), Hollywood generates all kinds of movies to satify the people who want to see it. The themes associated with it are all forbidden by Scripture. Many of them are Canaanite practices. Since the early sixties the Christian influence on our nation’s institutions has been under attack by the devil, sadly, with much success. Prayer in school, Bible reading, were the beginning salvos, and many more successful salvos have hit since then. Since that time, two very grievious Canaanite practices have become constitutionally protected behaviors in this nation, abortion/child sacrifice and homosexuality. Actally, there are more than two, but those will be enough. As bad as those are, they are no more Canaanite than the themes of Holloween, ghosts/demons, necromancers/mediums, or witches. I would never encourage my children to pretend to practice childsacrifice/abortion, why should I encourage them to pretend to be a necromancer/medium or a ghost/demon. They are all practices forbidden by Scripture.
    God Bless, See you in church. Don

  7. I knew it! I knew I should have given that footnote I edited out of the psot before publishing it…that footnote that communicates how much fun my kids and I have trick-or-treating. We love that time together…with the rest of our reformed-charismatic church (except for about two families who do, in fact, have a problem with it). From oldest to youngest our kids were: Darth Vader, Karate Kid, Ballerina, and Dalmatian. As for me? I went as the Marlboro Man…that’s right. The bald head, however, served me well. I was Marlboro Man after chemo treatment.

    I love you, Dan! Hopefully my experience alters your perception of us reformed-charismatic folks!

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