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?