Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What is “Worldliness”? Holidays, part 2

Christians should be different from the world, and separate from worldly practices. Does this mean that we should not watch football? What about going to an amusement park? Should Christians attend Nascar racing events? Can we go to a decent movie? Can Christians listen to “worldly” music? What about “worldly” music with Christian words? Is any of this really “worldly” at all in the biblical sense of the word?


In the discussions about "worldliness", holidays, especially Halloween, seem to enter a different category. This is, I think, because of some association with religion. Let’s talk about that.


Ever since I have been a Christian, I have heard other Christians denounce the thing called “Halloween”. "It is the Devil’s holiday and is based in witchcraft and the occult. Why would a Christian ever let their children participate in such a display of wicked allegiance to the base things of Satan?"


First of all, I now object to the argument that if the history of a holiday is impure religiously, then it must be avoided by a Christian. For example, in the previous post, I touched on Christmas and some of its practices. These may have, at once, been instituted by false religionists (pagans). However, there are two reasons why that doesn’t seem to matter.

  1. Those religious aspects of the holiday practices are no longer present. The practices are superficial and empty.
  2. Partaking of the empty holiday practices is not partaking of the religion that may have once been there.

At one time, Christmas trees may have been a part of some sort of “earth worship” … but ... we do not worship evergreens now. At one time, witches and goblins (what are goblins?) may have been practicing something evil on October 31 … but ... when my kid wears a pirate outfit, he is not doing witchcraft, he sees nothing cultic, and he is not taught to worship the devil. Do you see the empty shell? The religion that may have once been there, is not there anymore in the practices that we have. So why is "trick or treating" any different than going to an amusement park?


Now, if a Christian were placing his faith in this stuff … that would be a problem! If we were looking to it for spirituality or salvation … a bigger problem!! … but … it has nothing to do with religion. Another thought: Paul (1 Corinthians 8) says that a Christian is not defiled by partaking of a false religion’s by-products, (he does instruct us to use love so as not to make a brother stumble - but that is another discussion.)


Finally, in respect to Halloween, this truly is kids’ stuff! I believe it is really inconsequential. The things that make us different from the world go much deeper than whether we recognize or rebel against a certain American holiday. In fact, “standing for” this kind of thing, has taken way too much energy and focus off of what that difference really is. This has been a distraction, I think, in my witness during past Octobers. I spent too many precious minutes and too much passion defending my reasons why Halloween was wrong, thus taking my loved ones' focus off of the real issues they must face. (Also, there are plenty of serious ways in which I am peculiar ... and all believers are … we don’t need to emphasize something like this!) I will delve further into a biblical look at “worldliness” in my next post (part 3) and leave the holidays behind!


What is “worldliness”, really? Can you see it? Do you know it when you see it?

28 Comments:

  • Hi Rose, this post is sooo good. Most of our church sees Halloween as an evil time and will not celebrate it and have in the past made it known to us. Some don't have a problem with it but most are against it. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Even as Brian (Bhedr) was an MK growing up in Hong Kong all the missionaries went trick or treating and there was nothing evil about it. Brian and I both have fond memories of trick or treating. We were not out there trying to join in a cult. It truly is just a night for the kids to dress up and have fun. Not as anything evil of course. It is funny how some determine what is evil and what is not evil. I could go on and on but I won't. Thanks again for this post! I haven't read the first part but I am sure it is great like the 2nd.

    Sandy

    By Blogger wife of the behdr, at 10/25/2005 12:41 PM  

  • Rose, You continue to encourage me with your insight and "reasoning." This post is a marvelous example of your typical thought process, as I have observed over the last year in our discussion.

    You really think things through and labor to come to a biblical conclusion.

    That being said, your attempt at a discussion on what constitutes worldliness must be a study of the Scriptures that deal with the subject. You are correct when you assert that being difference from the world means more than not "trick or treating." The issue is one of identity, one of allegiance. Why do trick or treat? Why do you not trick or treat. Even in those questions there is a dangerous pragmatism that threatens to trump biblical authority. The end does not justify a means. In other words - IF we conclude that All Hallow's Eve is not an acceptable thing for Chrisitans to celebrate (and frankly, I don't see how that is even arguable) than we cannot okay it because it might be harmless fun or because it might allow us to evangelize, etc...

    We (myself foremost) are far more in danger of looking like the world than we are of being separate from them. That is why the question we ask is, "How far is too far?" instead of asking, "How pure is too pure?" How much like the world can we look like and still be okay with God? Rather than, "How much like God can I be?"

    In your last post you said something about being like the Amish. I lived among the Amish for 5 years. They are the easy butt of many jokes, but they have something going on! The want so much to be like God that they shun the things that make them most like the world. They problem with Amish is that it is not for the glory of God, but the Glory of self - being a works-oriented faith rather than a grace-based faith.

    I don't have specific answers to your question. The truth is, no one really can answer that question for you but you and John - not even PhD!

    Simply ask, how can we be more like God and how can we help our children ask themselves that same question. Then the Spirit of God lead you through prayer and the study of the Word.

    Grace to you my friend!

    By Blogger Reformer, at 10/25/2005 4:03 PM  

  • Dave,
    Thanks for your comments. Part three, (my next post) is going to move beyond the holidays and I am going to look at the Word of God in relation to "worldliness". I did not delve into a lot of scripture here, because I just wanted to talk about Halloween/holidays ... and our modern holidays are not in the scripture. I still don't see how watching sports, nascar enthusiasm, amusement parks, or trick or treating are relative to what makes us more like God vs. more like the world.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/25/2005 4:19 PM  

  • Sandy,
    How neat for you to agree so on your first comment on my blog. I am glad someone understands what I am saying. I hope I see you commenting around some more. (I love the title you chose: "wife of the bhedr" - cute!)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/25/2005 9:30 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I think some Christians define too much of what they believe by focusing on what they are against.

    When I was a kid (a non-Christian kid) I loved Halloween. The costumes were cool, but I mostly just loved the colors and the changing of the seasons. I had no clue of the historical background so it was a complete non-factor for me.

    Unfortunately, Halloween has pretty much evolved into an adult holiday in our time, and it has gotten a lot darker. So now I really do have some problems with it. But at the same time, I lament the demise of the innocent, youthful version. In many ways, that's too bad.

    In other words, We need to take an honest look at what these holidays mean in modern times, and especially in our own hearts if we choose to observe them.

    People who are against any of the holidays for ancient, historical reasons are really just looking for a fight. They fit into the category I began with. They're just defining their beliefs by what they are against. Their way of being 'holy and separate' is to condemn whatever is not specifically Christian. But I think an honest appraisal must work both ways:

    Whener the secular power was controlled by the church in the past, just look at the results. The inquisition, for one. Because those people followed an evil practice in the name of Christ, should I avoid reading about Him in the Bible? Should I view my walk with the Lord through them, or establish a walk of my own, based on how I see Jesus in the Scriptures?

    This is a thought provoking subject. Good post.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/25/2005 11:14 PM  

  • What are holidays? They are 'holy days'. They are days when things that are valued are celebrated. They are acts of worship, however those participating in them disguise this.

    What are the values that are celebrated in Halloween?

    Christians have one Scriptural holiday- the Lord's Day. To seek more is to turn to either Judaism or Paganism.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/26/2005 3:31 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Earl, at 10/26/2005 8:46 AM  

  • Oops, typos on my previous comment.

    I think Halloween falls into Paul's guidelines of all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful and a similar concept of meat sacrificed to idols. I think a lot has to do with the approach to the holiday. Certainly there are demons and demonic forces in the world. This is where discernment on the part of the parent comes in. Perhaps instead of a ghost custom for your child, you might consider an alternative. Or, even if you go with a ghost custom you teach your children their position in Christ, these times can be educational opportunities.

    I’m not one who wishes to place restrictions on others where Scripture is not abundantly clear. I think you can take the pagan things form this world and put Christ into it. Look what happened to the Christmas tree, Easter, etc.

    Further, if we distance ourselves from many cultural things, instead of being a particular people for Christ, the world could see as a strange and weird people. In a way, we could hide the gospel itself – saying what matters is what WE DO in particular things rather than what CHRIST has DONE for us.

    Good article.

    By Blogger Earl, at 10/26/2005 8:50 AM  

  • btw, I like that new banner you made for your blog.

    By Blogger Earl, at 10/26/2005 8:52 AM  

  • Hi, Rose -
    I met you a couple of time at a den meeting at Arun's house sometime back. At the den meeting yesterday, John gave me his blog address, and while I was visiting his blog I found yours too. It's a fun coincidence that John and I briefly talked about Halloween yesterday.

    I agree with you on your opinion that Halloween may be a fun kid's stuff. I know kids enjoy it from my kids. I also agree that we, as a christian, sometimes put too much cautions against "worldly things".

    But, I think that too much cautions are never enough. We christians cannot be too cautious, espeically these days. Some people (including christians) cynically ask, "Why are you soooo freaky about our kids going out for trick or treating? It just for fun". If that is so... how do you like the following question? "Why are you sooo freaky about practicing Buddist Zen? It's good excercise that brings you peaceful mind and healthy body. Don't put any religious meaning in it."

    Are you going to promote Buddist Zen practice because it's JUST fun and good for health?

    This type of perspective is becoming very common and being accepted as a norm or social standard in this 'post-modernism' era, in which it doesn't matter whatever we do as long as we achieve our goals. Doesn't it matter what Halloween means as long as our kids have fun?? Things do have their own histories and significances. We must not ignore them. If you advocate Halloween becuase it's a kid's fun stuff, ignoring its history and hidden meanings, why don't you go to a zen temple and practice zen to be peaceful and healthy?

    Rather than ignoring or hiding its pagan history and devlish meaning, I would explain to our kids why it's not right to participate in Halloween. I highly value this type of explanation as a tool for teaching our kids Christian morale. Being cautious about many worldly things is also a good practice for our faith. I strongly encourage discussions and arguments about christian perspective on worldly things as much as possible. By being cautious, we can foster our christian perspective on/against wordly things.

    Regarding more practical side of it, because we can no longer stop this long "fun" tradition of "American" Halloween (I admit that in USA Halloween has evolved into one that is different from its original), I advocate the idea of diverting Halloween night to a prayer night. Rather than going door to door trickortreating, how about we get together at church and have some christian fun and, of course, some candy bars?

    Again, please let us not forget or ignore what's in (or behind) many worldly things. Let us be more and more cautious.

    May the Lord bless you and your family richly,
    Dong, Joon's father.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/26/2005 9:16 AM  

  • Loren,
    Thanks for your comments. You have given me some good things to think about.

    Dyspraxic,
    I'm glad you commented. I don't think we should make halloween into a christian holy day in our church, but I understand what you are saying. :~) Hope you feel well.

    Earl,
    Thanks. I share your concern about being weird for something other than what is the focus of our lives - namely christ. Weirdness for the sake of it is not helpful.

    Dong,
    Thanks for coming over! I hear you, but I am apprehensive to analyze the history of everything in our culture. I am IN this culture as it is now.
    I thought ZEN was very religious in it's teaching and practices... of course I wouldn't go to a temple of a false religion.

    NOTE: I think maybe my point has been lost. :~(

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/26/2005 11:00 AM  

  • A holiday is a religious day whether you make it formally religious or not.

    I am not too bad, thankyou.
    God Bless

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/26/2005 11:40 AM  

  • Rose~,
    I'm not as articulate as many of your responders but, I will say this: I agree with your lines of logic in your post.I see your point and will add this- Christianity is defined by the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Gal. 5:22. We must concern ourselves only with whether or not Christ is being seen through our lives, an evidence that God actually is at work forming Christ in us.

    Savin' and shavin' :-)

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/26/2005 12:55 PM  

  • Rose -
    I am sorry to see your :~( face about my comment. Never meant to make your face frown. I thought that your point was that Halloween has no religious meanings, and therefore, it's okay for christians to participate it, right? Or am I still missing your point. If I am still miss your point, please ignore my comment.

    Anyway, for that point, I think Halloween does have religious meaning and we, christians, have to be cautious and do something about it. I suggested a few things we can do. I think this is the point that you and I disagree on.

    Probably Zen story was not a good example to back up my opinion. However, I am NOT saying that you are not apprehensive of "our" culture or you are not IN this culture. I know, as an American and christian, we all are IN this culture and are apprehensive of it, and we must keep up our guard against "Worldly thing" including Halloween.

    Sorry if I still miss your point. Please ignore my comment, then.

    Nice talking with you,
    dong

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/26/2005 1:26 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I guess we shiuld have started with the Scriptural answer:

    "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
    He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks."

    (Rom 14:5-6)

    Basically, what does the holiday mean to you? Can you do it unto the Lord? It is to Him that we stand or fall.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/26/2005 2:02 PM  

  • No Dong, I wasn't talking about your comment specifically, when I said :~(
    I just really don't get why this holiday thing (read my previous post) is any more "worldly" than a lot of the other activities we do on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis in our culture. I just felt that my point was getting lost because the discussion seem to have degenerated into a referendum on Halloween itself. That is all I meant. Thanks for you comments though. It is great to get the perspective from all of the readers.

    Halloween is obviously a hot button issue!!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/26/2005 2:07 PM  

  • Loren, the text you quote refers to weak brothers who felt they must keep Jewish festivals. It has no reference to pagan holidays.

    God Bless

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/26/2005 5:25 PM  

  • According to Merril Unger, Rome during the time of the apostle Paul, had 159 holidays a year, 93 of which were supplied with public spectacles at government expense. Paul was certainly aware of “holidays” that came from an unbiblical source. Yet he did not dedicate a paragraph of Scripture to tell those Christians that they should stay at home during these times. Dyspraxic, what are your sources that lead you to believe Paul is talking about Jewish feast days? I am not sure that is the case. He could have very well been speaking to the Romans about their own customs, since he was writing to the saints at Rome.

    For the record, I don’t think Halloween and Christmas, or Thanksgiving … are something that Christians need fret over. Our time in history is full of REAL evil and this stuff is not a hill to die on.

    I respect those of you who find different activities on that night and trust that you choose to use your time to the best of your ability for the good of your family and the glory of God.

    On that note, I also respect those who decide to go into the community with their family to the glory of God. As for me, when the kid stuff is done, I am going to watch Martin Luther and have cheese dip that night.

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 10/26/2005 8:15 PM  

  • Watching the Luther movie is a great idea! I think I'll do the same on that night.

    By Blogger Earl, at 10/26/2005 9:07 PM  

  • Rose,

    I can't believe you didn't link to this!! Trick or Trite

    By Blogger marc, at 10/26/2005 9:40 PM  

  • Blue Collar,
    Thanks for your thoughts, I know it took you a long time to type them so I don't want you to think I am not grateful!

    Thanks John, Earl, and Marc!

    Marc, I saw that before and it left me speechless (quite a feat!).
    John and I thought it was "cute!!!"

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/26/2005 10:07 PM  

  • Hi Dyspraxic Fundamentalist,

    One of those 'Jewish Festivals' you mention is the Feast of Purim, which the Lord never ordained, but the people decided on it back in the Book of Esther (God is never even mentioned in Esther). Yet Jesus celebrated Purim with them, in John 5:1.

    Jesus also celebrated Hanukkah with the Jews, in John 10:22 (the Feast of Dedication). And there's no Scriptural command to observe Hanukkah.
    I find that when I celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or the Fourth of July with Christian friends, He celebrates with me, too.

    Actually, the quote from Romans 14 is about the Lord's day. Some celebrated and met on Sundays, some otherwise, but the important point was that it was done unto the Lord. Holidays are the same thing on an annual, rather than a weekly, schedule.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/26/2005 10:38 PM  

  • Rose,

    As to your html question over on my blog. Close a tag by putting a / in front of the letter inside the <>.

    < x > Example < /x >

    x being a ficticious html tag. you would use: i, b, a, etc.

    Hope that helps,
    Marc

    By Blogger marc, at 10/27/2005 1:08 AM  

  • Loren,
    the festival mentioned in John 5:1 may be Purim, but we are not told that Jesus was celebrating it. Hanukah is mentioned in John, but again we are not told that Jesus celebrated it.

    I see no reason to think that Romans 14 concerns the Lord's Day. The preceding verses deal with abstinence from meats, presumably Jewish dietary laws and so it probably concerns Jewish holidays. All the evidence we have suggests that celebration of the Lord's Day was universal, not optional among early Christians. If we understand the Lord's day to be the Christian Sabbath, then the Lord's Day is hardly a matter of conscience.

    Your belief that the Lord celebrates heathen feasts with you seems to me a little subjective.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/27/2005 10:36 AM  

  • J. Wendell, there were plenty of pagan feasts in those days. However, the passage concerns matters of conscience. I should hope that the celebration of pagan feasts was not on the conscience of Christians.

    The application of Romans 14 to modern, western holidays is eisegetical. It is reading modern concerns into a passage that does not concern that subject.

    God Bless

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/27/2005 10:40 AM  

  • I know the basic background of Halloween. I realize it is based on satinism, and the occult. In this country we celebrate it mostly in a secular manner like most holidays. If your conscience is clear about it you arent sinning. If not you are. This is basically how i feel about it. We celebrate Halloween in my house and when i became a christian i was concerned by it, but only when other christians had pointed it out to me. Growing up Halloween was my favorite Holiday next to christmas mainly because of dressing up, trick or treating and decorating my house with my mom. Good family memories! I am an adult and i still like Halloween just not all the things about it. I like going to Halloween Parties and dressing up. I realize you think that is bad, but i rather enjoy it. It doesnt get in the way of my Love and Worship of the Lord!

    By Blogger Dorothy, at 10/27/2005 11:32 AM  

  • I only think it is bad if you act lascivious and lewd with drunkeness ... that is sin. Dressing up and going to a party is not sinful in and of itself. (were you talking to me in the above comment: "I realize you think that is bad, ...")

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/27/2005 2:17 PM  

  • Going to a party where edifying company is kept is not wrong.

    Celebrating festivals that honour values not grounded in God's Word is questionable.

    People will not like this, but I would question whether dressing in a costume is really plesing to God. Our identity is part of what God has given to us and is something to safeguard. Should we violate this distinctiveness by dressing up and pretending to be who we are not? This is particularly questionable if this includes pretending to be evil persons. Can we pretend to be evil without picking up evil habits?

    Food for thought.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/27/2005 2:34 PM  

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