Taking back the Night

Well its October 31 again, and it is fitting then that I think a little bit about worldview.

October 31st is two different, distinct holidays. The first, and obvious one that every child in America knows (as they go from house to house begging for candy) is Halloween, a holiday with a long history from its origins in the pagan feast of Samhain, and one that has been controversial for modern Christians. For decades and possibly centuries, whatever its origin, Halloween was largely a harvest time celebration. In a largely Christian culture, it was often treated as a holiday for children to have fun in the fantasy of witches, ghosts and vampires. That has changed in recent years, and when I was a teenager, I began to realize that the holiday was controversial with some, but before exploring Halloween further, lets examine the second holiday.

The second holiday is Reformation Day, so named because the protestant reformation began on October 31st 1517 with the publication of Luther’s 95 theses about the question of whether the pope could issue indulgences to let people out of purgatory. The reformation is one of the most pivotal events in Church history and in Western civilization – Evangelical teachings had been declared heresy in the fifteenth century with the burning of John Hus at the stake, but beginning with Luther the power of the gospel would be released and realized by the millions. Luther certainly was a man of his times, and his mind did not age well, but for all his foibles and failings, he was greatly used by God.

Sadly, few people today, even few believers, remember it is reformation day and sadder still the lessons of the reformation have been forgotten. We live in a culture that began to reject God out of hand and out of its thoughts, as some people call it, a “post Christian” culture. America has undergone a dramatic shift in its worldview the metal map that we all have explaining how the world actually works and what the world is really like. It is true that many Americans believe that there is God, but their conception of God is of a nebulous, deistic figure, or a pantheistic entity like the force in Star Wars. The culture’s understanding of the universe has little real connection with the God of the Bible. In much of the culture Americans are “practical atheists,” that is, there is little difference in the way an atheist lives from someone who claims to believe in God – there is no fear of God before their eyes.

This is precisely why within some Christian circles Halloween is controversial. At some point, at least by the seventies, some in the culture started to take Halloween more seriously than the kid’s holiday we remember from our youth; Things have changed. The modern horror movie has come a long way from its roots in the gothic tales of the macabre with their warnings for the morally wayward. Interests in the supernatural and the occult became a serious element of American society; there is a sub-culture of people who emulate the dark figure of the vampire— dancing in underground clubs and feeling auras while taking ecstasy and other mind altering substances. Even Satan has had a revival, as Anton LeVey organized the first church of Satan, wrote the Satanic Bible and generally sought to shock the American culture with a philosophy of hedonism. He and others succeeded to the degree that Satanism is now passé. If some Christians in America worry about the influence of Halloween, as the fears are about more than damage to the paint from the house being egged or finding ones window’s soaped, they are not without cause. They fear the moral influence that this day will have on children. And yet, this is the wrong concern. Halloween like everything else is something that affects us as much as we give it power in our lives.

Many churches have responded with “Hellhouses” and campaigns for taking back the night with programs like trunk or treat. But this is not enough. America has abandoned Christianity. Religion is viewed as a thing of “values” not truth in the same sense as the truths of mathematics. As I sit, writing this while watching the Donald Trumps, Batmen, Antmen, fairies, and werewolves go by, I realize that the bags of candy and tracts in my wife’s shopping bag will not have a deep impact on a Biblically illiterate society.

The changes in our culture create changes for the evangelistic task. No longer do most people assume the Bible to be true, or even to contain truth. It is necessary therefore, for our churches to be able to explain why the Bible is true. To be able to do that, our churches need to view apologetics as essential for the layman, not merely as a single class in Bible college curriculum for the pastor and religious professional. Apologetics interacts with, and is derived from, the foundational level of Christian thought; as we bring the heart into conformity with Christ the Christian’s mind is as important as the rest of his heart. We need apologetics at every level of the Church’s education, and we need it practiced with children before they face a world that will either state that Christianity is an ignorance of an older era, or with Pilate will increasingly ask, “what is truth?”

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