Using Halloween to Teach Genesis

Christians and Halloween

halloween pumpkin bucketHalloween has become the second largest commercial holiday in America—second only to Christmas. Every year by mid-September, stores are filled with Halloween themed displays and merchandise. Literally, millions of costumes are sold, along with spooky decorations and obscene amounts of candy. Amusement parks follow suit, switching their themes to the dark and scary. Haunted houses pop up all over communities (the Sheriff’s Station’s is most popular in ours). Houses in neighborhoods follow suit with jack-o’-lanterns on porches, tombstones on lawns, and spiderwebs everywhere. Then, on October 31st at sunset, the tradition culminates with millions of children emerging from their homes armed with pumpkin buckets and pillowcases. Pirates, zombies and superheroes march in unison with flashlight-armed parents in toe.  They spend the next few hours knocking on any door with a porch-light on, and reciting a polite ‘trick or treat’ to any that open.  That’s how I remember Halloween as a child, and not much has changed in 40 years.  Controversies aside, it’s easy to see why kids enjoy it so much.

But Christians have been split over the decades on how to handle this cherished American pastime.  Its occult imagery and roots have caused many Christians to take pause (myself included).  Some choose to ignore it, while others denounce it passionately.  Others celebrate Halloween alternatives, such as harvest festivals.  These usually include costumes and candy but omit the other darker elements.  Still, others participate in Halloween enthusiastically, having fun with it in a non-religious context.  To them, it’s not a real celebration of the occult and, therefore, harmless. Grace in all of these options should be granted (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8).

But there’s a new option I’d like Christians to consider. For years, I skipped Halloween, only participating in the handing out of candy.  My kids were disappointed, but seemed to trust my judgement that it was better this way (bless their hearts). And we still enjoyed quite a bit of candy!  But I never saw any redeeming value in it and, therefore, let it pass by every year.  And while that was a viable option, an epiphany hit me.  Why waste an opportunity to teach my kids good theology?  I now believe that Halloween presents such an opportunity, particularly in regard to the book of Genesis.

Christians and Genesis

As a biblical creationist, I’m very concerned about the modern church’s rejection of the early chapters of Genesis. Modern scientific theories about origins have tempted Christians to doubt the Genesis account and reinterpret it to make it compatible with modern ideas—the Big Bang, Darwinism, millions of years.  Theologians with good intentions tell us we can’t take Genesis literally because “science” has shown chapters 1-11 to be inaccurate.

In other words, instead of trusting God’s Word (Genesis 1-11) to inform us about men’s ideas about the past, we’ve decided to trust men to inform us about what God really meant to say in the Bible. This is a very backward hermeneutic, and tragically sad. Genesis 1-11 is not only part of the inspired canon, it is, in fact, foundational to the rest of the canon. If we don’t trust that foundation as it is written, how can we then avoid undermining what follows it?

Confusion about Death and Suffering

What does this have to do with Halloween?

halloween imageryAsk yourself this question. What is Halloween all about?  What symbols and themes do we normally see on Halloween?  Tombstones, corpses, severed limbs, ghosts.  The answer should be obvious.  The primary theme of Halloween is death.  Just look around and you’ll see it everywhere.  And death just happens to be an area of great confusion for the modern church.

By and large, the church no longer understands the origin of death and suffering, because it no longer accepts the sequence of events recorded in Genesis 1-11. Scripture tells us very clearly that, originally, God created a “very good” world with no death and suffering in 6 literal days (Genesis 1). Swimming and flying animals were made on day 5, and the first man, Adam, was made on day 6 along with all the other land animals.  God then declared all of creation to be very good (Gen. 1:31), and rested the next day (the 7th day) from all his work.  Then, some time later, Adam sinned (Genesis 3). Then death and suffering followed (Genesis 4—Revelation).

But if we trust man’s ideas about millions of years and the relatively late arrival of human beings on earth, it could not have happened this way. Many modern theologians have reinterpreted the book of Genesis to incorporate the concept of millions of years. Rather than morning/evening cycles, some speculate the days could have represented long intervals of time (Day-Age Theory, Progressive Creationism). This means that the animals created on day 5 and the early part of day 6 could have preceded Adam by millions of years.  Others place a gap of billions of years between the initial creation and verse 2 of chapter 1 (Gap Theory, Historical Creationism).  Others completely dismiss Genesis as figurative (Theistic Evolution, Framework Hypothesis).

death before sin - millions of yearsBut what these theologians often fail to realize is this would mean death and struggle also preceded the creation of Adam by millions of years and, therefore, preceded the sin of Adam.1 Rather than sin being the cause of death and suffering in the world, it now follows millions of years of death.  Thus death was not caused by sin at all.  God created it!  And He even called it “very good!”

Gen. 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

As Ken Ham often laments, why do we do this!? Scripture clearly tells us the origin of death and suffering. It came through the actions of our ancestor, Adam.

Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

The entire creation now suffers and waits anxiously for deliverance from bondage and corruption.

Rom. 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

The creation was subjected to the Curse because of sin, and now eagerly awaits the Curse to be lifted at the end of the age.

But we are also told this was not the original plan. God didn’t originally create the pain and agony and predation we see today and in the fossil record.  Originally, animals and humans were designed to get all their nutrition from plants.

Gen. 1:29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

And God has also revealed to us that a restoration is coming, when all animals will cease from predation, and return to vegetable diets.

Is. 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

death before sin - very goodNow ask yourself, why would God want to cause the wolf and leopard to dwell in peace with the lamb and goat, and why would He cause the bear and lion to go back to eating plants with cattle and oxen, if the original design of predation was very good?1  What does it need to be restored?

Sound doctrine is severely undermined when Genesis is not read in a straightforward logical way. The Gospel message starts in the book of Genesis and only makes sense in light of Adam’s Fall. If death and suffering preceded man by millions of years, then death is not the result of Adam’s sin. It was, rather, a “very good” part of creation. There would be no reason to end it. Biblical theology does not make sense without the foundation history of Genesis 1-11.  Death in scripture is described as the last enemy which God will destroy along with all His other enemies (1Cor. 15:26). Death was the result of our sin which we committed in our ancestor, Adam. It all makes perfect sense when we trust the word of God from the beginning to end.

Does it really matter?

What’s the big deal?  The origin of death is not essential to the gospel!

In one sense, I would agree.  One can certainly be confused about the origin of death and suffering, and still be redeemed by Christ.  Perfect theology is not a requirement for salvation (thank God), and no one is going to be denied merely because they misinterpret Genesis.  If one confesses faith and believes in the true Christ, and repents of their sin, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and assured salvation (Rom. 10:9, Eph. 1:13).

But I would not go so far as to say a proper interpretation of Genesis is unimportant to the gospel.  The gospel starts in Genesis, with the Fall, and the prophecy of the coming seed (Gen. 3:15).  The history we read in Genesis is the very reason the Cross became necessary.  It is the foundation of the Gospel!

Furthermore, what kind of witness will we be to the next generation if we admit that we really don’t believe the first book of the Bible? Why would they want to trust in the latter portions of the Bible, knowing we don’t trust the beginning portion?

genesis is the root of the crossAnd with that in mind, you have to admit, attacking Genesis is a very clever scheme on the part of our adversary.  If you can’t get Christians to deny the Bible outright, perhaps you can get them to doubt the most foundational portion of it. If they won’t deny the Cross, perhaps they’ll sever it from the history which explains the need for the Cross, and through this, undermine the faith of the next generation.1

Our kids from a very young age are taught that evolution is a fact and that death reigned millions of years before the first man evolved on earth. And the sad truth is, most in the church today will not even attempt to counter this. They are embracing the Cross (and are saved), but have severed it from its root—from its foundation.

Psa. 11:3 If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

For more on the importance of defending Genesis, see our article, Should Christians engage in creation apologetics?  For more on the effects this is having on the next generation, see this excerpt from the book, Already Gone.

Halloween Alternative

To counter this scheme, I would urge Bible believing Christians to start thinking differently about Halloween.  Instead of trying to change the imagery, use it.  Use the emphasis of death on Halloween as a tool to teach your kids the true history of death—the biblical history.

halloween decorationsAs you go out collecting candy in costumes with your kids, take in all the imagery very carefully—the tombstones, the ghosts, the depictions of evil. We Christians understand this imagery better than most, for we understand the realities behind them.  More importantly, we understand the reasons they’re here and their ultimate fate.  Rather than removing the symbolism, it might be better to explain it in the context of scripture.

Halloween Bible Study

After a night of walking and collecting obscene amounts of candy, return home for an annual Halloween Bible Study. This is by far our kids’ favorite Bible Study of the year.  On Christmas and Easter, it’s customary for families to read and discuss the Nativity and Resurrection accounts.  Why not follow suit on Halloween?

While enjoying the delicious fruits of your labor, start out by reading the account of Adam’s fall and banishment from the Garden of Eden (Genesis Chapter 2-3). This should stimulate a healthy discussion and numerous questions from your kids. Discuss with them the imagery they observed and why it is relevant to the Fall account. Explain to them that the Fall and subsequent Curse are real history and not just a story. It’s the perfect opportunity to explain to them the true origin of death and suffering, and why the chronological events of Genesis matter. Explain to them the myth of millions of years and how the Flood explains the fossil record from a biblical perspective.  You’ll find the symbolisms and imagery of Halloween to be the perfect springboard for these discussions and you’ll find your kids to be very interested in what the Bible has to say about them.

Then, move to another passage of the Bible which describes another event in the Garden of Eden. Many are not aware that Satan also fell in Eden according to Ezekiel 28:11-19. Ezekiel describes in vivid detail the being who incited the King of Tyre. Soon the reader realizes this passage is actually describing Satan himself, who incites men to sin against God. He was once a very beautiful cherub (angelic being) who dwelled in the Garden of Eden and elsewhere until he decided to rebel against God.

Ezek. 28:12…‘You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering ….. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. 14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. 15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

Satan’s fall is also discussed in Is. 14:11-17.  Satan was the being who incited the Serpent just as he did the King of Tyre and countless others. Yet originally, he was made “very good.”  He roamed the heavens and earth, and walked in the Garden of Eden “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.”  He was originally an angel and a magnificent one at that.  But very soon after the creation, he chose evil and became our adversary.

Teach your kids about the reality of Satan. He is not an idea or a concept. He’s a real spiritual being, as are other fallen angels. The Bible describes him as a roaring lion (1Pet. 5:8). He is looking to devour anyone that will trust him, and his methods have changed very little over time. Did God really say that? Surely that’s not what He meant. Here’s what He really meant!

Teach your kids how to recognize these subtle lies and be sure to also explain the difference between fantasy and reality—between real witches, devils and pirates, and the ones portrayed in movies.  Teach your kids the difference between fantasy and the real practices of the occult—seances, ouija boards, channeling, tarot cards, etc.

The Fall of Man

The timing of Halloween also offers great symbolism.  The Fall Season in America just happens to be the time of year when leaves on trees begin to die and fall off.  As the cold season takes hold, life becomes harder.  Winter is a time of death for many forms of life, and the Fall Season marks the beginning of this time.  This symbolism fits perfectly with the events that happened in Eden.  Adam’s original sin was the beginning of death’s reign in the world.

God’s Grace in a Cursed World

Halloween-CandyWhat does candy have to do with any of this?

Actually, the candy you’ll collect is packed with potential symbolism as well. Here you are walking around in the midst of the worst depictions of evil, and yet you’re out there gathering your favorite treats. Even in a cursed world, God’s grace is available in abundance. I can’t think of a better illustration.

The Full Gospel

Finally, end with the good news. The story does not end here.  Your theme verse of Halloween should be Gen. 3:15—the prophetic announcement of a coming Descendant of Eve—a Savior who would defeat our tempter.

Gen. 3:14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Before Adam and Eve were ushered out of the Garden, God promised a coming Savior who would defeat our adversary.  Christmas is just around the corner from Halloween, and it is at this time we celebrate the fulfillment of this promise—the birth of Christ.  But Halloween is a great opportunity to celebrate the Promise itself.  From the beginning, the Curse has had a Promise attached to it.  The works of the devil will not last.  They will be defeated by a Descendant of Eve.  We know now this Promise is fulfilled in Christ who entered this world a man and bore the sins of mankind on the cross.  The devil was defeated that day and the fate is his works—death, evil and suffering—have been sealed.

Death will one day be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14) and will not exist in the new heavens and earth that God will create at the end of this age (2Pet. 3:13Rev. 21:1).  And through Jesus Christ, we who belong to Him have free entrance into this new coming world.

1Cor. 15:45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
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Rom. 5:15 …For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! …18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

creation-corruption-restorationAs Paul Harvey might say, this is “the rest of the story.”  This is the full gospel from start to finish—from Creation to Corruption to the Cross.1

Compromise in the church over the book of Genesis has caused great theological confusion, but God’s word is clear.  The backdrop of this story needs to be told.  Why not start with our kids on Halloween?

Need help?  Click here for a printable PDF Halloween Bible Study Guide based on this article.

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Possible concerns and objections

But what about the pagan roots of Halloween?

This is something individuals will have to wrestle with on their own. If it is indeed true that Halloween symbolism is based in ancient pagan ideas, that’s not an issue for me. You will hear similar criticisms of Christmas and Easter—that many of their symbols have pagan origins. And I have no doubt it’s true.  But how wonderful is it that they’ve been replaced with new meaning?! Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ, and Easter, His Resurrection. I’m looking to use their symbols to teach my family about the true God. If there are some symbols that have roots in paganism, so what?  They’ve been hijacked and given new meaning, and I’m perfectly fine with it.  I’m going to use them for good! I’m going to offer my kids new ways to think about them.  This may not work for others, but I have perfect peace with it.  That said, each one has to be convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14).

Should the fall of man and death really be celebrated?

No, the Fall and Curse should not be celebrated. We rather should reflect on the Fall and Curse, and celebrate God’s grace in the midst of it.  We don’t celebrate the problem but the solution. Before Adam and Eve were ousted from the Garden, they were given the promise of a coming Savior—the Seed of the woman—a male descendant who would defeat the devil (Gen. 3:15).  Christ will one day throw death into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).  Indeed Christ has already defeated sin and death on the cross, sealing their fate.  That is what we celebrate on Halloween. But that great truth becomes more vivid when we correctly understand the biblical view of death.

My kids are too young for this.  They get too scared.

Every parent needs to understand their children and what they can handle, and limit their exposure accordingly.  Of course, some kids are too young to see certain Halloween decorations, and some Halloween activities should be avoided at all ages. The same goes with all other holidays.  There is much that needs to be avoided in the world, and parents need be on guard at all times.

I’m not familiar enough with the Genesis origins debate.

That’s okay. Get familiar! God commands everyone to be ready with a defense (1Pet. 3:15). Perhaps it’s time to start looking into how you can defend Genesis—the most attacked book in the canon. There are many resources available.

Start with these websites:
answersingenesis.org
creation.com
www.icr.org
creationtoday.org

Take the time to become familiar. Paul tells us there is a war raging against the knowledge of God.  We all need to participate in this war to some degree, casting down the arguments that are raised up against it.

Cor. 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

With that said, your Halloween message should be very simple.

1) God originally created a “very good” world.
2) Through Adam, sin and death entered into the world.
3) Through Christ, sin and death have been conquered.
4) Those in Christ will inherit a new, very good world, which God will make at the end of the age, which will never be marred by sin or death.

You can also download our Halloween Bible Study Guide which you might find helpful as well.

There’s something wrong with this approach.  It’s not sitting right with me.

If that’s how you feel, listen to your conscience. Paul said, whatever we do not do in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). If you don’t have peace about using Halloween in this way, then you shouldn’t. Follow your conscience. If you can’t do it in faith, you won’t be able to glorify God.

But I don’t take the days of Genesis literally.

Ex. 20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: …… 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Here, the days of creation are likened to the days of the work week. While this is not an essential salvation issue, it is an issue of the authority of the Word of God. By trusting man’s theories over God’s revelation, you’re missing out on a tremendous blessing. Abraham trusted God in the most difficult times and was blessed tremendously. Imagine if he listened to man’s wisdom when he was told to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and move to Canaan. Imagine if he would have withheld Isaac in accordance with man’s wisdom. That’s a test I would have failed but the father of our faith has shown us the way. If he can believe God in that, we can certainly believe what God tells us about the days of creation.

Doesn’t the Bible command us not to participate in the occult?

Yes, and if you view this as doing that, please do not participate. Scripture is very clear about participation in the dark arts. God warned the Israelites,

Deut. 18:9 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.

I do not view Halloween as participating in real occultism, anymore than watching a sci-fi thriller.  The kids at your door know nothing of the practices mentioned above, nor do their parents waiting at a distance.  But if it violates your conscience, I would strongly urge you to not participate in any way.

Now there is real participation in the occult today in the form of seances, ouija boards, channeling, tarot cards, etc. And we should be wary of those practices and be warning our kids about them.  In fact, part of the reason for observing Halloween in the manner I’m suggesting, is to create an opportunity to talk about these things in a biblical context.  Our kids need to know the difference between the real occult and the fantasy we see on Halloween and in Hollywood. But your conscience must take priority in determining your approach.  If you cannot participate in faith, then nothing else matters (Rom. 14:23).

Something that may help you come to terms with this, though, are the novels written by C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R Tolkien.  Both of them used fantasy occult imagery in their novels (Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings) to express good biblical concepts.  Sorcery, magic, witches, wizards and evil creatures are utilized throughout to illustrate good messages of God’s faithfulness.  Why not use the imagery of Halloween in the same way?

Halloween is harmless. There’s no need to do a Bible Study.

That may be true, but I look at it more as an opportunity.  Sure, you could teach these principles to your kids any time, but why not take advantage of the imagery of Halloween? Kids are naturally fascinated with what the Bible has to say on these topics, and it’s unlikely they will be covered in Sunday school.

Furthermore, why waste an opportunity to turn a secular holiday into a religious holiday?  I personally try to find ways to put God at the center of all holidays, even those considered to be more secular in origin.  Why let any holiday be about anything but God—particularly one as popular as Halloween?

Footnotes

1. The cartoons used throughout this article by Answers in Genesis were used with permission, though the article itself has not been specifically endorsed by them.

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