Facebook made me aware of this: 10 Reasons I Kissed Halloween Goodbye.

The article really bothers me; I’m sure it will show below. Let me say up front that I know that Ms. Blake and those who advocate her views simply wish to honor Christ. I don’t question her motives. I question her view of reality. In my opinion this boils down to some basic convictions about the nature of the world, and so the faith that nests within it.

Here are my initial off the cuff, knee-jerk reactions:

Leaving the oft repeated, but dubious history of the holiday that she espouses to one side, and ignoring the assumption that any of the practices, language, concepts and traditions that she participates in are free from ‘pagan origins’ (I haven’t the heart to begin with that), her arguments have been used to bind tender consciences against all sorts of things besides the celebration of Halloween: reading fiction, attending the theater, dancing etc.

I know this from experience. My parents had tender consciences, and that because of their love. Growing up, our home avoided all ‘Hollywood’ movies. I once received a Cootie game as a birthday present. Our convictions wouldn’t allow us to keep it because it required the use of dice. Gamblers used dice. There was our testimony to consider, and the clear admonition to ‘be ye separate.’ Small things, lead to big things. This is so very familiar.

Syncopated music…. playing cards… what has light to do with darkness? To this we can add the celebration of Easter and Christmas. I’ve sat through many a sermon against the pagan Christmas tree. I’m thankful that silliness had little impact on my parents.

So I don’t find this sort of appeal very compelling. When I note the things that are allowed in the lives of those who condemn Halloween- though deemed obviously illicit by others because of the very arguments here presented, I go ‘Hmmm.’ It seems to me that the answer in each of these cases ought to be intentionality and discernment. When the response is a blanket ‘don’t taste; don’t touch’, children resent the loss. Perhaps more importantly they come to be embarrassed by (or worse, to embrace) the view of reality that the position assumes.

Perhaps Evangelicals would do well to explore the limits of the Modernity that is foundation of their tradition by considering more ancient visions of the Christian faith. If they were to explore other writers- Chesterton, MacDonald, etc they might find…

* God told Job that chaotic monsters were his good playthings. Things spooky and uncanny didn’t arrive with the fall, and like each of the other creatures, they were meant to point God-ward (here and here )- CS Lewis commented on the role of uncanny experiences (and by extension, things) in teaching human beings about the numinous nature of God and all things holy:

‘Suppose you were told that there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told “There is a ghost in the next room,” and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is “uncanny” rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply “There is a might spirit in the room” and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking–described as awe, and the object which excites it is the Numinous.’

We can speak of ‘fearful awe’ until we’re blue in the face, but the mundane experiences that give meaning to the concept have much to do with the shiver that compels us to look over our shoulder on moonlit walks, or wrap our coat more closely when the dog howls mournfully in the distance. Deny or avoid these types of experiences, and ‘Awesomeness’ can only mean ‘Cool’ or ‘Wow.’

*All stories- as Tolkien insisted- are about the fall. Things Gothic are a focused consideration of things fallen. They allow us to Recover (in the Tolkienian sense) the reality we’ve become blind to.

What are werewolves, if not the concrete representation of the reality of ourselves, neighborhoods and markets: beasts disguised as men and women, devouring one another. Want to know what fallen reality is truly like- what you and I are really like at heart? I’d suggest Curse of the Werewolf.

What are vampiric beings who live on the blood of others, if not an anti-image of God. Fallen humanity lives precisely unlike the one who gives his own blood that others might live. Want to know what that means- what my selfish response to the person in the other car truly looks like? Watch The Horror of Dracula.

Zombies? Does Xianity know anything of those who wonder through life, though dead?

Frankenstein? There is no end to the Xian lessons of Frankenstein.

Want to know what all the manicured lawns and beautiful homes of the American Dream are hiding from us? Watch Poltergeist.

How can such focused opportunities for teaching truth (one of the themes that St. Paul required the Philippians to earnestly study) be missed? Fantasy (of which horror and the Gothic is a subset) is uniquely able to reveal the true nature of the lies, which we find the most attractive. Halloween gives us a focused night to reveal the grossness of the tune that the world dances to. I would think for a Xian, that is what Halloween is for.

*Things grotesque and uncanny stand in opposition to the rationalistic arrogance of modernity. They remind us that everything can’t be explained, that ‘All’ is mystery in the end- more than we really know or understand. Gargoyles and haunts snicker at our neat formulas and efforts.There’s always more than we know; or can know.

The tacit reductionism of the prevalent worldview is dehumanizing. I suspect that the opportunity to get our heads above its smothering layers is a chief reason for the popularity of Halloween. Where else are people to affirm this part of our humanity? Certainly not in the sterile gatherings of most conservative ‘worship services.’ You go there to learn stuff – ironically, often the biblical ‘magic spell’  which will solve one’s particular problem.

You can’t fix something with nothing, and evangelicalism has little with which to resist modernity’s reductionism. Of course catholicism (whether that of Rome, Canterbury, Geneva or Wittenberg) has a Eucharist in which Christ’s body and blood are present. Wild stuff- not empirically approved or rationally definable- like things uncanny and grotesque, but the American giants of conservative scholastic theology (e.g.Dabney and Hodge) rejected their own Calvinistic inheritance on the grounds that it was unintelligible. Just so.

Sacrament as flannel graph hardly scratches the itch created by modernity’s rationalism. Theologies that presume to aim for the diminution of mystery are superstitions of a kind that are much more hateful than that which is associated with things macabre. It seems to me that in the end, those who avoid black cats understand reality more truthfully than those represented by the ‘bible believing’ pastor I once had, who insisted that anointing the sick with oil for effectual healing is superstition. It seems to me that the latter could learn a lot about God’s world by visiting a haunted house. Just my opinion.

The world is not predictable or safe. There is much more of truth in the average horror story than in the Pollyannaish productions, which some Xians seem to so appreciate. If truth is the standard, then perhaps someone does need to repent.

*In a related way, the criticism seems to me to be much more 1950, Dick Van Dyke show, middle-class-American than biblical. Scripture contains incest, murder, tent pegs through skulls, infanticide, fat bellies swallowing slicing blades, women on all fours longing for men whose genital are like that of a horse and who ejaculate like a donkey. Christ spoke of people burning in pits and worms that never die. … Given that ostensibly that is the standard, I wonder what percentage of scripture Ms. Blake must avoid in order to be faithful to her maturing conscience.

*The tacit equation of the grotesque with evil is anti-gospel. For the majority of Xians, the primary symbol of our identity is an instrument of torture. The most precious reminder of our victory is a corpse hanging on a tree. (I understand that this isn’t true for many evangelicals, but that is, in part, my point). We learn from a consideration of gothic stories that ‘Monsters’ are opportunities for hospitality. We are not to judge or exclude the distorted, disfigured or corrupt. We are to look beyond the worldly, shallow and sentimental definitions of ‘lovely’ and ‘good.’ An evening spent watching The Elephant Man is a lesson in Xian perspective. (Or a Holy Week that refuses to skip over Good Friday and Holy Saturday to arrive at Easter, for that matter)

*In the Preface to his Letters From Hell, George McDonald (CS Lewis’ favorite writer) insisted that we should ‘make righteous use of the element of horror.’ He goes on to insist that those who refuse to do so out of a Xian fear of horror (to borrow from Travis Prinzi)…

…‘dismiss something of great value: an imaginative engagement with the consequences of rebellion against God. In fact, we become cowards ourselves, comfortable in our sin, committing the very evils we say we should not be reading in a story. When we throw out the horror genre altogether out of fear of Satanic influence, we give in to fear itself, become cowards, and lose a valuable conduit for truth. This is not to throw discernment out the window in our storytelling, but we err on the other side when we Pharisaically rule out the genre altogether.’

*Incidentally, I find the criticism that Halloween was never a Xian holiday to be somewhat disingenuous when advocated by those in a tradition that condemns the very idea of Xian holidays. I have no idea if Ms. Blake is reformed, but at least the re-poster who drew my attention to her article is, and (I’m certain) familiar with the Westminster Standard’s position on things like Christmas and Easter. For anyone who is not, I’d suggest you review Dr C Matthew McMahon’s: Easter, the Devil’s Holiday.

What are we celebrating on Halloween? It depends on what is meant by ‘we.’ For both pagans and Xians, Halloween is about death; as a Xian I am celebrating victory over death. Where my ancestors cowered at the approach of winter’s darkness and the contemplation of the reality of things both unexplainable and nightmarishly evil, these things are now occasion for play, rejoicing and mockery for those on this side of Christ’s resurrection.

In days before-
tribute offered-
To Death and her consorts.

Cold and welter nights, like this,
Enacted homage:
Cowering, loathing and dread of
Her patronage.

But hateful pretensions
This night
Cause us to laugh and play
Because we trust

Life has overcome
Christ has undone
‘The way its not supposed to be.’

Departed ones, without dread;
They are safe.
Terrors of the dark, no scourge;
Tonight mere flourish and farce for children at play.

A trophy raised; a prize of war:
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again!

I don’t know what others are ‘celebrating.’ As for me, any attempt to escape modernity’s truncated, half-vision of creation would be reason enough to be thankful. Perhaps this is all they are up to- a vacation from the great dehumanizing lie. It’s likely that they do not celebrate Christ victory over death, but then I wouldn’t really expect them too. Perhaps- seeing that their vision of death must be different from that of the church- we should expect them to be up to something different, too. No?

But how wonderful to ask them to join us.

I acknowledge that as with all things, discernment is required. There are limits to be considered, but this is hardly only true of things horrific, grotesque or uncanny. Perhaps it is precisely those who think that their day to day lives have little to do with the themes of Halloween, that most need the lessons of Halloween.

Uncanny, spooky aspects of creation are God’s good idea for which we ought to be thankful; contemplation of the true nature and consequences of rebellion against God is needful; likewise learning that the grotesqueness of fallen things is really goodness in need of redemption- whether in a misunderstood ‘monster’ or a pagan holiday reaching for the truth- is needed; joyfully enacting the declaration “Oh grave where is thy victory” is worthwhile, and …. refusing to withdraw further into our pietistic enclaves on the one night that neighbors actually embrace community and act like neighbors- joyfully visiting one another- seems a wise course of action. At least to me.

If only as an augmentation to the vision Ms Blake endorses, I would suggest that one acquaint themselves with a more august one. Perhaps beginning with:
Taming of the Nightmare by GK Chesterton
Preface to Letters From Hell by George MacDonald
A Cautionary Note on the Ghostly Tale by Russell Kirk found in  his collection of ghost stories- Ancestral Shadows
Travis Prinzi’s The Parable of the Poltergeist in Light Shining In a Dark Place
On Fairy Stories by JRR Tolkien
Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion by Paul Leggett
Flannery O’Connor: A Proper Scaring by Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner

Short Online pieces:
James Jordan’s Concerning Halloween
Michael Spencer’s iMonk 101: My Annual Halloween Rant (One of them) Revisited and The Great Pumpkin Proposes a Toast
Reclaiming the Reclamation by Martha of Ireland

….Francis describes the root of our problem as a failure to affirm God as Creator. Because we do not orient our freedom toward acknowledging God, the Father, we’re drawn into the technological project. We seek to subdue and master the world so that it can serve our needs and desires, thus treating “other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination.” By contrast, if we acknowledge God as Creator, we can receive creation as a gift and see that “the ultimate purpose of other creatures is not found in us.”

In short, without a theocentric orientation, we adopt the anthropocentric presumption that we are at the center of reality. This tempts us to treat nature—and other human beings—as raw material to do with as we wish. For Francis, “a spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable.”

Of course, God is exactly what modernity has forgotten…

Read the rest here: The Return of Catholic Anti-Modernism

Though many will stumble at his acceptance of the current scientific consensus on climate change (and count me among those with a bleeding toe), all followers of Christ ought to give thanks for his diagnosis of the idolatry that lies behind the tacit narrative of Modernity, which shapes each of our lives.

It reminds me of a point made by C.S. Lewis-

“There is something which unites magic and applied science (technology) while separating them from the “wisdom” of earlier ages. For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality, and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline, and virtue. For the modern, the cardinal problem is how to conform reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.”

Conservatives (especially Evangelical ones) will be surprised to find that our great underlying sin is Sorcery,… and that because its lucrative.

….Infertility does not invalidate our marriage, but we constantly experience infertility as an inability to fulfill a basic aspect of marriage. It is a loss for us in a way that it can never be for a same-sex couple, who can never have expected fertility together. Our relationship is ordered toward having children, even if it is frustrated and kept from this fulfillment.

To return to Plato, love desires fecundity. Love wishes to have children with the Beloved…. Even the Greeks, despite their frequent tolerance (and sometimes even enthusiasm) for some homosexual relations, never conflated such relationships with marriage.

Love, erotic or intellectual, between two men could never be fruitful in the physical way that it could be between men and women. Physical sterility is the natural order for homosexual couples, and is dictated by their sexual proclivities, which are in direct conflict with the possibility of natural procreation.

There is a clear distinction (whether considered in ontological, teleological, or experiential terms) between homosexual couples and infertile heterosexual couples. For the latter, childlessness is not intrinsic to their relationship. Rather, whether due to illness, age, or deliberate action, it is a loss from the fullness of what their marriage should be. For those who are voluntarily sterile, it is an intentional avoidance of that fulfillment—an avoidance that has traditionally been condemned. For same-sex couples, the question does not even arise, because fertility is never a natural fulfillment of their relationship. No matter what medical advances may be made against age, illness, and injury, homosexual relations will remain intrinsically sterile.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex unions severs the connection between marriage and children in a way that recognizing the marriages of childless heterosexual couples does not. The possibility and even the desire to have children together must be discarded upfront….

Read the rest: Don’t Use My Pain as a Weapon: Infertility and Same-Sex Marraige

For the same reasons Christians always have. Read here.

Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.

-J. B. S. Haldane

Makes me think of Van Til’s comment that we are children who climb into God’s lap so that we can reach him with a slap across the face.

….gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it…

…The larger issue is the meme itself. The idea that one’s sex is fluid and a matter open to choice runs unquestioned through our culture and is reflected everywhere in the media, the theater, the classroom, and in many medical clinics. It has taken on cult-like features: its own special lingo, internet chat rooms providing slick answers to new recruits, and clubs for easy access to dresses and styles supporting the sex change. It is doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation wherever it emerges.

But gird your loins if you would confront this matter. Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.

-Paul McHugh, MD, is University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Read the rest here

HT: Triablogue



Young earth creationists must contend that God created the universe with the appearance of age- e.g. trees with rings, eroded mountains, visible starlight; but a common response is that this makes God deceptive.

Dr. Leithart agrees with Kurt Wise that such an objection applies equally to any miraculous event.

‘Other miracles have the same structure. A man lame from birth suddenly leaps and walks. Seeing him on the road the next day, one would infer a history of infant crawling, toddling, walking, running that never occurred. Turning water into wine involves creating “an apparent but non-existent history of wine-making” (59).

One is free to test out naturalistic explanations of Jesus’ miracles. But once they are accepted as miracles, then the notion of “appearance of age” or “simulated history” is inescapable. If creation is “deceptive” because it comes with the appearance of age, then Jesus too is a deceiver, as His enemies charged.’

It seems to me that this misses the point in the case of starlight. There is no ‘inferred’ history. Rather there is a visible and ongoing story. It is precisely the same sort of story  that you see taking place in the room around you at this very moment- air conditioner blowing, cat lazily cleaning herself and the kids playing in the next room; and it is perceived in exactly the same way.

We see things happening around us via the light which enters our eye. In the same way, light from an object millions of light years away arrives at the retina of those who care to take it in.  This has been going on every second for as long as there have been beings who care to look up. This light, too, reveals events that are going on around us- a nova here, a solar flare there, etc, but when the light reaches our eyes, it has been traveling for millions of years in order to reach us. To look up at the night sky is to look back into time. According to YEC, God is giving us a second by second visual unfolding of events that never really happened.

Of course he only does it when we look up. He’d never do it when we look around. We can be confident that the air conditioner, the cat and our loved ones really exist, and that our history with them actually took place. Right?


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