Give None Offence

During any holiday season it’s appropriate to understand the origins of the holiday and its meaning, to know why people celebrate it and discern whether it’s pleasing to God to participate. For God’s feasts, those specifically commanded in Scripture, there should be no concern; the challenge relates to culturally accepted traditions which might be considered sinful.

For example, is it OK to dress up in costumes on Halloween, or have an Easter egg hunt for the kids, or put up a Christmas tree and exchange presents? None of these traditions have any precedent in Scripture; they’re all rooted in pagan festivals “Christianized” by the Roman Catholic Church and adopted into its annual calendar.

In looking into this, many well-meaning Christians find these traditions repulsive and ungodly and refuse to participate, claiming we’re not to worship like the heathen or learn their ways. (De 20:18) They may even become inordinately passionate about not observing these holidays, walking in the misguided passion of the iconoclast, who simply enjoys pointing out and destroying other people’s beliefs as an end in itself.

In exposing the ignorance of those who’ve never really studied the history of these traditions for themselves, we can easily come across as “holier than thou”, judgmental, condescending and arrogant. This can become offensive to those who’ve grown up observing them, being encouraged and blessed in spite of their ignorance, and we should avoid all unnecessary offenses. (1Co 10:32) After all, there are much bigger issues to focus on, sins we’ve yet to articulate well and overcome, consequently running rampant in our families and churches. Majoring on the minor can easily become a distraction from our primary focus and calling in Christ, a kind of shallow virtue signaling.

Yet even if we have full understanding of these matters and see no particular benefit in observing these holidays ourselves, we are often in close community with family, friends, neighbors and work associates who still love to celebrate them, and often do so relatively innocently, even being spiritually, encouraged in them. We feel the need to find a way to live in peace in our communities and love our neighbors as ourselves, without offending our God or needlessly offending others.

In regard to observing any man-made custom or tradition, two simple principles guide godly behavior. Firstly, never willfully violate an explicit command of God (1Jn 2:1a); if a holiday tradition is forbidden in Torah, then abstain. Secondly, avoid behavior likely to cause others to stumble and sin (1Co 8:9-12), for this violates the law of Love. (1Co 16:14)

In applying these principles, I am unaware of any specific tradition or custom typically celebrated in Christian holidays which explicitly violates Torah. Putting up a Christmas tree, hunting for Easter eggs and even wearing masks or costumes are evidently all harmless in themselves. While some of these traditions may have at one time been associated with ungodly beliefs, the acts themselves are not forbidden in Torah and any direct association with pagan beliefs has long vanished, so practicing them does not encourage anyone today to adopt any related ancient, pagan mindset.

Having said this, we must be especially careful in addressing Halloween, which is perhaps the most problematic Roman Catholic tradition adopted in the West, where we often find a uniquely unhealthy, morbid focus on spiritual darkness, death, horror, etc.

Clearly, glorying in, celebrating or imitating sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy or divination is contrary to Torah; all who practice such things are an abomination to God. (De 18:10-12) Further, we’re encouraged to focus on wholesome, good and godly things (Php 4:8), which the very spirit of Halloween seems to violate.

Yet Halloween itself, historically, did not originate as a celebration of witchcraft or any kind of evil; it was instituted as an evening of preparation for All Saints Day on Nov 1, a time to be on guard against the forces of evil, to honor deceased loved ones and remember Christian martyrs. On the surface, this type of tradition does not seem evil; it might even be a good thing, all else being equal.

Rome was trying to “Christianize” Samhain, a Celtic celebration of the harvest, when it was believed the barrier between the dead and living was blurred such that spirits of the deceased might return to interact with the living. Wearing masks and lighting bonfires, traditions incorporated into Halloween itself, were thought to confuse and ward off evil spirits; there was no intent to celebrate them.

One might argue that it was inappropriate for Roman Catholicism to try to paganize this Celtic holiday, but even if it was, this doesn’t mean Halloween itself is explicitly evil; it was evidently not intended as a celebration of evil and no rituals or traditions officially included in this holiday violate Torah.

Even today, when those celebrating Halloween appear to be highlighting evil and celebrating it, in my experience they’re most often doing so ignorantly, not even believing in witchcraft or divination, certainly not approving it or wishing to promote or imitate it. Even so, the natural man’s fascination with evil (Jn 3:19) is often on display most vividly during this season, and often does lead to inappropriate behavior, even when done ignorantly or thoughtlessly.

One must be very careful, alert, observant and intentional about not encouraging or approving unhealthy activity or focus. (Ep 5:11) We are children of light and of the day, we are not of the night nor of darkness (1Th 5:5); we should always let our light shine. (Mt 5:14-16) Yet doing so humbly, without being self-righteous, overly critical, dismissive or uncharitable is indeed quite challenging.

Certainly, there likely are Halloween celebrations today which openly celebrate evil, where participating would damage a godly witness among unbelievers and encourage believers in unwholesome activities. When invited to any festivity, the thoughtful saint must use discretion (Ps 112:5), and carefully abstain from all appearance of evil. (1Th 5:22)

When considering whether to participate, let’s remember Christ lives in us, Who always does what He sees the Father do, and ask, “What is Jesus in me doing?” And let us be gentle with our brothers and sisters who don’t call it the same way we do: before their own Master they stand or fall (Ro 14:4); unless they’re plainly violating Torah, we ought not judge them. (13)

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5 thoughts on “Give None Offence”

  1. Observing Roman Catholic holidays is likely not an issue for those immersed in Torah-observant culture, who don’t have relatives they’re trying to win who do observe these holidays. In such cases, ignoring these holidays is perhaps best, and not so difficult.

    This post addresses the rest of us who, understanding the pagan origins and having no particular interest in observing these holidays ourselves, are in close community with those who do observe them with passion, intensity and joy. In such cases, it is helpful to understand how far one can or should go in participation without offending our Lord, or needlessly offending others. It is not an easy call to make at times.

    I think these decisions often fall into the class covered by eating food offered to idols: immature and passionate may tend to take a shallow stand on it and offend others inappropriately, the lukewarm and complacent compromise without concern for holiness. The place of godly maturity seems to be somewhere in between.

  2. The following discussion thread with Chat GPT might be helpful.

    >>Tim: What is Halloween celebrating and where did it originate?

    >>ChatGPT: Halloween, celebrated on October 31st, originated from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was believed that on this night, the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred, allowing spirits to roam the earth. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these spirits. Over time, Halloween evolved with influences from various cultures and traditions, becoming the festive occasion it is today, often associated with costumes, trick-or-treating, and spooky-themed decorations.

    >>Tim: Did Halloween ever become a Roman Catholic holiday?

    >>ChatGPT: Yes, Halloween has connections to certain Roman Catholic observances. The Church adapted some Celtic and pagan traditions, including Samhain, into their calendar. November 1st became All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day. The evening before, October 31st, was known as All Hallows’ Eve, eventually shortened to Halloween. All Saints’ Day was a time to honor saints and martyrs, and the night before was considered a time for vigil and preparation, blending some aspects of the ancient Celtic festival with Christian practices.

    >>Tim: Why are witches associated with Halloween?

    >>ChatGPT: Witches have become associated with Halloween due to the historical connections between the holiday and ancient pagan festivals. During the Celtic festival of Samhain, people believed that the boundary between the spirit world and the physical world was thin, allowing spirits, including those of deceased individuals, to wander freely.

    In medieval Europe, particularly during the time of the witch hunts and trials in the 16th and 17th centuries, the stereotype of witches became more ingrained in cultural perceptions. Halloween’s association with the supernatural, magic, and the occult contributed to the popular imagery of witches being associated with the holiday. Today, witches have become a common symbol in Halloween decorations, costumes, and folklore, perpetuating their association with the spooky and mystical aspects of the holiday.

    >>Tim: What were the cultural traditions observed during the Celtic festival of samhain?

    >>ChatGPT: During the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, several cultural traditions were observed:

    Bonfires: Bonfires were lit as a part of the celebration. These fires were believed to have protective and cleansing powers and were used to ward off evil spirits.

    Costumes and Masks: People would often wear costumes and masks during Samhain. This practice was believed to confuse or ward off malevolent spirits that might be wandering among the living.

    Feasting and Offerings: Communities would gather for large feasts, celebrating the end of the harvest season. Offerings of food and drink were left outside homes to appease spirits or ancestors.

    Divination: Samhain was considered a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was thin. Divination practices, such as scrying or other forms of fortune-telling, were common to predict the future or communicate with spirits.

    Honoring the Dead: Ancestor veneration and paying respects to deceased family members were integral parts of Samhain. Some traditions involved setting places at the table for departed loved ones or visiting burial sites.

    These traditions marked a significant transition from the harvest season to winter and emphasized the spiritual beliefs of the Celts regarding the liminal nature of this time, where the boundaries between worlds were believed to be more permeable.

    >>Tim: What does liminal mean?

    >>ChatGPT: “Liminal” refers to a transitional or in-between state, often describing a phase or a place that is at the threshold or on the border between two different conditions, stages, or realms. It’s a concept related to being neither here nor there, belonging to neither one side nor the other. In cultural or spiritual contexts, it signifies a state of ambiguity or transition, where boundaries are blurred, and something is on the brink of change or transformation. In the context of the Celtic festival of Samhain, the belief was that this time of the year was liminal, representing a threshold between the living and spirit worlds.

    >>Tim: What is the holiest day of the year for the Satanic church?

    >>ChatGPT: The Church of Satan, which is an atheistic and philosophical organization rather than a theistic or worship-based one, doesn’t have a singular “holiest” day. Instead, they emphasize individualism and self-empowerment rather than traditional religious rituals or celebrations.

    However, some Satanists who follow their own interpretations or branches within Satanism might have specific days they consider important, often revolving around personal anniversaries, symbolic dates, or rituals based on their own beliefs and practices. These might not be uniform across different sects or individual adherents within the broader spectrum of Satanism.

    >>Tim: Which particular Celtic practices from Sam Hayne, or adopted into the Roman Catholic celebration of all hallows Eve?

    >>ChatGPT: Several Celtic practices from Samhain were adapted into the Roman Catholic celebration of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween):

    Bonfires: The tradition of lighting bonfires during Samhain, representing purification and warding off evil spirits, was adapted into All Hallows’ Eve. Though not as prevalent in modern Halloween celebrations, bonfires were historically a part of the festivities.

    Costumes and Masks: The custom of wearing costumes and masks to confuse or ward off spirits during Samhain was incorporated into All Hallows’ Eve. This evolved into the modern practice of dressing up in various costumes during Halloween.

    Honoring the Dead: Samhain was a time to remember and honor deceased ancestors. The Catholic Church adopted this notion into All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day, honoring saints, martyrs, and departed loved ones.

    Divination: While not a major part of modern Halloween celebrations, the practice of divination or fortune-telling during Samhain was also present. Some elements of this may have influenced the idea of “fortune-telling” games or activities occasionally seen during Halloween parties.

    These adaptations over time led to the evolution of Halloween into a blend of Celtic, Roman Catholic, and various cultural practices, creating the modern-day festivities observed on October 31st.

    >>Tim: Does the Roman Catholic Church approve of the practice of divination or fortune telling?

    >>ChatGPT: The Roman Catholic Church generally discourages or condemns practices related to divination or fortune-telling, considering them as activities that can lead to superstition, reliance on occult forces, and potential spiritual harm. These practices are often viewed as incompatible with Christian beliefs, as they may involve attempting to gain knowledge or control events through means other than prayer, faith, and reliance on God.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly warns against practices associated with divination, magic, and sorcery, considering them as acts that contradict the virtue of religion and the worship of God.

    While the Church recognizes the existence of spiritual realities, it emphasizes seeking guidance and wisdom through prayer, faith, and adherence to Christian teachings rather than engaging in divination or fortune-telling practices.

    >>Tim: How then, do we explain the inclusion of divination into the Roman Catholic celebration of all hallows eve or Halloween?

    >>ChatGPT: The inclusion of divination practices in the Roman Catholic celebration of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) is not officially sanctioned by the Church. It’s important to note that over time, various cultural and folk traditions have become associated with certain holidays or celebrations, sometimes blending with the religious observances.

    In the case of Halloween, while divination practices might have historical roots in ancient Celtic traditions tied to Samhain, these practices are not part of the official Roman Catholic liturgy or teachings. The Church itself does not endorse or encourage divination, considering it incompatible with Christian beliefs.

    The presence of divination-related activities during Halloween may stem from historical customs and cultural influences rather than being an officially sanctioned or approved practice by the Church. It’s a result of the evolution and blending of different traditions over centuries rather than a deliberate inclusion by the Church.

    >>Tim: What objections do Christians have to celebrating Halloween?

    >>ChatGPT: Some Christians have objections to celebrating Halloween due to various reasons:

    Pagan Origins: Some Christians are concerned about Halloween’s historical ties to pagan festivals like Samhain, associating it with practices or beliefs incompatible with Christian teachings.

    Occult and Supernatural Elements: Certain Christians object to Halloween due to its focus on spooky themes, witches, ghosts, and other supernatural elements. They may view these aspects as glorifying or promoting the occult, which contradicts their faith.

    Concerns about Morality: Some Christians may have concerns about the costumes worn during Halloween, considering certain outfits too revealing, inappropriate, or promoting values contrary to their religious beliefs.

    Focus on Fear and Dark Imagery: The emphasis on fear, horror, and darker themes during Halloween can be viewed as conflicting with Christian principles that emphasize love, light, and positive virtues.

    Commercialization and Secularization: For some, the commercialization and secularization of Halloween have shifted the focus away from any religious or spiritual significance, making it more about consumerism, parties, and entertainment, which might conflict with their religious values.

    It’s important to note that opinions on Halloween can vary widely among Christians. While some choose not to participate due to their beliefs or convictions, others may choose to celebrate it in a manner that aligns with their faith or by focusing on family-friendly activities while avoiding the aspects they find objectionable.

  3. Here’s another thread that might be helpful.

    >>Tim: What is the feast of the dedication in the bible?

    >>ChatGPT: The Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, is not explicitly mentioned in the Christian Bible. Its origins are rooted in Jewish history and tradition, primarily recorded in historical books outside the canonical texts.

    The event commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BC. After the temple was desecrated by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Jewish rebel group known as the Maccabees successfully reclaimed and purified the temple, restoring it to its proper religious use.

    The story of Hanukkah is detailed in the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, which are part of the Apocrypha, a collection of texts considered as part of the biblical canon by some Christian denominations but not included in the Hebrew Bible or Protestant Old Testament.

    The New Testament does mention the Feast of Dedication in passing, in the Gospel of John 10:22-23 (NIV):

    “Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

    Though the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah is not a significant part of Christian religious practice, this mention in John’s Gospel highlights Jesus being in Jerusalem during the festival, connecting him to the cultural and religious life of the time.

    >>Tim: What arguments do Christians use against celebrating Christmas?

    >>ChatGPT: There are varying opinions among Christians regarding the celebration of Christmas. Some arguments against celebrating Christmas include:

    Historical Origins: Some Christians argue that the holiday has pagan roots or is connected to non-Christian traditions. They believe that the celebration of Christmas on December 25 was originally a pagan festival co-opted by the Christian church to facilitate the conversion of pagans.

    Biblical Silence: Critics of Christmas celebrations point out that the Bible doesn’t explicitly command the celebration of Jesus’ birth or mention the specific date of his birth. Since there’s no scriptural mandate to celebrate Christmas, they believe it is not necessary or obligatory.

    Commercialization and Materialism: Many Christians express concerns about the excessive commercialization and materialism associated with Christmas. The emphasis on gift-giving, consumerism, and the focus on secular aspects can distract from the spiritual significance of the holiday.

    Pagan Influences: Some Christians argue that certain customs and symbols associated with Christmas, such as decorated trees or holly, have pagan origins and should be avoided due to their non-Christian roots.

    Focus on Jesus’ Birth vs. His Life and Teachings: Critics of Christmas celebrations argue that placing a significant emphasis on Jesus’ birth might overshadow the more crucial aspects of his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. They suggest that attention should be on the entirety of Jesus’ ministry rather than just his birth.

    Historical Inaccuracy of Date: Some scholars argue that December 25 is unlikely to be the actual date of Jesus’ birth. They suggest that this date was chosen to coincide with existing pagan festivals or due to theological reasons rather than historical accuracy.

    It’s essential to note that while these arguments exist within certain segments of Christianity, many Christians around the world celebrate Christmas as a meaningful and joyous occasion to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The perspectives on the celebration of Christmas can vary widely among different denominations and individual believers within the Christian faith.

    >>Tim: What is the origin of the Christmas tree?

    >>ChatGPT: The tradition of the Christmas tree has roots in various customs and practices from different cultures throughout history. While the exact origin of the Christmas tree is not definitively pinpointed, several historical influences have contributed to its evolution:

    Pagan Traditions: Evergreen trees have been seen as symbols of life and fertility in various ancient cultures. During winter festivals, people would bring evergreen branches or trees into their homes to symbolize life’s continuity amid the harsh winter season. This practice was common among Norse, Celtic, and Germanic tribes.

    Christian Adaptation: The use of evergreen trees became intertwined with Christian traditions over time. Some theories suggest that the Christmas tree tradition could have originated in Germany during the Middle Ages. The tree was often referred to as a “Paradise tree” and was part of medieval mystery plays depicting Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. These plays were performed on December 24, which was also known as Adam and Eve’s Day.

    Martin Luther’s Influence: An anecdotal story suggests that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther might have contributed to the Christmas tree tradition. Legend has it that Luther was inspired by the beauty of the stars shining through the evergreen branches and brought a tree into his home, decorating it with candles to replicate the starry night sky.

    Royal Influence: The popularity of the Christmas tree spread further when it was introduced to the English royal family in the 18th century by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. The tree became fashionable among the aristocracy and gradually gained acceptance in wider society.

    Victorian Era and Global Adoption: The widespread popularity of the Christmas tree can be attributed in part to the Victorian era in Britain. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband, popularized the Christmas tree in England during the 19th century. The custom gained momentum and spread to other parts of the world through various cultural influences and immigration.

    Today, the Christmas tree is a prominent symbol of the holiday season in many countries, representing hope, life, and celebration during the Christmas festivities. Its evolution incorporates both Christian and pre-Christian traditions, and its significance may vary among different cultures and individuals.

    >>Tim: What is the history of the yule or yule log at Christmas?

    The Yule log is associated with ancient winter solstice celebrations and has pagan origins. The term “Yule” originates from the Old Norse word “jól” and was a festival celebrated by Germanic peoples, including the Norse and Anglo-Saxons, marking the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.

    The Yule log tradition varied among different cultures:

    Norse and Germanic Traditions: In Norse and Germanic pagan cultures, the Yule log was part of the Yule celebration, symbolizing warmth, light, and the return of the sun. A large log, often from a fruit-bearing tree, was chosen and brought into the home or communal gathering place. The log was decorated, anointed with oils or other substances, and then burned in a hearth or central fire. The burning of the Yule log signified the triumph of light over darkness and the anticipation of longer days as winter waned.

    Continuation into Christian Traditions: As Christianity spread across Europe, some pagan traditions were adapted into Christian practices. The Yule log custom persisted in various forms and was eventually integrated into Christmas celebrations in some regions. In medieval times and later, the Yule log became associated with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day festivities.

    Symbolism and Ritual: Burning the Yule log was often accompanied by rituals, songs, and prayers for good fortune, protection, and blessings for the coming year. It was believed that the log’s ashes held magical properties and were sometimes kept to protect the home from evil spirits or used in agricultural or healing practices.

    Over time, as customs evolved, the Yule log tradition became less common in many regions. However, elements of it can still be found in modern Christmas celebrations. Today, some families or communities might symbolically incorporate a Yule log by burning a specially chosen log, or they might have a Yule log-shaped cake as part of their holiday festivities, keeping alive aspects of this ancient tradition during the Christmas season.

  4. Tim,

    I enjoyed this post. Well thought out. Especially concerning not being holier than thou, and understanding where other people are at. Did have a question or two about the chat exchange. In my youth I came across at least one person face to face, young lady of 17, who did participate in Satan “worship”. She talked of communion with blood and urine, and other dark things I will not glorify. She had what looking back I would call a familiar spirit that diagnosed the young Christian I was tearing me to shreds :). Easy enough to do. It was a hostel setting, I went to sleep exercising faith in the blood of Jesus. Upon waking up and coming across her, she apologized. I ended up taking her to a group of people I had met who gave her a big sister and mentored her in Christ. A year later I came back and just “happened” to see her at a church I visited. She was grounded in Christ. Her description of Satan “worship” did not jive with the chat program you used. There is the hidden underbelly in my opinion, and there is the Wolfe in sheep’s clothing facade it wears to make itself “comfortable” for those it seeks to destroy. I could be wrong. Just an opinion.


  5. Hi Stephen, good point. I have no doubt there are groups who worship Satan as you note. Perhaps Satan accepts any kind of worship with any kind of ritual or lifestyle so long as it openly violates Torah, his primary concern being that we do things our own way rather than God’s way. Whether that’s in a religious/moral setting or in the darkness of demon worship as we might picture it, it may on some level be all the same to him. I can, from that perspective, find the ChatGPT summary of Satanism legitimate.

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