Some Random and Curmudgeonly Thoughts about October 31

Some Random and Curmudgeonly Thoughts about October 31

Every October 31 I have the same thoughts: “Why does American society make so much of Halloween?” and “We need a new Reformation.”

This evening children are streaming to the front door, ringing the doorbell and saying something vaguely resembling “trick or treat,” if anything, and holding up their sacks, plastic pumpkin containers, and pillow covers for candy. I don’t begrudge them their holiday; I enjoyed it as a kid and I am more than happy to satisfy their sweet teeth. (Is there really a plural of “sweet tooth?”)

Some of my best memories of childhood revolve around Halloween and I think some Christians have gone way overboard reacting against it as if the mere mention of it is tantamount to dancing naked around a witches cauldron, celebrating the Wiccan holiday “Samhain,” and evoking evil spirits. Well, there is a fine line there—between just having fun and dabbling in the occult. Right? Uh, not that fine a line.

When I was a kid, growing up in an extremely conservative Pentecostal church, we, our church, always put on a Halloween haunted house party. The adults would find an abandoned farm house, get permission to use it, spend the day decorating it and making it very scary, and then having a hay ride to it. Then everyone would be led through the haunted house, frightened out of their wits by the worship leader dressed like a zombie or Frankenstein monster, then go back to the farm where the hay wagons started for apple bobbing and (non-alcoholic) apple cider. It was fun.

I remember the time someone was so frightened by the worship leader jumping out of a closet in the haunted house he punched him in the face, knocking him to the floor. As a seven year old kid, that was exciting!

When I was a youth pastor my wife and I and some of the parents created the best haunted house ever in the Christian education wing of the church. Each room was something different, but they were all scary. In one room we had one of the teenage boys “hanging” from the ceiling. Of course, we warned the kids not to go through the haunted house if they were easily frightened. We were always there to take them away if anyone got too scared.

Then came the anti-Halloween movement among Christians and all the fun went out of it.

And remember when hospitals x-rayed candy because there was an urban myth about razor blades hidden in candy bars given out at Halloween? Well, maybe it happened once, somewhere, but for the most part it was a rumor.

Now, having defended Halloween, when disconnected from the occult, I will say I’m very annoyed at the way schools in particular have made Halloween the national holiday—to replace the religious ones they can’t celebrate. My daughters’ school banned everything to do with Christmas, but they blew Halloween all out of proportion as if it were the greatest holiday of the year. I enjoyed reminding teachers and administrators that it is, after all, really two religious holidays—All Saints Day (or Eve) (and Reformation Day) and Samhain for pagans. They would just look at me with squinty eyes and turn away. I get that a lot.

I think Halloween can be just fun. My granddaughter, with whom we just skyped before she went out trick or treating, is dressed as a fairy in a multi-colored costume with large, rainbow colored wings. I hope she has fun and stays safe, which I’m sure she will as her mom and dad are going with her (of course).

Mostly I just get annoyed when car loads of teenagers start arriving in the neighborhood going door-to-door trick or treating without any evidence of costumes. When I see them coming I turn off all the lights and pretend we’re not home. I know, I’m an old curmudgeon.

Then I have some thoughts about Reformation Day. October 31, 1517 was the day Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the cathedral church door in Wittenberg. (That’s the right spelling. People who read The Wittenburg Door often think it’s spelled with a “u.”) So, Protestants have called either October 31 or the Sunday before Reformation Day. It’s traditional to sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on that Sunday morning. (I just realized we didn’t sing it last Sunday! Oh, well, we’re Baptists. Some Baptists think we’re not Protestants. I won’t tell them. J

I think we, American Protestants, need a new Reformation. What should it be? It should be a renewal of interest in doctrine—right belief. With the exception of fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals (especially the Reformed variety), and Missouri Synod Lutherans, most Protestants stopped caring about doctrine a long time ago. We need a renewal of belief.

Now, I should admit that there are huge exceptions to my Protestant dystopia. Recently I was invited to speak on the doctrine of God to a Friday evening crowd of lay people at a Methodist church. They were enthusiastic about learning doctrine. How refreshing! Maybe the new Reformation can begin there.

I’m not calling for Protestant inquisitions (as in sixteenth century Geneva), just fresh interest in learning about the Great Tradition of Christian doctrine—the Trinity, the hypostatic union (two natures of Jesus Christ), the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, original sin, justification by grace through faith, etc., etc. How many Protestant lay people can even begin to talk intelligently about those doctrines? Many can talk about the rapture better than about the great doctrines of the faith!

I want to nail a new ninety-five theses, about the importance of doctrine, to the doors of all the seeker-sensitive, wannabe mega churches out there, all the churches that have sold their birthright of Reformation doctrine for a pottage of watered down soup of chorus-singing.

Tomorrow, at the beginning of my theology seminar, we’ll go to the chapel and sing what I consider to be the greatest theological hymn ever written—Charles Wesley’s “And Can It Be?” I mentioned to the students that some of Wesley’s hymns have more than twenty verses. (I’ve had some of my classes sing all twenty-four verses of “Sanctification” when we read and discussed John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.) One student looked at me strangely and I couldn’t help saying that I’d rather sing twenty verses of a Wesley hymn than sing the same worship chorus twenty times. That always gets some groans.

I crave singing the great doctrinal hymns of the church—ones by Wesley, Cowper, Newton, Toplady, and, yes, Charles Gabriel (I like revival songs, too!). Anything with doctrinal themes.

Fortunately, there is a move afoot among “emerging church” young people to sing old hymns in new dress (new arrangements). A favorite is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” (I wonder if they know what an “Ebenezer” is—besides the name of the local nursing home?)

A new Reformation Day. I dream of it. Doctrine and theology taught and valued. A new appreciation for dogma. Dream on.

  • Donald Fisher

    Last year I was asked by my pastor to teach a montly 3-hour class on systematic theology (I guess because I have a seminary degree and he doesn’t!). He billed it as a class which would help people see how various Bible themes connect. We began in September with 23. At the end in May we had 4. When the pastor asked people who had checked out of the group why they had quit, the uniform reply was that when they realized it was a discussion of doctrine, they were no longer interested. The consensus was that doctrine is either irrelevant or boring, or both. When he asked the people who were left why they had stayed with it, they said they felt bad for me (my wife was diagnosed with stage IV cancer during the year).
    It sure doesn’t hurt to dream, but I’m afraid that may prove to be all there is.

  • PJ Anderson

    I too wonder why Hallowwen is such a big deal. The fun I experienced growing up, my parents ignored the rebuke of our neo-fundamentalist minister about the spiritual dangers of the night, seems different now. Last night I needed to finish a text for a seminar so I left my home and went to a local Starbucks in a mixed use town center. What really struck me was the amount if young adult women who seem to have decided that dressing up as a prostitute or openly promiscuous woman is a valid way of celebrating the holiday. So much for the success of feminism. Of the children running the customes were a mic of ghosts and superheroes. Yet something seemed amiss.

  • David Rogers

    I just attended the Arkansas State Baptist Convention. The music portion was done well with great passion, but I did notice that all the hymns were done with new arrangements. They were all enjoyable, but I wondered whether there was any thought to present the songs (maybe just one) by the traditional means. Don’t get me wrong, my personal music tastes range from bluegrass to thrash metal, but I am concerned that the simple melodies of the classic hymns are being lost. Nursing home ministry in the upcoming decades is going to be interesting when the senior adults will not have a common musical hymn base due to all of them being exposed to varying hymn arrangements.

    • rogereolson

      That is one of my pet peeves, too. So many great hymns are sung to, for example, hyfrydol (a common tune) that it becomes boring. Why this aversion to traditional tunes? I know, I know…someone will jump in and remind us that most of the hymns were written as poems and then later put to music and that in many cases there is no one, “original” tune. But there is usually one that is standard, that we grew up singing a hymn to and when the hymn is put to a different tune I find it very distracting. I can’t concentrate or meditate on the words because I’m struggling to match the words to the unfamiliar tune. I’m afraid that all too often the impression given by some church music leaders is “Look what I can do” or “Look what we can do” (viz., novelty, variety, talent) instead of thinking of what’s comfortable and inspiring for the singing congregation. But, having said that, I realize how it sounds…like I’m just an old guy who can’t go with the flow and change. Sigh.

      • Quartermaster

        Roger, it’s not a matter of age at all. The point of hymnody is worship, not showing off anyone’s talent. I had the same problem with songs I had sung as a kid reappearing with different tunes. and have had the same thing happen at the church I now attend. I can’t keep my mind on the object of worship if I’m trying to relearn an old song. If I, having a good feel for music have such problems, I can feel for those who don’t have the musical ability I have. It has to be a total distraction.

  • John C. Gardner

    It seems impossible for individuals to share the Gospel with others if they are somewhat or perhaps generally ignorant about the Great Tradition. I myself am an Arminian Wesleyan and keep discovering more about our tradition and more about Eastern Orthodoxy each day. The lack of the ability to explain either Mere Christianity or our tradition(and thus being unable to explain the theological reasons behind acts of piety and mercy) is troubling. Furthermore, Calvinists seem to be able to convey(and to preach) more about doctrine than in Arminian churches(with of course notable exceptions)

  • Craig Wright

    My favorite Christmas carol is Charles Wesley’s and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” You can’t beat the esthetic beauty of the doctrinal phrase, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity.”

  • John I.

    The part of Halloween I like best is the costuming. Costuming is part of every culture, but now a too small part of ours (except for professional actors). We’ve seen kids dressed as gumball machines, boxes of popcorn, giant cotton candy, a highway with overhead sign (lit), a stop sign, a giant slice of pizza, a toilet, a DJ with turntable, a kalaidoscope, etc. And of course the usual assortment of traditional themes. However, at least in my neighbourhood, there is cachet to being original. And our local k – 8 school takes its kids on a parade around the neighbourhood at lunch hour. Parents even take time off work if possible to see it.

    I see the kids having a great time, as I did when I was a kid. I didn’t end up possessed, or a satan worshipper, and I feel bad for kids who have halloween taken away from them. Its a cultural event, not a religious one, and if anything it mocks the evil and dead things of this world. If anyone finds it a problematic event, then they should do something about the Hindu temples where people are actually worshipping graven images. And doing so in their neighbourhood. Don’t they know what God said about Canaanites? Don’t they know that pianos were considered a tool of the devil? I say this facetiously of course (i.e., the part about getting rid of temples), and like Paul I believe that one should follow one’s conscience in these matters.

    ***

    A good reminder of Reformation Day, though I’m no fan of Luther. I’m thankful for God’s blessing that I’ve always attended churches that were strong on preaching from the text of Scripture. Consequently, I find it difficult to relate to comments about the lack of theology in churches.

  • Ray Wilkins

    Great post Roger. I too grew up in a very Conservative “Free-Will Baptist” church that would not permit boys and girls swimming together but every year we had a haunted house in the Education building. Of course, back then, Halloween was just about fun and mainly for kids. Today, it seems Halloween has become more and more about adults. Just look at the abundance of adult costumes in the Party Stores. So yesterday my family and I went to a mostly-empty church for Wednesday night activities. I would have rather cancelled (I knew most would not show up), but who wants to be known as the preacher who cancelled church for Halloween :)

    • rogereolson

      That’s funny. Thanks for the smile you put on my face. Also, your reference to (no) “mixed bathing” reminded me of a denominational leader who came to my father (a Pentecostal pastor) to complain that our church accidently once allowed boys and girls to swim together at a camp. He said (to my father) “I hear you allow mixed bathing.” My father said “Mixed bathing? We don’t even let them swim together!”

  • Mike Anderson

    Good doctrine can bring peace of mind and fruitful behavior. For example, we can be confident in our salvation because Christ Jesus, through whom and for whom all things were created, became flesh and experienced all the temptations and trials that we face, even to death, but was raised by the Father and by his blood offers the restoration of all things to those who believe in him. Praise God! But add a little more “knowledge” to the story and no longer would we have peace of mind and fruitful behavior: We have been given the same Spirit as Jesus in order that we, too, can live sinless lives, and if we make a mistake or fail to show love, we know that blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. I knew those sinners would never make it to heaven, and I’ll preach the gospel of perfection to keep them out of hell!

    So yes, doctrine is very important, and it should enjoy a renaissance. But there is no magisterium of trusted doctrine (not that there should be), and I worry that many who hold doctrine in high regard aren’t motivated by the love of God as much as the fear of God, or the fear or uncertainty, or the fear of losing faith. Doctrine is the defense of the dispensational fundamentalists, who typically think that anyone who does not see the world as they do is willfully deceived, so they can’t examine non-fundamentalist doctrinal positions without fear of losing faith. Fear is not as open and obvious in Reformed churches, where I often hear heartfelt praises of Christ’s forgiveness, but how can we truly love a God who is irresistible and chooses not to save most of us? I also think they find such comfort in the thought that God controls everything, and such beauty in their clean doctrinal system, that they fear the mess and uncertainty that would come from examining outside doctrine, so they prefer to call everything non-Calvinist “righteousness by works.” Missouri Synod Lutherans I’m not familiar with. The various conservative evangelical churches I’ve attended typically spend a lot of time teaching, and either they lean heavily toward Reformed doctrine or dispensational fundamentalism, and are losing whatever distinctiveness they once had.

    So how do you inspire a renaissance of doctrine from the love of God, rather than out of fear? I think we can be witnesses to Christ’s love where we are, and pray that others would find it, but I don’t expect many will connect love with doctrine. I was at a charismatic church some time ago when the pastor gave me a “word from the Lord” that I should not worry about doctrine, but simply follow the Spirit in acts of love. Those who lean on doctrine divide the church and grieve the Spirit, they would say. I would agree if they were thinking of the excessively certain teachings of fundamentalists, but doctrine can also provide healthy boundaries to unite the body of Christ even as we are free to follow our consciences in debatable matters. In the end I suppose I have more in common with the defensive fundamentalists than with those who would jettison our beliefs for the fresh move of God, the “new thing,” or the “Present Truth” of the Spirit.

    • http://TheBereanObserver Bob Wheeler

      I agree with Roger. I would like to see a renaissance of doctrine.
      I think that part of the problem in the past is that most pastors learned systematic theology in the seminaries, where it received a very dry, academic treatment. The pastors then would have little knowledge of how to preach it in the pulpit. Interestingly, some of the best doctrinal preachers in modern times, such as Martin Lloyd-Jones or A.W. Tozer, had very little academic training (at least not in theology). As a result their approach was a little different. They began with a concrete problem (God, their relationship to Him, justification, sanctification, assurance), and then when to the Bible to see what it had to say about the subject. They were of course well read on the theological literature, although interestingly Tozer gravitated toward the medieval mystics and Lloyd-Jones to the Puritans. The result was that when they entered the pulpit they could preach the great truths of Scripture as concrete realities.
      I wonder if Roger is familiar with The Sacred Harp, and old-time shaped note hymnal. It has a lot of hymns by the classic 18th Century hymn writers, although usually only with a couple of stanzas. The tunes and arrangements are generally older than what you would find in a typical modern hymnal, but the theology is deeper and the music more emotional. There are even quite a few old frontier revival camp-meeting songs.

      • rogereolson

        I have participated in Sacred Harp singings. But I don’t read the shaped notes, so I have trouble singing along. Personally, I prefer the Southern “convention style” after shaped notes. I can sing along better. :)

      • Mike Anderson

        One of my favorite books on practical doctrine is uneducated Chinese house church leader Brother Yun’s “Living Water,” even while I find myself yelling at him through the pages that he didn’t do proper exegesis and so sometimes he gets off track. But compared with seminary and western scholarship, the school of sacrificially walking by the Spirit is more practical, people-centered, and focused on God’s priorities.

  • Kenny Johnson

    I like Halloween and also have fond memories of Halloween as a kid. My mom loved the holiday and we would have Halloween parties in our back door and all the neighbors were invited to come. There would be games, candy, treats, etc. I loved it. We would go out trick or treating too. It was a great, fun, community event.

    But like you, I’ve become a bit of curmudgeon — but I’m only 36. We live in a pretty nice neighborhood — so we’ve been “picked” as the place to go — and cars, vans, etc. literally come streaming into our neighborhood dropping off kids. There are tons of older teenagers (often without costumes) running house to house. Trick or Treating is 1) a community event and 2) for the little ones (though I admit going out trick or treating a couple times as a teen).

    It’s gotten so bad that most of the houses in my neighborhood ran out of candy by 8:00pm — many sooner than that. Half (or more) of the houses don’t even participate — and I’d guess it’s because so many of the “kids” aren’t even from the neighborhood. One neighbor told us that they counted about 1,000 kids coming to their door (I assume they knew this based on the candy count they already handed out).

    I’ve seriously considered calling a neighborhood meeting to celebrate trick or treating on the 30th next year so when the streams on out-of-towners come in they are all met with dark houses with no candy.

  • Jesse Reese

    I think you have put your finger on something desparately needed, especially in light of some recent attempts to rediscover evangelical ecumenism. It seems to me that many in such movements seem to think that “experience” (usually pietist, charismatic, or romanticized ancient-future) can stand in for doctrinal sources of unity. In the process, doctrine often seems quite muddled and some classic theological traditions are getting lost as their institutions no longer remember what they are supposed to stand for. The new Reformation you dream of would, I think, allow for a more honest conversation to take place.

  • http://www.zionstonechurch.org Michael Frost

    Martin Luther, like Wesley, also put a solid education on doctrine into his hymnody,
    The problem is that few, if any, American Lutherans have any interest in singing twelve verses of a German chorale set hymn even when they are among the best catechetical tools we have in the tradition.

  • http://www.zionstonechurch.org Michael Frost

    Martin Luther, like Wesley, also put a solid education on doctrine into his hymnody,
    The problem is that few, if any, American Lutherans have any interest in singing twelve verses of a German chorale hymn generally considered to be unsingable even when they are among the best catechetical tools we have in the tradition.

  • Bo Wooden

    Amen!

  • Tim Reisdorf

    Today I celebrated All-Saints-Day, though I didn’t exactly play by the rules. I intentionally remembered my friends and family that had died in Christ and that I missed very much. I prayed that God would grant them peace.
    A Church that I used to attend celebrates as a group in this way on the Sunday after Halloween. I looked forward to it every year and I hope my new Church might have this kind of Worship Service.

  • Steve Rogers

    If there was compelling evidence that there is a direct relationship between being more dogmatically informed and being conformed to the image of Christ, I might join you in your dream. I have not seen such evidence. In your description of the innocent fun of the Halloween of your childhood, you captured what I believe Jesus taught is the essential character of God’s kingdom greats…( “of such is the kingdom of God”). IMO the reformation we should dream of is not one of doctrinal/dogmatic acumen, but one of more innocent wonder and fun in the faith journey. Too often the doctrinally informed behave like the carloads of teenagers who have learned how to abuse the tradition for selfish ends.

  • http://justathought-e.com Dr. Ed Cook

    I was raised in the Lutheran Church, but had lost any semblance of faith by the time of my Confirmation. I considered myself an Atheist for the next 20 years. But the process of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction in my early 30s lead me back to church on a “God search.” My first excursion was to a Presbyterian Church pastored by a fellow Little League coach. I didn’t realize until I got there that it was Reformation Sunday — actually on October 31 that year.
    I don’t remember much about the opening of the service. But not very far into it, the choir filed from the choir loft at the right front of the chancel behind the organ consol and took their positions filling the platform while a small orchestra filled the floor space at the front of the sanctuary. I would only learn months later that this particular church supplemented its choir with paid soloists and invited guests to swell the ranks and hired an orchestra for some special occasions. This was to be one of them.
    The bulletin had announced the performance of “Variations on ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,’ arranged for choir and orchestra.” How appropriate. “A Mighty Fortress” was composed by Martin Luther (to the tune of a traditional tavern song, I might add) and served as the battle hymn of the Reformation. Not knowing what to expect, I felt a chill run through my body as the orchestra started with a tympani roll and a tutti section with all instruments fortissimo, the organ came to life at with all stops engaged, and the choir joining in full voice. Wow! The sound was magnificent.
    I felt a swelling begin in my chest and a lump forming in my throat. As a musician, I had played various “Theme and Variation” pieces both on the piano and as part of a concert band. The usual arc of such arrangements is to start with a simple statement of the theme and then proceed through several variations, each one more complex, until the piece finishes with a thrilling climax. This arrangement was just the opposite. After a thunderous opening statement of the hymn’s theme full of baroque embellishments, each variation was simplified until the penultimate section was simply four-part hymnody with chamber music accompaniment. For the “climax,” if you will, the orchestra and organ remained silent while the choir simply sang the opening stanza of the hymn in unison, a capella. Such power. Simple human voices, full of trust and confidence, singing to their God without benefit of artifice, ornamentation, or accompaniment. I was enthralled. I was undone. I was in tears. I didn’t know what had just happened, but I knew something had. Somehow, on shaky legs, I left the church and drove home.
    That’s my Reformation Sunday memory: the start of a journey back to God that resulted in a call to ministry eight years later. Two years later I planted a church that I pastored for the next twenty-one years. Soli Deo Gloria!
    -e.

  • http://goodreportministries.com/ Ivan A. Rogers

    ARE THERE REALLY EVIL SPIRITS? – I recall when our pastor “escorted” the youth group from the church to a ‘fun night’ at the local amusement park. They dared their pastor to have his fortune told by the palm reader. The palm reader cried out, saying, “Why are you here? you’re a man of God.”

  • Rob

    I am an adult Bible study teacher and most of the individuals in the class (as well as my church) are older than me (I’m 39). When I approach topics, especially dealing with doctrine, they shut down. One woman even told me afterward ‘we grew up with this, we don’t need to know all the nuances of it’. I was dissapointed because it meant I had to go back to the drawing board and find topics of discussion that would be suitable for a child, just to hold the interest of these adults.

    • Steve

      I think the Baby Boomer generation suffers from a great spiritual apathy brought on by being raised in the 60′s and 70′s. Religion, for them, was not a search for truth, but a therapeutic affirmation of self.

  • Patricia

    I am 60+ and live in the UK where Halloween was never part of our childhood tradition, except in Scotland where they went in for a few ghost stories and some apple bobbing. I regard the commercial intoduction of American style Halloween “celebrations” over here extremely distasteful from a Christian perspective and feel that it has become a wicked waste of money, which should be better spent on more useful things. Many of our Evangelical Churches encourage their children to attend “Light Parties” instead of making a nuisance of themselves trick or treating out in their neighbourhoods and frightenening the vulnerable elderly in their homes..

    I’m not sure what John’s comments about Hindu temple worship has got to do with pagan Halloweeen “celebrations” by professing Christians. The graven images or murtis that he the refers to have been described as “visual theologies”. They evolved in pre-literate societies, rather like the English Medieval Church wall paintings which were whitewashed over by the over-zealous Puritans.

  • J.E. Edwards

    @roger,
    Here! Here! I love this paragraph.
    I’m not calling for Protestant inquisitions (as in sixteenth century Geneva), just fresh interest in learning about the Great Tradition of Christian doctrine—the Trinity, the hypostatic union (two natures of Jesus Christ), the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, original sin, justification by grace through faith, etc., etc. How many Protestant lay people can even begin to talk intelligently about those doctrines? Many can talk about the rapture better than about the great doctrines of the faith!”

  • John

    “I get that a lot”–made me laugh out loud.

    Here’s what one (admittedly very large church) is doing to help introduce and ground people in theological thinking: http://www.cor.org/leadership-renewal/wesley-academy/course-of-study-faculty/.

  • John

    “I get that a lot”–made me laugh out loud.

    Here’s what one (admittedly very large) church is doing to help introduce and ground people in theological thinking: http://www.cor.org/leadership-renewal/wesley-academy/course-of-study-faculty/.

  • Drew Dabbs

    Dr. Olson, great post (as usual). I don’t know how it is in Waco, but, here in Mississippi, there’s a growing “anti-Santa” movement among young evangelicals. Can we expect some random and curmudgeonly thoughts about December 24 in the not-so-distant future?

    • rogereolson

      Perhaps. Ironically, even though we “celebrated” Halloween (when I was a kid growing up in a Pentecostal church), we didn’t pay any attention (except sometimes negative) to Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. Those were considered to detract from the true (religious) meaning of those holidays. Since, to our way of thinking, Halloween had no Christian significance we were free to play with it and have fun.

  • Steve

    One topic I would like to see some input on is this: We know that people find doctrine distasteful, but why? Why has there been a movement in that direction? Why have congregations moved more toward music and outreach, but further from doctrine?

    I’ll throw out my theory: Doctrine means getting specific about what the Bible means. Doing that risks alienating people in the audience who don’t see it that way. This leads to arguments, which many times leads to communities splitting up. So the aversion to doctrine, I think, is born from a desire for unity and an end to infighting.

    Anyone else have thoughts?

    • rogereolson

      That’s an interesting and possibly valid theory. The one potential hole I see in is that worship is just as controversial. You’ve heard of the “worship wars” dividing churches? I suspect people care more about the style of worship than the content of what is being sung and said.

      • Steve

        Or perhaps both are at play?

        People have left communion because of doctrine and practices, but also because of worship style and music.

  • Quartermaster

    Having watched the culture in the US transmogrify into something that is essentially anti-God, I can understand the reactions of many Pastors against Halloween as such. Even in the early 80s things weren’t so bad as they have become in the last 20 years.

    Personally, I like the idea of many churches changing the haunted house into a witnessing tool. A church I used to attend in Ohio called it Hell Stop to give those who came something of an idea of the absolute terror one will experience in Hell. As we can not imagine what the Kingdom of God will be like in eternity, the mind of man can not visualize or comprehend what awaits in Hell. Alas, Halloween generally sanitizes this and makes light of it. I don’t think the reaction against Halloween, given what the country has become, is a bad thing, no matter what it was like when I was a kid, or when my kids were young.

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  • Steve

    Doctrine is a diversion and at best ‘training wheels’. The fruit of all doctrine should be the act of selfless love to your fellow man. So we should spend as little time as it takes to come to the point where we understand our lives are not our own and we are here to serve one another as Jesus did. Once you get that ‘doctrine’ then move on. What happens unfortunately, is we are selfish and decide to take the easy road, the road of endless contrivance of complicated doctrinal positions that fill seminaries and cause fights and misunderstandings. So I don’t see the point in getting bogged down in it. I know people who hate each other over doctrinal differences. These people are supposed to me mature. So sad and unnecessary.

    • rogereolson

      We move in different circles. Most of the evangelical churches I have belonged to, spoken in and visited seem to have little or no concern for doctrine or theology. Yes, certainly, living the Christian life of service to others is important. But so is thinking the right thoughts about God. I guarantee you that many evangelical (and other) church groups are going to be reading and discussing Proof of Heaven and similar NDE stories rather than engaging in serious biblical study and theological reflection.

  • rvs

    Will it ever be possible in evangelical Christianity for a parishioner on Halloween (or Christmas) to put on a pastor’s costume and deliver a satirical sermon from the pulpit? “In Praise of 21st-century Folly,” for example? Is the evangelical community too grave for such an event?

    • rogereolson

      We could use a contemporary evangelical Erasmus. We take ourselves way too seriously. On the other hand, it seems very few people “get” satire anymore. I wrote a highly satirical column in the local newspaper (with strong clues to its satirical intent) and was roundly condemned by people who didn’t get it and thought I seriously advocating something I was actually making fun of. Since then I have laid off satire.


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