Sin is senseless. Petty sin is senseless, and high wickedness is senseless. If it made sense, if it lined up with how God made the world, then it wouldn’t be sin.
Christians sometimes make the mistake of trying make sense out of sin—whether their own, or the sins of others.
This is true all the time, but there are times when the word senseless crowds to the front of our minds, and insists on being used. The shooting in Connecticut is an instance of this. After all the investigations, after everything is examined, after all the funerals are held, we will still come down to this—we are a broken race, lost and without God in the world.
The only thing worse than this kind of grief is grief without reason, grief without explanation, grief without answers. And this is where believers need to embrace the fact that the gospel is the answer, Jesus is the answer, and the senselessness of our sin is the presenting problem.
Sharing the gospel is not a matter of trying to teach nonbelievers the password that will get them into Heaven. Sharing the gospel is an explanation of the world, and it explains all the relevant issues, including our stubborn resistance to any true explanation of the world.
At Christmas, we celebrate the entry of Jesus into this world. As our sorry condition demonstrates, we desperately need Him.
I’ve said some controversial things from time to time, but none which prompted such a backlash as when I stated that the horrific shooting in CT of school children and teachers couldn’t be blamed on God because we’ve systematically marginalized God out of our culture by removing Him from all aspects of the public square. The vicious attacks that have resulted, most of all of which are based on total ignorance of what I actually said have actually validated my point, but I’m quite certain that was not the intent of both the professional and amateur critics who have demanded everything from my being banned from ever speaking in public again, or wished me a slow and painful death. On that alone, I wish to acknowledge that the left has again shown that it defines tolerance and diversity as being tolerant only of that with which it agrees, and diverse only to include slight shades of the orthodoxy of liberalism to which they adhere. They abhor censorship of their own profanity, obscenities, or graphic violence, but are the first to demand that a voice that invokes the name of God to be silenced. A specific act of violence is rarely the result of a specific single act of a culture that prompts it. In other words, I would never say that simply taking prayer and Bible reading from our institutions or silencing Christmas carols is the direct cause of a mass murder. That would be ludicrous and simplistic. But the cause and effect we see in the dramatic changes of what our children are capable of is a part of a cultural shift from a God-centered culture to a self-centered culture. We have glorified uninhibited self-expression and individualism and are shocked that we have a generation of loners. We have insisted on a society where everyone gets a trophy and no one loses and act surprised that so many kids lack self-esteem and feel like losers. We dismiss the notion of natural law and the notion that there are moral absolutes and seemed amazed when some kids make it their own morality to kill innocent children. We diminish and even hold in contempt the natural family of a father and mother creating and then responsibly raising the next generation and then express dismay that kids feel no real connection to their families or even the concept of a family. We scoff at the need for mothers and fathers to make it their priority to train their children to be strong in spirit and soul and responsible for right and wrong and exalt instead the virtue of having things and providing expensive toys, games, and electronics that substitute for parenting and then don’t understand why our kids would rather have ear buds dangling from their ears, fingers attaching to a smart phone, and face attached to a computer screen than to have an extended conversation with their family at dinner. And we don’t teach them there is a Creator God who sets immutable rules, a God who is knowable, and to whom we are ultimately responsible. Instead we teach that God was not involved in our origins, that our very lives are biological happenstances and in fact are disposable should they be inconvenient to us, and that any outrageous behaviors are not sin, but disorders for which we should be excused and accommodated. I realize my viewpoint sounds out-dated and archaic, but when that world view was the foundation of our nation’s social contract, we got in trouble at school for talking in class, chewing gum, pulling a girl’s pigtails, or slouching in our school desks. We took guns to school, to be sure, but they were in the gun racks of our trucks and we used them to hunt before and after school. It never occurred to us to use them to murder our teachers and fellow students. So yes, I can stand the contempt and criticism of the left. I’ll gladly accept their scorn as they substitute creative language with a steady stream of profanity-laced tirades that I’m an idiot, a throwback to the past, and a person who should be forever silenced. But when we as a nation feared God, we didn’t fear that a 20 year old with a high powered rifle would gun down our children in their schoolrooms.
It has become routine in October for some Christian schools to send out letters warning parents about the evils of Halloween, and it has become equally routine for me to be asked questions about this matter.
“Halloween” is simply a contraction for All Hallows’ Eve. The word “hallow” means “saint,” in that “hallow” is just an alternative form of the word “holy” (“hallowed be Thy name”). All Saints’ Day is November 1. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ. The observance of various celebrations of All Saints arose in the late 300s, and these were united and fixed on November 1 in the late 700s. The origin of All Saints Day and of All Saints Eve in Mediterranean Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic Druidism or the Church’s fight against Druidism (assuming there ever even was any such thing as Druidism, which is actually a myth concocted in the 19th century by neo-pagans.)
In the First Covenant, the war between God’s people and God’s enemies was fought on the human level against Egyptians, Assyrians, etc. With the coming of the New Covenant, however, we are told that our primary battle is against principalities and powers, against fallen angels who bind the hearts and minds of men in ignorance and fear. We are assured that through faith, prayer, and obedience, the saints will be victorious in our battle against these demonic forces. The Spirit assures us: “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).
The Festival of All Saints reminds us that though Jesus has finished His work, we have not finished ours. He has struck the decisive blow, but we have the privilege of working in the mopping up operation. Thus, century by century the Christian faith has rolled back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition. Though things look bad in the Western world today, this work continues to make progress in Asia and Africa and Latin America.
The Biblical day begins in the preceding evening, and thus in the Church calendar, the eve of a day is the actual beginning of the festive day. Christmas Eve is most familiar to us, but there is also the Vigil of Holy Saturday that precedes Easter Morn. Similarly, All Saints’ Eve precedes All Saints’ Day.
The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom.
What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.
(The tradition of mocking Satan and defeating him through joy and laughter plays a large role in Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a Halloween novel.)
The gargoyles that were placed on the churches of old had the same meaning. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy. They stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles are not demonic; they are believers ridiculing the defeated demonic army.
Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween. For this reason, Martin Luther posted his 95 challenges to the wicked practices of the Church to the bulletin board on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on Halloween. He picked his day with care, and ever since Halloween has also been Reformation Day.
Similarly, on All Hallows’ Eve (Hallow-Even – Hallow-E’en – Halloween), the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, our children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that we can dress our children this way shows our supreme confidence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ – we have NO FEAR!
I don’t have the resources to check the historical origins of all Halloween customs, and doubtless they have varied from time to time and from Christian land to Christian land. “Trick or treat” doubtless originated simply enough: something fun for kids to do. Like anything else, this custom can be perverted, and there have been times when “tricking” involved really mean actions by teenagers and was banned from some localities.
We can hardly object, however, to children collecting candy from friends and neighbors. This might not mean much to us today, because we are so prosperous that we have candy whenever we want, but in earlier generations people were not so well o_, and obtaining some candy or other treats was something special. There is no reason to pour cold water on an innocent custom like this.
Similarly, the jack-o’-lantern’s origins are unknown. Hollowing out a gourd or some other vegetable, carving a face, and putting a lamp inside of it is something that no doubt has occurred quite independently to tens of thousands of ordinary people in hundreds of cultures worldwide over the centuries. Since people lit their homes with candles, decorating the candles and the candle-holders was a routine part of life designed to make the home pretty or interesting. Potatoes, turnips, beets, and any number of other items were used.
Wynn Parks writes of an incident he observed: “An English friend had managed to remove the skin of a tangerine in two intact halves. After carving eyes and nose in one hemisphere and a mouth in the other, he poured cooking oil over the pith sticking up in the lower half and lit the readymade wick. With its upper half on, the tangerine skin formed a miniature jack-o’-lantern. But my friend seemed puzzled that I should call it by that name. `What would I call it? Why a “tangerine head,” I suppose.’” (Parks, “The Head of the Dead,” The World & I, November 1994, p. 270.)
In the New World, people soon learned that pumpkins were admirably suited for this purpose. The jack-o’-lantern is nothing but a decoration; and the leftover pumpkin can be scraped again, roasted, and turned into pies and muffins.
In some cultures, what we call a jack-o’-lantern represented the face of a dead person, whose soul continued to have a presence in the fruit or vegetable used. But this has no particular relevance to Halloween customs. Did your mother tell you, while she carved the pumpkin, that this represented the head of a dead person and with his soul trapped inside? Of course not. Symbols and decorations, like words, mean different things in different cultures, in different languages, and in different periods of history. The only relevant question is what does it mean now, and nowadays it is only a decoration.
And even if some earlier generations did associate the jack-o’-lantern with a soul in a head, so what? They did not take it seriously. It was just part of the joking mockery of heathendom by Christian people.
This is a good place to note that many articles in books, magazines, and encyclopedias are written by secular humanists or even the pop-pagans of the so-called “New Age” movement. (An example is the article by Wynn Parks cited above.) These people actively suppress the Christian associations of historic customs, and try to magnify the pagan associations. They do this to try and make paganism acceptable and to downplay Christianity. Thus, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc., are said to have pagan origins. Not true.
Oddly, some fundamentalists have been influenced by these slanted views of history. These fundamentalists do not accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of Western history, American history, and science, but sometimes they do accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of the origins of Halloween and Christmas, the Christmas tree, etc. We can hope that in time these brethren will reexamine these matters as well. We ought not to let the pagans do our thinking for us.
Nowadays, children often dress up as superheroes, and the original Christian meaning of Halloween has been absorbed into popular culture. Also, with the present fad of “designer paganism” in the so-called New Age movement, some Christians are uneasy with dressing their children as spooks. So be it. But we should not forget that originally Halloween was a Christian custom, and there is no solid reason why Christians cannot enjoy it as such even today.
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; Yahweh ridicules them” says Psalm 2. Let us join in His holy laughter, and mock the enemies of Christ on October 31.”
One of the most dangerous, of ideas that have dominated men’s minds is the dream of total justice. This is a humanistic dream. The humanist has only one world, this present life, and he is determined to make a heaven out of earth. The result is consistently hell on earth.
The menace of the dream of total justice is that it requires perfect people and a perfect social order and state to establish itself. The fact is that man is a sinner; he is also unwilling to change, content with himself although discontented with the world, and, by virtue of his fallen nature, a slave to sin and hence a slave by design (John 8:31-36). As result, every dreamer of a world of perfect justice, a habitation for supermen, and a realm of triumph for humanistic dogmas of justice, must begin to eliminate men as they are to make way for men as they should be. The French Revolution planned the reduction of France’s population to a malleable fraction of what it was; Nietzsche called for the death of man to prepare the world for superman; the Russian Revolution and its exported revolutions have meant the planned murder of all who represent the old order. In cambodia, since 1975, half the nation has been killed to eliminate all who cannot be reshaped in terms of the Marxist dream of a perfect order. The cambodian Khmer Rouge leaders have killed off all who worked for the old order, all christians, all who were educated, all who lived an urban life, all who had been abroad, and all who had worked for foreigners.
No more murderous force has ever been unleashed by man against man than the humanistic dream of justice. Tyranny and evil have governed most of history, but never more rigidly and thoroughly than by those who bring in totalitarian controls in the name of total justice. In 1931, Charles Pettit’s The Impotent General, a brief and light novel, was translated into English. when the old war lord is replaced by an ideologue, the peasants are unhappy. A peasant is asked if it is because of affection. “By no means…Tan Pan-tze was an infamous robber, who shamefully harassed the countryside, thrashing inoffensive folk and raping women of all ages and conditions…” “Then may I ask why you appear to mourn him?”…The peasant replied: “Simply because his successor, General Pou, is very much worse than he was…he extorts his tribute methodically, which is even harder to endure… and, moreover, he now exacts the death penalty for non-payment and he does so in a legalized manner which has multiplied the executions” (p. 171).
It is not surprising that, in the quest for total justice, the humanistic regimes have instituted total terror. The people are whipped into line, “for their own good.” They are ruthlessly subjected to savage repressions and forcible changes, all designed to make them conform to the new model man for the new model society.
All this is logical. A better world does require better men! The question is, how to get better men, how to produce them? In the final analysis, two choices appear before men as the instruments whereby men can be changed: revolution or regeneration.
If men deny the possibility of regeneration then their only logical option is revolution. Since 1660, and the birth of the Enlightenment, the logic of humanism has moved the world steadily and more deeply into revolution. Every continent is now in the grips of a faith which demands the coercive remaking of men.
But total justice on earth is an impossible dream. Man does not have God’s omnipotence nor omniscience: he cannot control nor see all things. Lacking total knowledge, his institution of justice, even in godly hands, is at best partial and incomplete. Not every wrong can be righted, nor every balance restored. Men can live, under God, in a just society, but never in this world in a totally just society. For the humanistic state to seek total justice means claiming God’s omnipotence: the state must exercise total power for total justice. Likewise, it must claim God’s omniscience: it must have total knowledge of all people, institutions, and things. A bureaucracy is created to exercise these “divine” powers.
In the Biblical perspective, man as sinner needs regeneration. As a sinner, he cannot establish a just order, only an evil one. By the regenerating power of God in Christ, he is a new creation. He is now able to serve God, to institute an order in terms of God’s law, and to know what godly justice is, and to pursue it. He knows that only in God’s eternal Kingdom is total justice attainable, so that, even as he strives to obey God in all things, he knows that he cannot expect of imperfect men and societies a perfect and total justice. All the same, only a new creature can make for a new creation. A law order and state dedicated to a humanistic faith in total justice will create total revolution. An order dedicated to the whole word of God and Christ’s regenerating power can give justice, because it rests on a new man of God’s making, not man’s.” – R.J. Rushdoony