Reformation Day vs. Halloween?

Question
Should Christians celebrate October 31st? Halloween? I think the answer is "No." So, is there another way that families can be together and enjoy this day?
Answer
Thank for your question.

While some may think of Halloween on October 31st, I think of "the day that the Lord has made" (Psa 118:24) and Reformation Day. It's a day my family enjoys celebrating.

I don't think focusing on dressing up as a character of some type and collecting candy as being that productive. Indeed, many aspects of Halloween - witches, demons, depravity, etc. and its very origin - are unbiblical; not for the glory of God alone (1 Cor 1:31). Please listen to, "What Every Christian Should Learn about Halloween" below. On the other hand, Reformation Day was one of the greatest moves of the Holy Spirit in history; a similar move is needed today!

What happened? On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther in essence became the catalyst for what we often refer to as, The Protestant Reformation. On this day, Luther nailed to the door of All Saints' Church (aka, Schlosskirche, or Castle Church) his ninety-five theses (see below). These ninety-five theses sparked a debate heard around the world.

Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 to February 18, 1546) was born in Eisleben (Lutherstadt Eisleben), Saxony (now Germany) in 1483. Luther became interested in spiritual things at an early age. At age 13, he joined the Brethren of the Common Life, a Catholic brotherhood, where he became interested in monastic life. However, Martin's father Hans, desired his son to become a lawyer. So, a few years later in 1501, Martin Luther began to attend the University of Erfurt, where after study he obtained a Master's degree in grammar, logic, rhetoric, and metaphysics. He was well on his way to becoming a lawyer. However, in July 1505, he had a life-changing experience that set him on a new course toward God. Luther moved into an Augustinian monastery and became a Catholic monk. He engaged in prayer, fasting, and numerous ascetic practices. As he would later state, "If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I." [1] However, he would soon discover and spell out for Christendom, that no matter how noble or sacrificial his works were, they could not save him.

In 1510, Luther's formal education was interrupted when he was sent to Rome to carry out some business for his Augustinian order. In Rome, he witnessed literal immorality and corruption in the church! He came away from this journey very discouraged. Nevertheless, upon his return to Germany, he returned to the University of Wittenberg. In 1512, he earned a Doctor of Theology, becoming a professor of theology at the University.

Early on, Luther offered courses on the biblical books of Psalms, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. One day while meditating on Romans 1:17, Luther experienced an illumination that he later described as a kind of conversion; "It was as if the very gates of heaven had opened before me." So, Luther was moved to the concept of grace and faith, as opposed to works. He discovered the glorious truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone (Rom 1:17; 3:28; Gal 3:6-14; cf. Eph 2:8-10; Tit 3:5). He understood biblically that justification - that is, God's declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in his sight - comes by God alone imputing (reckoning, or putting on our account), the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). This revelation that works cannot save man and that it is God alone who justifies, led Luther to oppose some of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit through the Scriptures changed Luther's heart. Among other things, the ninety-five theses were born.

The Reformation grew rapidly. What was meant to be a renewal of the Catholic Church, led to religious, political, economic, intellectual, and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe. Some years later, at the Diet of Worms on January 22, 1521, Luther was summoned to renounce or reaffirm his doctrinal views. Johann Eck, an assistant of Archbishop of Trier, acted as spokesman for Emperor Charles V. Eck insisted that Luther had no right to teach doctrine which disagreed with Catholic dogma. Luther withstood attack after attack, argument after argument. Eck finally asked Luther to clearly answer the question, 'Would he reject his own books and the doctrinal errors they contain?' Luther replied:

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.

According to tradition, Luther is then said to have spoken these famous words: "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen." [2]

On April 26, 1521, Luther left for home, but on the way Frederick the Wise of Saxony arranged for him to be "kidnapped" and taken to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. Shortly thereafter on May 25, 1521, Emperor Charles V signed the Edict of Worms declaring Martin Luther a heretic and banning all his literature. Luther was excommunicated from the Church.

Martin Luther's discovery of the scriptural truth of grace alone led to a number of reforms. In the providence of God, the Gutenberg Press was created around 1440. The relatively unlimited circulation of knowledge increased the literacy levels of the people who then began to challenge their beliefs concerning God and the world. Luther made good use of the press in the printing of pamphlets, tracts, and books. While in hiding, in 1522 he translated the New Testament into German (and later in 1534 the Old Testament), placing the Word of God into the hands of the people. Luther organized Christian schools. He preached the Word of God with boldness; a set of his sermons today comprise some 55 volumes, approximately 22,276 pages. He reformed the Latin mass, putting the public religious worship in the common tongue of the people. Finally, people could actually understand what was being preached! His hymns were instrumental in the development of congregational singing within Christianity. For instance, see "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" below.

Today, Luther's influence lives on. We see much of his theology - God's Word properly interpreted and understood weaved through numerous creeds and confessions of the Protestant church. Indeed, Luther is still impacting the Roman Catholic Church as well. In 2016, Pope Francis stated, "the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her." Luther was even canonized by the Church. However, while Pope Francis' words are encouraging, there are still numerous differences between Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church. See "Do you agree with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches?" below.

So, there are many things to celebrate on October 31st. Perhaps a good way to enjoy it would be to read the book of Galatians and pray that the Holy Spirit would move in the mighty and miraculous way, as he did at Pentecost and the Reformation once again!

References:

[1] Woodbridge, John D. and James III, Frank A. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. HarperCollins Publishing (2013).

[2] Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, (1995), pp. 142-144.

Audio Files:

What Every Christian Should Learn about Halloween

Related Topics:

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, Commonly Known as, The 95 Theses
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Do you agree with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).