November 2, 2015

Halloween, Christmas, and Spurgeon’s Cigars

by Clint Archer

This year, as with every other one, Halloween came and went. And again, the unholy holiday did nothing more and nothing less for the cause of Christ than any other day of the year.

Some Christians may have revelled in their liberty to let their kids dress up as Anna, Elsa, and Olaf. (Incidentally, except for the snow man the other characters in Frozen would, like their creator Hans Christian Andersen, have been Lutheran; apropos costumes for Reformation month!). They may even have carved toothy grins into a pumpkin or two.Jesus pumpkin

Other Christians may have railed against the nefarious worldliness and ghoulishness inherent in the Catholic-turned-pagan carousing. Some probably contributed to the collective national insulin spike by dolling out assorted nutrition-free candies, while others likely distributed gospel tracts and toothbrushes to the dismay of their crestfallen trick-or-treaters.

So what? (Or in the ESV “What then?”)

It seems that every year this perennial discussion of liberty’s limits pops up like a whack-a-mole, only to reoccur eight weeks later with the flavor of controversy  having something to do with Christmas trees and mistletoe. I’ve contributed to this in the past and probably will again in December. But my 2c will be the same every time because the holly wreath withers, the polyester costume fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever. And Scripture is not silent on these issues.

Here are some passages we should store with our Fall and Christmas décor boxes in the basement, so we can dust them off and re-apply them as a seasonal reflex:

  • Romans 12: 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Romans 14: 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
  • 1 Corinthians 10: 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. … 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor… 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 4: 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. … that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
  • 1 Peter 2: 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Every believer must apply these verses for themselves. By definition, Christian liberty can’t be regulated by arbitrary rules for or against the use of that liberty. But in each situation each believer must exercise common sense, wisdom from the Spirit, in love for other believers, as a testimony to unbelievers. And we must refrain from judging other believers who make choices that make our skin crawl. If it’s sin, that’s a different story. But if God thought an activity was sinful, he’d say so in his word.

I leave you with Charles Spurgeon’s famous response to Dr. Pentecost’s comments from the pulpit against the “sin of cigar smoking.” It’s a bit extreme, but in his characteristically charming way Spurgeon addresses liberty in Christ with humor and candor.

If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, ‘Thou shalt not smoke,’ I am ready to keep it; but I haven’t found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it’s as much as I can do to keep them; and I’ve no desire to make them into eleven or twelve. The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. …Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I’m not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don’t feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.”


Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Excathaholic

    Spurgeon, you sound like Rush Limbaugh. LOL Thanks for the post, I needed that!

  • Matthew

    Amen brother!

  • Johnny

    Breaks my heart whenever I read about Christians endorsing smoking, particularly Spurgeon. The way that the flock is fed is by pastors who SPEAK the Word to their congregations, so why would any pastor willingly partake of an activity that directly damages the instruments of speaking the word? (the mouth, the throat, the lungs?)

    Perhaps Spurgeon’s health wouldn’t have been so terrible had he done away with his nicotine pacifiers…

    • Chaplain Bull

      I don’t read anywhere of Spurgeon ‘endorsing’ smoking. I do read of Spurgeon expressing his Christian Liberty and enjoying God’s goodness in creation. I breads my heart when Christians add to or take away from the Word of God. We begin to bind men’s consciences and add yolks and burdens to God’s people that they were never intended to bear. Sola Scriptura: nothing more, nothing less.

    • I hope your sugar and bacon intake is nil. 😉

      • The great thing about bacon is that it literally has its own chapter in the Bible endorsing it. Acts 10.

        • Right…but then there is that pesky scientific research that says bacon causes bacon, or something like that. My bacon tastes even better now.

      • Lynn B.

        Justin: Your point is well taken… but only to a degree… because most do not begin to understand the harm sugar does to the body and if they did they would abstain or significantly limit their intake. I have heard it said that were white sugar a new discovery today it would be regulated as an addictive and harmful drug. As to bacon, the same is true as for sugar, except that for most (realizing there are exceptions) it is consumed in moderation whereas tobacco and sugar tend to become master and demand more to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms.

        • Fair enough, but who is going to be the health gestapo to bring sugar sinners to repentance under church discipline?

          • Nicki Ann

            Trust me, there is a health gestapo in some Christian circles.

    • Still Waters

      Spurgeon’s contemporaries did not know all we know about the effects of smoking. Don’t forget the infamous Surgeon General who actually recommended smoking.

    • Lynn B.

      In Spurgeon’s day the dangers of smoking were not known so the quote might not be valid today in that matter but it’s application is on point on the topic of Halloween. It grieves me to see people today use Spurgeon as justification for smoking and thus be a stumbling block to our kids. It’s one thing to choose to smoke oneself and altogether another to justify it because Spurgeon smoked and broadcast that justification and liberty on blogs.
      On the matters of Halloween; I have never seen such division as is wrought in this matter.

      • Jason

        People who live in LA should probably repent and move too, inhaling smog, especially the levels present by those who live by the freeway, is more toxic than smoking a pack a day.

        How does your understanding support and coordinate with Jesus words? “There’s nothing (like smoke) that goes into a man that can defile him, it comes from the heart.” Mark 7:20 and following 🙂

        • Lynn B.

          “It’s one thing to choose to smoke oneself and altogether another to justify it because Spurgeon smoked and broadcast that justification and liberty on blogs.”

          Tell me, do you encourage those living on the wide open plains to move next to the LA Freeway?

          • Jason

            I just don’t care if they live next to the LA Freeway . . . living in the plains harmed my lungs from pollen and other allergies. I don’t think their in sin for living near it nor do I think smoking a sin. I don’t think man can ingest anything and it be sin. Inhaling a drug is not the sin, getting high off of a substance is drunkenness and that is the sin. 🙂

          • Nicki Ann

            What about the addiction Jason, and not being able to quit.

            Is that sin?

          • Jason

            So, the use of a substance and abuse of it produces a feeling / desired result. The pursuit of that is lust. The giving into the temptation, lusting after it, and pursuing it is sin and classic idolatry. the heart, not the substance, is the problem. Remove the substance you still have the lust.

            However, at no point is the substance the sin. Sex, alcohol, and food are all biblically acceptable actions and substances. None of those are sin when used biblically. But to idolize them and pursue them is sin. At no point does the alcohol, the substance, turn into sin. Mark 7:20ff says, Nothing that goes into the man defiles the man, but out of the heart. So it’s us that makes a valid substance sinful.

            Apply these principles to something other than alcohol, like food. See an overweight person with no discipline. This man/woman lusts, craves, and over eats food. At no point does anyone say the food turns into sin nor would you say, “Stop eating” and mean NO food. Instead the food idolator must learn how to control her behavior and have self-discipline 🙂

  • slv

    “Every believer must apply these verses for themselves. By definition, Christian liberty can’t be regulated by arbitrary rules for or against the use of that liberty. But in each situation each believer must exercise common sense, wisdom from the Spirit, in love for other believers, as a testimony to unbelievers. And we must refrain from judging other believers who make choices that make our skin crawl. If it’s sin, that’s a different story. But if God thought an activity was sinful, he’d say so in his word.”

    How very post-modern of you…

    As for Elsa, well, let’s look at her famous song…

    “No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!”

    Somehow, this seems to fall short of all-consuming dedication to Christ…

    Christ had perfect freedom, and what did he do with it? He gave up himself by paying the ultimate price; he wasn’t concerned about gratifying himself by “exercising his liberty”…I think if we had more of a concern for that and less of a concern for “don’t tread on me”, we’d be much better off!

    • Jane Hildebrand

      Slv, there is liberty regarding disputable matters, not matters of sin. See Romans chapter 14.

    • slv, you do know that Elsa was just expressing the freedom she felt in displaying her frozen powers? I don’t think it can be argued that she was promoting some kind of moral relativity. Context is king, even in Disney movies. 😉

      • slv

        “Context is king, even in Disney movies”

        Showing an incredible laxity in discernment…

        Again, I point to the example of Christ. If your version of Christianity amounts to simply “Don’t Tread On Me!”, then you’ve missed the point, and it’s not Christianity.

        • My “version of Christianity” is not allowing legalists to tread on the brethren, and striving to extend them grace when they do. Grace to you, slv.

          • slv

            The only difference between the legalist’s version of the Christianity and the antinomian’s version of Christianity is the size of their lists.

            The legalist looks at his lengthy list and says, “Look at how righteous I am because of my list.”

            The antinomian looks at his miniscule list and says, “Look at how “free” I am and what I’m allowed to do because of my list.”

            Both completely miss the point; the point is not what we put on our list to make us more righteous; likewise the point is not what we take off the list to make us more “free.” The point is summed up by Christ: “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

            Anything in the area of “Christian Liberty” that doesn’t start and end with this thought misses the point, period.

            Oh by the way, by far in today’s world the problem isn’t “legalism”, it’s actually the opposite. The trending fad in today’s pseudo-Christianity is to ask, “What can I get away with and still be good to go without sinning?” which is simply a false cloak of self-gratification.

          • Certainly antinomianism is an equally deadly cancer as legalism in the church. But bear in mind, elevating one’s convictions or preferences to law is a form of legalism. So when I tell you I am convinced in my mind to drink a craft beer, smoke a cigar, dress my kids up as super heros, decorate the Christmas tree, paint an Easter egg, buy a cup of Starbucks, watch Star Wars Episode VII, wear a wedding band, or eat a pork sandwich, or do none of these things, I can do either to the glory of God without my conscience being bound by your conscience. Why? Because none of the above is necessarily sinful according to Scripture. Your application of the biblical principles may not be my application, and when my application is hoisted around your neck to be your application, it becomes law…sinful law…and that’s no bueno.

    • Lynn B.

      Westerners do tend to be rebels, “don’t tread on me,” but that is beside the point of this blog.

      • slv

        It’s THE point of the blog! I find it interesting that every single time the issue of “Christian Liberty” comes up, it almost never centers around the fact and the mandate that Christians’ greatest liberty is the liberty to lay it all down in self-sacrifice. Those are NOT disconnected topics; they are very much related, in fact they are THE way that God is most glorified.

        To ignore this and compartmentalize things is to exhibit the most spiritual immaturity imaginable…

        • Do you mean lay down liberty when others want to lay on the choke hold? Or perhaps only lay it down when the weaker brethren are present and until they mature in the truth?

          • slv

            So what “choke hold” is being laid here? To forego worldly things like cigars, halloween, etc.? Is that really so terrible? Paul was more than willing to do things like that. We’re so quick to point to Paul’s message in 1 Cor 10, but we conveniently forget that follows on the heels of 1 Cor 8 and 9, where Paul says things like, “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” Or, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Or, “whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Seems like that has fallen off people’s radars, and we’re more concerned with our own liberty than with God’s glory.

            Or is it because people saving it for when they really want to “make a statement” by doing something “big and bold” for Christ while at the same time gratifying themselves in the little things…Sounds like pride to me…

            Funny, no one ever mentions David’s quote when looking to purchase land to build the temple: “I will not offer to God that which has cost me nothing.” We want a cost-less Christianity, and we rationalize such a view under the cloak of “Christian Liberty”.

            Somehow I don’t think that’s what Christ had in mind when His people cost Him literally everything, and He gave it willingly! And we turn around and think we’re exempt from doing the same to the extent that we can…that’s a shame.

          • The choke hold is when, out of John’s weakness to not do X activity, John demands others not do X activity because X activity is sinful against John’s conscience. Jim should probably not do X activity when John is around, but Jim is under no obligation to withhold doing X activity when John is not around simply because Jim thinks all people doing X are in sin for doing X. Now, if Jim’s withholding doing X would serve to encourage John in His walk with Christ, and help John overcome his weakness as John grows in his sanctification in the truth, then that may very well be what Jim needs to do.

          • Lynn B.

            This Halloween season I have seen one person say they were saved out of overt Satanism and Halloween is a stumbling block… all the others were simply self-righteous Pharisees judging others to be more sinful than themselves.

    • Still Waters

      On the contrary, Paul had a great concern that in these non-essentials, like food and drink and holidays, that we not place ourselves under bondage to those who preached that self-denial was better. He indicated that to do so was to diminish what Christ had done:

      “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)

  • Karl Heitman

    Clint, shouldn’t we include one other very important verse among the contents of your Yuletide storage box: Ex. 20:16? Also, one interesting observation new to me this year, as I prepare my mind for the reemergence of Jolly Ole’ St. Nick, is that Paul includes liars in a list of some pretty nasty sins in 1 Tim. 1:8-10. Happy Holidays!

    • Lynn B.

      As a child 60 years ago my mother did not believe in lying to her children but we visited Santa every Christmas knowing it was pretend.

      • Karl Heitman

        Great. We don’t sit on Santa’s lap, but I do allow my kids to watch Rudolph, while reminding them that Santa is no more real than Batman. Blessings!

        • Jane Hildebrand

          My children were 5 and 3 when I became a Christian and I felt immediately convicted to tell them that Santa wasn’t real. Our son was horrified that we would lie to him and scolded us for days. Our daughter on the other hand simply said, “We still get presents, right?” 🙂

          • Karl Heitman

            Ha! It’s so funny how different kids’ personalities are. I think my daughter (6 y.o.) would react the same as yours and my son (8 y.o.) would be very disturbed if he knew we lied to him!

    • Still Waters

      Isn’t the idea that in order to celebrate Christmas, one must lie about the jolly round man coming down the chimney, something of a strawman? My devout Christian parents had a Christmas tree and all the other holiday trappings, yet we children never for one minute thought that Christmas was about Santa Claus. It was very definitely about Christ for us. To this day, our favourite parts of Christmas are singing the beautiful carols about the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, and reading the familiar passages in Isaiah 9, Matthew 1-2, and Luke 2.

      • Karl Heitman

        Still Waters, I didn’t mean to imply that one must throw the fat, white-bearded “baby-out-the-bathwater.” While we refrain from judging each other as we practice whatever secular tradition our conscience allows, we still must be committed to truth-telling (i.e., don’t tell your kid Santa is real).

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Even before we were Christians, we would pray with our kids before bed. One night around Christmas, our son began praying to Santa! We stopped him and asked him why he would do that. He said, “Well, Santa must be God because he sees me when I’m sleeping, he knows when I’m awake, he knows if I’ve been bad or good.” That really shook me up and thank God shortly afterwards I became a Christian so that wouldn’t happen again.

        I know that doesn’t pertain to you since you were raised in a Christian home, but it did help me to see how similar Santa can be to God in a child’s mind.

    • You must be channelling my other post: Why lie to your kids about Santa? I might un it again nearer to Xmas.

  • Still Waters

    You forgot one! Colossians 2:16
    “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” 🙂

    • Jane Hildebrand

      My personal favorite is 1 Timothy 4:4, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” Therefore, I thank God for pastry. And bacon. 🙂

  • John Burns

    Let he who is without sin cast the first Brick !!!

    • Nicki Ann

      I think this time they are throwing pumpkins, but some of those lil’ gourds are hard and sting when they hit especially when they hit one’s heart. 🙂

  • Adam

    I think there is a distinction between Halloween and Christmas. Halloween is the witches New Year and is declared as such on “their” calenders. Here is a post from a Wiccan website:
    “Here are the eight Wiccan (or Witch) Sabbats:

    New Years Day October 31st at sundown Also known as Samhain or All Hallow’s Eve. This is New Years on the Druid calendar. The wall between earth and the underworld is thin at this time of year. On Halloween night, the wall opens. Samhain, the Lord of Darkness, rises from the underworld. He roams the world looking for lost souls. It is an evil and wicked night, a perfect night for a witch to celebrate New Years!”
    There is nothing wrong with celebrating the Lord’s birth, after all, it was announced by the angels giving praise and glory to God. To take it a step further and make it an official holiday, or “holy day” is not contrary to the Bible. But…taking the witches New Year and celebrating/ participating in that is contrary to Biblical precepts. Conscience doesn’t cleanse/justify that which is unclean or profane. Christmas may have become more of a materialistic holiday for most, but the underlying theme of the holiday is still nevertheless holy. The same cannot be said for Halloween. There is no connection to anything Biblical in the positive sense as there is with Christmas. Halloween’s subject matter is death and evil as indicated by the above quote, in contrast to Christmas which is Life and Light. “What fellowship hath light with darkness?” the apostle asked. Being children of the Light as Christians are, it is not a contradiction to participate in a Holiday which is reflective of the foregoing principles of light and life. It is, however, a contradiction to participate in a Holiday which is the antithesis of this.

    • Nicki Ann

      So you are saying that if we attach spiritual meaning to a pagan holiday it becomes righteous but if we attach only frivolity to a pagan holiday it is sinful. That is what I hear.

      Personally, I believe the variance of Christian conviction about celebrating Halloween relates to one’s view of the spiritual world of darkness. I have been full circle, from having séances at church slumber parties, to eschewing all things Halloween and looking down my righteous nose on those who partake, to being delightfully at peace with generally abstaining but still respecting highly those who celebrate the holiday. During that time I was part of a church that if they were honest believed that the demonic kingdom, witches, and the like had no power and were mostly make believe. Then I was part of a church that believed that every sin and every evil in the world was the work of Satan and we should be constantly rebuking him. Now likely my church is really in the first category again, but that is not where I am myself. I understand the kingdom of darkness is very real but that it is a defeated foe. I also understand that the “trick or treaters” clad in all manner of costumes are just kids having fun.

      • Adam

        Regardless of what Christmas used to be or how it originated, my point is that what we have today, despite the periphery with Santa and his elves, has at its center a theme consistent with the Bible. The same argument cannot be made for Halloween. That is my main point. Halloween most certainly is believed by many in the occult that it’s surrounding entities are indeed real and taken just as seriously and worshipped with the same fervency as Christians who bow down before Christ as the wise men of old.
        I don’t look down or think less of anybody that participates in Halloween in a neutral sense, but it nevertheless doesn’t diminish the evil aspect of the holiday at its core. If we justify behavior with the “I don’t believe any of it” mentality, then that opens the door to so many other avenues to engage the flesh with the ways of the world. Subjectivity can never be the basis for justifying behavior if the behavior links us to that which is inherently evil, as Halloween is.
        When Paul argues that we can eat meat offered to idols, because we do not believe in those idols, he isn’t implying at the same time that we can now go and participate in the sacrifices as well because we “don’t believe” in the idols. You take the meat home and separate yourself from the sacrifice. When you participate in Halloween you are doing just that – willfully participating in an evil day. Cute little kids dressing up in costumes doesn’t neutralize the act of participation.

  • Ok, folks, I’m glad we got it all out our system (hopefully not during work time). Let’s call it a day until next year. Same time, same place, same discussion, same conclusions…

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