Give the Devil His Due

Monday, October 31, 2011

I haven't dressed up for Halloween in years--not until Saturday, when my writers' group read at the Lake County Library. None of my writings fit the theme, so I volunteered to get Edgar Allan Poe to emcee the event.

On the way to the library, I tuned into Christian radio station WMBI and listened to the host and his guest discuss whether Christians should participate in Halloween. Nobody asked that question when the guest was a child or when I was growing up. My brothers and I always dressed up and went trick-or-treating on Halloween, and my minister father never called it a pagan holiday or worried about its effect on our young minds. It just wasn't an issue in those days.

I admit it. I let my children dress up and go trick-or-treating when they were young, and I hand out candy every year. For me, it's still a non-issue.

In his preface to The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis said, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them." So yes, we do need to give the devil his due. But what is his due?

My edition of The Screwtape Letters includes quotes by Martin Luther and Sir Thomas More. According to Luther, "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." And to shorten the Thomas More quote, "The devil . . . cannot endure to be mocked."

Are we really showing an unhealthy interest in the devil when we let our children go trick-or-treating on Halloween? Or even when we dress them in red suits with horns and a tail and give them a pitchfork to carry? If it has any meaning at all (and for most people it doesn't), isn't it closer to scorn and mockery?

Yes, Satan is a force to be reckoned with, and both Christians and non-Christians should be on guard against him. But his influence is more subtle than what occurs on Halloween.

Christians give the devil too much due when we forget that there are three things he is not. He is not omnipresent (God allows Satan to walk this earth but he cannot enter heaven without God's permission); he is not omniscient, or he would have known better than to enter Judas and bring about his own defeat; and he is not omnipotent. God, and only God, is in control. When we view Halloween as a threat, we take Satan too seriously.

So give the devil his due--but no more.

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