Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween

This is late for Halloween, but on topic.

Halloween is "All Hallow's Eve", the night before "All Souls Day", the day Catholics pray for the dead.

Some Evangelical Christians have problems with Halloween, but I don't really see it. The idea that it is in any way connected to paganism (despite the claims of neo-pagans) is really silly. The modern practice was created by suburban (nominally Christian) moms who wanted fun and candy for their kids, and supported by candy companies. I can't prove that, but it makes a lot more sense than imagining neo-pagans in the 50's and 60's (during the height of tension with atheistic Communism).

I do have a problem with prayer for the dead:
"If any man see his brother sin a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it." 1 John 5:16
Some might say this is a description of mortal and venial sin. But the concept of different categories of sin is not well supported in Scripture (there are different punishments for sin, and the sin against the Holy Spirit).

The simpler explanation is that "death" simply means "death". If you see a brother sin, and live - pray for him. If your brother dies, don't pray for him.


Because there's no point: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Your brother has gone to judgment, his case cannot be considered any longer.

Perhaps there is tradition in such prayers. Or they comfort us. I think such a thing can be done in a theologically sound way (assuming their life did not show fruit of repentance):
"Father, we pray for our dearly departed that, in their last moments, they might have come to a knowledge of sin, and trusted in You."

Or for a known Christian:
"Father, we thank you for the life of our dearly departed brother. We thank you for the testimony of their life, and for the reward they have now received."


TheDen said...

Regarding venial and mortal sin, I think it all comes down to authority.

The Church teaches it. It seems pretty clear to me in Scripture about it and I believe it.

You've been taught differently so you're having trouble because your authority is teaching it differently.

Regarding your interpretation, Romans 6:23 is pretty clear that the penalty for sin is death.

So, John is saying that there is some sin which is not unto death and there is some sin which is unto death (however enough sin "not unto death" stacks up to mortal sin) which fits in perfectly with Catholic theology.

Also a bit of a correction. Halloween is the night before All Saints' Day on 11/1 which is the day we celebrate all people who've made it into heaven.

11/2 is All Souls' Day which is the day we pray for all souls still being purged of the stain of sin.

11/1 and 11/2--I believe--was initially a pagan holiday that the Church "made new" and turned into a Christian holiday so Halloween may very well have pagan underlyings.

For me, I enjoy watching my daughter getting all dressed up and going trick or treating. I don't really get into all the other stuff though.

nedbrek said...

Thanks for the correction. Samhain was the pagan festival, but Halloween never "took" in America until the 50's or 60's. Hard to make a connection to ancient pagans like that :)