Reasons to Believe

Staying Connected 2004 October

 

* Due to copyrights, original graphics and tables do not appear in these articles


What It's All About

I Used to Live with the Fear That I Was Only Fooling Myself

I've been teaching a class at my church covering some of the many potent lines of evidence that have been produced or collected by the scholar team at RTB. The response has been phenomenal! One gentleman was eager to learn about how science fits in with the Christian faith. I started the series of lessons with a lecture on the various evangelical views of Genesis 1 and the days of creation. His comment went something like, "That's very interesting, but I must disagree." With each lesson that followed, I saw lights coming on in his head. He was enthralled by the many strong arguments for the God of the Bible that did not require "special" science researched exclusively by Christians. He began to see that the case for the inerrancy of the Bible was vastly stronger when day-age creationism opened the door to the flood of evidence coming from the secular scientific community.

Recently I taught on the origin of humanity (adapted and simplified from Dr. Rana's lecture). One young man, attending my class for the first time, asked "What is the relevance of all of this science to witnessing?" I was about to answer him when I was interrupted by the other gentleman who asked if he could answer the question. In my astonishment I nodded my head and closed my mouth. He told the young man that the scientific perspective I was teaching was directly relevant. He explained that the evidence is so strong that it is a witnessing tool in itself. He articulated the point that many unbelievers respect science and need to hear about the recent discoveries that remove obstacles to faith.

I must have been smiling broadly for I had just witnessed a dramatic boost in the faith of a brother in Christ. And, God worked through me to do it! He made use of my analytical mind and redeemed the struggles I endured growing up in a home split down the middle, my mother a devout Christian and my father a devout atheist. After class, the young man who had questioned the relevance of the lesson material stayed to ask some questions. His mind was open and he gobbled up every concept I explained to him. He asked how ages of creation could fit into Genesis 1 and how Adam could have lived as early as 100,000 years ago. I laid out for him the basics of RTB's Testable Creation Model. By the time we were done talking, he was utterly captivated. He told me that these ideas were revolutionizing his whole way of thinking about natural history and how science and Scripture fit together.

It was a great privilege to pass on the faith-building message that, less than four years ago, helped lift me out of a pit of fear and doubt and into new heights of boldness and triumph. I used to live with the fear that I was only fooling myself into believing that there was a God who cared for me. Deep down, I knew that the factual foundation of my faith was made of scientific hearsay and wishful thinking. Through my studies over these last few years and through the materials of RTB, God has revolutionized my faith. I can now honestly investigate science-faith issues without feeling that my faith may be invalidated at any moment. I can't tell you how much my faith has grown since, through God's provision, I was able to quit propping it up artificially. It stands on its own now, founded on facts and supported by the truth, held fast by a great weight of evidence.

Gabriel (Texas)


You've Got Mail!

If you love finding out about the latest scientific discoveries, you'll be delighted to know that Today's New Reason To Believe (TNRTB) can now be sent to you directly via daily email. TNRTB highlights a new scientific discovery each day and provides links to related resources. To sign up, visit our Web site and click on "Register." After completing the short registration, you can choose to receive TNRTB.


Inside The Mailbox

"I have been reading The Creator and the Cosmos (I don't know how I managed to skip it before) and have found it so awe inspiring. Strange as it may sound, it has been such a worshipful experience." Angela (Georgia)

"During my 28 years as the Curator of Natural History at Maine's largest museum, I personally wrestled with science and issues of faith. Knowing that I could not live a schizophrenic life where the truth of science is partitioned from spiritual truth, I passionately searched for the signs of common truth . . . Today, thanks to RTB and other scientists bold enough to seek out the biblical truth inherent in their work, I am blessed with an abundance of scientific apologetics that I can use in my classes. Thank you, RTB, and I especially thank you for your recent book Origins of Life. I now have at least one agnostic friend who is anxious to read it because of my description of the book's fair treatment of the naturalistic and biblical world views." Gary (Maine)


Christmas in October?!

Well, not quite. But before you know it, Christmas will be here. Now is a great time to order RTB books, logo clothing, gift cards, etc. This way you'll have them in plenty of time for Christmas. For a complete listing of resources, take a trip through our latest catalog.


The Tricky Topic of Halloween

by Kenneth Richard Samples

In terms of holiday commercial sales, Halloween ranks second only to Christmas. But is this extremely popular tradition (especially in the United States) the devil's night, a literal satanic and occult extravaganza? Or is Halloween a harmless celebration?

Many Christians raise questions and express concerns about holidays that have some historical connection, at least in terms of dates, to ancient pagan beliefs and practices. Some refuse to allow their children to participate in Halloween celebrations. Others would like to abolish the event. Addressing common questions about this scary holiday may alleviate some of the concerns surrounding this controversial cultural issue.

Isn't the origin of Halloween connected to an ancient form of paganism?

Like the dates of a number of major holidays (including Christmas), Halloween can be traced, at least in part, to an ancient pagan celebration. The winter festival "Samhain" was celebrated on or near October 31st by the ancient Celts. Samhain was a pagan tradition that commemorated the end of harvest, the beginning of winter, and the recognition of the physical cycle of death, which included crops, animals, and humans.

In conjunction with this festival, many pagans believed that the human spirits of the recent dead would not pass on to their final resting place in the next world until being placated with gifts. The restless spirits' "tricks" could be avoided only if appropriately "treated," thus originated the present-day Halloween practice of children dressing up like spirits and arriving at the front door chanting (or demanding) "Trick or Treat."

But while Halloween has distant connections to ancient pagan beliefs and practices, the holiday has also been strongly influenced by Christian belief and practices. The word "Halloween" comes from "All Hallows' Eve," a reference to the evening before the Christian celebration of All Saints' Day (November 1st). The so-called hall of fame for the faithful in the book of Hebrews (11:1-40) initiated All Saints' Day, which was (and is) devoted to remembering Christian believers who have died, sometimes suffering as martyrs.

By overlapping this practice of honoring and thanking God for the example of faithful believers with the Samhain festival, the church attempted to counteract heathen thought and influence. This was especially true in areas of Europe where Samhain was popular. Christian apologists Bob and Gretchen Passantino note the church's apologetic reasons for doing so: "The Church not only sought to give Christians an alternative, spiritually edifying holiday; but also to proclaim the supremacy of the gospel over pagan superstition."1 Historically, Halloween has been influenced by both pagan practices and Christian devotion.2 Therefore, to view Halloween as only a pagan holiday is inaccurate.

Since the origin of Halloween is tied, at least to some degree, to pagan beliefs and practices, shouldn't Christians avoid any involvement with its celebration (e.g., avoid having their children go trick-or-treating)?

Christians need to use good reasoning to support their moral and/or spiritual convictions. Drawing and applying biblical inferences to life's questions and challenges takes intellectual skill and care. To condemn the practice of trick-or-treating outright on the basis that Halloween has certain pagan origins is, in this author's mind, to come perilously close to committing the genetic fallacy.

The genetic fallacy is committed when an idea, person, practice, or institution is evaluated solely in terms of its origin, without giving appropriate consideration to how it has changed or evolved in contemporary practice.3 For example, one would be foolish to reject the scientific discipline of astronomy because its origins were connected to the ancient occult practice of astrology. Why? Because the practice of astronomy has changed significantly over time. While the Bible expressly forbids a believer's involvement in certain pagan and/or occult practices (Deut. 18:9-13), for the vast majority of American families Halloween has nothing to do with the practice of, or belief in, occultism. Rather, this celebration gives children an opportunity to dress up in funny, spooky, and/or outrageous costumes and accumulate candy by the pillowcase full (a little known metric measurement).

Aren't many of the seemingly benign practices of Halloween directly connected to paganism and occultism?

Christians have a biblical mandate to discern what is evil and resist and/or avoid its influence. However, to what extent should one go to avoid evil people and their practices? And to what extent are practices evil in themselves?

Since Adolf Hitler brushed his teeth, should one rather knock one's teeth out to avoid any association with an evil person and his practices? Could practices that were once associated with pagan superstition (such as carving pumpkins and bobbing for apples) be purely benign for people with a totally different motivation and intent? Should one avoid eating meat (especially lean and inexpensive meat) that has been offered to idols, even if one is convinced the idols don't really exist? The apostle Paul assured the first-century Christians that they could eat such meat in good conscience knowing that the idols were not real.4

Doesn't participation in Halloween open a door to the occult?

According to the Bible, the world of the occult is real and energized by demonic powers. This realm therefore must be recognized and resisted by Christians. Spiritual beliefs and practices bear consequences in this world and in the next. However, this author distinguishes a clear difference between the real occult practices of spiritism, magic, and divination and the contemporary practice of trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and bobbing for apples. The door of the occult world must be entered through human interest and initiative. General Halloween practices engaged in by most people do not draw them into occult activities.

The intent here is not to engage in hairsplitting over potentially dangerous activities but rather to make logical and moral distinctions. Of course, if any Halloween practice is perceived as violating one's conscience and commitment to biblical truth then that person should rightly abstain.

Isn't the apparently harmless practice of trick-or-treating really a subtle concession to and promotion of an occult worldview?

Again, one must follow his or her conscience on the matter, but this author finds it hard to believe that the systematic collection of candy in a given neighborhood by "Spider-Man" and his "Rugrat" friends constitutes the promotion of an occult worldview or spiritistic racketeering. Personally, it seems difficult not to heartily treat a young child dressed up as "Captain America" or "G.I. Joe." Even the recognized Christian authority on cults and the occult, Walter Martin, said: "If Big Bird comes to my door, he's definitely going to get a treat."

Doesn't the present-day practice of Halloween carry a strong association with dark occult images?

When images are offensive, one should by all means avoid them. But is the use of all dark images in every context wrong? How about the use of dark images in the realm of literature? Was it wrong of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (both Christian writers) to include dark images (witches, monsters, etc.) in their writings? At what point does a Halloween costume become a dark image that should be avoided? Again, this is largely a matter of conscience.

Suggestions for Christians when it comes to Halloween

Put the arguments and conclusions found in this article to the test of Scripture, reason, and conscience (1 Thess. 5:21) and accept or reject them accordingly.

Consider that not everything is a morally black-and-white issue for Christians. Halloween may be a gray area. Therefore, allow Christians to follow their own conscience on the issue. Avoid the temptation to judge those who hold different convictions on secondary issues.

Whatever is decided about Halloween, try to avoid using bad arguments to support moral convictions. Using sound arguments to support convictions carries great weight with others.

If trick-or-treating violates a Christian's conscience, alternative events (fall parties or celebrations of All Saints' Day) allow children to view Christianity as a religion that permits them to have fun. Sinful activities should always be avoided, but be careful that children do not develop a "party-pooper" view of God.

Use Halloween as an opportunity to discuss how Christian families should confront questionable cultural practices. Discuss the worldview differences between classical paganism and Christianity.

Different people do have different ideas about whether or not to celebrate Halloween. However, one thing is certain. October 31st not only commemorates All Hallows' Eve, but also honors Martin Luther's protesting of certain medieval Catholic beliefs and practices, which sparked the 16th century Reformation. And, the central truth of the gospel can be celebrated in a variety of ways every day of the year-even on Halloween.

References

  1. Bob and Gretchen Passantino, "What about Halloween?" available from www.answers.org/issues/halloween.html; Internet; accessed 26 March 2002.
    Answers In Action, a ministry that specializes in the study of cults and the occult, offers a thoughtful, balanced, and informative treatment of the subject of Halloween from an evangelical Christian perspective.
  2. Britannica Junior Encyclopedia, vol. 7 (Chicago: William Benton, 1967), s.v. "Halloween."
  3. See T. Edward Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning, 3d ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1995), 36-37.
  4. 1 Cor 8:1-13.

Mobilizing Ambassadors

Reasons To Believe consists not just of the scholars and staff located in our California office - it is also made up of the many ambassadors who carry RTB's message to others in their own special way. We'd love to have you become an RTB ambassador! Here are some ideas:

  • Books - After reading an RTB book, go to Amazon.com and write an online review.
  • Web Site Link - If you have a personal Web site, include a link to RTB at www.reasons.org.
  • Interviews - When RTB scholars are interviewed on a radio/television station in your area, call in to the program to ask questions or to express appreciation to the station. (Upcoming interviews are listed on our Web site on the "Events" page.)
  • Bookstores - When you go to bookstores in your area, ask them to carry RTB's books. Give them specific titles.
  • Movie Night - Invite a group of friends over to watch Journey Toward Creation.
  • Outreach Brochures - Give the new outreach brochures to coworkers, friends, and others, keeping some handy for whenever God opens the door for you. Leave some in bookstores, churches, hospitals, train stations, etc.
  • Volunteer - If you live near Glendora, California, you may want to help with shipping, stuffing packets, filing, photocopying, and more. Call us for a Volunteer Application.
  • Kids - Give kids in your neighborhood the RTB comic book Destination Creation or invite them over to watch the "Newton's Workshop" videos. These make great resources for teachers, too!

Adam: Miracle, Myth or Monkey?

Adam-he's not a real person!

Adam-he evolved from a monkey!

Adam-he was created by God!

What does the scientific evidence say?

Join us for Message of the Month 2005 as RTB's scholar team takes on this hotly debated, deeply divisive, and profoundly important topic-the origin of humanity. Learn what the oldest rocks and the latest microscopes reveal. Gain an informed perspective on the historicity of Adam and Eve.

Message of the Month (M.O.M.) is a two-way giving program. M.O.M. members provide $30/month ($360/year) of critical, ministry-sustaining support and, in turn, receive monthly messages from Reasons To Believe with fresh insights from science to stimulate personal growth and outreach.

Sign up for Message of the Month 2005 and get ready for what may be the first-ever comprehensive treatment of the human origins question from a Christian and scientific perspective. M.O.M. memberships make great Christmas gifts, too!


Resource Helper

Do you need help in determining what RTB resources would be best suited for someone? We invite you to use the "Resource Helper" available on our home page. There you will find a listing of appropriate resources for different needs such as these:

  • Help! I'm new to science apologetics. Where should I begin?
  • I'm a new Christian. Where should I begin? How do I interpret the Bible?
  • What could I give to my scientifically minded, non-Christian friend?
  • What would my children enjoy?
  • How can I defend creation against evolution?
  • How can I show my Christian friends the validity of the old-earth perspective?

Vehicle Donations

Do you want to get rid of your vehicle but don't want the hassle of trying to sell it? Donate your used car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or RV to Reasons To Believe and we'll arrange to have it picked up free of charge. Although some restrictions may apply, we accept most vehicles, even if they don't run. Donating is easy and convenient! And, you'll be eligible for a tax deduction while helping to fulfill the Great Commission. From anywhere in the U.S., simply call us at (800) 482-7836 or email us at Donations@reasons.org.


Events

For our Calendar of events, please visit http://www.reasons.org/events/index.shtml.


Resources

Apologetics Hotline (626) 335-5282

Discuss your science-faith questions with a trained apologist. Available daily from 5:00 - 7:00 P.M. (PT)

Creation Update Web Cast

Listen live through our Web site on Tuesdays, 11:00 A.M. - 1:00 P.M. (PT)

Prayer Team

Prayer on behalf of Reasons To Believe is a precious gift. A hearty thank you to all who pray for us! If you would like to join the RTB prayer team, please contact us at PrayerPraise@reasons.org.

Science and Evangelism Training Course

Learn the facts behind the compatibility of science and the Bible through this in-depth, online training course. May be taken for college credit. Please call Bob Stuart at our toll free number for more information.

Web site:

www.reasons.org

Toll Free Number:

1-800-482-7836