November 30, 2020

Both Are True

On the study Bible front:

The Hope for Today Bible—featuring notes and encouragement from pastor and author Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria—is to be released in March by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Osteen—who wrote the best-sellers Your Best Life Now (FaithWords) and Become a Better You (Free Press)—pastors Lakewood Church in Houston with Victoria, author of the recently released Love Your Life: Living Happy, Healthy & Whole (Free Press).
Featuring the text of the New Living Translation, the Hope for Today Bible will be available in a hardcover for $34.99, a special edition hardcover for $54.99 and an eBook for $24.99
(Christian Etailing Newsletter, Oct. 20, 2008)

We’re approaching October 31, which means that Christians have to start saying things about the spiritual dangers of your nephew dressing up like Spongebob.

I have my Annual Halloween Rant up at Steve Brown, Etc. I’ll publish it here in a few days. I’ll be the guest at SBE on October 31st.


  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    We’re approaching October 31, which means that Christians have to start saying things about the spiritual dangers of your nephew dressing up like Spongebob.

    Twenty years ago during Mike Warnke’s heyday, Rich Buhler (now was hosting the radio talk show “Talk from the Heart” on the afternoon lineup of KBRT (Los Angeles). He used to say he could tell when October 1 rolled around; that was when all the “Is Halloween Satanic?” call-ins would begin, and contiue for the entire month.

  2. Perhaps it’s part of being in the UK – but until recently I hadn’t encountered the depths to which Study Bible publishers specialise. My eyes were opened when on a recent church visit I saw someone carrying this:

    The Power Of Positive Prayer Bible – if only I had had this when I was a cynical teenager 😉

  3. Have you reviewed the Osteen’s Hope for Today Bible (with notes on where to get the best parking spaces and endorsements for orthodontia)…or were you suggesting it as a possible Trick or Treat handout?

  4. Thanks for giving me the history on Baptists and Halloween. I guess by the time I was born, it was already taboo to celebrate it. I’m shocked (and saddened) to learn about all the Halloween church fun I missed out on if I had only been born a few years earlier!

  5. Halloween…talk about divisive. I don’t even bring it up at my bible study group–I appreciate those friendships! I prefer to hide my nostalgia for the lost Halloweens of my childhood (my brother: The Bat for three years in a row). This year I’ll dress my little son up as a bear and we’ll go have our own fun at the mall. All those other people can sit in their living rooms with the lights off and the doors locked.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I prefer to hide my nostalgia for the lost Halloweens of my childhood… — Caila Murphy

    i.e. in “the pre-Mike Warnke Days?”

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Re “IMonk’s Annual Halloween Rant”:

    …just like it says in Hezekiah.

    You Baptists know about “The Book of Hezekiah”, too? I thought it was just a Catholic/Newman Center thing!

    (Explanation: There is NO Book of Hezekiah. It came into usage as a fictitious book of the Tenach/Bible, used to credit “verses” that everybody thinks are from the Bible but are not. Or when you have to cite a reference but have no idea where it’s from — just stick it in Hezekiah somewhere. At least, that’s what I heard at Azusa Newman Center back around 1980-81.)

  8. I once read that the Halloween is Satanic bit was nothing more than good old American Catholic bashing, as the people who celebrated it were primarily Irish and Catholic. Of course, Roman Catholic somehow = Satanic in many evangelical circles, so I’m not surprised by this.
    Little harder though to go after those holidays named after a specific St. Like St. Patrick’s day. Not sure St. Patrick himself would care to see everyone getting drunk in his honor. But at least they aren’t calling him Satan’s spawn. If only he could have made the Irish Christian with his explanation of the Trinity, rather than Catholic/Satanists. Maybe then we could all celebrate that other holiday we have in honor of all the saints.

  9. I serve as youth minister at a UMC church and we are taking our kids trick or treating on Halloween. I know of a good number of Baptist churches in our area who have “Fall Festivals” in the place of Halloween. I went to one of them last year (where my parents go to church) and one of the activities they had for the kids was apple bobbing. I seem to recall that apple bobbing was one of the traditions that came from occultic/satanic/pagan/witchcraft backgrounds, according to the anti-Halloween preachers anyway. They also were having a cakewalk, and one of the songs being played for the cakewalk was YMCA by the Village People…..need I say more about that.

  10. Derek Smith says

    That’s one scary picture, but thankfully not as bad as ‘Blinky’ Osteen…

  11. Ah yes – how much fun Halloween must have been in the pre-Warnke days.

    From age 5 on, I was not allowed to celebrate Halloween, primarily because of what Warnke said. Now, my family usually had an alternate activity planned – which was fine. But still, deep down, you knew you were missing out on the “real thing”.

    And of course, the year I turned 18, all the exposes on Warnke starting coming out. Virtually everything he had said was a lie. I had read “The Satan Seller” previously and had already noticed contradictions between the various versions of his life story – but didn’t put it all together until then. And by then, of course, it was too late.

    Sorry to go on about this, but for some reason this has been one of the hardest things from my evangelical upbringing to “forgive”. I know my family thought they were doing right at the time, but still…

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy: Apparently in the “pre-Mark Warnke Days.” When were those days, anyway? I assume they were before my childhood ended, I’m in my late 20s…

  13. I mean, “I assume they were after my childhood ended.” Can’t type. IM: can you edit that one??? Thanks.

  14. So you’re saying that the Victoria Osteen Bible is NOT a continuation of the October 16th post you wrote on study Bibles?

    Okay…hmmm… in that case, she is a very scary sight for Halloween.

  15. I enjoyed your rant about Halloween and I agree 100%.

    But here’s my (perhaps naive) question: If we have fellow believers in the church who really think that it is Satanic to observe Halloween in any form, (even if we know it is bogus) isn’t the proper response to defer to the weaker brother (Romans 14 & 15)?

    I wrestle with this passage and the correct response in a variety of issues. Maybe my reading is too narrow?

  16. I wrote about this issue in “Tyranny of the Offended.”

    I’d say that if you are talking about what the church does, or what I do when my offended friends are present, yes. But what I do with my family? That’s a different story.

    There are people who are “offended” by everything: the fact that I have a TV, the fact that I don’t raise my hands in worship, the fact that I don’t wear a tie, and on and on. Paul isn’t telling us that the weaker consciences get to run everyone’s lives. We are forming disciples in love and the goal is maturity. We aren’t producing brats whose every whim to get their own way is tolerated.

  17. Isn’t the point to tolerate the weaker brother until he grows up and out of it?

  18. People need to discover the real meaning of Halloween which is of course All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day.

  19. Giovanni: American Halloween is not a Christian holiday. It’s a cultural custom. It has nothing to do with detracting from the Christian calendar.

    KW: We’d need to explore “put up with.” I didn’t “put up with” my children’s childishness until they “grew” out of it. I actively guided them to maturity. The misuse of Paul’s idea of the weaker brother allows many churches to become Corinth, i.e. the brats are running the place and there are no adults being adults.

  20. You guys know Mike Warnke was a fraud, right? Cornerstone Magazine exposed him. It was a big deal at the time. I’ll never forget walking into my local Christian bookstore, asking if they carried Cornerstone, and having them respond, “Did you hear what they did to Mike Warnke?”

    Re: Osteen’s Study Bible. Didn’t there used to be a soap opera called Hope For Today?

  21. The weaker brother bit is about causing one to stumble and possibly even lose his faith by worshiping other gods. Eating meat and other foods that had been dedicated to different pagan God’s was an act of pagan worship. The meat itself was harmless, but if a Christian were seen eating that meat in the temple a weaker brother might see him doing that and think it was o.k. to worship that god, when the other brother just thought he was having a steak dinner. It has nothing to do with being offended.
    I have never heard of a person watching kids go trick or treating and then jumped to the conclusion well then it must be o.k. to worship Satan. There is nothing satanic about trick or treating to begin with.

  22. My history and experience of Halloween is very much as you’ve described but we had to stop celebrating it because a number of new Christians (who were discipled in our ministry) came out hard against it because of its “origins” (and the fact that our town has massive occlultic displays including a splatter chop shop complete with chain saws and gallons of fake blood that literally scared my kids when we walked by).

    These Christians seemed not be influenced at all by the Mike Warnkes and Bob Larsons that so influenced my parents and their friends. They went to wikipedia etc. and said we want no part in this. I’d love to continue to celebrate it culturally but the arguments I’d use (mostly the ones you mentioned) don’t seem to convince them so I’ll see you guys at the harvest party.

  23. The Osteen Study Bible makes an interesting exhibit in the whole debate over “should we hand out Bibles” from a few posts ago.

  24. I understand that Mr. Monk however there is no reason it can’t be both. The regular Halloween is fun for kids and for some adults and at the same time it is also the best time for a Requiem Mass.

  25. Heheh…Halloween.

    I don’t celebrate it. I do have a real problem with the glorification of all things pagan and dark and Satanic that goes on.

    That being said, I am greatly amused by the American church’s willful ignorance. First, they set up “Harvest Festivals” and “Fall Celebrations” on the 31st because Halloween is evil. Now, they’re not celebrating Halloween because they changed the name to 1st Lutheran Harvest Festival or UPC Fall Celebration. Sure, it’s on the same night but it’s got a different name and kids don’t get candy door to door.

    Second, the church is all upset over Halloween’s “pagan” origens. The heathen roots make it evil. the fact that both Easter and Christmas are pagan holidays doesn’t matter. The name Easter is of a goddess. Trimming Christmas trees is an old German pagan tradition. Both are solistices celebrated by wiccans/pagans/ sun worshippers for millenia. Yes, Christmas is a couple days late but still…

    Yes, I am a hypocrite. I don’t do Halloween but I love Christmas and tolerate the way we celebrate Easter. Of course, I don’t grab the torches and pitchforks for folks who do Trick or Treat. To each their own.


  26. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Apparently in the “pre-Mark Warnke Days.” When were those days, anyway? — Caila Winter

    Warnke was at his peak in the late Seventies/early Eighties; the Satanic Panic peaked in the early-to-mid Eighties.

    I wrote about this issue in “Tyranny of the Offended.” — IMonk

    As in “Professional Weaker Brethren”. Nice racket to get in on; you get everything your way while everybody else has to tiptoe on eggs lest you become offended and stumble.


    P.S. IMonk? Who’s the blonde at the top with the tetanospasmin grin?

  27. My daughter is going to be Sleeping Beauty this year. Dang, is Disney satanic?

  28. Ah, the memories! 1967 on the Methodists haunted hayride! Preacher’s daughter caught hold of me and gave me my first “real” kiss! OOPs! Guess I just proved by example the whole sinful point of Halloween! Now that I am a Bible preacher with two daughters I have vowed, “No hayrides!” I would not want my daughters so shamelessly campaigning for heterosexuality!

  29. Giovanni,
    On this I agree with you it can be both. I tried to have a Halloween service once though. No one showed up. I thought it would be fun to have all the kids come and worship in costume and receive a blessing before they went on their little parade. Evidently the parents didn’t have the same idea.

  30. Willoh,
    Kissing is sinful? Now that I am married I certainly wouldn’t want to be kissing anyone but my wife. But I don’t think I would be making the singles crowd wait for marriage to swap spit.

  31. That picture of Osteen’s wife is going to give me nightmares. As if I didn’t have enough things in my life keeping me up late at night.

  32. Re: the weaker brother,

    I come from a denominational background that really struggles with legalism, especially the Torah-observant kind. When I was in leadership at a particular congregation, the elders, deacons, teaching committe, etc all got together to creat a congregational document that could show our position on the whole Torah Observance issue. For whatever I ended up being the one to organize the results of the discussions and meanings into the actual document itself.

    Something really hit me during that process: when it comes to folks having potential disagreements based on how strict (or liberal) their covictions are in any given area, the Galatians 5 “Law of Love” requires deference. But it’s not necessarily the obligation of the brother with more liberal convictions to defer. The “weaker brother” is the guy that is unable to defer.

    So, if I’ve got an issue with Halloween (which I don’t), I’m obligated by the NT to defer to my brother’s lack of Halloween-related convictions. But he’s also obligated to defer to mine. Ideally, we’re both mature enough to not make it a big deal either way. And when we’re not, that’s when I (or he) defer(s) with the hope that one day we’ll both be mature and it won’t be a big deal.

    Or something like that.

  33. I remember back around 1971-72 I attended a Halloween house of horrors type event put on by one of the large campus Christian groups. I can’t remember for sure, but think it was Campus Crusade or Youth for Christ. Anyway, it was quite bloody, and gory, and fun. Imagine that.

  34. my tongue was firmly in my cheek. Where it belongs [unless you are married]. Singles, [other than my daughters, who are of course as PK’s nearly perfect.] can do what they want.

  35. You are such a rebel, Michael! The next thing you know you’re going to start telling people that Santa is not the same as Satan.

  36. Willoh,
    Thought so, just had to make sure here.
    But now I will question your perception of Pastors kids. I was/am one, and far from being perfect, liked to prove it. I’m sure you know that though 🙂

  37. We never celebrated Halloween in my family, partially because my mom wanted give candy to trick-or-treaters one year and then some kid scared my little brother to death with his bleeding skull mask.

    I never really cared because I got candy from folks anyway.

    A lot of churches out there wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t mad at something, and Halloween is an easy time to put the whole thing on auto-pilot.

  38. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    That picture of Osteen’s wife is going to give me nightmares. — Rampancy

    That’s “Blinky” Osteen’s squeeze? Looks like he got the eyes (blink blink blink) and she got the teeth (smile smile smile). There’s something just… WRONG… about that picture; it’s like some sort of Stepford Trophy Wife or something. The smile just seems so… FIXED and artificial, especially when combined with the eyes.

    In the looks department, she’s Awesome Babe material, but there’s just something Totally Creepy about the angle and her expression. About halfway down the slope of the Uncanny Valley — like she’s not human, but some sort of animated Real Doll or something.

  39. The satanic hysteria was still going strong in the late 80’s/early 90’s here. I believe the Cornerstone article exposing Warnke was in ’92.

  40. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I did some checking, and the Cornerstone article was in the summer of ’92. It’s still up on the Web.

    When I read Selling Satan, the book-length version of the expose, I discovered a LOT of the Satanic Panic preachers hung out together — Warnke, Constance Cumby, Johana Michaelson (herself Hal Lindsay’s sister-in-law, which provided the End Times/Here Comes the Antichrist crossover), citing each other for “Larry-Moe-Curly-Documentation” in the manner of Conspiracy Theory fanboys everywhere.

    I got dragged into the Satanic Panic because I played D&D. You know, the Harry Potter of its day? The original paper/pencil/funny-dice FRP game about “Dungeons and DEMONS and The Occult!!!!” that spawned all those awful “CHRISTIAN (TM) games”? With the 700 Club article (researched from Weekly World News) about demon-possessed 25mm miniatures screaming as Christians melted them down? Satanic rituals in the steam tunnels and all?

    Well, here’s a scholarly paper on how the Satanic Panic affected FRP gaming. Apparently the Christians-vs-Gamers feud is still going on, except the ball’s now in the gamers’ court. Reaction to the Satanic Panic apparently spawned all the White Wolf-style Uber-Goth Dark Fantasy games and made Game-buring Christians the stock bad guy in the genre.

    Legacy: A wedge between gamers and Christians, driving those with a foot in both camps (like me) way underground. As this article from the Youth Specialties site puts it, starting out like two closet Christians talking around the subject until they make sure the other isn’t a secret police informant.

    P.S. IMonk, anybody: Could someone doctor that pic of Osteen’s Wife at the top into an animated GIF including Osteen blinking eyes? And sparkling gleams from the teeth?

  41. Bob Sacamento says

    Shame on those of us–evangelicals–who allowed Halloween to be taken away from families and many communities, all because we prefer to believe that life is a Frank Paretti novel.

    Again, you display your annoying habit of putting things better than I could myself. Your rant echoes precisely the same thoughts I have on this topic every year at this time. Halloween was just so much fun when I was growing up. And nobody got tempted into witchcraft. Nobody. It was the last true neighborhood tradition in the U.S.A., the last slender thread linking our suburbs to a time when people gossiped across back fences and borrowed each others tools and went over to each other’s houses to watch “the game.” It was the last true neighborhood tradition we had, and we killed it. (No, inviting people to drive 15 miles to your church’s fall festival just ain’t the same thing.)

    I don’t think evangelicals don’t get all the blame for it. The Pagans turned it into this weird thing that scared the heebie-jeebies out of alot of people, and when corporate America discovered Halloween as a new cash cow, that didn’t help matters at all. And riding on this, the yuppie subculture decided it would make a great time for parties where adults could dress up for all intents and purposes like pimps and prostitutes. But I just figure Pagans and greedy execs and shallow yuppies are going to do things like that. We evangelicals should have known better. And it was largely our fault, along with our fundamentalist cousins.

  42. In a strange sort of way, I don’t blame Warnke and his ilk as much as I do those parents, pastors, Sunday School teachers, etc. who decided to give all their thinking over to the “Christian” guru of the day and not decide on matters for themselves.

    Objectively speaking, Warnke and his imitators do bear the biggest part of the blame. Yet if they had had an audience who knew their Bibles and who reflected more deeply on the matter, they may never have succeeded at all.

  43. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    But I just figure Pagans and greedy execs and shallow yuppies are going to do things like that. We evangelicals should have known better. — Bob Sacramento

    “Men of Sin” will glom onto any cosmic-level authority — in Evangelicals’ case, the Bible — to justify what they wanted to do anyway.

    Objectively speaking, Warnke and his imitators do bear the biggest part of the blame. Yet if they had had an audience who knew their Bibles and who reflected more deeply on the matter, they may never have succeeded at all. — Bill

    The saddest part of Selling Satan is the aftermath of the original Cornerstone expose. Warnke claimed “PERSECUTION!” by the Vast Satanic Conspiracy (which obviously included Cornerstone) and his fanboys and the other Satanic Panic preachers circled the wagons and starting shooting. His publishers originally dragged their heels (he $old lot$ of record$) while the fanboys justified everything he did with the Christianese equivalent (he $aved lot$ of $ouls) — apparently “Saving Souls” justifies any sin. (Re my “Men of Sin” comment above.)

    And Warnke still has fanboys. Just last year my writing partner (a burned-out country preacher) had to sever connections with another church because the other church invited Mike Warnke to preach — KNOWING he was a fraud!

  44. @ Headless Unicorn Guy: “A wedge between gamers and Christians, driving those with a foot in both camps (like me) way underground.”

    That was something I never could quite understand, and likely never will. Back in 4th-6th grade I was in a D&D club with a bunch of my friends (with our science teacher originally as DM – imagine that!) and I never once thought about the theological implications of playing an elvish magic user in the Forgotten Realms.

    The whole topic of religion only came up once when we looked in the AD&D (2nd ed.) Player’s Handbook at the various fictional deities (shamelessly ripped off from Norse and Greek mythology) you could have your character pledge allegiance to, but the only reason why you’d want that was to get potential bonuses to your character (at the cost of potentially getting the other deities’ followers peeved at you).

    To me, this really ties back nicely to an old IM podcast episode on the Christian Fear of the Imagination.

  45. “I never once thought about the theological implications of playing an elvish magic user in the Forgotten Realms.”

    Remember, DnD was/is based almost entirely on the Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth written, as we all know, by a Christian.

    I love DnD but I had to give it up. God was convicting me about it not because of it but because it rendered anything I said moot after your average Christian found out I played DnD. Once they knew, I was just a tool of Satan.

    It was clearly a major stumbling block so it had to go.


  46. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I love DnD but I had to give it up…because it rendered anything I said moot after your average Christian found out I played DnD. Once they knew, I was just a tool of Satan. — DaveD

    “Pledge alliegance to the flag,
    Whatever flag they offer;
    Never let on what you really feel…”
    — Mike and the Mechanics, “Silent Running”

    I quickly learned to hide my interest in D&D, but for another reason.

    Around 20 years ago, I was tangentially-involved in an Evangelical church. Whenever someone found out I was a gamer, I’d immediately get “volunteered” to exorcise somebody’s kid, i.e. “My cousin’s kid is getting into D&D! You have to talk him out of it before the Demons come out of the rulebook and Get Him!”

    Needless to say, they didn’t like my answer.