Syncretism: What is it?
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
In the early 1970's my wife and I were in Haiti for three months. There in the capital city, Port-au-Prince I saw a sight I will never forget. There was a celebration going on of some sort. People lined the streets. As a parade of sorts was passing by. Then all at once the people cheered. I craned my neck to see what they were cheering about. All a saw was a Catholic Priest and a strangely dressed man dancing. I asked the person I was with, who the man was and what was going on. He told me the strangely dressed man was a voodoo priest, a hungan they are called. The Catholic priest was the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince. As to what was going on, my friend chuckled as he said, "This is telling the Hatians that you can be a Voodoo practitioner and be a "good Catholic" and Catholic and be a "good Voodooist."
It took a while for the meaning of that to sink in. But what I saw happen that day was an illustration of what is called SYNCRETISM. Syncretism is the merging or union of conflicting religious beliefs which forms a new religious philosophy. In reality, Catholics who practice Voodoo and Voodists attend Catholic mass are really neither religion. It would be more correct to call them Cathooists or Voodolics. The Catholic Church is notorious for syncretism!
But, SYNCRETISM has wormed it's way into Bible believing circles as well. I led our church out of a major national Baptist organization because of the increasing incidents within that organization and their approves ministries. Though this Baptist association claims they have not changed their doctrinal position, they are dancing in the street with the witch doctor, so to speak.
Let me share several grievous examples. In April of 1992 my Alma Mater, which at the time swore up and down that they were a biblical fundamental school, brought in a chapel speaker that linked Christian Fundamentalists with Ayatollah Khomeini's type Islamic Fundamentalists and the Nazism of Europe in Hitler's era. Now you should know that in March of 92, the president of that school published what he later claimed was to be a "secret" agenda of his goals for the school. In those goals he stated he was looking for an "Opportunity to Re-position the College." He wanted an "New Niche." In his own words, "Broaden the student and supporting constituency to include all conservative evangelicals." My friends, did you know that conservative Catholics are included within that group? You should also know who he wanted to "eliminate." Allow me to quote from the president's secret report. "Eliminate vestiges (vestige = a sign of that which once existed) of 'anti-attitude,' 'negativism,' withdrawal and isolation." Now, it does not take a Th.D. to figure our that this is a reference to Biblical Fundamentalism.
It was no accident that a speaker was brought in to undermine fundamentalism. This speaker stated, "It [fundamentalism] is what has sucked Europeans into the perceived attraction of Nazism as a simple solution..." He even recommended students view blasphemous, R-rated, Christ mocking video the "Life of Brian." He said " It's a delightful and wonderful film, and I don't think at all blasphemous as many Christians have objected to it. It is, rather, a delightful and also painful criticism of the religious attitude of the wrong kind of fundamentalism." A written review of the video made it clear that the film was laced with sexual innuendo's and included total frontal male and female nudity.
Ephesians 5:11 says, And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. When I did reprove this ungodly mess I was maligned, chastised and characterized an one of "those type fundamentalists." I was condemned for my unscriptural conduct. I received calls and letters that said I should repent. I should apologize for my sinful conduct and for damaging the reputation of this upstanding school which is a bastion of the faith.
Allow me to point out something. The way syncretists deal with those who expose them is first, to attack the person and character of the one who has exposed their compromise. The pastor who wrote and circulated the most viscous attack on me was given an award in a chapel service over a year later.
The second ploy of the syncretist is to reaffirm their adherence to their original beliefs. This tactic was obvious Volume 1, Number 2 issue of the schools publication. In the section called the President's Perspective, the school president told how the college is committed to "authentic Christianity." But then in the very first feature article, Truth Telling by Bill Hybels, Dr. M. Scott Peck, M.D.'s work The Different Drum is referenced at length.
So what's the problem? Syncretism! This is the same Scott Peck that has written for the New Age Journal (see May/June 1987 issue). This is the same person who practices Zen Buddhist meditation and studied under a Hindu guru in India. This is the same person who wrote A Bed by the Window, a best selling novel about sex and murder in a nursing home. In fact a reviewer for the L.A. Times said, "the sex in this novel made my hair curl." This is the same Scott Peck who was and may still be on the faculty of the Omega Institute, which specializes in courses on homosexuality, Zen, magic, witchcraft and other occult arts! This is the same M. Scott Peck that knowingly interviewed with PLAYBOY Magazine, the March 1991 issue. (I neither receive nor read the porn magazine, but was sent the Peck article by a Christian Broadcaster to review). This is the same Scott Peck who says, "I'm weak on traditional Christian redemption theology -- which holds that Jesus is this spotless, sinless lamb that was sacrificed for us, and redeemed us. I have trouble with that..." (See the January/February 1991 The Bloomsbury Review).
Is this authentic Christianity? Absolutely not. The words of Paul to the Galatians apply here. Galatians 1:6-11 (KJV)
The "strange fire" of rock music, syncretism and psychology are being offered to God in many Bible believing Baptist organizations and churches. This compromise makes God sick. If allowed to go unchecked, God will remove his blessing and power (2 Tim. 3:5). The great tragedy is that the churches and organizations that are offering the "strange fire" don't even recognize that the power of God is gone. They just continue business as usual. Christ's words to the Laodicean church are so relevant -- Revelation 3:17-18