RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM: The Trend Of The 21st Century?
By J.R. Ensey

I knew instinctively that there was something strange about the statement, but it took two or three readings to figure out what it was. There was nothing strange about an ad for Yoga classes, but they were being held at, of all places, the YMCA! It has become easy to forget that YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, thinking of it only as a place to get a workout and maybe play some raquetball. The original purpose of the organization was to promote Christian values, hold gospel services, in the context of physical development—“body, mind, spirit.” Now one can go there to learn the ancient secrets of mystical Eastern religions. Practicing Yoga is not merely a form of physical relaxation, but a vital rite in the Hindu religion. That was a few years ago. Now it is not unusual at all to read of Yoga classes being offered in Christian churches.

It is but another sign of the times. Syncretism it is called. Drawing “good points” from all faiths and meshing them together to form one's own concoction—much like making chili. A pinch of this and a dash of that and Presto!—out pops a customized faith! Each individual may “build his own” theology. Denominational loyalty is out—individuality is in. “Spirituality” is what each person perceives it to be. The Baby Boomer generation likes it that way.

This blending together of several religions, instead of conforming to biblical doctrine, is one of the major challenges facing the church of the twenty-first century, says religious researcher and statistician George Barna. It is especially challenging to Pentecostals who place great importance on doctrinal purity. If we pull into our theology ideas from the humanists, New Age philosophers, psychologists and modernists, mixing them with the true gospel in order to appeal to a larger number of people, we could find ourselves without a distinctive identity.

That may, in fact, be the very plan that the devil is using against the church of the endtime. He doesn’t mind if we worship God as long as we worship him a little, too! He knows “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” He inspired the carnal, fickle Israelites to mix their religion with that of the heathens, at times even bringing idols into the very temple of God. The groves were symbols of Jewish syncretism. Every revival they experienced involved the excision of all semblances of syncretism with idolatrous religions.

The church in the first and second centuries was challenged by Judaizers who sought to mesh the Law with Christianity. Then there were the Gnostics, the trinitarians, the Docetics and others who infiltrated the church and helped to virtually put it out of business for centuries. God hates syncretism. Purity has always been the standard He requires. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:8,10) was the warning of Paul. He implored us not to allow our minds to be “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3). Should anyone come along preaching unbiblical, erroneous doctrines, even if he appears angelic, he is to be rejected (Galatians 1:8) and even refused admittance to our home (II John 10).

The endtime church is constantly pressured to mesh its theology with men’s philosophies. Humanism, superstition, and psychology has subtly impacted the body of Christ during the past forty years. This has been possible through the vast number of books that have flooded the religious market, plus the influence of the broadcast media. Widely-read men of influence such as the late Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller have altered the thinking of many. Peale mixed humanistic and New Age techniques with Christian terminology to sell his ideas. His “positive thinking” and “positive imaging” philosophies were seen by many Christians as synonymous with biblical faith. Schuller is legendary for his theological quirks which conflict with the Word of God. He sees the fall of man as the loss of self-esteem and its recovery as the path to redemption. His close ties to the Mind Science cults like Unity and Universalism are well known.

E. W. Kenyon and Kenneth Hagin mixed Pentecostalism, mysticism, and New Thought theology in becoming the guiding lights for the charismatic movement. Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church, mixes Christianity with Eastern mysticism, teaching that by entering the “fourth dimension” we can manipulate the spirit world. Morton Kelsey is an Episcopal priest and Jungian psychologist who rejects biblical authority, believes Jesus was a psychic and the greatest shaman (witchdoctor) who ever lived. He encourages us to become shamans and psychics, thereby following in the footsteps of Jesus. All have disciples of their philosophies in the Apostolic movement.

We have to be extremely careful not to allow infiltration of such concepts into the Apostolic movement. They will rob us of evangelistic zeal and divert us from our basic objectives. They will become the source of debate and division. They may sound good and people of note may give lip service to them, but they are will hinder the work of God in the earth. We must be sticklers for “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The Bible must always be our sole authority and trusted source for truth. The Epistles are replete with admonitions to reject the philosophies of men and steadfastly hold to the apostolic gospel. As Peter said, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables...but there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies...and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (II Peter 1:16-2:3). Vigilance and sobriety are the primary defenses against spiritual syncretism (I Peter 5:8). A fresh commitment to Apostolic doctrine and a biblical lifestyle seems to be in order, along with a more earnest striving for unity than ever before.

Who dares prophesy what the next few years will bring? In some ways it is kind of scary; in others, exciting and challenging! If we stick together, do our job well, and pass the faith along to the next generation, we can witness a great ingathering if Jesus tarries. If He doesn’t, then we can go home smiling and happy that we have done what we could!


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