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
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 Christ...ye 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!