Syncretism may be a new term to you, but you will probably recognize its practice once you read the definition.
According to http://www.compellingtruth.org, “syncretism means the fusion of two or more thought systems, and can be applied to philosophy, politics, and religion.”
“Religious syncretism usually involves the addition of a few essential parts of one religion to a dominant religion, resulting in a new religious system.
“It is important to distinguish syncretism from contextualization. Changing the way a religion is described or the way a particular rite is practiced to make it understandable to a culture is not syncretistic, since it does not add a foreign religious belief to the system, nor does it actually change the original belief.”
The clearest picture of the destructive nature of syncretism to religion is found in the Book of Hosea.
The Hebrew people blended the worship of the One True God with the Canaanite deity, Baal.
They professed allegiance to God, but served Baal in practice. God spoke through the prophet Hosea these words:
She did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished upon her silver
and gold that they used for Baal. (Hosea 2.8)
After removing the influence of Baal from his people, God spoke of the restored relationship with his people.
“On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, ‘My husband,’ and no longer will you call me, ‘My Baal'” (Hosea 2.16).
The people had so fused the worship practices of Baalism with that of the One True God that they said, Jehovah with their lips, but had Baal on their minds.
It took an act of God to separate the false religion of Baal from the true worship of Jehovah (the Hebrew name for God).
An interesting note about names shows the importance of this separation. Baal means “owner,” and Jehovah reflects God’s personal nature of faithfulness in his relationship with humans.
Do we want an owner or a faithful God who enters into a love relationship with his creatures?
The recent tragic Surfside Florida condominium collapse reveals the need for a proper foundation. Problems may not be immediately evident, but forty years later the results may be quite different.
The first generation of people who entered the promised land may have had the best of intentions. However, their experience with the golden calf (Exodus 32) revealed their tendency to quickly depart from a faithful relationship with God.
Because of the danger of fusing a genuine relationship with God and a false religion of Baal together, God gave the nation strict instructions.
— Deuteronomy 7.1-6 – When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you—
And when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.
Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,
For that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire.
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
What appears to many modern readers to be a harsh and unforgiving policy was God’s way of establishing a lasting foundation to build the Hebrew/Christian faith.
If God permitted an “owner-god” mentality to be combined with a “faithful-relationship-God,” what sort of religion would that be?
When couples marry, they share more than life together. They share the God or god whom they worship.
Even with God’s guidance, the Hebrew people soon departed from his directions. As they lived side-by-side with the Canaanite neighbors, they began to follow their religious practices. The prophets highlight this struggle and the negative effects idol worship had on the people.
God’s people were “holy to the Lord.” They were to destroy all images of false worship, so they could give their undivided worship to the One True God.
I have tried to write this last section several times. I believe that the American church has blended the worship of God with American culture to such a degree that it is hard to separate the two.
I have the same problem that arose in the days of the prophets. I am so close to the issue that I can’t see the problem.
The reason why we need prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Hosea is to show us where we have blended faith in the One True God with something far less than his glory.
Please take a moment to think about American life and see if you have blended our culture with your faith. Ask God to show you any way you have done this.
The fusing of false ideas with God’s truth will not serve us well.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I discuss this section of Deuteronomy on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is an excellent student of the Bible and you will enjoy his thoughts.
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