Syncretism is not a term that is used frequently in everyday conversation, but unfortunately, it is something that happens all too frequently.
The Internet defines syncretism as “the merging or blending of different beliefs, practices, or cultural elements, often resulting in a new, hybrid system.
“It is a process in which distinct traditions, ideas, or religious or cultural practices are combined, creating a synthesis that incorporates elements from multiple sources.”
Old Testament prophets used an analogy of prostitution to shake their culture out of syncretism. The nation had blended the worship of the One True God with Canaanite deities and was not able to tell the difference between the two.
This occurrence was a central fact of Isaiah’s message for the first 39 chapters of his book.
How the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She that was full of justice,
righteousness lodged in her—
but now murderers! (Isaiah 1:21)
The Canaanite god, Baal, was believed to provide fertility for livestock, produce, and humans. Hosea, who wrote at the same time as Isaiah, identified how God’s people had blended their worship of Yehovah with Baal.
For their mother has prostituted herself;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, “I will go after my lovers;
they give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” (Hosea 2:5)
Israel did not cease the worship of God. Instead, they added Baal worship and alliances with other nations to the mix.
Dependence on foreign powers for security purposes was not an innocent matter of national defense. When they made an alliance with a foreign power, they were required to be aligned with that nation’s gods.
Over and over, the prophets identified the unfaithful blending of trust in God with other gods as prostitution and adultery.
The Great Prostitute
The Book of Revelation identifies the spirit that resides in the shadows of a hybrid worship of God with other substitutes for God as the “great whore.”
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is seated on many waters,
With whom the kings of the earth have engaged in sexual immorality and with the wine of whose prostitution the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk” (Revelation 17.1-2).
The truth of the old complaint about Christians, “They pray to God on Sunday and prey on their neighbors on Monday,” reflects how Christians have blended the worship of God with the world’s system.
When we exchange what is right and noble for the questionable ends of power and luxury, we fall under the criticism of the prophets and the Book of Revelation.
When first-century readers read of the “great whore,” they immediately thought of Rome. It was the dominant superpower known for power, greed, and luxury.
For all that is good about the USA, we must recognize that we are the most recognizable representative of the “great whore” in this age.
As followers of Jesus, we do well to understand the message of John’s vision and align ourselves with God’s end-time purposes rather than that of the world’s system.
The Great Whore Revealed
The Roman historian Tacitus described Rome as “the place where all the horrible and shameful things in the world congregate and find a home.”
God gave John a vision of the essential nature of Rome in his description of the “great whore.”
So he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.
The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her prostitution,
And on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations” (Revelation 17.3-5).
The foundation for the woman’s power was the beast. The beast is the great persecuting power that rules by brute force and is the supreme enemy of Christ and the church.
“Blasphemous names” is a reference to the blasphemous claims to be gods made by Roman emperors.
Today’s world leaders don’t mint coins with their image and the words, “Savior and Lord.” However, they do claim to be the only ones able to fix the world’s problems.
The clothing represents the luxury and splendor of ancient Rome. It is reported that Nero spent the equivalent of 100,000 dollars on flowers. Another Roman emperor spent $20 million on food.
How does the USA compare to Rome? Below is a report of current data on wealth inequality in our country.
In the fourth quarter of 2022, 68.2 percent of the total wealth in the United States was owned by the top 10 percent of earners. In comparison, the lowest 50 percent of earners only owned three percent of the total wealth.
The above statistic doesn’t account for the tenured law professor in Venezuela who earns 35 dollars every two weeks teaching law students.
The garb of the woman should be contrasted with the saints. The “great whore” is clothed in luxury, while the bride of Christ is clothed with righteous deeds.
To her it has been granted to be clothed
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)
The “great whore” wears a headband that identifies her with the beast.
There are seven references to marking the forehead. The mark of the beast can be found in chapters 13.16, 14.9, and 20.4.
The seal or name of God is located in 7.3, 9.4, 14.1, and 22.4.
The essential character trait of the “great whore” is described by her name: “Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.”
The “great whore,” ancient Rome or modern-day America, is the envy of the world. Nations envy her wealth and power. They desire to be as wealthy and powerful as her.
I am grateful to live in the USA and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
As a follower of Jesus, I must recognize the need for repentance. I don’t want to be guilty of syncretism, giving allegiance to Jesus and the world’s system at the same time.
Jesus deserves my full devotion.
Let’s let this passage serve as a call to examine our lives and ensure that we are not blending our worship of God with worldly pursuits and values.
Let’s prioritize our devotion to Jesus and avoid syncretism, which dilutes our faith and compromises our values.
Let’s choose to align ourselves with God’s purposes and resist the temptations of power, greed, and luxury that the world may offer.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.