Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mere Syncretism

Comments on recent trends in the Body of Christ

In recent times, unity has become a powerful theme, both in the Evangelical Church and in the culture. Although such attempts at unity have occurred for centuries in philosophy, politics, and the history of Christianity, the search for unity has been increasing in the last hundred years or so.

Some of the latest trends in Evangelical Christianity appear in the movement Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Promise Keepers, The Purpose Driven Church, and the “emergent church conversation.” As I reflect on these and other movements, I see trends toward both a good and true unity and trends toward false, syncretistic unity. I am calling the false unity (or the attempts at false unity) Mere Syncretism. (Syncretism is the combining of religious elements that don’t fit together, such as Christianity and Buddhism.)

I’m afraid though that this title, Mere Syncretism, will lead to some controversy because assaulting a cherished image can arouse anger and rejection. Obviously it's related to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. How dare I even hint that there could be anything Lewis wrote that is the least bit questionable? As a new Christian, I thought C. S. Lewis was more authoritative than the Apostle Paul.

However, I am not going to try to figure out his complex personality. Instead, I want to look at his teaching through his nonfiction and fictional writings, as well as through those writers he considered his friends and companions—including Tolkien, Barfield, and Charles Williams. That’s because I believe a lot of the theology and practice in current movements toward unity—especially the “Emergent church conversation”—echo some of Lewis’s theology and spirituality. This blog will not just be devoted to Lewis, however, even though his thinking is an important element in these movements.

What is real Biblical unity among Christians? And does Lewis’s teaching reflect such unity? Can we really depend upon it as a basis for unity among modern Christians? Is it, in fact, truly “mere Christianity”? Or is it a mixture of religious theology, philosophy, spirituality, and practices?

My wife and I were personally involved in “mere syncretism” for many years before becoming Christians, and after becoming Christians we attended many churches where these ideas were very influential. I also attended a seminary that was in the center of this stream of ideas.

This blog will examine these questions by looking at the history of Christianity along with theology and philosophy and comparing it with the teachings of Scripture.

Welcome aboard.


Aroma of Christ said...

Thank you for your this article. I think it is so relevant to what is happening in the church today--New Age practices trying to creep into the church subtely, where many Christians are unaware of the dangers of meditation and other Eastern practices. My friend sent me a link regarding a labyrinth, where a person goes through a type of maze, where they are supposed to meditate at various stops to get closer to God. I think meditating on God's Word or praise music is great, but these labyrinths seem to take the focus off God's Word. I look forward to hearing more about the "emerging church" and the other related topics you will be sharing on so Christians can be informed and wary when these types of churches and practices are introduced into our circles.

Ingrid said...

Hi Richard,

The topic you chose is certainly going to be controversial in Christian circles. However, I am most interested in your expertise and knowledge. I doubt very much that unity among Christians is ever going to be achieved on earth. It appears that up to this time there is less unity than ever even with the new movements you mentioned.
Yet, God can even unite the most dissident Christian.
Your web page is most impressive.
I am looking forward to reading your insights.

LuvtheLord said...

I am so thankful for this web-site. I was going to enroll my daughter in a class at a Christian University that has classes for High School Homeschoolers. The class is called Inklings. I decided to read Mere Christianity, one of the books that the students would have to read from the C.S. Lewis collection. When I started reading the book, I was so surprised at how un-biblical the book was and how there was no scripture and the book filled with much philosophical teaching. I then did a internet search to see if anyone else out there felt the same way. I was so happy to see this web-site and its views. I do believe that Satan is using these types of teachings and ideas in Christian circles and especially aimed at our young people, to lure them from solid Biblical truth. The course my daughter was going to take, highly esteemed C.S. Lewis. I am amazed how deceiving his books are and how so many Christians are lured by them. May God have mercy upon His church!


Thank you Richard for your insight regarding the dissolution of genuine Christian thought through the syncretism of Christianity and non-Christian philosophy and religion. There are many people who are hungering and thirsting for anything BUT the gospel of Christ and His righteousness and the emerging phenomena is sweeping many into deep confusion and darkness. Let us always support and maintain the 5 pillars of the Christian faith: Sola Bible, Sola Grace, Sola Faith, Sola Salvation In Christ, and Sola Glory to God! Keep up the great fight of true faith. We have only to endure in the faith of Jesus allowing the Holy Spirit through the Holy Word to guide us into all truth.