Is religious syncretism a good thing?

Roger Meyer (guest columnist)
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Most people don't realize it, but their religion is a blend of paganism and Christianity. Is that a good thing? Does it make any difference to God that at least part of one's beliefs and practices came from a pagan religion?

Syncretism is "the combination of different forms of belief or practice" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In an article on syncretism in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, it says: "Its (syncretism) most frequent use, however, is in connexion with the religious development of antiquity, when it denotes the tendency, especially prominent from the 2nd to the 4th centuries of the Christian era, to simplify and unify the various pagan religions … Syncretism even went so far as to blend the deities of paganism and Christianity … The triumph of Christianity itself represented a result of syncretism, the Church being a blending of the beliefs and practices of both the new and old religions."

Do you know what happened in "the 2nd to the 4th centuries of the Christian era" as mentioned in the above encyclopedia article? Christianity was rapidly changing from what it had been during the first century under the 12 apostles. There were sharp disagreements between those who followed the doctrines and practice of the apostles and sought to maintain those first century beliefs and practices, and those who were going in an entirely new direction than had been previously taught.

A whole host of pagan practices and symbols were absorbed into Christianity. In an effort to convert those worshipping pagan religions, the old pagan ideas were simply given new names and assigned new meanings. One of the better-known examples of religious syncretism is Christmas. Christmas was invented as a substitute for the older, pagan Yule celebrations. Instead of worshipping a sun god on the 25th of December, the pagan was told he was now worshipping the Son of God. The symbols and rituals and practices all remained, only under new labels. Bible evidence shows that the birth of Christ was in the fall of the year, likely late September or early October at the latest, and not on December 25th. The Bible in no wise institutes the worship of the birth of Jesus, much less authorizes the absorption of pagan religious practices.

There are many examples of syncretism in the modern Christian religion. Another example is Easter, which is loaded with symbols, practices and rituals incorporated from ancient Greek and Roman pagan celebrations surrounding spring fertility. The pagan practices of the worship of Ishtar, the fertility goddess, were absorbed into Christianity. The new meaning given was to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the Bible does not institute the worship of the resurrection.

Some think the idea of syncretism is good and is a means of showing that Christianity is not "exclusive" of other religions and their "paths to God." The idea of being "multi-cultural" has invaded public thought in the last few decades. While God created all peoples, His Word is quite clear that there is only one path, excluding all others: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

God means it when He says, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). God warned Israel about worshipping foreign gods: "Thus says the Lord: 'Do not learn the way of the Gentiles'" (Jeremiah 10:2). God forbids religious syncretism.

We have a number of booklets that will help you decide if your religion has incorporated non-biblical beliefs. Go online at www.tomorrowsworld.org, or write today for your free copy of Do You Believe the True Gospel?, God's Church Through the Ages , Restoring Apostolic Christianity, What Is a True Christian? , and Where Is God's True Church Today?