Syncretism and the Death of Christianity

In Jesus Alone…or Nothing

Do you ever wonder why some Christians speak strongly against things the culture defines as benign?  Thousands of people do yoga of all varieties, for example, and think very little of it.  It is even showing up in many churches.  Yet, there are many Christians who strongly decry yoga.  They would never willingly participate in it much less offer it in church.  Why such a strong position on what many think is just a bit of healthy stretching?  Why is there such a divide even within the church?

The short answer is purity.  The teachings of Christianity are much like precious metals.   They only remain valuable if they are not diluted by the ideas of the world.  Cultures regularly borrow from each other and grow as a result.  The teachings of Christianity are not something men came up with, though.  They are directly from God.  Therefore, when we add anything to them, we are messing with the work of God Himself.  What can any man add to the wisdom of God?  The results run from confusing to dangerous when we try to modernize or assimilate God’s law.  Anything else blended into Christianity results in it not being Jesus’ Christianity.

Jesus Plus Anything is not Jesus

The country of Liberia struggled through a terrible civil war recently.  It was particularly violent and featured some of the most heinous acts of cruelty one can imagine.  War crimes of the worst varieties were common.  Voodoo and witchcraft were often used by both sides.  A well-known picture shows a teenager militiaman firing a rifle while in a pink tutu and slippers.  A shaman told the young soldiers they were immune from bullets if they wore women’s clothing and did other horrific things.  Survival was only guaranteed through magic and sorcery.  It was a country descended into madness.  Thousands were murdered by both sides of the conflict.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect about this war was not the brutality.  Man has killed man since Cain and Able, often in terrible ways.  Rather, it is over 85 percent of the population of Liberia called themselves Christian.  They murdered each other and called themselves followers of Jesus.  They committed despicable acts while dressed as a ballerina and said they worshipped God…and they themselves did not see the horrible conflict involved in the claims.  They are not alone in history in such terrible acts while claiming Christ.

Germany was the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation.  It was the home of the Lutheran Church.  The majority of the population claimed Christianity as their religion.  In 1517 Luther brought the pure Gospel of Jesus back into common understanding in Germany.  Within 400 years the same country systematically murdered millions under Hitler and the Nazi’s.  While the Nazi leadership certainly were not Christians, the status of the rank and file citizen is less clear.  Christian men like Pastor Martin Niemoller enthusiastically supported the German state led by madmen.  He wrote this famous statement:


This scenario occurs with regularity throughout history.

How does this make sense?  How does this happen? How do some Christian populations descend so quickly into acts the Lord would find abhorrent?  One need only understand the effect of syncretism, mixing of faiths and cultures, to see how this fall takes place.  We can also see how this danger lurks in our culture today.

No Other God’s before Me

Syncretism is not the total abandonment of a faith.  It is way more insidious and dangerous.  It is taking aspects of a different faith and merging it into another.  Christianity is the faith about following Jesus.  Syncretism is overwriting the beliefs of other faiths or cultures onto this practice.  The intent may not be to create something new.  It may be simply to adapt to the culture.  But it is impossible to mix anything with Jesus and not create something new and unholy.  Adding anything to the life and teachings of Jesus and Biblical truth simply creates heresy.  It may retain Christian teaching and titles, but it is not the faith of the Apostles.

Jesus plus anything is not the real Jesus. We cannot create a new without abandoning the old.  God does not take idolatry lightly.  Read more Here.  Are We Serving an Idol?

Liberian Heresy

The creation of a new faith with Christian trappings can be seen very clearly in the case of Liberia.  There was a strong Christian history in the country.  The nation identified as Christian.  Yet, there was also a strong tribal and cultural connection with animism.  This is the traditional tribal religion of the area.  It involved the worship of ancestors and spirits of nature.  Similar to the pagan practices of the Bible, fertility, and prosperity were achieved through offerings to local and family idols.  Success and failure tied into how the spirits responded.  The culture never totally departed from the practices.  They were a lot like the Jewish people of the Old Testament.  By day they worshipped Yahweh and by night they went to their high places and sacrificed to Baal and Molech.Syncretism Pastor Unlikely

Christianity was embraced but their traditional religions were never renounced completely.  Witchcraft and sorcery were accepted alongside Christianity.  They eventually mixed together to form a belief system very different than that of the Bible.  It could on one hand claim to follow Christ, but on the other revere the bush spirits and accept the shaman as a holy man.  This is the heart of syncretism.  There should be a clear and stark difference between the darkness of shamanism and the light of Christ.  The culture failed to make a choice and tried to accept both.  This is not how it works with Jesus.  It is either all Him or no Him.  Mixing together other religions with that of Christ results in loss of Jesus.

God does not share space with anyone.  When the Liberians created a new religion of their own making, it had none of the power and direction of the Lord.  It was just a cultural creation reflecting the choices of people.  A system of rules created by man is easy to ignore.  God isn’t in it.  His power does not support it.  Man takes it lightly.

A similar problem developed with Germany in the post-World War 1 years.  The church was intertwined with the state from the time shortly after Martin Luther onward.  Nationalism and politics were mixed together with Christianity in the minds of Germans.  The health and pride of Germany were made interchangeable with the state of the Christian.  The Kaiser was the head of both the nation and the Church.  Serving Germany meant serving Jesus in their minds.  This blending was so complete that when the German state was beaten and struggling in World War 1, Christians lashed out at everything they saw as responsible.  Jews, Communists and even other Christians were targeted because they threatened the greatness of “Christian Germany”.  Jesus had nothing to do with their viewpoints, but this did not matter as they weren’t really following Him anyway.   The results were more horrifying than those of Liberia.

Our Temptation

Civil wars are not breaking out in New York City.  Everyone who has a rational thought in their mind understands the Nazi’s were evil and should not be emulated.  So why is syncretism a danger to the modern world?  Why is the church struggling with exactly this issue?

The reason is the result of syncretism is just as poisonous with less extreme examples in everyday life.  Wherever we add anything to the teaching of Jesus and our devotion to Him, we take away from Jesus.  The teachers of the Prosperity Gospel only make a slight modification to the Biblical Jesus, for example.  Whereas the real Jesus did not have a place to lay His head and says we should expect to suffer, they claim Jesus wants us wealthy.  We need enough faith to claim it.  We are little gods who can speak things into existence.  It seems like a small alteration, but the results are dramatic.  We end up with a Gospel that is really about us, serving our flesh and treating God like a genie to be ordered around by His creations.  The true Jesus centered Christianity of Paul and the Apostles dies in the churches of the Prosperity Gospel.

The same influences are present with such things as mindfulness, Yoga, positive thinking and other New Age influenced trends.  While they may not seem bad on the surface, they each represent spiritual practices of other faiths attempting to displace Christianity in our lives.  They each infringe on areas where it is only Jesus who is meant to lead.  “The Force” of Star Wars may appear like a benign fictional Sci-fi idea, but it is the faith of millions of Hindus repackaged to be more tolerable to the Western World.  A similar attempt to tap into the mysterious powers present in the world and in us runs through all of these popular and attractive fads.

You Shall Have No Other gods before Me

This is not a statement of ranking.  When the Lord says to His people they shall have no other gods before Him, the King of the universe does not think He is about to be replaced on the Throne.  Rather, God does not want any other gods, idols, in His sight.  We approach the King on His throne on a regular basis.  God directs us to not drag the false gods of the world along with us when we do.   They are empty, evil and ultimately seek to destroy us.   “Get that out of my sight”, says the Lord.  Our choice when this happeSyncretism Pastor Unlikelyns is whether we are willing to let that idol go or be dragged away from the presence of God with it.  The Liberians or Germans so loved their idols when God commanded them removed from His presences, the people chose to depart with them.  The end results in both cases speak to the wisdom of the decision.  Satan only seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

Is your faith in Jesus pure today?  Are you mixing anything into your Christianity that does not belong there?  Is God telling you to get your idols of nationalism, politics, New Age spiritualism or otherwise out of His presence?

The choice is yours today what to do next.  Jesus is calling you to follow after Him and Him alone.  Come to Him or follow your idol.

What choice will you make?




Similar Posts

9 thoughts on “Syncretism and the Death of Christianity
  1. Timely and appropriate article. What irked me though was an ad at the bottom of the web page on a song by Elevation Worship. Talk about syncretism!

    1. Hey Art – thanks for the comment. I appreciate the implied question. I judge songs by the songs themselves and therefore enjoy music from those who I would not attend their respective churches. I leave their ministries in the hands of the Lord to judge and do with as He wishes.
      The reality of much of modern worship is we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes so if the words honor God, I will enjoy it. I also respect those with a different opinion on it.
      God bless you – Tom

  2. Christianity is garbage. An ex christian. Christian witches and christian buddhists will be sorry. Karma is coming.

    1. Not sure what you mean in your comment, Brianna, but I always question whether people know what they are saying when they talk about “Karma”. If Karma is real then you, that would be you, Brianna, have to pay for every single bad thing you do along with rewards for the good things. You probably are like most people and think you are a good person – we all tend to think other peoples bad acts are terrible while ours are not that big of a deal. Yet, if you really look at your life, truthfully, there are thousands of times where you have offended, hurt, sinned, and otherwise not done things that could help others when you could easily do so. If karma is true and not based on you and your opinion – that is a huge amount to pay for. Then there is the issue of the “good things” that you do for others that are actually for you – to feel good, to get something, to not feel guilty – are they going to be really “good” or just selfishness?

      This is why the practitioners of karma understood that they were likely to show up as bugs the next life. There is no forgiveness or grace involved. There really is no hope. Just debt.

      This is in contrast to Christianity that says, yes, you are a sinner, you mess up on a regular basis, but God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to pay that debt for you so that you can be free and forgiven. Doesn’t sound like garbage to me.

  3. I just came across this blog searching ‘syncretism’. I thought you made some nice points.

    Yoga, New Age influences etc. make sense . . . yet in studying the fusing of differing systems of belief, it’s hard to ignore other areas engrained into the practices of Christianity:

    Birthday celebrations come to mind, yet no Christian in the Bible record observed them (the practice of celebrating a birthday with round cakes and candles, blowing out tapers and praying to one’s Genius predates Jesus time on Earth). Yet the early Christians considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.

    Our Lord said nothing of his birth (it’s not even knowable) but he did command we observe his death. No mention of Hares and eggs (fertility symbols) or moving the observance to a SUNday initiated by a Sun worshipper who though he claimed to be Christian murdered family members and did not ‘convert’ until a death bed confession.

    If emotions and sentimentality are the guiding light to practices that clearly fuse pagan worship and festivals, then really, aren’t we seeking our own righteousness? (Matt 6:33)

    Surely, just as you stated above . . . “Adding anything to the life and teachings of Jesus and Biblical truth simply creates heresy”

    1. Hi there and thanks for the comment. I agree that we should be careful about anything that we add to our lives and makes sure that it is not interfering with Jesus. If you don’t celebrate birthdays, that is certainly fine with me and you right – we are encouraged to be convinced on matters of conscience. But I think the issue with your framework of how you seem to define syncretism lies in the distinction between “other areas” as you put it or any practice of the world versus religious practices that are from false religions. There is a significant difference between the two.

      Taking your statements out of order – you bring up celebrating the birth of Jesus – specifically remembering the day the Savior was born. It is a celebration specifically of the narrative contained in the Bible about the arrival of the long awaited King of Kings and ultimately points to the resurrection. The Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. That is true and therefore no one who doesn’t want to needs to do so. BUT, importantly, it also never once even comes close to telling us not to celebrate His birth. The birth narrative of Jesus is also not part of any pagan practices or worship of false god. It is therefore not syncretism or adopting pagan religious practices. Paul addressed things like this in Romans 14:

      Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

      5One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

      He also specifically addressed in Colossians 2 the accusation that comes along with such claims – that the person celebrating such a day was sinning:

      16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

      Regarding worshipping on Sunday, honestly, that has nothing to do with this conversation. It says specifically in the Book of Acts that the earliest of churches, the one made up of the Apostles and first disciples started gathering on what we call Sunday – they did not call it that – it was the 1st day of the week for them. They did do because Jesus’ resurrection took pl;ace on a Sunday – the first day of the week. So not only does it have nothing to do with the word sun or sunday, but it was the Apostles who instituted it. We are not Jews after all so Saturday has never been our day.

      As for birthdays, again, you provide no Biblical evidence that this is not supposed to be or that it was part of the practices of a false religion. The fact that pagans have done something does not make it bad or good. There are many practices that are not commanded by the Bible and that pagans do that Christians also regularly do. That does not make them bad or good – that is defined by the Bible and the Lord. It may seem more spiritual somehow not to do things, but Colossians 2 calls this perspective worldly and worthless:

      Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

      We certainly can pulled down by things that are not specifically pagan religious practices, but we can just as be fully destroyed by disdaining things of the world that the Lord did not disdain and judging our righteousness based on man made regulations that are there to make us feel good and allow us to judge others. Colossians again:

      8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

      Christ set us free from that sort of bondage.

      1. Your statements:

        1. “[Syncretism] is taking aspects of a different faith and merging it into another.”

        2. “Adding anything to the life and teachings of Jesus and Biblical truth simply creates heresy. “

        3. “It may retain Christian teaching and titles, but it is not the faith of the Apostles.”

        4. “The birth narrative of Jesus is also not part of any pagan practices or worship of false god.”

        I will comment on #4 in this post:

        The BIBLICAL narrative of Jesus birth does not have anything to do with pagan practices . . .

        Luke 2 covers the night of his birth in a manger in Bethlehem.

        Matt 2 covers the Magi (astrologers) being led by a star that eventually stops over the house where the young child Jesus is living. It was NOT the night of his birth (Herod killed all males two year olds and under in the area in an effort to include Jesus).

        The CELEBRATING of his birth is another matter. Christ never mentioned celebrating his birth (or his resurrection). He did however, command we observe his death
        (Lu 19:22) The date of his death is known.

        The date of his birth is unknown. It was never mentioned or observed in the Bible by any Christian . . . and yet,

        Encyclopaedia Britannica
        ( informs us that,

        “In ancient Rome, December 25 was a celebration of the Unconquered Sun, marking the return of longer days. It followed Saturnalia, a festival where people feasted and exchanged gifts. The church in Rome began celebrating Christmas on December 25 in the 4th century during the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, possibly to weaken pagan traditions.”

        The World Book Encyclopedia vol 3 page 416 states:
        “The early Christians did not celebrate His [Christ] birth because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.”

        Why might the early Christian’s have felt that way?

        Ec 7:1 states “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.”

        1 Cor 10:20, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.”

        “The giving of birthday gifts is a custom associated with the offering of sacrifices to pagan gods on their birthdays.”

        “Certainly the custom was linked with the same superstitions that formed the background for birthday greetings.”

        “The exchange of presents… is associated with the importance of ingratiating good and evil fairies… on their or our birthdays”

        “The traditional birthday cake and candles also have their origin in ancient pagan idol worship. The ancients believed that the fire of candles had magical properties. They offered prayers and made wishes to be carried to the gods on the flames of the candles. Thus we still have the widely practiced birthday custom of making a wish, then blowing out the candles.”
        (The Lore of Birthday’s by Ralph and Adeline Linton 1952)

        Imagine you’re taking your spouse out of town for the weekend and you hire a babysitter to take care of your child.

        You give her instructions on what you expect (make sure they eat properly, do their homework, shower and be in bed by a certain time . . .)

        But upon returning you find your child is a disheveled mess. You demand to know, “what are you doing and why haven’t you done what I ask of you?”

        “Oh, I know you said to do those things but look what I did; I cleaned all the windows and rearranged the cupboards and . . . “ “That’s not what I told you to do!

        Jesus has told us what to do. We don’t want to be the babysitter.

        1 Ti 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired and beneficial for . . . setting things straight.

        1 Cor 4:6 “. . . that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written.”

        As Christians, do we really need to incorporate customs, rituals, festivities that were clearly part of false worship?

        When the Israelites tried that by building a golden calf but justified it by saying “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD,” God was ready to exterminate them he was so displeased. (Ex 32:5)

        It like you said (#2 above) “Adding anything to the life and teachings of Jesus and Biblical truth simply creates heresy. “

      2. DL – first, I have no problem if you choose not to celebrate a birthday or Christmas. That is your decision. But, when you start saying that others should not engage in practices because of Jesus, you have to have a clear biblical direction to support your claim or it is just an opinion.

        You say that the early church did not celebrate Christmas or birthdays. While we can debate about that and the reasons for it, the ultimate question is so what? The early church did not drive cars, watch TV, or play sports. They did not meet in North America or wear a suit and tie to church. These are not exactly the same, but the existence or lack of existence of a practice in the early church is not determinative on an issue. There are many traditions that have developed over the past 2,000 years. The question to judge such traditions that are not specifically called for in the Bible is whether the Bible speaks against the practice specifically or whether it violates a general principal. Celebrating Jesus’ birth or a birthday does neither.

        You quote 1 Corinthians:

        1 Cor 10:20, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.”

        but the rest of the chapter says:

        All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

        25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; 26for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”

        27If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. 28But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; [i]for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” 29“Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?

        and 1 Corinthians 8:

        4Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.

        Paul is responding to questions about meat sacrificed specifically to idols in that culture. He says idols are nothing and all things are lawful, but dont be seen as taking part in the active worship of demons – what the pagans are then clearly doing. He does not say never do something that pagans did in the past – that is an entirely different standard. If you applied that, then the church would not be able to eat together, sing together, the Jews would not have been able to offer sacrifices, and many other practices that we do regularly that the pagans also do – in different ways, of course.

        Back to Christmas for a moment, your claim about the early church is awfully shaded in favor of your argument and throws away 1700 years of church history rather lightly. The debate was documented as ongoing about the date of Jesus’ birthday as early as 336 BC. Though I understand this does not mean they were right at the time to do so, but they were only 300 yrs after the ascension and a couple of generations removed from the Apostles. To simply say that this was all the Roman Empire is quite drastic.

        Lastly – here you are on point and I agree with you:

        As Christians, do we really need to incorporate customs, rituals, festivities that were clearly part of false worship?

        When the Israelites tried that by building a golden calf but justified it by saying “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD,” God was ready to exterminate them he was so displeased. (Ex 32:5)

        The Israelites made an idol. That is not allowed in the Bible, specifically. They added it to their worship of the One True God. Again, not allowed. They then called that calf God and had an orgy at its feast – all messing with the worship of God and changing it to something different and not allowed.

        You can argue about December 25th and the origin of the day chosen, but the day does not change who Jesus is, what He did, the fact He was born, or His essential nature. It is just a day chosen to celebrate Jesus. In your babysitter example, the comparison would be that you come home and the child is taken care of AND the windows are clean. There is nothing to stop the babysitters from doing the windows, even if you dont expect it.

  4. People can believe and worship how they choose. Jesus did say, however, that worship of God must be done with ‘spirit and truth’ (Jo 4:24); Paul pointed out in Ro 10:2 that people can ‘have a zeal for God without [correct] knowledge’
    (Gk. e.piʹgno.sis).

    But that is not why I responded to your blog. My address has to do with how you limit syncretism. There are many example of pagan worship that have been carried over and adopted in today’s world. The days of the week such as Saturday (for the god Saturn) and Sunday (for the worship of the Sun) are examples. There is no issue with that.

    However, when pagan festivals, practices, symbols, or dates (which are based on the worship of demons) are directly incorporated into OUR worship, that is not only ‘going beyond the things written’, it is adulterating pure worship (1 Cor 10:21)

    You mentioned my ‘claim . . . throws away 1700 years of church history rather lightly.’
    Well what does the Bible say would happen after the apostles (who acted as a restraint from deviating from the truth) died out?
    Acts 20:28 says “and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
    2 Ti 4:3,4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (Just because they’ve been practiced for a long time does not make them right).

    Your comment: “The lack of an existence of a practice in the early church is not determinative of an issue” Would you provide a scriptural basis for this statement, please? In the meantime here are three scripture that do NOT harmonize with that view at all:
    2 Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (So the Bible can set things straight).

    1 Cor 11:2 “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” (The time was coming when the inspired traditions would be twisted).

    1 Co 4:6 “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written.” (In the Bible: Jesus never mentioned his birthday or said to observe it. Neither did his followers. He said to observe his death, nothing about his resurrection. When did it become ok to tell God, ‘Hey I know its nowhere in your Word, but I think it would be a good idea to add a few things. It’s because we love you so much. And while we are at it, we are going to incorporate some of your enemies symbolism, dates and practices into our worship of you. That’s ok right?’)

    A couple comments on verses you have used over your last two post:
    1 Co 10:20-29 & and 1 Co 8:4 show that the eating of meats offered to idols is a conscious matter. Why? Because it has nothing to do with our worship of God. It’s food. It’s the blending of pagan practices into the worship of the God of the Bible that is warned against.
    Col 2:16 “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”
    This verse is NOT Paul saying ‘Hey you want to observe demonic pagan dates and practices? No one should judge you, go right ahead.’ The context shows he is talking about those in Colossae who were trying to impose the dietary and religious observances of the Mosaic Law which he reminds them in verse 14 was down away with by Jesus death.
    Ro 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
    Paul is reiterating if someone wanted to set aside a day for rest or worship that’s their conscious. No one should try to invoke Mosaic Law elements to judge or to engage. Observance of the Law was over. But again, this was not giving permission to observe the rituals, dates, or customs of pagan worship.

    I will close by saying to everyone who loves God’s Word “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: