Have you ever heard the word syncretism? It means to attempt to fuse or unite different religions or views. It is the concept of mingling two religions together. And it is something that the word of God warns us against.
When I lived in Asia, I saw a great deal of syncretism among Christians. I saw people who were very committed to worship and prayer also bring into their faith elements of Buddhism or Confucianism. Believers who ought to know better would, on a particular holiday, set out dishes of food to nourish long-dead relatives.
The word of God is clear that we do not want to attempt to mingle the true Christian faith with elements of other religions. God is not pleased when people attempt to reshape Christianity with man-made practices.
Galatians 4:9-11 – 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Paul, when writing to the Galatian church saw quite clearly some of the same problems. The Galatians were attempting to blend biblical Christianity with Old Testament Jewish practices and perhaps with elements of the other religions of the day. They wanted to keep the grace of Christ, but to add to the faith standards and practices of faiths that deny him.
All of that is an interesting sort of anthropological study, but the question should arise as to how we might be tempted toward the same thing. Is it possible that we could fall victim to the same sort of God-dishonoring thinking that made Paul fear for the salvation of the Galatian church?
So, let’s simply ask ourselves if our faith, our standards, our beliefs, our worship practices are actually Christian. Are we thinking and acting in accord with faithful, biblical Christianity, or are we at risk of bringing into the faith beliefs and actions and celebrations that are from other religions? How would we know?
The Bible is how we should know. Ask yourself if the things you say, the things you think, the things you practice in worship are in Scripture. So often, things that we will say, that we will accept as truth, are actually diametrically opposed to what is in Scripture. But, since the things we hold to sound true, we assume they must be in the Bible somewhere. We assume that our practices, if we like them, if they make us feel good, they must be acceptable in the worship of the Lord.
But looking at what Paul wrote to the Galatians should cause us all to stop and really test ourselves. Test your doctrine, not against your feelings or against tradition, but against the word of God faithfully taught and applied. Do the same for the practices of your church in worship. Test what you do in a worship service, not against whether it appeals to the body or applies to the lost, but test it against the word of God. Has the Lord called the church to do what you are doing? Has the Lord called the church to value what you are valuing?
The warning from the passage in Galatians should be clear to us. We, when we are not careful, can become complacent. We can assume that our thoughts and actions please
God. We can fail to notice that we have corrupted the faith with worldly thinking and worldly practices or with the doctrines and practices of false religion. May we be careful. May we rethink what we do, all that we do, in the light of Holy Scripture. May we ask, with any doctrine if Scripture really teaches it. May we ask with any part of our worship services if Scripture actually calls us to do it or to do it this way. Do not stop guarding your life and practice with the word of God. If you do, a mingled faith with worldliness or false religion is ready to jump in and change your worship to what dishonors the Lord. And I do not believe that any of us want that.