Syncretism and the Kingdom of God
Per google, syncretism may be defined as "the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought." What would American Christian syncretism look like? What about Khmer syncretism? Cameroonian syncretism?
Syncretism is easier to identify when you aren't involved in it. It also is explicit when the mixture is a pagan religion and Christianity. It is more subtle when culture or politics become the lens by which we understand morality and truth, and the lens by which we interpret the Bible. And it is more subtle still when we give ourselves ultimate moral authority and interpret scripture based on our own personal biases and preferences.
The Bible is the ultimate source of truth. If anything supercedes the Bible, we must pause. And such pausing is healthy, because we all place things above the Bible. Whether we are American, Cambodian, Cameroonian, Indian, Korean, or Chinese, we are ethnocentric, and the way we view the world, and even the Bible, has been influenced by our culture. For this reason, understanding our culture and our biases is important as we study scripture. Moreover, there is great value in having close brothers and sisters from other cultures who help us identify our biases. I am so thankful for my Kenyan, Cameroonian, Guyanese, Indian, Khmer, and Korean brothers as they have illuminated sin in my life with which I was previously unaware (in particular, they have inspired me to grow in humility, silence, respect, and interdependence, and yes, I still have so much growth to do in each of these areas).
There are two actionable steps here for Christians:
1.) Know the Bible. We cannot use the Bible to expose our ethnocentrism and sin without knowing it.
2.) Know your culture. A note here should be made that the culture of a country is not homogenous. There are many subcultures within it. With which subcultures do you identify? Why do you believe what you believe? What other sources of moral authority do you follow? How did your family influence your beliefs? How does your profession?
Ultimately, a follower of Christ should value the Kingdom of God above all things. This Kingdom does not belong to the nations and does not aspire to obtain political power. It is the Kingdom of people who love and seek to follow Jesus Christ all over the world. It is a Kingdom marked by joy in following a God who loves us. It is a Kingdom marked by attempts to lay down our lives for a King worthy of our full devotion. For those who follow Christ, the Kingdom should be our primary allegiance.
The reality is that we all have syncretic beliefs. We are unable to perfectly follow Jesus. But Jesus knows this. He knows the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Jesus died on the cross not because those He died for are awesome. He did it because He is awesome. He is love. And His love is better than life. Let us then repent of every belief we have which is in conflict with the Truth, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who defeated sin and death forever on the cross. Lord, let your Kingdom come