Quotes and Excerpts

Mere Syncretism

Comments on recent trends in the Body of Christ

by Richard Nathan


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. ...


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.


*   *   *

See also How mysticism & the occult are changing the Church

  Home | Index |