A Comfortable Syncretism?
Sometimes the truth is ‘hard to swallow’ so people settle for a convenient syncretism — a comforting blend of truth and lies. Jesus had spoken to his disciples and followers about ‘drinking his blood and eating his body.’ But what he said was difficult to understand, even offensive, and as a result many stopped following Jesus. They did not understand that the Passover symbols of bread and wine were given to represent Jesus’ death, his body and blood. It was only through this sacrifice that he could give the gift of eternal life to all who trusted in him.
Jesus also spoke a hard truth to the Samaritans, who thought they were following God’s will in their religious worship. But the reality was that they had a long history of syncretism, blending the truth of God with their traditions. As the chronicler of Kings wrote, the Samaritans ‘feared the Lord’ and served their own gods. This mixing of truth and error is not in accordance with God’s will, as he asks those who worship him, to do so in spirit and truth. So are we slipping into a comfortable syncretism?
In the early church era the issue of syncretism was seen in the traditions that developed from the New Covenant Passover as celebrated by Christ and his disciples on the night before his death. Different groups have changed the ceremony, often called the ‘Eucharist,’ substituting different methods and times. For most Christians it is no longer the yearly New Covenant Passover memorial of the bread and wine that Christ asked his disciples to follow.
Church historians documented this Quartodecimen Controversy between those bishops in the east who followed John’s example and kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan and those in the west who rejected the clear scriptural instructions Through a slow process and an allegorical approach to scripture, the Bishop of Rome replaced Passover with new celebrations. The objective was to distance the church from the inconvenient and unpopular ‘Jewishness’ of Passover. And the result was a syncretistic blending of scripture, the Roman calendar, and pagan culture in the celebration of Easter and the Eucharist.
Paul in encouraging the Gentile Corinthian brethren to keep the Passover, explained the power of a little ‘leaven of sin’ for it had created problems for the whole church. Tolerating lies and the sin of syncretism is having the same effects now in the Christian church that it did in Paul’s time. That is why Paul cautioned believers to celebrate the feast of Passover and unleavened bread with sincerity and untainted truth.
Learn more about the Quartodeciman Controversy:
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It is God’s spirit that leads us into all truth as we read his word.