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    Ravens and the Prophet

by Robert Weston  

The Challenging Counterfeit
- Part Two
Chapter twenty four


The Perils of Syncretism
Open any Sunday magazine, tune in to almost any twenty fours of networked television and it’s not hard to discover the ‘gods’ our society worships. Study how these things are presented to our consciousness! Consumerism itself is a religion that has its rituals and expectations. In one form or another, idolatry is every bit as active today as it was in the ancient world: it is simply more sophisticated.

Keeping ourselves pure in spirit from the prevailing spirits of our time is a major topi in its own right, but I am more concerned here about an altogether subtler threat to the purity of God’s people: the watering down that occurs when elements of other faiths are assumed to be compatible with Christianity and taken on board uncritically. Yes we can learn from everyone; yes there is a sense in which ‘all truth is God’s truth’, but . . .

About a decade ago I came across a man who had heard his first word from the Lord. Quite literally, it was just one word: ‘syncretism.’ Only the other day I met a teacher who had had the same experience. Both had been startled to hear the Lord speaking to them so clearly: both had had to reach for their dictionary to find out what the word meant

Syncretism is ‘the attempt to blend elements of different faiths together under one banner’. As such, it challenges the heart of the gospel, and the first of the commandments: that we are to love the Lord our God – and Him alone – with all of our hearts. Just as the Jezebel-directed priests in Elijah’s day doubtless encouraged the thought that the traditions they received from Baal worship actually enriched their worship of Yahweh, so similar lies abound in our own day.

Many years ago Rosalind and I were out walking one day, somewhere in the hills and valleys of Wales.
We were reflecting on how Lord has often allowed us to share in the launching of quiet places of retreat – as precious places of hospitality and spiritual refreshment– effectively a lay equivalent of the service that monasteries have so long provided. But then the Lord warned us that everything that He was doing in this respect has direct equivalents from others who are fuelled and driven by very different ideologies.

A few minutes later we saw two young men walking towards us, their faces aglow with the particular sheen of those who have found a purpose and a mission in life. The reason soon became apparent: they were from a nearby Buddhist centre.

The simple fact is that many theoretically Christian groups are now openly using elements of Sufi mysticism (a charismatic offshoot of Islam) and Hindu mantras in their meditations. But a mantra is an incantation to a Hindu god, and hence nothing less than a direct invitation to the powers of darkness!

It is a startling pointer to there being a vital layer missing in the Church’s present ministry that it should feel the need to turn to eastern religious systems in search of contemplative direction and inner ‘enlightenment.’ Why should this be when Hinduism believes in a multitude of impersonal gods, who demand servility, yet offer neither the forgiveness nor the practical help that Jesus Himself provides to those who seek Him? Yet Christians through the ages who have opened their hearts to the fullness of His presence have found that what the y receive interiorly, translates itself so very powerfully externally. Nowhere do we see the spiritual bankruptcy of liberal Christianity more clearly than in this willingness to import eastern spirituality into its self-made vacuum. That, in part, is why I wrote Intimacy and Eternity; to help us develop the richness of this inner life.

New Age teachings are increasingly combining with the liberal views of many bishops and clergy in proclaiming complete untruths concerning the nature of Jesus. We need to be very clear how God feels when He sees people setting up a rival god, and then presenting him as being equal to Himself. This is not pique, it is a matter of eternal truth. Yoga is not of God and people who travel by this, and many such roads, are opening themselves to a terrible deception. It was for such reasons that I wrote a booklet entitled ‘The Hindu Challenge to the Church,’ for Hindu ideas in one form or another have made sweeping inroads into the more contemplative parts of all too many mainline churches.

Such teachings have no place in the Church of God. As the Vatican succinctly warned, ‘Sitting cross-legged on the floor thinking peaceful thoughts is not to be confused with the authentic consolation of the Holy Spirit.’

A couple of simple analogies

Here are a couple of simple ways to demonstrate just how preposterous is the idea that we can tack on bits of other religions to our own, without doing harm to the whole.

Suppose a man were to go to his local railway station to find out which trains go to London. He is delighted when he is informed that every train goes there. Imagine his discomfiture ten minutes later when he discovers that he is on a non-stop express to Glasgow! All trains do not head in the same direction: he had been wrongly instructed.


Another example. if we are deeply in love with our husband or wife, how would we feel if someone else came along and claimed them as their own? This is effectively what is happening when people place Krishna or other so-called deities on a par with the Lord Jesus. Christ’s claims about Himself stand as a litmus test for the Church for all time: ‘I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me.’(7)

It is not, in a pluralist society, that we are to hold up our hands in pious horror, and shun those who have embraced such ways of thinking. One of the great joys of Rosalind’s ministry in the decade she worked as an independent midwife was that it regularly brought her into close contact with those who involved in New Age practises. As a midwife she was able to come alongside people who, as a Christian worker, it is most unlikely that she wold even have met, let alone befriended.

Time and again she was able to share and pray with such people, enabling them to experience the presence and reality of the Lord for themselves. Such outreach is so precious to the Lord, and often finds a ready response, because such people are often seeking far more actively than the average person consumed by consumerism. But just a word of warning: we do need to be extremely clear in our own beliefs before venturing far into such a field, lest we find our own faith being watered down by the sheer persuasiveness and plausibility of what we come up against, made the more vivid by the Church’s lack of spiritual depth. May the Lord make up shortfall, fill people with intense desire for more of Him, and demonstrate the richness of His Kingdom to a watching world!

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7 John 14:6
8 Universalism embraces the doctrine that all men will be saved.
9 This is not a rejection of all the helpful insights into human behaviour that certain branches of psychology can offer. We would particularly recommend the books Leanne Payne has published: ‘The Healing Presence’, Restoring the Christian Soul, Crisis in Masculinity, and Listening Prayer. These are challenging and profound books, invaluable alike for the counsellor and for those wishing to deepen their life of devotion. All are published by Kingsway. Many have also found the publications by John and Paula Sandford life-changing: ‘Restoring the Christian Family’, ‘The Transformation of the Inner Man’, ‘Healing the Wounded Spirit’ and ‘The Renewal of the Mind.’
10 Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 8-11. It is significant that some of the world’s most powerful religions – such as Islam and Mormonism – owe their origins to prophecies which purported to be from heaven, but which categorically fail the test of Scripture.
11 Jeremiah 17:9
12 1 Corinthians 3:13, 1 Peter 4:17
13 Acts 4:12