Thoughts/Questions on American Syncretism and Paul’s Gospel

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?

Galatians 4:9

It seems like Paul is talking now about syncretism in the Christian faith. Syncretism is the mixing in of religions, namely for Paul, the mixing of pagan values and practices into the true Christian faith.

This got me thinking about issues at play in our understanding of Christianity in America today.

In the contextual mindset of Christianity, what exactly is “syncretism”? I have begun to think that there is no such thing as a pure expression of Christianity (as in we’ll always be diluted with our cultural heritage). I am of the opinion that the gospel is always located within a culture, which ultimately means that our Christianity is what we call “American Christianity” or “Asian American Christianity” (depending on who’s reading).  So is this what Paul is angry about? I’m not sure because of these thoughts:

There’s a difference between culture mashing with Christian faith and religion mashing with Christian faith. Christianity seems to support the mixing of culture and Christianity (it really brings out different aspects of God!), but it doesn’t support the mashing of Christianity and other religions because that means we are worshiping other gods (as that it is the point of Paul’s correction in the book of Galatians).

However, the difference between culture and other religions is blurry.

American secularism will never claim they are worshiping other gods, but the truth is, even for an American secularist as well as for Americans in general, the values of money, success, a life of comfort seem to be the gods that our culture worship. Would American Christians who believe Jesus died for their sins, yet live a life of vanity in pursuit of riches, safety, and comfort be considered syncretistic? At what point is an American expression of Christianity valid versus syncretistic? Or any other culture, at that?

Those are some questions and thoughts I am thinking about.

Posted by Phillip Chan

Phil has been writing in the Black Box for 10 years. His passion is to grow in his love for Jesus to obey his purposes in our generation.

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