Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blog Post #3: If it Looks Like a Duck...

Ezra 4:1-3 “When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
According to, syncretism is the ”attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.”
Here’s a taste of what syncretism looks like in the Christian church corporate: a certain denomination (who will remain unnamed), opens their general assembly convocation with a procession of members dressed up as skunks and eagles doing interpretive dance; evangelical churches offer their “secular-ready” sanctuaries for use as public school graduation venues (the church never put up crosses to begin with so as not to offend seekers); Halloween parties and visits with Santa held in fellowship halls; Bible-based youth group junkets to teen conferences that include a selection of “free time activities” such as swimming in the hotel pool or shopping at the local mall, while attendance at Christian small group seminars remain  “optional;” and beer-drenched bingo bashes and charity wine and cheese fundraisers. It’s all about “contextualizing” to the current trends, being “relevant” and  “trying to reach people where they’re at.”
Here’s what it looks like in the church individual: Christians investing precious hours every week in television and facebook as well as wasting time shopping for things they don’t need; families up to their ears in debt and materialism; kids shuffled off to soccer camps and music lessons, while little to no spiritual discipleship takes place at home (that responsibility has been farmed out to the local youth group). Bible reading takes place when and if it can be fitted in.

           Whether in the church corporate or individual, syncretism gains a foothold because someone let it. Lax faith and a desire to be affirmed by the world—not God—or to please personal desires—not God’s—leads to adopting the ways of the world, be it in worship services, statements of belief or how we raise our kids and conduct our marriages.

            Seriously, If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If we, church corporate and individual, look like the world, behave like the world, and think like the world, then we are the world. We no longer have legitimate status as faithful people of God.
Theologian Bruce Waltke writes, in An Old Testament Theology, that the reason the Israelites refused the help of “the enemies of Judah and Benjamin” ”is because the Israelites were rejecting “beliefs and practices that turn their religion into something other than itself and leads to the ignoring of I AM’s nature and expectations.” They were refusing to allow syncretism to creep in. The Israelites knew from past experience what alliances with non-Jews led to. Not only that, but they knew this offer of help came from “enemies,” and hence, ulterior motives.
            Why do Christians need to be on guard? Because the “world” of secularism, humanism, agnosticism, atheism, etc., will attempt to undermine Christianity because, in the words of Billy Graham, “the Cross is an offense.”
Mark Galli, in a June 10, 2010, Christianity Today article, makes an excellent point when he says, “And why is it that church staff, called by God to enable the proclamation of Jesus' lordship, cannot grasp...that Christianity is ruled by a Lord who has a habit of making people feel uncomfortable and offended because, yes, he demands their unqualified allegiance?”
 For non-believers whose hearts are hardened, or who try to silence the inner conviction they feel when they even think about Christ, the Gospel will offend. Jesus encountered this very situation in John 6:60-67 with His disciples. He had just finished making some pretty strong claims about Himself, to which His disciples responded:
“’This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’

  Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.’ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.

              Jesus didn’t hold back the truth, water it down or wrap it up in an inoffensive package of whateverism. And people walked away from Him. Just like they’ll walk away from us and our churches. Some will even become persecutors or wolves in sheep’s clothing who try to infiltrate the church with a “gospel” more palatable but un-Biblical. They will do whatever they can to intimidate the followers of Christ.

             We can stand up to this, however, in good company with the Israelites whose response to this same sort of taunt was the acknowledgement that “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel.”


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