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Monday, May 21, 2007

Against Syncretism

Against Syncretism

I have never thought that a syncretic (or syncretistic) faith could be viable, not even in a world which styles itself as "postmodern." The reason for this seems obvious to me: no theology-- like no philosophy--can operate in the kosmos without having a distinctly different voice for itself. Every infant contains within herself the making of a unique message or voice in the world, so why should every faith not have this same dimension of uniqueness? It could also be argued (and often has) that ancient traditions cannot, by their very nature, be merged or connected with later ones. I am not absolutely certain about the latter, since I have seen the Church--both evangelical and catholic—gladly merge ancient and modern in worship and music, though often reluctant to do so over issues of Faith and Order. Suffice it to say that “the old becomes new,” by and by (Rev. 21:5).

That said, I do not mean that we ought to isolate ourselves from the world or its ever flowing stream of differing faiths. Indeed, I believe that we need one another so much that our own distinct faith cannot be heard a world where dialogical conversation falls silent. In light of the exegetical remarks above by Dr. Worthing, it nevertheless appears to me that we can live in this new Age without having to move into the New Age and similar movements, insofar as these manifest Syncretism. In other words, as one of my theology professors was fond of saying, differences DO make a difference. Three good recent examples of the kind of fruitful “exploring” we might consider are the following:

a) ODE magazine, which originated in the Netrherlands, is one of the most au courant sources I know for discussion of emerging ideas in world culture. A recent issue includes a free CD of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I first discovered while still in college in 1965. He has since written numerous books on meditation and Buddhist philosophy and has many helpful insights about living in this world of war and violence.

b) Matthew Fox, a former priest who was silenced by the Pope many years ago, has finally seen (through a glass darkly, one suspects) of the Protestant Principle (seper reformanda) in his engaging little paperback, A NEW REFOPRMATION ( Rochester, VT: 2006). Following the tradition of his earlier books on Prayer and Work in the world, this one addresses the application of a “Creation Spirituality” in the Nova Ecclesia emerging today. To his credit, Fox appends his own 95 Theses for today and the result is calculated to rouse depleted or drowsy Christians once and for all.

c) “And On Earth, Peace” – The new Interfaith Mass by the group Chasnticleer—
see my review at:

There is much here that may appeal to Lutheran, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic hearts and minds and voices—along with at least some that will provoke debate or disagreement. But isn’t that the whole point!? Semper Reformanda!

davebuehler |

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