Justifying Syncretism. IVPNT: Acts Pt. 5

Dr. William J. Larkin’s IVP New Testament Commentary on Acts is the ‘gift that keeps on Classic-Christmas-Tree-With-Star-On-Topgiving.’  I seriously thought that three, or at most four, posts would cover the main fallacies within Christendom evidenced in his treatment of Acts…  But, I just keep finding new stuff!

I have another post in the series well underway, but decided to push this fairly short thought forward in the schedule.

While writing part 4, I read a paragraph and did a major double-take!!  Here is the paragraph:

What guidelines does this incident yield for today? There is a large measure of freedom, but that freedom is to be used to promote (1) the advance of the gospel and (2) the unity of an ethnically diverse church. So long as our conscience is not bound by non-Christian traditions and practices and the Christian gospel is not syncretized with the thought behind non-Christian practice, our pre-Christian religious past, properly cleansed, may move into a transformed spiritual future.

Help me out here…. Did he just say that syncretism is okay, as long as we properly clean it up?  Of course, this is at the end of his discussion on Paul’s Nazarite observance, implying again that he believes it to be mere ‘tradition.’

Here is my MAJOR problem with Larkin’s take on syncretism:  It is contra Scripture!

“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 beware that you are not ensnared [a]to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ 31 You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

Clearly, we are told NOT to worship Yahweh as the pagans worship their gods.  That means NO syncretism.  We simply cannot ‘properly cleanse’ it!

Maybe we have no recollection of the detestable things done in the name of Ishtar (easter) the fertility goddess, but I assure you, Yahweh has NOT forgotten!!  Maybe we do not remember the wild sex orgies, trees and gift giving associated with Saturnalia, but I assure you, Yahweh has NOT forgotten!

When He says, ‘Do not worship Me as the pagans worship their gods,’ it is because we cannot avoid the influences and the symbols incorporated that are themselves doorways to evil.

It is almost breathtaking that Larkin, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, would say,

So long as our conscience is not bound by non-Christian traditions and practices and the Christian gospel is not syncretized with the thought behind non-Christian practice, our pre-Christian religious past, properly cleansed, may move into a transformed spiritual future.

But, that is the ‘freedom’ he talks about…  A ‘law-free gospel,’ or in the terms of Scripture, a lawless gospel.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [a]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’


Instead of justifying syncretism, we – especially seminary professors and scholars, should be rooting it out of the church!

More to come…


About Pete Rambo

Details in 'About' page @ natsab.wordpress.com Basically, husband of one, father of four. Pastor x 11 years, former business and military background. Micro-farmer. Messianic believer in Yeshua haMashiach!
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13 Responses to Justifying Syncretism. IVPNT: Acts Pt. 5

  1. Just a point for consideration on this issue. You said, ” especially seminary professors and scholars, should be rooting it out of the church!” This is impossible and not even desirable to do. There is no point to even concern oneself in thinking that any seminary professor and or scholar should do this. The question that is likely arising is, Why not. The reason is this. What are seminaries? Seminaries are entities of higher learning licensed by the state. The state god decides what the state god wants the state’s pastors to teach in the state licensed churches. So a state licensed church has signed a contract with the state god called a 502 3 (c) corporation, and by default, by definision of a corporation ( A creature created and licensed by the state) they have put aside the Torah Law, and picked up the State law book as their founding document. A licensed pastor can not teach against state law. State law premits sodomy now. State law permits abortion. Licensed 501 3 (c) corporations have a duty to the state due to the license they accepted. Thus God, Almighty God, Creator of the Universe said, “Thou shalt have no gods before me”. But a state licensed preacher has put god before God, and I assure you GOD ALMIGHTY abhors that man whomsoever he is that takes licensce to preach or even learns at a state licensed institution and then spews that adulterated “law” to anyone to their hearing.


    • Pete Rambo says:

      I understand what you are saying, but also recognize there are many within Christendom whose heart’s desire is to hear and follow God. They just do not know the truth… They have a form of Godliness, but not according to truth.

      By being humble and seeking the truth, then sharing from the pulpit, it may cost them their job, but each voice adds to the growing groundswell coming to our Father through Yeshua and the truth of Torah. That was my path… I came from inside the 501 c3 system, as did most all others.

      It is when they know the truth, as Larkin seems to imply in his paragraph, but ignore or ‘clean it up,’ and do nothing about it, or worse, justify it, that the wrath of Heaven will be exhibited on them. Until our Father judges their hearts, we must reach out in love and concern with the hope of saving a few of the perishing.


  2. Most of the Christians could care less. They are comfortable in their lives. They like the system they are in. There is only going to be a remnant left. The Christians I have met like going to the big building church. They like the business they generate from the church. They sell their wares to the people in the big building and they like to shake hands with the man at the pulpit and feel good because he know they gave big money to keep his salary paid. They dress up real fancy and put on suits and ties and expensive cloths and show off before all the others. They like that. That’s church. Does God have anything to do with churches? I never met God in the church. God showed me where he was not.

    You need to do what you need to do.


  3. chaya1957 says:

    Think of the vast majority (certainly not all) of the seminary professors and administrators as the government and religious system of the separated Northern Kingdom, who created their own high places of worship, idols and priesthood, of course retaining elements of torah.

    Someone was complaining about bizarre things that are occurring among African Christians, claiming they were creating a syncretism of Christianity and native superstition and witchcraft. Others have mentioned that the popular film, “The Matrix,” is not Christian as some say, but a syncretism of Christianity and Buddhism. But they miss the point. CHRISTIANITY IS ALREADY SYNCRETIC.

    These professors and seminary leaders are highly invested in their tradition and theology. They choose to be blind, and so they are. Some among the independent scholars are much more open, as they prize truth and knowledge above politics – sometimes.

    Peter, I agree that you are wasting your time with the Pharoahs. They have hardened hearts that are only going to get harder. As the prophet Nathan approached David, then you can approach the Davids who are after the heart of the Holy One, and are willing to repent and so have their eyes opened. It can be difficult to distinguish between the Sauls and the Pharoahs, as both can appear angry, convinced and passionate about their viewpoint. The Sauls have a zeal, but not according to tsedek, righteousness. Perhaps we need to hide from the Sauls until, in his mercy, the scales fall from their eyes. You aren’t going to be able to tear them off.


    • chaya1957 says:

      I should add that there is a message to the Pharoahs, and that is, “Let my people go!” His people are held captive by Pharoah, and I believe we will be given whatever it takes to lead them out.


      • Pete Rambo says:

        Amein and amein!! I agree on all counts, but until we head into the wilderness, or Father says, ‘Tell them, you will not see my face again…’ I have to keep speaking.

        I think often of Ezekiel on his side for more than a year!… Or, Jeremiah at the bottom of a well… I don’t have it so bad. It can get much worse! 🙂


  4. Jack Jackson says:

    The issue seems to be this “conscience” and whether it in itself is a sufficient tool to determine what “sin is”. I have heard church believer tell me they are not convicted for instance that they should not eat pork, so they don’t believe it is sin.

    That turns Scripture on its head as suggestions to pray about and obey the ones you are convicted to obey and disregard the others.

    True obedience needs no explanation, if we find it in His Scripture, we should have the heart to not be partially obedient, waiting until we understand the commandments or are convicted to obey them.


  5. The Christianity today is more of a feeling type thing. Law does not have much to do with feelings. This common theme of situational ethics seems to be based upon feelings too. And from the King James Version of the Scripture, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17: 9.


    • chaya1957 says:

      I have also seen many practice law; however it is not God’s torah. It is man made rules to keep people under control and feeling righteous for following this law of their own creation. I am in a situation with some people who sincerely keep the greatest commandments, and are following the Holy One according to their own understanding. It doesn’t help that so many that proclaim torah fail to keep the greatest mitzvot of Yeshua.

      I recently spoke with six people who were in a Pharoah kingdom. Five of them see the problems, and the undercurrent of antisemitism which they were not aware of and certainly don’t agree with, and want to grow in their love of Israel and learn. One of them is a pastor of a church (I think reform.) Where do you live?


      • Pete Rambo says:

        I live in Newberry, SC area.


      • Pete Rambo says:

        I’m in SC. Happy to speak with anyone. Particularly Reformed pastors… I was one. (Let me know if you need contact info and I’ll email it to you.)

        The recent article I posted titled Before the Foundation of the World! Implications… may be a really good one to pass along to Reformed guys as it asks some hard questions of the idea of differing standards on each side of the cross. Particularly the ‘doctrine of election.’ If it was settled before the foundation of the world, then there are implications we must deal with…



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