Oh, the taste of sausage! And, what can beat that savory smell wafting throughout the house on a week-end morning? The co-mingling of spices, fats, juices, proteins and … and … and whatever else may be in there. Yeah! Hey, what is in there?!
Though it is tasty, not many of us really want to analyze the nutritional quotient of those morsels just prior to ingestion. Fewer still want to observe the “process” by which it is fabricated. And nobody really wants to review the spectrum of “components” which go into delivering the mouth-watering, end-product of that delectable, savory, but altogether questionable comestible. We simply want to enjoy it!
We don’t care so much what’s in there, we merely ask that the finished product deliver temporal satisfaction on a hedonistic level. We want it to deliver on that implicit promise of flavor-favor as it dances momentarily upon our taste buds.
Yet, on examination of the “ingredients” it would seem that those sausage casings can be crammed with every possible by-product and left-over which are rejected from the hot dog, and pet food processes; most at least organic, some maybe not-so-much? We take. We eat. We savor. We applaud. And we get on with our day.
How could we have come to a place of such poor nutritional scrutiny where the long-term benefits of good nutrition outweigh the fleeting pleasure of taste? The answer is perhaps, simply, “a little at a time.” And, oh yeah, it tastes really good, so, we’re willing to overlook a few “minor infractions.”
And so, I come to the “meat” of this article; the idea of religious syncretism…Now, for those who are continuing after that phrase, allow me to explain what I am talking about. Religious syncretism is the idea of composing a theological system, or a religious worldview by incorporating various theological components “borrowed” from many theological positions, or belief systems. In this way, the overall position embraced is not considered to be an historically “pure” model of the worldview it is said to represent, rather it is a concoction of multiple thoughts and beliefs across a broad spectrum. For example, someone who may consider themselves a Christian, embracing many orthodox beliefs, yet also includes the idea of reincarnation, borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism to name a couple; or the belief of pantheism, borrowed from multiple religious traditions. The truth is that there are multiple “fillers” to choose from, even those which masquerade as historically Christian, those which tickle the ears.
It may be something which is mystic and edgy, or something based on feeling. It could be our favorite non-biblical pet theology. Maybe a little “good theology” from other religions, maybe not in the Bible but, “Hey, it sounds good.” Maybe it is a novel, “new” belief system which was recently presented in a book, or a movie, or something promoted on TV by a talk-show host.
There are many out there who would assert that their theological system can be constructed according to their own desires. Many start with a “holy writ” of some sort, and continue to build from there. Many who affirm Christ would employ these measures as well.
Now, for Christians, starting with the “God-breathed” Bible is the right place to begin (and end), don’t get me wrong, but along with biblical orthodoxy, which is essential, tragically additional “fillers” tend to be carelessly tossed in. In doing so, a “theological sausage” begins to be constructed which undermines the integrity of good, sound theological (and nutritional) truth. Yet, this combination becomes “acceptable” because it tastes good, though it increasingly fails to model true biblical theology–Christian orthodoxy.
This theological sausage becomes a stuffed casing of every sort of “theological” tidbit; any, and every sort of gathered religious component, “flavored” with spices and seasonings so that we don’t even know, realize, or care that what we are consuming may be a compromised product.
To that matter, additions of non-biblical matter are detrimental at best, and deathly, outright toxic at the outer margins. Paul warns of the temptation of man to do this in his first letter to Timothy, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul is exhorting Timothy to guard his doctrine carefully, to guard that which will nurture and grow. Unhealthy deceitful spirits may offer demonic doctrines for addition to true Christian understanding; but the end-product is sausage–compromised spiritual food.
Unfortunately, the “fillers” are many; a trip to the local “Christian” bookstore will offer several. Tried and true Christian affirmations continue to be repackaged, redefined, or distorted, in order to diminish the true Gospel, many times due to one’s feelings, or experience.
Experience, traditions, feelings, and new “revelation” should not be shaping our doctrine. The careless act of random inclusion yields a compromised theology. A compromised theology yields a compromised ability to save. A compromised ability to save yields a questionable eternity.
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy should be heeded by us all: “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ — which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Bad theology pulls people away from true faith.
My heart grieves at the amount of junk being “stuffed” into Christian orthodoxy–by unbelievers, believers…even, at times, those acting as shepherds. My heart grieves more at the number of people being drawn away from the truth of Christ to their own peril. Our theology needs to be driven from the word of God. Illumined by the Holy Spirit. And safe-guarded by faithful sentinels.
Look out! Be discerning. Draw truth from God’s Word. Let’s be careful out there!