Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The New Faces of Christianity: Syncretism?

But other modern Christians [in the Global South] explore the Bible in order to justify coexistence and cooperation between faiths and cultures. ... When modern Christian thinkers consider these faiths (e.g. Hinduism and Buddhism), they find it difficult to believe that God was not in Asia before the missionaries brought the gospel. In various ways, it seems, perhaps the Spirit was working in the other religions. (p. 85)

Asian theologians commonly hold that Christianity needs to engage in a triple dialogue — with other religions, with other cultures, and (throughout the process) with the poor. (p. 86)

- Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Even when I was younger in the faith, the whole idea of "Asian theology" sounds absurd to the extreme. God is one; Christ is one; there is only one truth. In the Apostles' Creed, a creedal formulation of ancient origin, we confess the one, catholic (small "c") and apostolic church. Yet, it seems, we have in many places false Christians promoting falsehood and heresies against the Christian faith. No one for example can deny the exclusivity of Christ and be a Christian! Whoever do so are false believers and are not be treated as believers, but rather as pagans needing to repent of their sins.

In this section, Jenkins moved to the Asian context, whereby the existence of other ancient religions poses obstacles to the Christian faith. Jenkins speak about how some professing believers have decided to engage in syncretic dialogues with other faiths. Now, there is nothing wrong with dialoguing with other faiths. The problem is never with dialogue, but the goal and purpose of such dialogue.

If syncretism of any kind is part and parcel of the new face of Christianity, Jenkins can count me out of this new faith. I don't care what their motives are. The reason why the Gospel is exclusive is because God is. If one refuses to acknowledge the fact that God created the world and all cultures, including Asian cultures, if one refuses to acknowledge the making of a Covenant of Works with all peoples (inclusive of Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Indians, Vietnamese etc.) in Adam as their federal head, if one refuses to acknowledge the universality of sin and the inability of all peoples to be righteous before God, that is one's prerogative. But one shouldn't then call oneself a Christian. Call yourself something else, whatever you fancy, but a Christian you are not! And it is plain ridiculous that one thinks pluralism has never been encountered before in Church history. What else was the Greco-Roman world at the time of Christ, but a pluralistic world? Was the Apostle Paul a bigot in his sermon at Mars Hill, stating that he is proclaiming the unknown God to a people with many gods? If your religion is diametrically opposite Paul's, may I suggest you are the one who does not know what Christianity is? Perhaps, Paul does not need to repent, but you do?

So far, I have been totally unimpressed with Jenkins' trumpeting of the "Global South." Unless and until those people repudiates their false theologies for the one catholic apostolic faith, there is nothing more that can be added to the conversation.

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