Christianity 201

December 13, 2021

Christianity: Adding Other Spices to the Recipe

This weekend at a church lunch, I sat opposite a girl who is in middle school. Trust me, I don’t have too many contacts in that demographic, so the conversation we had was unique on that basis alone.

She had some things with her, including a book, and also two objects which are strongly identified with New Age practices. I thought that was rather odd, given what I know about her family. In fact, similar objects are sold at a shop where my wife has been making contacting with the owner recently, so given that, and given that I prefer the possibilities of a female offering counsel to another female, I decided to simply make her (my wife) aware and let her decide on what level to pursue further discussion.

In my heart though, I just felt sad. Sad because here was a young girl who had spent many years in church who was, to use a recipe analogy, mixing her spiritual ingredients, and was seemingly unaware that ‘this’ doesn’t go with ‘that.’

I find the wording of Exodus 20:23 interesting:

Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.(NIV)

The key is the word alongside. It’s not saying, ‘don’t make representations of other gods instead of me;’ but rather, it’s saying, ‘don’t make representations of other gods and worship them at the same time as you are also worshiping me.’

(Some translations use, “to rival me;” i.e. both in play, in competition at the same time.)

This isn’t stated in the shorter, standard “ten commandments” reading which occurs 20 verses earlier, in verse 3:

You must not have any other god but me; (NLT)

which appears to create an either/or situation. In verse 3 it’s going to be Yahweh, and nobody else, but in verse 23, it’s picturing a situation where there are competing gods both vying for attention at the same time.

There’s a word for this sort of thing, and that word is syncretism; but when I looked it up here, I discovered that in over 4,200 devotionals, we’ve only used the word once, just eight months ago in this article.

Years ago, an evangelist on television was speaking about this issue and described a survey in a part of Japan which yielded the statistic that 87% of the people in a particular province were Shinto and 86% were Taoists (note the percentages don’t add up to 100).  He stressed that so also do we in the west belong to two very different belief sets.

In the Japanese example, one is a religion that deals with the present life, the other deals with the afterlife; one is a religion for living, one for dying. The North American situation is somewhat similar. One of our faith worldviews might be Christianity, but our beliefs and practices also show a reliance on self-centeredness, or on materialism, or our hope in technology to save us, or entertainment to dull our senses into a quasi-peace.

Of those, an outsider might think that materialism is the one which dominates…

…Sometimes I will be part of a conversation where someone has mentioned their astrological sign. In an attempt at humor which I borrowed from some forgotten source, I will contribute that, “I don’t believe in astrology, but then again, us Geminis are naturally skeptical.”

More seriously however, the percentage of people in our churches who begin the day by consulting their horoscope would probably surprise us, as anything other than 0.00% should not be. The girl in the conversation said that one of her objects was related to her zodiac sign.

Continuing in Exodus, translations vary in their approach to Exodus 34:14. The Christian Standard Bible renders the verse that our God is “jealous by nature;” but many, like the NLT, NIV, NASB, etc. state that “jealous” is implicit in his very name: for “…you shall not worship any other god, because the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God…” (NASB)

Jesus explains best why syncretism doesn’t work.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” – Matthew 6:24 ESV

In the rest of the verse, he makes clear that the other in this case is money, the aforementioned materialism…

…There’s more I could write about this, and obviously, with the girl in the story, a conversation needs to happen; but I hope it starts you thinking about other gods which are competing for first place in your own life, and also, if you know someone for whom Christian faith just ‘isn’t working,’ perhaps they are making Jesus share first-place with others.

You can’t add other ingredients, even other spices, to the recipe. God doesn’t leave you that option.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: