The title I dubbed for this class is Thoroughbred Christianity. That is because this class is seeking to cultivate in you an understanding that there is one true faith that must be kept pure and undefiled.
You might have heard of thoroughbred horses or thoroughbred dogs. These are animals which have a pure breeding. They are mutts who are a mix of poodles, Labradors, and/or Chow, etc.
This mixing of belief is what we call syncretism. Syncretism is the combining of different (often seemingly contradictory) beliefs. It is one of the most deadly weapons that Satan uses to destroy true faith.
The ancient Israelites often sinned against God by worshipping other gods. However, they did not wake up one morning and decide to worship different gods. Typically it was a process. They began with slight deviations, but continued to worship “the LORD.” These deviations continued to increase and they continued to move farther away from the true religion.
Two examples serve to illustrate: That of the golden calf incident (they fashioned a calf--likely something they got from Egypt, and called it the LORD). The second is that of the Samaritans.
Many in America today have a smorgasbord approach to religion. At a buffet restaurant, you can choose from a variety of dishes. You can mix and match however you would like. The same is often done with religion. What happens is that the faith that one holds is a completely new religion. It is not Christianity. The Lord commands us to worship in “spirit and truth.” That means we must refrain from worshipping him in “paganism and truth.”
Our purpose in this class is to help us formulate a thoroughgoing Christian worldview. We want Christians to be thoroughbreds, and not a sort of Christian mutt—one who has a little Christianity, a little Eastern religion, a little secularism, etc.
Oftentimes we fall into syncretism unconsciously. We are not making a conscious decision to hold contradictory beliefs. It simply happens because we are immersed in our culture and radically influenced by it without knowing it.
When I was young I worked as a “fry guy” at a local fast food restaurant. I would spend hours standing over the fry vats which were filled with hot grease in order to cook the fries. At the end of my shift I would come home. Oftentimes my mother would tell me that I smelled like a French fry.
Unbeknownst to me, I took on the “smell” of my context. By the time my shift was done I was, in a sense, part human and part French fry.
This serves as a good illustration of what oftentimes happens to us when it comes to our faith. Because we are immersed in a culture that has a certain worldview (secularist, existential), we pick it up without even knowing it. Our faith ends up being part Christian and part secularist (or Eastern mystic, etc.).
For instance, today we have churches and fellowship groups with exotic dancing. You can worship God, give your prayer requests, study the Bible, and then do some exotic dancing. Or after your small group meeting, you can hit the local adult only club to extend your fellowship time.
These people do not know that the actions of “fellowship” and “exotic dancing” are opposed to one another. The dancing is a product of secularistic & existential philosophy where the body has no modesty boundaries and may be freely given to any form of carnal pleasure.
Another example regards the recent comments by Angus Jones, a lead actor on the show Two and a Half Men. He is reported to claim to be a Christian and has encouraged people not to watch his show because it is “filth.”
It is understood that these are extreme examples. However, they do illustrate the problem of syncretism and the Christian’s need to be philosophically consistent. Part of the Christian’s lifelong duty is to continually extract himself from syncretism. That is why constant immersion in the Scriptures and the fellowship of believers is so crucial. What’s more, it requires us to “understand the world in which we live.” By understanding the worldviews that are prevalent in our culture we can be more consciously thoroughbred Christians.
We will take time to examine some of these worldviews in the upcoming weeks. For now, we should talk about how immersed we are in the fry vat.
We said before that everyone has a worldview. What we didn’t say is that they always communicate that worldview in whatever they do.
As we read books we need to be aware of worldviews. We ought to be asking ourselves, “What is this person saying about God and the universe? What is this person saying about the nature of man?”
Frankenstein (by Mary Shelley) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (by Robert Louis Stevenson) are two books that deal with monsters. However, they have two radically different worldviews. One author believes that man is basically good. Shelley believes that man was created kind, benevolent, and generous, and society turned him into a monster. She says then that if you could simply correct society, then man would behave properly. This is not at all the biblical view of man.
In Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you think as you read that there are two separate, distinct individuals. Then in the end you realize that hiding deep within Dr. Jekyll is a Mr. Hyde. This reveals how Stevenson believed that man has an evil nature. Left to himself, the evil nature would totally control the person. This is the biblical position.
Hollywood is a place that has many preachers proclaiming the tenets of its worldview(s). Every TV show you watch and every film you view is sending a message. The question is, what message is it sending? The movie Castaway might be compared with Daniel Defoe’s famous book, Robinson Caruso. Both are about a man who is stranded on a desert island. Both men must struggle to live. But one depicts life from a Christian perspective. The other depicts it from a non-Christian (secularist/existential) point of view.
In Robinson Caruso, the main character is, for the most part, upbeat and faces the challenge of survival with a sense of “Providence has brought me here.” The main character of Castaway has a bit more difficult time. He struggles with serious fits of depression and contemplates suicide. Once he gets back to civilization, he experiences heartbreak over the loss of his lover. The question becomes, “Whether in civilization or desolation, is life worth living?” The show ends with his being at a crossroad, meaning “Whither?”
The music you listen to bleeds worldviews. It is perhaps the most influential means of forming a worldview because it combines a strong message with rhythms and instrumentation that tantalize the soul in a way not possible with plain speech.
Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (BR) is a great example of what we call postmodernism. Postmodernism says that “there is no absolute truth or objective reality and that what we experience as reality is a social construct (solely constructed by individual human minds). It may refer to ‘any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by... ironic self-reference and absurdity (as in literature)’, or to ‘a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language.’” (Wikipedia)
Roger Taylor once said of the song: "Record companies both sides of the Atlantic tried to cut the song, they said it was too long and wouldn't work. We thought, 'Well we could cut it, but it wouldn't make any sense,' it doesn't make much sense now and it would make even less sense then: you would miss all the different moods of the song."
In an interview with band members Brian May and Roger Taylor on the Queen Videos Greatest Hits DVD, Brian said: "What is Bohemian Rhapsody about, well I don't think we'll ever know and if I knew I probably wouldn't want to tell you anyway, because I certainly don't tell people what my songs are about. I find that it destroys them in a way because the great thing about a great song is that you relate it to your own personal experiences in your own life. I think that Freddie was certainly battling with problems in his personal life, which he might have decided to put into the song himself. He was certainly looking at re-creating himself. But I don't think at that point in time it was the best thing to do so he actually decided to do it later. I think it's best to leave it with a question mark in the air."
These are just some of the outlets that are used to communicate a worldview. What is important to understand is that a worldview is communicated! It is communicated by everyone and by any means that provides an avenue for communication. If we don't recognize it, or, if we do not filter these messages, then we might "absorb" the worldview. In doing so, we will be guilty of syncretism.
It is for this reason that the Apostle Peter gives the exhortation, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) At every moment we need to be alert to the messages that we are receiving and filtering them appropriately.
1. Read Chapter 3 of HSWTL?
 Building a Biblical Worldview, by David Quine
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.