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"when evangelical Christians from other, non-Westernized, cultures come to us they almost always see and point out (when coaxed) our own syncretisms—especially the ways in which we American Christians uncritically blend secularity with our Christianity."
Olson asks an important question that we might want to wrestle with at the start of 2013: How Secularized Has American Evangelical Christianity Become?
Soong-Chan Rah, a Korean immigrant pastor, does us (that is if you are a Anglo Evangelical American like me) a great service in his book: "The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural C..." Rah writes about what he calls the "White captivity of the Church" by which he means the Churches captivity to American secular culture. Perhaps unaware, as American Evangelicals, to often we are held captive to our cultural thinking. With another Christmas season just completely its easier to observe our consumerism and commercialism. Our national debates too often glaringly show our fierce individualism. But how much of this is Biblical?
On the other hand, many of our diaspora peoples and ethnic churches have a much more vibrant faith we can learn from. Because of their unique backgrounds and Christian worldview we can learn a lot from immigrant churches if we we are willing. Olson and Rah are hitting upon something that we need to understand and work through.
This might be a difficult word for American Evangelicals to receive today but it's an important word if we have any desire to move toward a more holier faith in 2013. An important question to ask and pray into is how much syncretism has invaded our own thinking and that of our churches? Syncretism is the combination of different forms of belief or practice. The word is usually used in a cross cultural mission context to describe the mix of previously held beliefs with new Christian beliefs of a people.
It is always easier to see syncretism in another culture than in our own but we must examine our worldview against Scripture regularly to see if what we believe hasn't been infiltrated with other culture ideas, ideas we may hold near and dear, that are not rooted in the Word. We won't be able to remove all of our syncretic thinking, though there is much rethinking and recalibration needed, as culture is a powerful force. But we can take steps toward a more holier faith in 2013. Jude encourages us with these words: "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit."
Today our cultural is largely secular so we need to honestly examine how much of that secularization has creeped into our own thinking and into our churches. The Apostle Paul admonitions us with this question: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Cor 13:5) It is a perfect time of year to do that.
How might we pray into this as we start the New Year?