How Compromise is Paving the Road to Apostasy
Throughout history Satan has used two lines of attack in his continuing war against God: Eliminate God’s people physically and nullify God’s ministries through apostasy. Apostasy is defined as “an abandonment of what one has voluntarily professed; a total desertion or departure from one’s faith, principles, or party.”1
An effective method Satan uses to induce biblically sound ministries to go apostate is syncretism. Syncretism is a “compromise in religion” or “uncritical acceptance of conflicting or divergent beliefs or practices.”2
Today syncretism abounds as churches professing to be evangelical compromise their values by embracing doctrines and practices that are contrary to Scripture. The problem has been around for centuries and defiles the holy nature of the church by conforming it to the world’s concept of relevancy.
When the Roman Empire established Christianity as the only legal religion in the late fourth century, many pagans became associated with Christian churches. They practiced the pagan religion the Babylonians had adopted in the 22nd century B.C.,3 which involved the worship of a goddess addressed as “The Holy Virgin,” “The Virgin Mother,” and “Queen of Heaven and Earth.”4 The Roman pagans Christianized those titles by ascribing them to the virgin Mary, and the Roman Church eventually adopted them through syncretism.
In Brazil, spiritism has amassed a widespread influence. A significant number of devout Roman Catholics use the services of spiritist mediums. On at least one occasion, the archbishop of a large Roman Catholic cathedral in a major city of Brazil invited a spiritist leader to help him serve the Mass to his congregation at Easter.
Darwinian evolution has had a powerful syncretistic impact on organized Christendom. Beginning in the late 19th century, it played a key role in the development of liberal theology within some church groups that originally were biblically sound. Since then it has radically changed society’s moral compass. In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett of Tufts University in Massachusetts said Darwinian evolution is like a “universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview.”5
Darwinian evolution has impacted some pastors and teachers who are primarily biblically sound except in their interpretation of Genesis 1. Instead of taking the position that the six days of creation are to be interpreted literally as six successive 24-hour days with no gaps of time in between, they capitulate to the dogmatic claims of scientists who say it took millions or billions of years for the universe and everything in it to come into existence.
A very significant study has revealed that approach has had a tragic, negative impact on youth who have grown up in Christian homes and attended churches that were otherwise biblically sound. Consequently, a large percentage were “already gone” in their attitude toward the church before they left for college.6 They felt if they could not trust the Genesis creation account to be literally true, then how could they trust the rest of the Bible?
Another form of syncretism impacting churches today is the market-driven approach to being relevant to the unsaved (people who have not accepted Christ as their personal Savior). Just as manufacturers ask people what types of products they want, many churches are asking unsaved people what the church should be like in order for them to attend. Just as manufacturers retool to produce popular products, “market-driven” churches retool to attract the unsaved. They think the church must conform to the world’s concept of relevancy in order to reach unsaved people with the gospel.
Although the motivation of these churches is commendable, the result has negative consequences. There is conflict between two different worldviews: the biblical and the secular-humanistic. God holds the church responsible to cleave to, propagate, and conform to the biblical worldview.
The word translated “church” in the New Testament means “called out.” God has called out the church from Satan’s godless world system with its secular-humanistic worldview and expects it to be different from that system. Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her” so the church “should be holy” by nature (Eph. 5:25–27). The word translated “holy” means “divided, different, distinct,” as opposed to the word translated “profane,” which means “secular, common, ordinary.”
The church is to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). A pillar is responsible for upholding another object. God established the church to uphold His biblical truth and be steadfast against all opposing forces in the war between these two worldviews.
The word translated “ground” means “foundation” and refers to what is “firm, steadfast, immovable.”7 A foundation’s purpose is to prevent a building from shifting or moving from its original location.
God intends the church to prevent His revealed truth from being shifted or moved around to something that is no longer true. Christ commanded believers, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). He ordained that evangelism take place primarily in the world, where the unsaved are. Making the church relevant to the unsaved to draw them into its services for salvation reverses the order of evangelism ordained by Christ and defiles the church’s holy nature by conforming it to the world’s concept of relevancy, rather than to God’s.
The market-driven approach uses the world’s wisdom instead of the weapons God has provided: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4–5).
The emergent church movement is another example of syncretism. It places a mystical emphasis on the inner self through some forms of worship borrowed from other religions and opposes other things contained in God’s Word, such as the Bible as the ultimate source of authority, doctrine, Christ’s death as God’s judgment for mankind’s sin, capital punishment, eternal judgment, and the existence of absolute truth. Instead, it focuses on establishing God’s Kingdom on Earth through social welfare.
Unfortunately, there are no signs syncretism will disappear. Rather, it appears it may play a key role in the ultimate apostasy before the revelation of the Antichrist (2 Th. 2:3).
- Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed., unabridged (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1939), 127, s.v. “apostasy.”
- , 2558, s.v. “syncretism.”
- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 219.
- , 236.
- Thomas E. Woodward, “Answering Darwin,” Kindred Spirit 33, no. 1 (2009): 4, 6.
- Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 27, 31, 39.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “edraioma, edraios,” A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed.; Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 217.