You say syncretism, I say inculturation or What’s wrong with a bit of syncretism?

I have been thinking a lot about holding the tension between culture, bible and tradition which has moved into thinking about what it is to be swept up with missio dei, and what this may look like for our structures and approaches/ theology.

I still think and still feel we are a long way off the mark in emerging church circles as we are worried about slipping into syncretism, and the gravitational pull of orthodoxy. Perhaps our orthodoxy is as much a myth as the myth that we can know the unknowable G-d.
I think the separation of sacred and secular is rooted in our need to box God in, to define what is God and what is not.

So there is something buzzing away in the back of head about the need to collapse much of our approach as it feels dualist. We have made great progress in missional thinking and understanding recognizing the missio dei etc – if God is working, sovereign, we ask what is God already doing, so we can get in on this (rather than the older approach which was thinking it is our mission or we are the carriers of God or God is not present/at work) but this question, what is god doing is still rooted in identifying a particular thing God is doing (which in itself supposes there are things that God is not in control of or doing) and thus enables us to focus on this known/discerned aspect of God rather than simply being cast adrift with the missio dei with G-d in G-d’s world.

This raises the question of ‘other’ what is it, does it exist, or is there other but that is a whole other kettle of fish which i cant get my head around.

If syncretism is about the attempt to reconcile contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought wasn’t this what happened with introduction of christ and the emerging christology. So since Christ split the curtain shouldn’t we be a bit more about what Robert Schreiter sees as inculturation “the dynamic relation between the Christian message and culture or cultures; an insertion of the Christian life into a culture; an ongoing process of reciprocal and critical insertion and assimilation between them” which seems to differ little for me from syncretism. Perhaps i am being naive about the semantics.

3 thoughts on “You say syncretism, I say inculturation or What’s wrong with a bit of syncretism?

  1. I think Christianity / humanity through the ages has taken bits of other beliefs and practices to enhance it and make it more relevant and embed it in the culture. Isn’t it really difficult to stop this happening? Young people brought up in a culture where they have always known mobile phones and technological gadgets just accept this is normal life and their worldview/ culture/ belief system will be infected – they are unable to imagine, understand or beleive what life was like before these gadgets. Those of us brought up in a particular faith understanding find it really difficult to identify what is culture, what is ‘right’ belief and correct practice. Perhaps the way forward is to unlearn, let go and embrace the religious tradtion of agnosticism!!

  2. hi, Richard, just came across your blog via Jonny Baker. Interesting stuff, but I’m just curious as to why you use G-d sometimes, and God other times? I couldn’t see any consistent reason for this. (I’m puzzled about why people use G-d at all, since its links with YHWH and not speaking out the Name are pretty tenuous.)

  3. Hi Mike
    For me it is not about the links to YHWH but I try God when I think/talk in a the more boxed or defined view and G-d to differentiate from this, it is part of a sense of missional spirituality that would be best summed up with G-d rid me of God. Although you are right I am not always consistent, this is probably due to, laziness, thinking out loud on the blog which sometimes is a bit like verbal diarrhea, and dyslexia.

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