“In our brave new world of religious tolerance stands a false assumption: by accepting every concept of God on the face of the earth, we have at last breached the wall of ignorance and bigotry. We have created a new freedom—a camaraderie of the liberated global man, unfettered by the old ways or impediments of esteem-stunting, dark-age religious superstitions.”
Syncretism, according to Wikipedia, is the combining of different (often seemingly contradictory) beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism may involve the merger and analogizing of several originally discrete traditions, especially in theology and of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.
Pluralism has been defined (again by Wikipedia), at least in part, as the acceptance of the concept that two or more religions with mutually exclusive truth claims are equally valid and that the exclusive claims of different religions turn out, upon closer examination, to be variations of universal truths that have been taught since time immemorial.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made that has been made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
Perhaps you have heard the story about a group of blind men who have gathered around an elephant. There are several versions of the tale. But the scenario goes basically like this:
An observer (usually a nobleman of some sort) watches a group of blind men gathered around an elephant. The first blind man, we are told, touches the elephant’s tail and then declares with firm assurance that he’s holding a rope. A second blind man touches the elephant’s leg and swears that it’s a tree. Another touches the elephant’s trunk and believes he’s handling a snake. And another finds the elephant’s ear and believes that he has touched a fan…and so on.
Today, the story is most often told to illustrate two spiritual points:
First, that when any of the world’s religions claims to have exclusive knowledge regarding truth…or, more accurately, the Truth… (and, of course, they all do)…, it is a sure sign of blind arrogance, misguided foolishness, and dark intolerance.
Second, it makes the point that all religions are essentially saying the same thing about ultimate Reality, but they just don’t see it …not really.
Of course, the not too subtle, underlying implication of the Elephant Tale is that if only the differing religious traditions would “wise up”, open their eyes and learn to blend their teachings into a Big-Tent, syncretistic Whole, there would…at long last… be peace in the world and we would all live happily ever after.
In essence, The Elephant Tale is intended to illustrate for us that while the doctrines, creeds and practices of every world religion may at times touch or brush up against part of the truth here or there, none of them can truly know what “The Elephant” (“God”) is like or really all about. After all, ideas about God….(if indeed there is a “god” at all)….will always be little more than human conjecture and speculation, a well-intentioned grasping at straws. And so, the reasoning goes, it would be best simply to combine the most pleasing aspects of each religious tradition…stir them together and distill them down into one easy-to-swallow, pluralistic Whole. That way, the clearest and most satisfying picture of “god” (or “The Elephant” of ultimate reality) might begin to come into focus to be appreciated and enjoyed by all good people around the world.
But as theologian, author and Christian missionary, Lesslie Newbigin, has correctly observed:
“… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind, there would be no story. What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp. But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has.”
For the Bible-believing Christian, this means abandoning the traditional understanding of scripture… (ie., the “narrow way” to which Jesus referred)… and submitting to the much more…(ahem)… “sensitive” broad way vision that religious syncretism so wisely (?) inclusively dictates.
The enlightened, superior path of Tolerant Pluralism comes of age. The New Age Religion of “The Sync-Whole Truth” swallows up all other blind and misguided religions and philosophies.. She will not be denied. She must have her way.
“Join Our Deep Sync-Whole Crusade”
Follow us…we’ll take you deep, sir,
Into this wide, yawning Whole;
Syncretism is the answer
For each blind and stumbling soul!
Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, Buddha,
Tail ‘n’ Trunk and Leg ‘n’ Ear…
We’re the ones who see The Whole, sir,
Watch your step, we’ll make it clear!
Here at last, the truth you’re after…
Take those blindfolds off for good!
Be enlightened…taste The Oneness
We, at last, have understood!
Pack it in, my friend…Admit it!
You were blind…But now we see!
All your wasted ages searching…….
Praise be,…. Pachydermity!
Yes! Transcend those bits and pieces
You’ve held on to all this time!
Man, we’ve got it all together…
and, ….Sweet Glory!....It’s sublime!
We’ll impart true Sync-Whole wisdom,
(We’re the ones who really see! )
Take that mammoth leap of faith, sir…
We’re not saying you’re a Dumbo,
Though you seem somewhat “delayed”…
Come with us!... Evolve!... You’ll love it!
Join our Deep Sync-Whole Crusade!
If you’re smart, you’ll catch “The Vision”!
Spread the new Good News you’ve got…
Roll with us into the future…
Ride the New Age Juggernaut.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” –Matthew 7: 13-14
Lord, please guide us through this desert,
Help us, Shepherd, hear your word…
May we drink that Living Water,
Help us share then what we’ve heard!
Lead us not into temptation,
Guide us from dark night to day…
May true Light of Revelation
Show us, Lord,…the narrow Way.
“This is what the LORD Almighty says:
Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:16)