Joseph Herrin (02-11-2010)
Map of Roman Empire Circa 300 A.D.
Let me begin by sharing the working definition of Syncretism for this series.
Syncretism is the merging of Christian belief and practice as defined by Christ and His apostles, with extra-Biblical beliefs and practices which often derive from pagan religions.
There have arisen continued charges that I am engaging in “Catholic bashing” in this teaching. My interest as a minister, called by God to teach The Way of truth to His people, is to divide between truth and error. I am no more anti-Catholic than I am anti-Protestant. There is great error in both camps. My earnest desire is to proclaim The Way of Christ accurately for all who are seekers of truth.
Yesterday I shared the following correspondence with a brother in Christ who, upon sharing a link to my blog site on his own, found that it elicited the disapproval of many of his Catholic readers.
I just went and read the comments, and your responses, to your blog post. You are certainly taking a lot of heat from those who are defenders of Catholicism. I can understand their viewpoint, for they have been taught to equate Catholicism with Christianity. The reason they make this connection is that they have been taught of man to do so. They have not been taught of the Spirit.
The first comment from one of your readers that leapt out at me as a critical error is the following.
The problem with rejecting the authority of the church to guide is that every man becomes pope unto himself, which is a dangerous position.
The Scriptures never tell Christians to be led by the Pope. Their testimony is everywhere that the Christian is to be led of the Spirit of Christ who indwells them.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
I John 2:27
And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
What the Catholic Church has done is to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. They have placed a man as the Vicar of Christ. The word Vicar is the root of the word “vicarious,” which means “taking the place of another person or thing; acting or serving as a substitute.” The Catholic Church has substituted a man for the role that belongs to Christ. Consider a further testimony of the apostles.
I Corinthians 11:3
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
The Roman Catholic Church, and those who are defending her, would suggest that the Pope is the head of the Christian. This is an act of usurpation. It is also a fulfillment of the prophecy of the one called Anti-Christ. If you study the word Antichrist in the New Testament, you will find that the preposition “anti” is not exclusively translated as “opposite,” or “against.” It is very often understood to mean “instead of,” or “in the room of.” Following is Strong’s definition taken from one of the two roots that make up the word antichrist.
NT:473 anti (an-tee’); a primary particle; opposite, I.e. instead or because of (rarely in addition to):
KJV – for, in the room of. Often used in composition to denote contrast, requital, substitution, correspondence, etc.
The Pope has taken his seat as Antichrist, usurping the role of Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It is not my desire to unnecessarily offend any man. The truth itself offends many. I cannot proclaim the truth that all Christians are to be led of the Spirit in all things; they are to be hearing from Christ Himself who said, “My sheep hear MY voice,” without coming into contradiction with the teachings of Roman Catholicism. We either believe the testimony of the Spirit, and of Christ and His apostles, or we believe the testimony of the Vatican, whose testimony is very self-serving by turning all men to a spiritual dependence upon itself…
I share this point about the usurpation that has been performed by the Roman Catholic Church as it has great bearing upon this subject of syncretism.
Let me approach this matter in this way: In seeing the name Roman Catholic Church, it should be obvious that there is something appended to the name Church. There has been an addition made to that which Yahweh instituted. It is called the Catholic Church, as the word Catholic is derived from the Latin catholicus meaning universal. As such, the Roman Catholic Church is testifying that it is the universal church, encompassing all true believers in Christ.
It also has the word Roman appended to it. The alert Christian should be led to inquire as to why an institution claiming to be the one true church that originated in Jerusalem among the Jews, and then spread to “Judea, Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8) should be identified with Rome.
Jesus Christ, Yahshua the Messiah, was born a Jew during the time of the Roman Empire. The apostles lived during this time as well. All things pertaining to Roman society and culture were spread throughout the Empire. This included the official language (Latin), as well as the common language of the Empire (Greek). The worship of Greek and Roman deities was pervasive, as is testified in The Acts of the Apostles.
The Roman Empire was vast, embracing many peoples. Rome permitted its vassal states to continue their individual religious practices while they submitted themselves to the rule of Rome. Thus, we see even in Jerusalem during the time of Christ and His apostles that the Jews freely practiced their religion. The Roman appointed governor, Herod the Great, built for the Jews a magnificent temple which they were given to use for the worship of the God of their forefathers.
Luke, the traveling companion of the apostle Paul, writes in the book of Acts of the profusion of deities worshiped across the Roman Empire. This embrace of a multitude of gods and goddesses was especially pronounced when they arrived in Athens, Greece.
Acts 17:16, 22-23
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols… And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’”
That these Roman citizens constructed an altar “to an unknown god,” reveals their wide embrace of all deities. Not wanting to offend any god, they even built an altar to one that they might not yet know.
The Greek Empire was the predecessor of the Roman Empire. Rome encompassed and expanded upon all that Greece had begun. The pantheon of gods which the Greek people worshiped was adopted by the Romans, simply acquiring new names. As Rome conquered many neighboring lands, it also brought into its embrace the worship of all the deities of those lands.
By allowing the people to continue the worship of their gods, and by expanding commerce and enriching all corners of its empire, Rome was able to assert its rule over a vast region with a large degree of compliance among the peoples conquered.
The gods and goddesses of all of the lands that were brought into the Roman Empire were related to one another. Though they had different names, and differences in teaching, they had many things in common. The religions of the individual peoples, languages and nations are all traceable back to Babel when the world was unified and all men had one tongue. There are many excellent sources on the topic of the Babylonian mystery religion and its spread throughout the world. One resource I highly recommend is Alexander Hislop’s book, The Two Babylons. It can be read online in its entirety. Following is one source:
Alexander Hislop writes:
The Babylonians in their popular religion supremely worshiped a goddess mother and a son who was represented in pictures and images as an infant or a child in his mother’s arms. From Babylon this worship of mother and child spread to the ends of the earth. In Egypt, the mother and child were worshiped under the names Isis and Osiris. In India, even to this day, as Isi and Iswara; in Asia as Cybele and Deoius; in pagan Rome as Fortuna and Jupiter-puer “Jupiter the boy”; in Greece as Ceres, the Great Mother, with the babe at her breast, or as Irene, the goddess of Peace, with the boy Plutus in her arms, and even in Thibet, in China and Japan…
Semiramis and Tammuz/Nimrod
The Roman Empire encompassed many lands and peoples who had carried down from ancient times this Babylonian religion. What started with Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz was spread across the earth when Yahweh scattered the people at the tower of Babel, giving mankind diverse tongues and languages. Nimrod is named in the book of Genesis as the founder of Babylon.
Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
I encourage you to read Hislop’s book to trace the history of the Babylonian mystery religion down to the present day. From ancient times this fertility cult has included an unholy trinity as Satan has sought to pervert the gospel of Christ that has been testified from ancient times through prophets and the creation itself. Each of the members of the Babylonian trinity was also represented in a heavenly body. Nimrod was the Sun and Semiramis the Moon. We see the continuance of the association of these false deities to heavenly bodies at this present time as the planets and many of the constellations bear names traceable back to Babylon.
A tragic occurrence in the early church is that she quickly began to depart from the truth of the gospel of Christ. False doctrines and practices entered quickly as Satan sowed tares among the wheat, and hid leaven among the meal that signifies the kingdom of God. The apostle John, writing approximately fifty years after the resurrection of Christ, set forth the book of Revelation. Its first chapters are devoted to a description of Christ addressing seven churches in Asia Minor, which were all part of the Roman Empire.
Seven Churches of Asia Minor (Present Day Turkey)
Of these seven churches, there were only two that Christ did not reprove for departing from truth. By the time of Emperor Constantine’s rule of the Roman Empire from 306-324 A.D., the church had become greatly leavened with error. It had adopted many of the practices of the Roman society and pagan religions that surrounded it.
It should not surprise the Christian that in a period of three centuries the once pure and vibrant church should experience such a great fall into corruption and apostasy. Christ prophesied that the church age would be one greatly leavened with sin.
The pollution and mixture of the church age is brought out in the parables of Christ. In Mark chapter 13 we find three parables of the church age. Christ said the kingdom of God would be like leaven that was mixed into three pecks of meal until it was thoroughly leavened. Leaven symbolizes sin, and the affect of the leaven increases over time until it reaches its zenith at the end of the age.
Christ compared the kingdom of God to a mustard tree that grows up into the largest bush in the garden and in which the birds come and nest in its branches. The birds of the air are symbolic of Satan and his demons and emissaries.
Christ compared the kingdom age to a field of wheat in which an enemy sowed tares. The tares represent false Christians and false disciples, and Christ declared that it was an enemy (Satan) who sowed the tares there.
Note that all of these parables can easily serve as descriptions of the practice of syncretism. In each case God establishes something and the enemy of Christ adds something unclean to it.
The words of Christ to the seven churches of Asia Minor reveal that before the first century of the church had passed, Satan had already introduced his leaven, birds, and tares into the kingdom of God. Let me share once more the words of Christ to the church in Thyatira.
I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them – I place no other burden on you.
This testimony was typical, rather than atypical, of the churches before one century had passed. When a further two centuries had passed with the influence of Gnosticism, Paganism, and Materialism, the church was ripe for a very great fall into apostasy (a divorcement from truth).
Much of the writings of the apostles are focused on refuting errors that had begun to enter the church from her very earliest days. John wrote:
I John 2:18
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.
For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach…
Satan has found that syncretism is an effective tool as he seeks to deceive the entire world. It took him only three centuries to bring the church to such a confused and fallen state that she would fulfill the prophecy of Revelation chapter 17. The Great Harlot, Mystery Babylon, would ride upon a Scarlet Beast.
This will be explored in the next post.