One principle that runs throughout all of Scripture is that found in Isaiah 42:8: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” God’s exclusivity is a major theme of both Testaments, and all forms of religious syncretism are clearly condemned.
This passage speaks to the truth that Yahweh will not share his glory with any other spirit, false god or religion. He alone is the one true God and he alone deserves our undivided loyalty and worship. His uniqueness is contrasted with all the surrounding idolatrous practices and belief systems.
We find the same thoughts in the New Testament. Jesus resolutely proclaimed his uniqueness and that he alone deserved exclusive loyalty when he said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)
The early disciples recognised this truth as well. For example, they boldly proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” This rock-solid certainty characterised their approach, and they were more than willing to give up their lives for such truths.
Yet what a marked contrast we find today with so many who claim to be followers of Jesus. Unlike the early church, where there was fierce resistance to any sort of religious compromise or fuzzy syncretism, we have today all sorts of wishy-washy beliefs and interfaith foolishness.
Christians are tripping over themselves to just get along with those of other faiths. They are bending over backwards not to offend any non-believers or those of different religious traditions. Thus they are quite happy to get rid of any Christian symbols so that they can appear relevant, trendy and non-threatening.
One church after another is getting rid of any crosses – both inside or outside of the church – and many are even getting rid of the word ‘church’. Many are taking up upmarket names which seem to bear no resemblance at all to the Christian mission.
Sermons are often disappearing, as are hymns, Scripture readings and any other vestiges of Christian worship. All this would be bad enough, but some churches are taking things even further. Some are actually opening up their services to other faiths, in the spirit of good will and cooperation.
One group of clearly misguided Christians is in fact bringing in readings from the Muslim Koran and other religious writings. In a mind-numbing display of interfaith dialogue, these churches are effectively saying that the exclusive claims of God in both Testaments, and Christ in the New, are so much poppycock. I have written up this dangerous initiative elsewhere:
As I mentioned there, this is about as helpful as Elijah inviting the Baalists around for a drink and a nice interfaith worship service. Sorry, but Elijah never would have even countenanced such a thing. Nor would the early disciples have. They would rather have died for their faith than give in to such destructive religious syncretism.
Indeed, it was exactly because they refused to be seen as just another religious group that they were so fiercely rejected and persecuted. They wanted nothing to do with the common practices of the day, as exemplified by the Pantheon.
As this name makes clear (Greek: every god), this impressive Roman structure was a place where all religious faiths could get together and nicely get along. They were all on equal footing, and none was seen to be superior to the others. Indeed, when the Romans conquered a foreign people, they would not demand their religion come to an end.
They had a much better idea. They would simply take the image of the local deity and add it to all the others in the Pantheon! Thus everyone could keep worshipping their own local gods, and everyone could get along in a terrific ecumenical shindig.
The trouble is, Christians knew they could never do this. They knew that Jesus was not just another local deity, but the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. As such every knee must bow to him, and every other god, deity, religion and idol must be seen for what they are: counterfeits, shams, and false claimants to the throne.
That is why the Emperor was so threatened as well by this new religion. He had claimed to be lord, but here was this upstart Jesus coming along, also claiming to be Lord. Indeed, he claimed to be the one and only true Lord, the one that every other king, ruler, potentate and dignitary must bow down to.
This certainly got the Roman authorities angry at the Christians. This certainly got the multi-faith society angry at the Christians. This certainly got the religious pluralists and inclusivists bent out of shape. That is why so many thousands of Christian martyrdoms took place.
These Christians just would not play the game of interfaith dialogue and religious syncretism. For that they paid with their lives. But this Sunday all sorts of churches will open their doors wide open to false gods, false beliefs and false religions, all in the name of “just getting along”.
What they are effectively doing is nailing Christ afresh to the cross. They are rejecting both his claims about himself, and the nature of his finished work at Calvary. They are despising the cross and rejecting the shame that goes with it. They would rather be seen as “nice” and “inoffensive” than stand up for the cross of Christ, the blood that was shed, and the once-and-for-all perfect sacrifice made by Jesus.
They have become enemies of the cross of Christ, which Paul and others so often warned against. They simply do not have the spiritual backbone to act like Elijah of old. They would rather receive the praise of men than stand up and pay the price for proclaiming the exclusive truth claims of the risen Christ.
Sunday June 26 will be a day of shame for the true church of Jesus Christ. But fortunately not everyone will bow the knee to Baal. Many will refuse such compromise and weakness, and will instead say with Joshua: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15).