An article in the Vancouver Sun suggests Canadian Aboriginal people are significantly more open to Christianity than might be expected considering the Residential School atrocities. In fact, 2 out of 3 Aboriginals identify themselves as Christian. And 54% of Aboriginal teens say they trust the church and religious leaders. Compare that to the national teen average of 39%.

This news should be cause for some celebration among the faithful. It means that many Aboriginal people are open to the Gospel – if only we would step out of our own comfort zones and bring it to them. I am certain, however, that many upon reading the news story linked above will also notice that the “Christianity” many of these Aboriginals are committed to is unfortunately synchretistic in nature. Many seem content to blend traditional Aboriginal spiritualism with Christianity.

I have no doubt that this synchretism will be the church’s excuse for abdicating its responsibility to Aboriginal people.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that synchretism is in any way acceptable. Jesus Christ is certainly the only Way, Truth and Life. But I am suggesting that, rather than running away from those who practice synchretism, we instead run towards them. We should run towards them with the fullness of the Gospel, to reveal the Truth… to show them what they are missing.

We would do well to learn from the example of Paul who used the opportunities afforded by the faiths of people to introduce the true faith of Jesus Christ. For it was Paul, according to Acts 17:16-32, who used the altars of other faiths, the poets of other faiths, and the religious meeting places of other faiths to introduce Christianity to the Athenians.

Consider Acts 17:16-22:

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. They they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you…

Let’s do the same.