A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process

A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process

A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process

A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process


"Syncretism is a word with an ambivalent, not to say bizarre history. It originated with the Greek historian Plutarch as a descriptive noun for advantageous political alliances among the Cretan tribes. It was later adopted by the Renaissance humanist Erasmus to propose to other humanists a way for them to unite against barbarism. But in the seventeenth century some Protestant theologians, followed later by some Catholics, used it to describe unprincipled compromise with conflicting teachings. Since then, among Christians the word has signified theological distortion, although anthropologists have employed it neutrally to describe the phenomena of religious mixtures resulting from intercultural contacts. The present work seeks to "retrieve" the ancient meaning of syncretism, since the book's thesis is that such mixing grows out of a human desire for unity and synthesis. More, among oppressed tribal peoples, it is an attempt to understand and rationalize their situation. While acknowledging that not all syncretism is good and that some cases, like Nazism, have been demonic, this book argues that "syncretic process" is a historical movement by which Christianity can understand itself better as a faith to be shared by all cultures. Thus, once again, theology becomes "faith seeking understanding.""--BOOK JACKET. Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Perhaps the highest merit in the following work, given its heavy analytical tone, is the fact that its origin was very much “the field.” Had I not become deeply involved with spiritual lead… ers of the Arapaho people prior to 1981, and with the Ojibway people of northern Ontario after that time, this subject would not likely have occurred to me. But it is now clear to me how applicable the various works on syncretism are to these people, given their struggles to survive in an overwhelmingly dominant society and in a Church that is so very European.

I am grateful to have been in some small way included in that struggle, and I express here my thanks to those leaders and to all the Arapahos and Ojibways whom I have known over a period of four decades. I will not attempt to name any of them here, since it would be so easy to overlook some. I have, however, in the course of this book, mentioned by name some who were especially significant in spurring me on to further reflection and action. I can only hope that, indirectly, this book will help them and other aboriginal societies to enjoy a secure home in the Church and within the wider secular world.

Special thanks are due to my superiors at Regis College in Toronto for having granted me more leisure time for writing during my final year of full tenure there. I am happy to be able to continue serving Regis in some way as a professor emeritus, while now serving as ad… junct faculty in the Theological Studies Department and Vice Presi… dent for Mission and Ministry at St. Louis University. I also thank Dr. Andrew Tallon, the director of Marquette University Press, for his willingness to take a chance with a topic that seems to most to be so esoteric, and thus to make my ideas available to others who share my quest.

St. Louis University 2002 . . .

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