Syncretism (συγκρητισμός, union). This term is employed in Church history to designate the movement to promote union among the various evangelical parties of Germany in the 17th century. The word occurs in Plutarch (2, 490 B; ed. Reiske, 7:910) perhaps the only instance among the writers of antiquity-and is there illustrated by the idea that the Cretans, though frequently at war among themselves, were accustomed to unite their powers against the attacks of any foreign foe (καὶ τοῦτο ην ὁ καλούμενος ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν συγκρητισμος). Erasmus adopted the word into the Adagia (chil. 1, cent. 1, No. 11, p. 24), and defined it to signify the union of parties who have need of each other or who desire to make head against a common foe, though they may not be influenced to form such union because they are one at heart. Both the word and the idea came into common use soon afterwards. Zwingli, for example, in a letter to Caeolampadius of the year 1525, recommends such a syncretism (Opp. ed. Schuler et Schulthess, 7:390); Bucer employs the term frequently in connection with his efforts towards union after the publication of the Augsburg Confession (Opp. 8:577), as does also Melancthon with reference to the same business (Corp. Ref. 2, 485 sq.; 1, 917; Opp. Mel. ed. Vitemb. 4:813). The apostate Staphylus (q.v.) charges the Reformers with being simply Babel-builders, and in setting forth his proofs represents the Lutherans as being Syncretizantes (Calov. Syncret. Hist. 1, 2). Zach. Ursinus (q.v.) also employs the term in an unfavorable sense (Opp. Ursini [Neustadt, 1589], 2, 305 on Isa 9:6). Syncretism is thus shown to have been a current term with all persons of humanistic culture in the 16th century, and to have been employed, according to circumstances, with a favorable or unfavorable meaning to designate an alliance of dissenting parties in despite of all dissent. The twofold use of syncretism as a term of commendation or censure continued throughout the 17th century, but with a gradual predominance of the latter idea, arising from the increased importance which came to be attached to every variation of doctrinal beliefs. In 1603 the Romish theologian Windeck wrote against the Protestants a Prognosticon Futuri Status Ecclesiae, in which he advised the Romanists to cultivate greater harmony, in the words "Si saperent Catholici, et ipsis cara esset reipublicae Christianme salus, syncretismum colerent." The Heidelberg theologian David Pareus (q.v.) responded in his Irenicum, sive de Unione Evangel. Concilianda, with an appeal to both wings of the Protestant Church for an alliance against their common foe; but Leonhard Hutter rejected the idea of such an alliance as preposterous (Ε᾿ξέτασις Ε᾿λεγκτική, etc. [Wittenb. 1614]), and a Jesuit, Adam Contzen, followed in a polemic of eight hundred and sixty-one pages, entitled De Pace Germaniae Lihri II (Mayence, 1616, 8vo), whose principal purpose was a demonstration of the impossibility of any union between the Lutheran and Reformed parties of the Protestant Church. The tendency, scarcely interrupted by the raging of the Thirty Years War, of Lutheran and Romanist zealots to magnify existing differences of opinion and intensify their influence drew forth the protest of Calixtus (q.v.). He stigmatized it as shameful, and urged the making of distinctions between doctrines of greater and inferior importance; and, while he wished the further development of doctrinal matters to be relegated to the schools he also urged that a practical sympathy and fellowship be cultivated between the churches. This brought on him a storm of obloquy. The Wittenberg faculty issued two opinions, warning against such "syncretismus diversarum religionum," and deprecating the Sandomir Consensus (q.v.); and in the same year (1645) a Jesuit, Veit Erbermann wrote a work entitled Εἰρηνικόν Catholicum, etc., that deserves notice as being the probable source of a new interpretation of the word syncretism, by which it came to denote, not, as aforetime, the practical association of religionists holding divergent views upon some questions, but an intermixing of the religions themselves. The new rendering of the word furnished the opponents of Calixtus with additional weapons, of which they were not slow to avail themselves. See Dannhauer, Mysterium Syncretismi, etc. (Strasb. 1648), where the idea of syncretism is made to include every form of hurtful association or intermixture, e.g. of Eve with the serpent, of the chemical or mechanical intermixture of heterogeneous elements in nature, etc. With Calovius (q.v.) begins emphatically the use of the term syncretism as denoting an improper and unallowable approximation of Lutheran and Reformed Christians towards each other. This view underlies the phrase Syncretistic Controversies (q.v.) as used in ecclesiastical history. The more benevolent meaning was gradually laid aside, and even Calixtus was constrained to refuse his consent to the application of the term to his position. The perversion has retained its hold upon the popular usage until now, and, has doubtless contributed towards the unauthorized assumption of a derivation of syncretism from συγκεράννυμι. —Herzog, Real- Encyklop. s.v.

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