Syncretism and Christian Tradition: Race and Revelation in the Study of Religious Mixture

“In this fascinating and well-researched conversation on syncretism, Kane creatively connects Plutarch, Erasmus, Harnack, Jean-Marc Éla, and Rowan Williams in an engaging reinvention of tradition for churches in Europe, Africa, and America. This is a must-read to appreciate how theology should be done.”

-Elochukwu Uzukwu
Author of “A Listening Church: Autonomy
and Communion in African Churches”

Purchase here:

About the Book

Syncretism has been a part of Christianity from its very beginning, when early Christians expressed Jesus’ Aramaic teachings in the Greek language. Defined as the phenomena of religious mixture, syncretism carries a range of connotations. In Christian theology, use of syncretism shifted from a compliment during the Reformation to an outright insult in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The term has a history of being used as a neutral descriptor, a pejorative marker, and even a celebration of indigenous agency. Its differing uses indicate the challenges of interpreting religious mixture, challenges which today relate primarily to race and revelation. Despite its pervasiveness across religious traditions, syncretism is poorly understood and often misconceived.

Ross Kane argues that the history of syncretism’s use accentuates wider interpretive problems, drawing attention to attempts by Christian theologians to protect the category of divine revelation from perceived human interference. Kane shows how the fields of religious studies and theology have approached syncretism with a racialized imagination still suffering the legacies of European colonialism. Syncretism and Christian Tradition examines how the concept of race figures into dominant religious traditions associated with imperialism, and reveals how syncretism can act a vital means of the Holy Spirit’s continuing revelation of Jesus.

Publication Details 

Oxford University Press
(December 11, 2020)
300 pages
ISBN-13: ‎

About the Author

Ross-Kane staff headshot photo

The Rev. Dr. Ross Kane is Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture at Virginia Theological Seminary, where he also directs their doctoral programs. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. His work appears in academic journals such as Journal of Religion in Africa and Anglican Theological Review, as well as popular publications like Christian Century.

Share this book on social media!

Faculty Scholarship at VTS

Virginia Theological Seminary is the flagship seminary of the Episcopal Church. Founded in 1823, VTS faculty prepare leaders from around the world for both ordained and lay service in the Church. Our faculty are a diverse community of scholars who are committed to excellence in teaching and research. Through publications, public speaking, and travel, faculty engage with the wider Church and world, while shaping the next generation of leaders.

steeple view of campus