And Aaron received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:4-5).
When Moses didn’t come down from Mt Sinai as expected, the Jews demanded Moses’ brother make us gods that shall go before us (Exodus 32:1). Aaron didn’t adopt Egyptian paganism, but declared the calf as a symbol of Jehovah. He combined the traditional pagan religion of Egypt familiar to Israel with the worship of the One true God. It was an acceptable compromise to please idolaters while Aaron could claim faithfulness to Jehovah.
God doesn’t compromise, and sent Moses scurrying down the mountain. When Moses saw what the people were doing, he threw the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments to the ground, shattering them. What an illustration of Israel’s breaking of all Ten Commandments!
Mixing aspects of two different religions together is called syncretism, and God rejects it. The Bible is clear that either God is worshiped as He says or it is idolatry. Syncretism attempts to make something distasteful (like Biblical Christianity) acceptable to everyone.
In the fourth century AD, the Roman popes were hungry to increase their control and income from Europe. They dispatched “missionaries” to convert the pagans. Pagans could keep their idols, gods, religious holidays, and culture, but had to add the Trinity to the pantheon, be baptized in water, and pay a tithe tax to Rome. This is how statues, praying to saints, and religious holidays, etc, entered Roman Catholicism.
The Protestant Reformers opposed syncretism on Biblical grounds, insisting that religious practices not given to the Church in Scripture alone were to be abandoned like golden calves.
There is a growing syncretism in Christendom today. It’s rife in Pentecostalism and mainline congregations. It’s exemplified in Africa, where Christianity is increasingly described as a “white man’s” or “western” religion. The result is the rejuvenation of traditional African religious-cultural practices (TAR) like ancestor and nature worship and idolatry, while adding appreciated Christian concepts to create a unique religion just for Africans called African Christianity.
Syncretism is not Christianity.