On July 31, 2023 George Anthony Platt, co-valedictorian of the historically black men’s Christian college, Morehouse College, gave the keynote sermon at Antioch AME Church during their “back to school” worship service. He began his sermon by “acknowledging” the spirit of his grandmother, who had “transitioned to the ancestral realm” while his mother was seven weeks pregnant with him. He then thanked her “for her presence.”

This opening remark was followed by a sermon which could have come straight out of the Disney movie Pocahontas. A key takeaway of the message was that we can pray to both the God of heaven and to our ancestors.

Quoting from Platt’s message directly, The Christian Post lays this out:

“Sometimes we find it hard to get up, to go to work and school. But if we were just to call on the resilient, strong-willed, and do anyhow spirit of our ancestors, somehow or another, we’ll find ourselves receiving a boost, a source of strength to get through the day,” Pratt said.

“I hear somebody saying in my ear, call on the ancestors? I’m calling on Jesus. Yes, call on Jesus and plead the blood of Jesus. Yes, there’s power in the name of Jesus, demons tremble, yokes break, and the captives are set free at the name of Jesus. However, there is power in calling on the folk that’s in your bloodline and in your lineage who precede you,” he argued. “You simply are just a manifestation of your ancestors. Your ancestors are you and you are your ancestors. You can both call on the name of Jesus and call on your ancestors, too.”

Pratt further noted that when he needed help with his studies, he called on the spirit of his ancestors and famous black scholars like W.E.B Dubois and others to help him.

“Lord knows there were times when I did not feel like going to class or meetings. I didn’t have the energy to write my 45-page senior thesis in history and religion. But I called on my ancestors,” he said.

What is most surprising is that we can hear the congregation agreeing, cheering, and saying “Amen!

Platt went on, speaking in front of the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Vandy C. Simmons, who was agreeing wholeheartedly, as demonstrated by the nodding of his head.

“God also blesses us with our ancestors as intermediaries who can work on our behalf in the tradition of our African and indigenous ancestors. Ancestors are [also] viewed as manifestations of God, the divine creator, and can intercede for us in the spiritual domain.”

What is Wrong With Praying to Our Ancestors? 

Why can’t we pray to our ancestors? It sounds innocent enough, right? The memories of our parents and grandparents who have gone before us should give us encouragement and comfort, especially if they lived godly and profitable lives and were dear to us.

So, what’s wrong with praying to them and invoking their presence and their intercession? First, the Bible makes it clear that Christ Jesus is the only one who mediates for us with the Father, not our ancestors.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Jesus Christ is our great high priest who is in the presence of God, who always lives to intercede for us. Christ Jesus is one with the Father, and he knows us better, understands us better, and can relate to us better than anyone — even our ancestors. So, we are commanded to draw near to him.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

In fact, each believer in Jesus Christ is now a priest with direct access to the Father through Jesus.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Praying to our ancestors goes against the way we are instructed to pray — to God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son.

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9)

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

Platt claims that our ancestors are “viewed as manifestations of God, the divine creator,” who can give us strength when we call on them. The idea that any spiritual being can be a manifestation of God crosses the line of veneration and honor due only to the Lord God Himself — it becomes actual worship of one’s ancestors. Even angels, as spiritual beings, pointed to God as the only one to worship. Listen to what the archangel Michael told the Apostle John:

“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’” (Revelation 19:10)

There are, in fact, spiritual beings who are NOT manifestations of God, and whom we are not to worship. The spirits of one’s ancestors fall into that category.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Syncretism

What we see in Platt’s teaching is a clear example of Syncretism – a blending or combining of different world views to create a new personal belief system. Sadly, Syncretism is not uncommon, and we must all be on the lookout for it. In fact, it’s one of the most common philosophical trends in America today.

In his American Worldview Inventory 2021-22, George Barna identified Syncretism as the number one leading worldview in the United States, with 88% of Americans holding some sort of mixture in their belief systems.

Barna describes Syncretism as “an impure, unrecognizable worldview that is nothing more than a customized, personal blend of disparate ideas adopted from multiple philosophies of lifeusually an inconsistent, sometimes internally contradictory, hot mess of a worldview.

But what is so surprising about Platt’s message that it was delivered in a church, by a graduate of an historically Christian college. His message was ostensibly centered on the Word of God, yet he encouraged his brothers and sisters in Christ to freely combine the Gospel of Jesus Christ with ancestral prayer.

Platt’s alma matter, Morehouse College, was founded in 1867 as the Augusta Institute at Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia. The Institute was renamed Atlanta Baptist Seminary in 1879, and it became Morehouse College in 1913. Their website states that “The mission of Morehouse College is to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service. A private historically black liberal arts college for men, Morehouse realizes this mission by emphasizing the intellectual and character development of its students.” This institute of higher learning began centered the Word of God; but today there are no references to the Bible on their website.

This distressing pattern of falling away from Scripture has unfortunately become a common occurrence for our historically Christian colleges. Therefore, as believers, we must all do our due diligence to make sure that the institutions we support, especially financially, are staying true to biblical truth.

Of equal concern is the theological position of Antioch AME Church, where George Platt spoke. According to their website, the church was founded in 1868, when “several faithful and progressive minded Christians decided to begin a church where they could have the privilege of worshiping in their own manner, among their own people; thus, Antioch was born.”

There is no doctrinal statement or statement of faith to be found on their church website. The question then becomes, “On what is their teaching grounded?” This is also an illustration of the syncretistic trend in Christian churches and institutions in America today. Embracing, accepting, championing, and encouraging ancestor prayer is a leading example of how the Biblical Worldview has been compromised in the minds of many Christians, and has been replaced by Syncretism.

Beware of False Teaching

Platt’s syncretistic teaching – mixing the Word of God and non-biblical exhortations — is a scary position to delve into. Christ Jesus taught that false teaching is a very serious matter, and those who produce the fruit of false teaching will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

False prophets and false worldviews bear diseased and bad fruit — the fruit of death and suffering.

Syncretism is the most common worldview in America today because it requires no thought, and because it is more hopeful than the other non-biblical worldviews popular in our culture. It feels good and doesn’t take any effort to believe whatever we want to believe — even when it’s irrational and doesn’t make sense.

Syncretism says, “pick and choose whichever belief systems you like, and mix them together however you want, resulting in a melting pot of contradictory philosophies.

Syncretists hold that we can believe the Bible and also Darwinism. We can be a Christian and also support immorality. We can be an atheist and also believe there is right and wrong. Just pick whatever feels correct, regardless of truth or consistency. A Syncretist might say, “Of course I believe in Jesus; I also believe if we live good lives here, we can go to heaven; karma will come back to bite you; and everyone gets to find the truth thats right for them.

Millions of our friends and family members, including Christian believers, are falling prey to the “way that seems right to a man, even though “its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Most Americans today are more than happy to lean on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and let human wisdom direct their decisions, instead of allowing God’s Word to be the lamp to their feet and the light to their path (Psalm 119:105).

Instead, we are called to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).

If we love our families and neighbors, we must oppose and remove the false philosophy of Syncretism from our individual lives, our families, our churches, and the places in our society where we have influence. We must also set an example by living as authentic, consistent Christians who understand the Word of God and live out the Biblical Worldview. The Bible is absolute truth, there is only one mediator between God and Man – the Lord Jesus Christ, and God’s Word has the answers for life! Period.

 

Bunni Pounds is president and founder of Christians Engaged — a ministry activating the Body of Christ to pray, vote, and engage regularly. Formerly a congressional candidate and 16-year political consultant, she is a motivational speaker and preacher of the gospel. Her book, Jesus and Politics: One Woman’s Walk with God in a Mudslinging Profession, comes out nationally on Feb. 6, 2024, and is available for preorder.

Ben Quine is the Director of Curriculum & Strategic Ministry Partnerships for Christians Engaged. His Bible studies in the Answers for Difficult Days series equip churches and individual believers to address the hot-topic issues our culture is wrestling with today from the foundation of Scripture. 

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