pagan-christianity-violaI received an email from Frank Viola’s publicists yesterday offering an advanced copy of the new and heavily revised edition of “Pagan Christianity” for review.

The new edition, which they’re saying is a complete rewrite, has been co-authored with George Barna,  popular speaker and research guru. I’ll wait till I receive it before making any personal comments (and that could be a few weeks given international shipping times) but here is the publicity blurb for your consumption:

Book Description
Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we “dress up” for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices.

Sorting Out Truth From Tradition
Many Christians take for granted that their church’s practices are rooted in Scripture. Yet those practices look very different from those of the first-century church. The New Testament is not silent on how the early church freely expressed the reality of Christ’s indwelling in ways that rocked the first-century world.

Times have changed. Pagan Christianity leads us on a fascinating tour through church history, revealing this startling and unsettling truth: Many cherished church traditions embraced today originated not out of the New Testament, but out of pagan practices. One of the most troubling outcomes has been the effect on average believers: turning them from living expressions of Christ’s glory and power to passive observers. If you want to see that trend reversed, turn to Pagan Christianity . . . a book that examines and challenges every aspect of our contemporary church experience.

Are We Really Doing Church “By the Book?”
Why does the pastor preach a sermon at every service?
Why do our church services seem so similar week after week?
Why does the congregation sit passively in pews?

Not sure? Pagan Christianity makes an unsettling proposal: Most of what present-day Christians do in church each Sunday is rooted not in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Authors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence and extensive footnotes that document the origins of our modern Christian church practices.

In the process, the authors uncover the problems that emerge when the church functions like a business organisation rather than the living organism it was created to be. As you reconsider Christ’s revolutionary plan for His church—to be the head of a fully functioning body in which all believers play an active role—you’ll be challenged to decide whether you can ever do church the same way again.

8 thoughts on “Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna

  1. The exclusivity of the pure Christ, independent of culture and the world, as underlying, revealed reality that culture sits on top of, is a real issue for Christians.
    History constantly challenges their view of human reality independent from a greater reality. We only can compare ourselves to a removed God-reality to accurately see who we when culture is removed. Theology thinks it has the concepts of God being All, but the truth behind the words reveals otherwise.
    This defensive impulse in Christianity is part of its fortress mentality that prevents it from admitting its human-centered spirituality is devoid of spiritual reality beyond the mere animal and the specific consciousness of God-in-Jesus.
    This appears to be another book to ask Christians to re-consider their truths in a fundamental way, but I doubt there is much that can break the Church from its self-centeredness, and actually get creative to interest people again in large numbers.

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  2. hmm, sounds very interesting, I’m very keen to read it.
    I do wonder, though, whether the authors have searched out alternative, non-pagany expressions of “church”… when done well, Christianity *can* adopt “pagan” paractices, for example, elements of Celtic pagan beliefs about water were nicely complimented by Christian beliefs about baptism/ new life… so why chuck the baby out with the bathwater? 1 Chronicles 12:32 seems to be relevant here…
    and if the church isn’t supposed to reinvent current cultural elements, as they suggest in saying that churchy traditions are simply re-worked pagan rituals – then I would hope that they offer some fresh, loving, life-creating alternatives.
    /rant 🙂

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  3. Becca and Sun Warrior, your thoughts echo comments I made a bit earlier to a private correspondent:
    “I’ll be interested in weather they engage with incarnational missiology … and contemporary paganism as opposed to ancient Platonic varieties. It seems Barna is somewhat open to the emerging missional church and organic ecclesiology. Does he realize contemporary Pagans are similarly advocating organic organization? One thing is for sure, some interesting conversations could come out of it.”
    We’ll wait and see.

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  4. This sounds a lot like the thesis advanced by the book “The Open Church” by James Rutz from some years back.
    Part of the trouble with that project was that it read the New Testament very much apart from the Old. When you do that, it is very easy not to find a practice in the New Testament that may well have been there. If you don’t know what the synagogue did or did not include, how can you say that the church adopted a practice from the surrounding pagan culture? Or, as some are asking, how do we determine which pagan practices were legitimately adopted and which were not?

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