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. Co-authors 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. Many Christians take for granted that their churches 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 Christs 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.
- Interesting, but not yet helpful
For at least a few years now, while I've grown in my personal Bible studies, I've yearned for a place to truly share and grow with other Christians. I've found "church" to be a black hole for that. At times it seems more like a social club with its service projects; then a seminar with its speeches. I've been quite annoyed at singing the same songs every Sunday because the song leader has his select picks. I'm most annoyed at continuously hearing the preacher beg the congregation to actually put his words into action and not just affirm that he can give a "very powerful message". I want to see the church active, encouraging one another and discussing matters of faith. Not wasting time engaging in fruitless conversations--holiday plans, the football game. I was hoping small groups--bible class & women's groups-- would give me a chance to learn from other Christians--how they do Bible study at home; how they deal with clashes in culture in their jobs. But there hasn't been much space for all that. The Bible studies tend to lead to a "ok here's one thing I can do this week" or a "oh I learned a new interesting fact about God" and not much depth. I'm sick of it! I want a change. I want the excitement & true, trusting, acting, faith and love that the early church had.
Viola thinks he has an answer to this: modern churches have it all wrong. He shows in many different ways how churches have evolved and incorporated or sprung inspiration from pagan culture. Tieing in some pagan practices is not necessarily bad, but what is is the detriment it seems to have on the ability for Christ to lead, for us to focus and be active as members of his church. He makes lots of great points: the church building, baptism, the preacher, the choir/song leader, dressing for church, the tithe...
While I can't pitch in my knowledge to contrast his historical examples to state whether they're sound or not, I have been studying the NT deeply and do believe he's correct about the contrasts between the church we commonly see today and what was in the NT.
Feelings about the book:
The tone is so cynical. It's annoying. It's like the guy despises preachers and church buildings. Jesus was extremely critical and unforgiving of pharisees following rules of tradition rather than Him though so I can't say he's off track.
On top of that, I hate how the book points out problem after problem leaving us at a loss for the solution...even when I finally got to the last chapter of the book he basically said, "I bet if I've convinced you to make your mind up about a change in the church, you're gonna end up doing it the wrong way" without giving us a good idea of how to do it the right way. Honestly, the Bible doesn't give us an extremely clear picture of the early church. We get a few brief glimpses without the context...can you tell me what to do with that since you're tearing down everything I've known so far!?! I hear he does in another book luckily.
Overall I think his critique is clear and seems correct, but the critical tone is unwelcome when not paired with answers. It would have been nice if at the end he would've at least recommended some books that are already published that could help give us the historical contexts of the epistles so we could better understand the Bible. Instead, he just seemed attracted to telling us ways it's done wrong with no hope of an answer.
*I wanted this in audiobook form so I could get the knowledge faster, but if you really want to check the facts on it, you'll need the print form, he goes over way too many too quickly and I couldn't write them all down so I gave up.
- A challenging book. I do not...
A challenging book. I do not agree with all of his conclusions and definitely do not agree with all of his applications. However, the mondern Church needs to hear this overall message.
See an excellent review by Ben Witherington.
- I cannot think of a more...
I cannot think of a more significant book for the Church in this day. Frank Viola and George Barna shine the light of historical and contemporary research onto virtually every aspect of modern day church practice in order to uncover the long-forgotten roots, subsequent developments, and present-day fruit of each one. The truth revealed is that little of what we consider normal church practice today actually finds its origins in the New Testament. These practices originated instead from the incorporation of Pagan influences into Christendom throughout the Church’s long and often compromised history. As a result, the deceptive power of human tradition has taken hold of the Church and held it captive for some 1700+ years at a most fundamental level. "Pagan Christianity" is an illuminating and emancipating look into this history and a fresh exploration of God’s original design for church life and practice as seen in the pages of the New Testament.
As radical as this book is in its propositions, exposition and conclusions, it is extremely well researched and documented. (One needs to get the printed copy to read the some 1,200 footnotes). Additionally, it is entirely Christ-centered and Christ-exalting in its focus and is Biblically sound in its ecclesiology. One cannot listen to this book without being deeply burdened and broken over the tradition-bound condition of Christ's church today and yet equally invigorated with a fresh passion for a return to the simple and powerful ways of New Testament church life, as God originally intended it.
Would that every believer would listen to this audio book with openness, humility and a prayerful heart. I cannot more highly recommend it.