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Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of…

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices

by Frank Viola

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The book, Pagan Christianity? is not exactly about Paganism but really is about the where the current way we do Church actually comes from and how does this fit with the how the Bible describes the early church. Frank Viola is an advocate for the home church movement. George Barna is the chairman of Good News Holdings, founder and leader of The Barna Group, a research and resource firm. The topic is the true church, the body of Christ and how the institutional church is in direct conflict of the true church. The structure basically introduces the topic and then looks at the various parts of church; the building, the order of worship, sermon, pastor, Sunday Dress, music ministries, tithing, baptism and Lord's Supper, Christian education, the New Testament, the Savior. The book does not cover all the topics comprehensively but there are footnotes and lists of resources if a person wants to pursue more information. Each sections entertains questions that a person might ask about the topic. I liked the cover and page layouts, I found the book easy to read though admit that it took awhile to get the book done. I think the book would accomplish what the author wanted to achieve including inspiring a person to see church differently or even look for an organic home church. Rating 3.8 ( )
  Kristelh | May 14, 2017 |
This book was worth reading as it challenged me to think "outside the box." Not enough books do this as people tend now to mirror each others thoughts in an attempt to appeal to the masses. This book goes against the grain of traditional church thinking and practice. Books like this are helpful as they encourage sincere Christians to reflect on their own position on these issues by a more thorough examination of Scripture. This is always a good thing.

That said, I think the author leans to extremes in some chapters and that in some cases the extremes would be dangerous in practice. Although he often mentions that his ideal church scenarios work, he doesn't give enough detail about this for it to be proven. He also glosses over/omits some Bible verses that conflict with his view and uses others out of context to support his position. He goes back to the roots of all of the practices I am about to list in an attempt to prove that they have originated from pagan sources. His argument is that we are not following the Biblical pattern for "church" as per the New Testament. My first thoughts would be that it doesn't matter whether or not our practices have pagan roots BUT it does matter whether or not they are Biblical AND that we seek as far as possible to follow the NT principles for church. The author is an advocate of the "house church....."

He covers

1. The Church building- Author states we don't need church buildings and we spend too much money on them. The "church" is the people of God and not the building. I agree with the author.

2. The Order of Worship- Author states that the order is pagan and encourages dull routines and a lack of audience participation. Author advocates a "Spirit-led" approach with no set plan/order. I agree that our church routines/order are inflexible and should be more participatory, but I can see problems arising from opening up the floor so to speak due to the numbers of non-believers/nominal Christians in our churches. This wasn't the case in NT times due to the persecution; the vast majority of the participants were believers. Maybe this would work in a small group setting if the meeting is properly led by at least one more mature believer.

3. The Sermon- Author states we shouldn't have a sermon/message as it encourages laziness and again a lack of participation. He implies that no set person should be leading a meeting/preaching a sermon. He tries to make a case for preaching/teaching being unBiblical and only relevant to non-believers as an evangelistic appeal. I don't agree with this as preaching/teaching is clearly practiced in the NT both to believers and non-believers.

4. The Pastor- Author states we shouldn't have paid Pastors/Church Officers/Clergy as again it causes laziness/lack of participation, that the Pastor is the only person who can speak in the church or who has anything spiritual to say. I think there is an over-reliance on the Pastor in many churches and too high an expectation/burden placed on them. But I do think that church leaders are important and biblical.

5. Sunday Morning Costumes- Author states we shouldn't dress up for church as we are presenting a false impression of who we are. I think this is a non-issue as it's a personal preference and can be different in different cultures/different churches.

6. Minister of Music- Author has issues with the choir and using pagan funeral practices. Also thinks the leaders shouldn't choose the songs as the church is not then being led by the Spirit. Again I think there is balance needed here; some order needs to be maintained but maybe our current practice is too inflexible.

7. Tithing and Clergy Salaries- Author doesn't believe in tithing or paying clergy. He states this encourages people to only give 10% and that tithing is not biblical. I agree that we shouldn't limit Christians giving to 10% but I think that for new believers a base-line is important as a guide.

8. Baptism and the Lord's Supper- Author states that we should baptise people straight after conversion. I agree that there is no need for a delay, except perhaps with children who may need more time to mature/give public testimony. Author believes the Lord's Supper should be celebrated as a full meal and that our symbolism/ritual is pagan. I don't think the method is especially important but that we remember Jesus' death and resurrection.

9. Christian Education- Author states that those aspiring to be Christian leaders should learn in a Paul/Timothy type environment and not go to Bible school. I agree that the personal study of God's Word is more important than whether or not someone has got a formal education and that sometimes these institutions can be more confusing than helpful.

So overall a mixed picture....I did read a worrying article about the author himself which suggests that he may have an agenda and is supported/encouraged/linked with some controversial figures and members of the Emergent Church.

I would recommend this book for readers who like to be challenged/know what they believe but not for new believers or those less spiritually mature as it could cause confusion/extremes of thinking. ( )
  sparkleandchico | Aug 31, 2016 |
Some good points about how much of what we do in 'church' today bears little resemblance to the early church. Some interesting historical information; quite thought-provoking, too. Much of the church has become legalistic about things that either originated well after New Testament times, or began in Pagan practises.

However the author contradicts himself in places, makes illogical leaps, and his suggested alternatives are just as legalistic as what he is criticising. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
The author's touched on pagan influences to modern Christian church practices but did not take them to their logical conclusions. This book was hard to read and intellectually disappointing. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices, 304pp., written by Frank Viola (high school Psychology and Philosophy teacher).
Published by Present Testimony Ministry, © 2002

Foreword by Gene Edwards of Jacksonville, Florida

This “…book should have been written 300 years ago. If it had, the course of Christian history would be totally different.”
“Most of our practices of the Christian faith have absolutely nothing to do with the New Testament…Virtually all our major practices come to us within 50 years of the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 324) or within 50 years of the beginning of the Reformation (A.D. 1517).”

Edwards claims that Viola traces the origins of all (note the universal term) “we Protestants practice.”
Note: Cannot be so, as Viola would have to observe all the practices of all Protestants, which he cannot, and does not do.

Edwards expresses his regret that this book will be one of only 100 thousand printed in the year of publication.

He goes on to assert, “We [Protestants] do nothing that is in the New Testament…we have absolutely no idea how our faith should be practiced.”

To answer a supposed need, Edwards suggest that we
1. Lay aside all we currently practice and start completely from scratch, and
2. Learn “the first-century story” (presumably only the New Testament can be our guide) and then practice that story.

Both Edwards and the author, Viola, claim that the New Testament is the only place we get our information from. This Idealism isn't held to by either, however, as Viola throughout the book cites as the bulk of his evidence extra-biblical sources.

High-school student’s such as Viola teaches on his day job may be fooled by his arguments, but discerning Christians should not be! ( )
  Ron_Gilbert | Feb 13, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 141431485X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:39 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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 moder… (more)

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