Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.

Pagan Christianity? is a fascinating look at current church practices and where exactly their roots lie. It asks and answers the question "are we really doing things by the Book?" The conclusion of the book is that the roots of many of our current day church practices lie in pagan culture not in the New Testament or first century churches.

Much controversy has surrounded the book, in that many people look upon it as a criticism of the church and fear that this book will contribute to a mass exodus from the church. This is not the aim of the authors, rather the book is an opportunity for readers to understand the history of church practices and to ensure that we are hearing the Word of God.

Topics such as this in Christianity can often turn into a "fire and brimstone" sort of preaching. We are made to feel poorly if we find that we have been led down the wrong path. But that is not the case when it comes to Pagan Christianity? The book challenges you to think about the ways in which you practice your faith. It asks you to decide if the way in which you worship is hindering your encounters with God. It doesn't judge you for what you do or what you will do.

The church has gone through three major historical periods of change - the era of Constantine, the Protestant Reformation and the Revivalist period of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During these times the surrounding culture had a remarkable influence on church practice. The book looks at the effect these periods had on:

*the church building
*the order of worship
*the sermon
*the pastor
*dressing for church
*music ministry
*tithing and clergy salaries
*baptism and the Lord's Supper
*education of the clergy

It is truly amazing to discover how much things have changed from the way the first century churches practiced their faith. Does this mean that we are now participating in a pagan faith? Certainly not. But as readers we are challenged to ask ourselves if such things are appropriate and to consider if we should continue in this way.

Pagan Christianity? has many outstanding features. It is thoroughly researched with a wealth of footnotes for further study. Each chapter ends with real questions posed to the authors following the first release of the book. In doing this, they take on the critics of the book and further defend their assertions. And never does it judge the reader.

Begin this book with an open mind and you will truly be challenged in your thinking. As the authors say on page 250, "If you are a disciple of the Revolutionary from Nazareth...the radical Messiah who lays His axe to the root...you must eventually ask a specific question. It is the same question that was asked of our Lord's disciples while He walked this earth. That question is: 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?' (Matthew 15:2)"

I highly recommend that all Christians read this book. Not to start a revolution or to tell them that they are wrong in what they are doing, but so that each Christian can make an educated decision when it comes to the practice of their faith and so that they can be confident that they stand in truth. Whatever your decision at the end of this book, you will definitely be enlightened on the history of the church.

6 comments:

  1. This is a book written by a Christian author that I could actually see myself reading!

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  2. You will really enjoy it Nicole, I think it's your style, not preachy and respectful of the reader.

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  3. When I'm ready to read it I'll check out your blog so I remember the name.

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  4. For more info on the follow up books to Pagan Christianity, check out the comments section from my previous post on the book on the 6th of January.

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  5. I'm going to read this book, when I finish the other two I am reading :P

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  6. Hi, I found your blog through the controversial post on Farm Lane Books Blog about UK and US bloggers. I clicked on your blog as you said you were Canadian (same here).

    So pleasantly surprised and glad to see another book blogger having read this book on pagan Christianity. I've passed my copy on to others but I doubt that a lot of them are reading it. Most of them have biases and say that this is just bashing the church (which, those of us who've actually read it know this isn't the case).

    Do you plan on reading the sequel, Reimagining Church? I also have a copy of Viola's The Untold Story of the New Testament Church and have skimmed it a bit, it looks really promising. Will read it soon.

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