Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices Info

Check out Readers reviews and rating for books about American history, ancient history, military history. You can easily download Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by # author# from the best rated book stores online. Read&Download Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola,George Barna Online


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, and
choirs? This ground-breaking book, now in affordable softcover, makes
an unsettling proposal: most of what Christians do in present-day
churches is rooted, not 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 and extensive footnotes that document the origins of modern
Christian church practices. In the process, the authors uncover the
problems that emerge when the church functions more like a business
organization 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.

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Reviews for Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices:

5

Dec 05, 2012

I can see by the comments that people are pretty divided on this book. For those that say the author is good at pointing out the problems but offers no solutions, I would like to point out that the book has a sequal called "Re-imaginig Church" that does offer more detail on how to fix the problem. Some criticize him for not being and expert in Bible theology or church history and is therefore not qualified to make such arguments. To those I would ask if they demand the same "qualifications" when I can see by the comments that people are pretty divided on this book. For those that say the author is good at pointing out the problems but offers no solutions, I would like to point out that the book has a sequal called "Re-imaginig Church" that does offer more detail on how to fix the problem. Some criticize him for not being and expert in Bible theology or church history and is therefore not qualified to make such arguments. To those I would ask if they demand the same "qualifications" when reading the writings of the apostle Paul or the disciples. These type of comments only enforce one of the main points of this book - that we now rely on prestige, positions, and qualifications more than we do on the Holy Ghost. It seems that those who are against this book are either unwilling to admit that there are serious problems with "doing church" or they have never read the Bible objectively without the "church goggles" that have been given to them by their pastors and/ or evengelists or other self proclaimed spiritual gurus. Someone in one of the comments had the audacity to suggest that the author does not provide good sources for his history. This is simply not the case as over 1/3 of the total page space is dedicated to listing sources and evidence for his arguments. Others have a problem with him stating a case for house churches as the only way to do things. Here's the bottom line. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with what is in the book. It either lines up with scripture or it doesn't. I will be the first to acknowledge that the Bible doesn NOT give a specific set of instructions are draw out one way to "do church". I also understand that the way we as Christians operate is in fact influenced by our culture and that there is nothing wrong with that to a certain degree. However, some things in scripture ARE plainly stated and when a system or way of doing things steals God's authority and gives it to men, when our resources are used to pay salaries and maintain facilities instead of feeding the hungry and taking the gospel to the lost, and when that system harms people and misrepresents scripture, then something has got to change. I am more than happey to discuss this with anyone, whether that be a new Christian or a "qualified" Bible expert. I'm not one to state my case and then write off everyone else as crazy. E-mail questions or comments for furthur discussion to mattpetersen_7@yahoo.com. ...more
3

May 10, 2016

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 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. ...more
5

Apr 15, 2012

Reading this book changed my view about many things that I thought I understood regarding contemporary, North American Christianity and the traditional, organizational church ...not the Body of Christ.

And it set me free to relate to my heavenly Father, through Jesus in the power of Holy Spirit, in a way I never knew even existed.

I recommend the book highly. But, get ready for a ride that will shock you and, sometimes, maybe even upset you! But you'll settle down after you pray!

You may choose Reading this book changed my view about many things that I thought I understood regarding contemporary, North American Christianity and the traditional, organizational church ...not the Body of Christ.

And it set me free to relate to my heavenly Father, through Jesus in the power of Holy Spirit, in a way I never knew even existed.

I recommend the book highly. But, get ready for a ride that will shock you and, sometimes, maybe even upset you! But you'll settle down after you pray!

You may choose not to like the book. But, you'll have difficulty arguing against Frank Viola's and George Barna's thesis because of their thorough original research in church history and their comprehensive and thorough documentation of what they found.

Blessings!
GaryFPatton (gfp '42â„¢ 2012-04-15) ...more
1

Apr 07, 2008

Frank Viola likes house church. Using the flawed proof texting method that he so vehemently criticizes in the book, he proves that it is the "only" New Testament way to do church. If he cites 1 Corinthians 14:26 one time he cites it 100.

Then in other places he sounds so much like Alexandar Cambell I wonder if he came from the Cambellite movement. Cambellites like to say, "If it isn't in the NT it is unscriptural." (Which is why the strict ones still don't use pianos in their meetings)

I dont Frank Viola likes house church. Using the flawed proof texting method that he so vehemently criticizes in the book, he proves that it is the "only" New Testament way to do church. If he cites 1 Corinthians 14:26 one time he cites it 100.

Then in other places he sounds so much like Alexandar Cambell I wonder if he came from the Cambellite movement. Cambellites like to say, "If it isn't in the NT it is unscriptural." (Which is why the strict ones still don't use pianos in their meetings)

I dont recommend this book to anyone. I like house church too. But I don't want to make the mistake of concluding that everyone else is wrong then.
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4

Mar 20, 2008

Note: I'm only half way through at the time of this review.

This is a book that when I get to the end of my day, no matter how exhausted I am, I have to read it. This is a sign of a good book to me. If I'd rather go to bed than read it, then it's not that good.

I have really enjoyed the historical references for how the modern church has evolved (or devolved according to the author). While I don't share the same passion for a pure form of early church worship, I can appreciate how this would be a Note: I'm only half way through at the time of this review.

This is a book that when I get to the end of my day, no matter how exhausted I am, I have to read it. This is a sign of a good book to me. If I'd rather go to bed than read it, then it's not that good.

I have really enjoyed the historical references for how the modern church has evolved (or devolved according to the author). While I don't share the same passion for a pure form of early church worship, I can appreciate how this would be a desired form of worship for those who do have that passion.

I will say this book has definitely challenged my blind acceptance of all church traditions. To me, that can be a good thing. I'm not threatened by being challenged in what I believe and accept.

I do recommend this book to those who don't mind that challenge. I will caution that if you're diehardedly committed to your denomination, you might be threatened by the challenge this book can bring to your sense of security in being a member of your religious affiliation. ...more
2

Dec 08, 2008

This book was... not what I thought it would be.

Full disclosure: I am, for all intents and purposes, an atheist. I don't believe in invisible sky wizards, zombie jesus, space aliens from another galaxy, or thetans, or jolly old bald fat men ascending to another plane of existence, or anything like that. I don't care what you choose to believe in, but I don't like being told what I should believe in.

Now that that's out of the way...

I thought it would be a historical book that exposed the This book was... not what I thought it would be.

Full disclosure: I am, for all intents and purposes, an atheist. I don't believe in invisible sky wizards, zombie jesus, space aliens from another galaxy, or thetans, or jolly old bald fat men ascending to another plane of existence, or anything like that. I don't care what you choose to believe in, but I don't like being told what I should believe in.

Now that that's out of the way...

I thought it would be a historical book that exposed the origins of modern day church practices that have been taken from and/or "borrowed" from Pagan traditions over the history of the church.

It does that. To a point.

But then it goes beyond that. In essence, the main point of this book, in my opinion, is this:

"Our version of Christianity is better than yours because yours sucks and you're doing it all wrong, and it says so in the New Testament."

This book had the potential to be a lot of things: historical, religious, inspirational, and so on, but in trying to be all of them, it was none of them. It had a few good points (chapter 11, about how modern day Christians tend to approach the bible out of context and as a jigsaw puzzle, was rather interesting), but overall I'd have to say that the constant tone of "contemporary christianity sucks because of x, y, and z and our way is better because we get back to the original meaning" got to be irritating as I progressed through the book.

The book is a bit unique in that it challenges Christians to re-evaluate their faith, practice, and way of doing both, and for that I applaud it. But the manner in which it presents it's argument (trying to be historical) compared with how it actually does it leaves much to be desired.

The author of the book has good intentions, considering his overall message and point -Christians acting like Christ in order to practice their faith, instead of parroting dogma, chapter and verse, and condemning others who don't act like them, eschewing them, and doing anything possible to "save their souls". He also goes on to talk about how modern day practices from the actual physical church building, order of worship, sermon, pastor, "Sunday best" clothing, music, tithing (pay attention, Mormons!) and "Professional" clergy, baptism, the lord's supper, and christian education, how all of these are rooted in either Greek, Roman, or pagan traditions that were absorbed into the practice at the time. Why? Well, membership was low, and instead of having people upend all their traditions, you simply adapt the "new" thing to their known way of life.

Ironically, the point the author makes of how the modern day church is "off" is very in sync with another author/philosopher's view on what was wrong with the church, and how it was all screwed up not because of the founder, but because of those who came afterwards - Nietzsche's "The Anti-Christ".

Did I learn a lot about the church history and it's practices? Yes. However, the historical analysis from someone who (as far as I know) is not trained in such practices makes the authority of the book suspect. In addition, the author was quite "unsanitary" when it came to making his arguments - he would be making a valid historical point, and then in the next sentence, attach religious-toned language about how following God/Christ was supposed to be this way. In certain ways, it feels (now that I think about it) that he was guilty of committing his own sin - of using historical analysis in a "jigsaw" puzzle method in order to make his point. It's either one way or the other, but it can't be both, especially when you are trying to trace the historical development of something objectively to prove a point.

Another issue I had with the book was the issue of citation. I got the impression that the author felt that if he just cited sources to support his point, then he'd done all his homework regarding how to "prove" his point, and then he would just go on to the next point. It was frustrating because there was no causal analysis that I'm used to having when I read historical texts.

Overall, I'm glad I read the book so that, if I ever get into another theological argument with someone who is a parroter of chapter and verse, I can more easily defend my argument. However, the writing of the book could have used much more revision, or better yet, an stringent academic approach to the topic which, I think, would have yielded much better, clearer, more sanitary results.

If you're a die-hard Christian fiending to get back at the way real Christians lived, I'd recommend buying this book. If you just want to learn about the history of the church and its practices, then I'd suggest borrowing and/or getting it from the library. ...more
3

Feb 12, 2008

Wow! This one is heavy. You have to spend some time after you've read it to think about the implications. This is a book that by implication asks you at the end, "So what are you going to do about it?" I love the Hans Christian Anderson quote at the beginning. I also chuckled over "The Calf Path," by Sam Walter Foss, quoted in the introduction. I had seen it before, but not in years.

I thought a few of the "connections" to paganism were a little overdrawn, but all in all it is a compelling book.
1

Sep 23, 2008

I couldn't finish it. The authors talk a lot about facts, but give very little proof - or take things out of context to prove their point. Neither author is a Church historian by training and it shows in this book.

quote:
"[Until the year 300]Neither did they have a special priestly caste that was set apart to serve God." pg 12

First off I doubt either the Catholic or Orthodox church would call the priestly function a "caste" - perhaps "calling" would have been a bit less abrasive. But, more I couldn't finish it. The authors talk a lot about facts, but give very little proof - or take things out of context to prove their point. Neither author is a Church historian by training and it shows in this book.

quote:
"[Until the year 300]Neither did they have a special priestly caste that was set apart to serve God." pg 12

First off I doubt either the Catholic or Orthodox church would call the priestly function a "caste" - perhaps "calling" would have been a bit less abrasive. But, more importantly, where is their documentation to make such a statement? Did they forget about Polycarp?? Ignatius? Did the church come up with the office of Bishops and Presbyters just in time for the Council of Nicea?

Then I found this review. This pretty much sums it up for me.

If you want to learn about Early Church first read the Apostolic Father's themselves: The Apostolic Fathers

Or, if you want an overview of practice & doctrine these authors are quite good:

Chadwick
Bradshaw
Hall
Pelikan
Ware

"It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing, and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified.....


For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, (Matthew 24:25) as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself."
St. Ignatius (+117AD) in the Letter to the Ephesians

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5

Jan 08, 2008

Finished this last night - wow! I dare you to read this and walk away WITHOUT a list of questions to ask your pastor. The information presented breaks my heart - how far we have moved from the origins of the early church, and how this seems to be limiting our sense of community and involvement as ministers in the body of Christ. Let me know what you think!!!
4

Jul 20, 2009

A powerful book. If you're not at a place in your spiritual walk where you have a firm faith in God, this will yeild an uneasy, angry, or (even worse) flippant reaction. To me, however, it addressed and/or confirmed many vague concepts I've had about "church" vs "The Church" over the past years. It's a book that will change your understanding of biblical worship and community.

My overwhelming reaction was dissapointment when I realized there were VERY few people you can honestly work through a A powerful book. If you're not at a place in your spiritual walk where you have a firm faith in God, this will yeild an uneasy, angry, or (even worse) flippant reaction. To me, however, it addressed and/or confirmed many vague concepts I've had about "church" vs "The Church" over the past years. It's a book that will change your understanding of biblical worship and community.

My overwhelming reaction was dissapointment when I realized there were VERY few people you can honestly work through a book like this with. Any pastor or church worker will never be able to deal with it honestly because they've basically staked their entire lives on this book being wrong. Therefore, I won't even try to have an honest discussion with them about it. Then there are people who just aren't ready for it...they're convinced that American Church is birthed directly from the bible and have no willingness to look outside that box for the truth.

While I find this book inspiring and informative, I mostly find it sad that it's something that can't really be shared. Maybe just passing it along to someone is the best hope of a future honest discussion of the concepts... ...more
4

Jun 29, 2012

Viola's book is well done. I was a surprise, after all, Viola is not a scholar of the subject of the history of the church. He does a great job covering a lot of the traditions added on to what Christ created, many who gave this book one star seem to take it personally as if Viola was condemning Sunday worship, and their ways of doing things. Viola is only showing the difference between church in the Bible and church today. Of course it will reveal the many man made ceremonial traditions, and Viola's book is well done. I was a surprise, after all, Viola is not a scholar of the subject of the history of the church. He does a great job covering a lot of the traditions added on to what Christ created, many who gave this book one star seem to take it personally as if Viola was condemning Sunday worship, and their ways of doing things. Viola is only showing the difference between church in the Bible and church today. Of course it will reveal the many man made ceremonial traditions, and show our hearts, but that's the point! we are suppose to question and ask, are we doing things in the freedom that Christ gave us? This doesn't mean house church, but let me tell you as one who has done house church, YOU CAN'T HIDE! I mean you are force to know people, there is no back seat, you face people, you learn their needs, IT'S SCARY! But i still see the need for the church to meet at a big building to hear God's word from someone given the gift of teaching. ...more
5

Nov 11, 2008

This book was very challenging for me to read. I am an Ordained Minister who has grown up in church & worked in churches since 1998. This book examines the roots of modern Institutional Christianity in great detail with thousands of footnotes throughout the book. Frank Viola & George Barna examine the roots of the church building, the order of worship service, the sermon, the pastor, the sunday morning dress-up routine, ministers of music, tithing, ordinances of the church, christian This book was very challenging for me to read. I am an Ordained Minister who has grown up in church & worked in churches since 1998. This book examines the roots of modern Institutional Christianity in great detail with thousands of footnotes throughout the book. Frank Viola & George Barna examine the roots of the church building, the order of worship service, the sermon, the pastor, the sunday morning dress-up routine, ministers of music, tithing, ordinances of the church, christian education (a.k.a. sunday school). It is an eye-opening book that is a tremendous challenge to any Christian attending an Institutional church. Even the publishers admit on the first page that they don't agree with everything Frank & George write. But the do agree that it does need to be carefully examined and addressed if we are to continue to make the claim that we do everything "by the book." ...more
5

Apr 05, 2010

This is the most footnoted book I have read in years. It reads like a long research paper one would have written for a graduate school class. The church building appeared around A.D. 327 during the time of Constantine. The pastors chair originated about the same time from the seat of the judge of the Roman basilica. Tax-exempt status for churches and clergy came from Constintine in A.D. 313. Stain glass window came about A.D.1081-1151 by Georgery of Tours and the Gothic Cathedrals originated This is the most footnoted book I have read in years. It reads like a long research paper one would have written for a graduate school class. The church building appeared around A.D. 327 during the time of Constantine. The pastors chair originated about the same time from the seat of the judge of the Roman basilica. Tax-exempt status for churches and clergy came from Constintine in A.D. 313. Stain glass window came about A.D.1081-1151 by Georgery of Tours and the Gothic Cathedrals originated duing 12th century based on the pagan philophy of Plato. The steeple is rooted in Babylonian and Egyptian architecture but was popularized by Sir Christopher Wren in 1666. The pulpit made its arrival in A.D. 250 from the Greek ambo. The pew was an evolution from the thirteen to the eighteen century in England. The standard order of worship as we know today came out of the reformation . The Sermon was borrowed from the Greek sophists. so on and so forth. This was one of the most facinating books I have read in some time. I woke up at 1:30 this morning to finish the book. It was just that interesting. ...more
1

Mar 14, 2009

Description/blurb: Many Christians take for granted that their church practices are rooted in Scripture. Yet those practices look very different from those of the first-century church. The Bible is not silent on how the early church freely expressed the reality of Christ's indwelling in ways that rocked the first- century world.

Are we really doing church “by the book”?

Why do we "dress up" for church?
Why does the pastor preach a sermon at every service?
Why does the congregation sit passively in Description/blurb: Many Christians take for granted that their church practices are rooted in Scripture. Yet those practices look very different from those of the first-century church. The Bible is not silent on how the early church freely expressed the reality of Christ's indwelling in ways that rocked the first- century world.

Are we really doing church “by the book”?

Why do we "dress up" for church?
Why does the pastor preach a sermon at every service?
Why does the congregation sit passively in pews?
Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries?

Not Sure? This book reveals the startling truth: Most of what Christians do in present-day churches is rooted, not in the Bible, 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 more like a business organization 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.

...more
5

Mar 25, 2010

Explained why so many things about the contemporary Christian church did not seem to mesh with what the early church was about. The authors(George Barna & Frank Viola) did an incredible task of tracing the origin of everything that is done in the average "church" and reminding us that the church was always people in the New Testament not a building. As i reread the letters to the churches by Paul, i noticed they were not addressed to a pastor or elder or deacon or priest- they were either Explained why so many things about the contemporary Christian church did not seem to mesh with what the early church was about. The authors(George Barna & Frank Viola) did an incredible task of tracing the origin of everything that is done in the average "church" and reminding us that the church was always people in the New Testament not a building. As i reread the letters to the churches by Paul, i noticed they were not addressed to a pastor or elder or deacon or priest- they were either addressed to the "church at Corinth" etc. or to an individual. The early church met in homes-they did not have professional religious people who got paid to be a spiritual master of ceremonies,and they did not have ornate buildings/temples like all other religions did. The origin & the early history of pews is enlightening and funny. There seem to be many discrepancies between the concept of the "church" that Jesus had in mind & churches today. I am still processing and plan to read it for a 3rd time. To use an old phrase because i am an old guy - it blew my mind!! ...more
3

Aug 22, 2008

An analysis of how institutional Christianity is based on tradition and, most of that being centered around the non-biblical cultures and customs of the people who make up the church.
I liked this book overall because I like to read about the historical bases for the workings of the church. It is an epidemic, in my mind, how little Christians understand about what they believe, why they believe it, why their practices are how they are, what the purpose is for what they do, etc. Most Christians An analysis of how institutional Christianity is based on tradition and, most of that being centered around the non-biblical cultures and customs of the people who make up the church.
I liked this book overall because I like to read about the historical bases for the workings of the church. It is an epidemic, in my mind, how little Christians understand about what they believe, why they believe it, why their practices are how they are, what the purpose is for what they do, etc. Most Christians aren't questioning anything and are just going along with everything they're told, either that or just dropping out of organized religion altogether.

The problem I have with the book is that it wasn't an altogether unbiased treatise. The authors are part of the organic church movement and were definately writing from that point of view. They have referenced their assertions quite extensively, however, and a person who wanted to delve deeper certainly could ...more
5

Jul 31, 2011

In perusing the other reviews of this book, people seem to be equally divided. Personally, I loved this book - but I am currently very disappointed with organized "church" in most of its present forms. Viola and Barna can always be expected to do their homework and present it in a compelling fashion. They do not disappoint here. Chapters cover the origins of most church traditions (Catholic/Orthodox & Protestant) from the church building, the sermon, and sacraments to the pastor as "head" of In perusing the other reviews of this book, people seem to be equally divided. Personally, I loved this book - but I am currently very disappointed with organized "church" in most of its present forms. Viola and Barna can always be expected to do their homework and present it in a compelling fashion. They do not disappoint here. Chapters cover the origins of most church traditions (Catholic/Orthodox & Protestant) from the church building, the sermon, and sacraments to the pastor as "head" of the church, and tithing. According to the authors, almost every ritual that we perform has little to no New Testament origin. They contend that many of these traditions are either carry-overs from Jewish Law (for which Christ died to replace) or 3rd-5th century paganism, or the Reformation, and the Great Awakening.

There are more interesting points to consider than I can list here, but the resounding theme here is that the corporate church structure prevents Christ from working in each and every member of the body. Furthermore, they believe that it actually stifles the body's ability to fully experience the Lord's presence due to excessive control.

"...the Protestant order of worship strangles the headship of Jesus Christ. The entire service is directed by one person. You are limited to the knowledge, gifting, and experience of one member of the body - the pastor...Jesus Christ has no freedom to express Himself through His body at His discretion. He too is rendered a passive spectator."

No one who has read my reviews over the last year does not know that I am on an alternative journey to the traditional church model. Those who are not ready for or do not aspire to grow in this way will be offended to some extent by this book. One reviewer suggested that the author's believe the house church movement is the answer, but they do not say that. They believe that any meeting that seeks to impose the will of a few on the many rather than seeking the will of Christ is detrimental to all. ...more
4

July 9, 2013

Great history lesson on how the church went from Acts to today.
5

January 2, 2015

Housechurch advocate Frank Viola and Christian pollster George Barna collaborated on this revised edition of Viola's original book by the same title, and the result is so controversial that publisher Tyndale issued a rare disclaimer in the form of a preface. "Tyndale does not necessarily agree with ...Full Review
4

Jan 19, 2011

No, this isn't a "bash the Christians" book. It's a "bash the church" book (lowercase “c”). The authors' goal is to redirect Christians back to the original teachings of the New Testament, where the “Church” was never a building.

"Pagan," as used by the authors, pretty much just means "different from what the New Testament teaches." Their goal is to encourage Christians to embrace the original New Testament church.

Church buildings are wrong. Sacraments are wrong. Collection plates are wrong. No, this isn't a "bash the Christians" book. It's a "bash the church" book (lowercase “c”). The authors' goal is to redirect Christians back to the original teachings of the New Testament, where the “Church” was never a building.

"Pagan," as used by the authors, pretty much just means "different from what the New Testament teaches." Their goal is to encourage Christians to embrace the original New Testament church.

Church buildings are wrong. Sacraments are wrong. Collection plates are wrong. Pulpits are wrong. You’ll get a earful, and if “wrong” means “not the way it was first done,” then the authors have a well-researched point. But an important distinction needs to be made: The New Testament church, in this book, should not be confused with the “first century church.” No extraneous Christian teachings are acceptable to Viola and Barna, who either ignore or condemn them. Even if some of these teachings are contemporary with New Testament writings. For example, church fathers Ignatius, Clement of Rome and Tertullian are criticized for introducing a clergy, and the Didache’s instructions are never mentioned by the authors, who insist that early Christian worship sessions had no structure. Perhaps the authors subscribe to the view that all of the New Testament Gospels and epistles were written in Paul’s time.

Part of the intrigue of this book, for me, is that I grew up in a nondenominational church similar to what the authors approve of as "organic," and that ignores all Christian instruction outside the Bible. This church has a bit more structure to their worship than what Viola and Barna recommend, but it does meet in homes and all members participate equally in the service. It's a "back to Jesus" movement patterned after the New Testament.

So, my church background may qualify me more than many reviewers to address both the pros and cons of the book's arguments. And as such, I do have one criticism, which drops it from a 5-star to a 4-star rating: The passion of the authors overflows, which should be a good thing, but here it's overwhelming. While they convincingly show that many Christian church customs differ from the first Christians, their underlying assumption that this is somehow bad gets pushed a little too hard for my taste, simply because in my experience, different church atmospheres and practices are appropriate for different people. We're all unique, and different things bring us closer to God.

But enough nit-picking. The book has a serious message for all who wish to pattern their manner of worship after the Bible.

...more
2

Oct 17, 2012

The history in this book was really great!

What I hated was the manipulation tactics used by the author to try to get us to feel bad about how we "do church" currently. Some things are worse than others (especially across different denominations), but in the end the author wants us to all follow the model that works best for him - which I am not convinced is entirely biblical. The presented model of the "organic church" has no structure, order or submission to authority (other than God). A The history in this book was really great!

What I hated was the manipulation tactics used by the author to try to get us to feel bad about how we "do church" currently. Some things are worse than others (especially across different denominations), but in the end the author wants us to all follow the model that works best for him - which I am not convinced is entirely biblical. The presented model of the "organic church" has no structure, order or submission to authority (other than God). A biblical assembly should have all the above. Reducing (what we call) church to cults and pagan worship of the Christian God is not a way to gain traction for this movement. Fail!

The author also assumes that the worst-case scenario is happening in ever church in America. Personally, I believe this book is the result of someone who has been hurt by someone (probably a clergymen) within a typical church and set out on a mission to find a way around it. Again, I loved the history and the research that went into how all the various elements of *church* came to be the norm. But the little description of the "organic church" given would not work for many participants - mostly because they would be extremely uncomfortable in a setting like that.

If it was a this-is-how-our-church-works book I would have had way more love for it. I just can't get on board with the following formula that was used throughout the book:

"X was never meant to be done like Y. It was changed because of Z. Now, knowing that, the reader must decide for himself if it is alright to continue doing X in the same way, but I'm sure you can see why it isn't."

The biggest thing this book was lacking was a description of what the original church gatherings looked like and how they functioned. It was more of a how-it-all-went-wrong book than a this-is-how-it-was-meant-to-be book, which I hate. And, as I mentioned earlier, the suggestions that were giving were partially biblical, but missing much of what made the church the church.

A better approach would have been to describe each *church* as a whole at each of the various stages mentioned (pre-Christian church, Christ's church, Apostolic church, Constantine's church, etc.) and then ending with the author's proposed concept/model.

All that being said, I did find a few elements that I would like to try to implement into my in-home gathering, which has turned into more of *just* a bible study than it was ever meant to. ...more
3

Feb 17, 2013

Viola attempts the massive project of examining the pagan roots of every major church tradition, from pews to paid staff. While he wins on many fronts, he does fall shot in a fell areas.

The Pros: Examining and critiquing a few church traditions is no small task. No other work takes on as many as Viola does. Why do we dress up on Sunday? Why are services each week pretty much the same? Why do we have a sermon every week? Why does the sermon take center stage? Why do we sit in pews? Why do we Viola attempts the massive project of examining the pagan roots of every major church tradition, from pews to paid staff. While he wins on many fronts, he does fall shot in a fell areas.

The Pros: Examining and critiquing a few church traditions is no small task. No other work takes on as many as Viola does. Why do we dress up on Sunday? Why are services each week pretty much the same? Why do we have a sermon every week? Why does the sermon take center stage? Why do we sit in pews? Why do we gather in a building? These and other questions are examined in light of the Scriptures and history. The roots in ancient paganism are revealed and the modern day relevance are critiqued.

The Cons: The tone of Pagan Christianity is pessimistic and gloomy, as if every new church tradition takes the church further from Jesus. Viola assumes the New Testament narrative is the only valid way and the most effective manner to approach God in worship. While this may have merit, it is still an assumption that needs to be examined. Viola's use of history is very one sided and biased. He laser focuses on the details that supports his point while often overlooking larger context.

The Conclusion: Viola concludes the most effective (possibly only valid) model of church is more casual home gatherings. The institutionalized church is not what God intended, it is a man-made system copied from pagan practice and ought to be discarded for a more social and socially integrated model much like what the author finds in the New Testament.

Overall: Absolutely worth reading. No matter how much you agree or disagree, Pagan Christianity will give you much to talk and think about. Even if you embrace much of the traditions he critiques, there is still value in deconstructing traditions and seeing them with fresh eyes. ...more
1

May 03, 2010

Viola and Barna's book Pagan Christianity is a book that asks all the right questions, but comes to all the wrong answers. Sure, many of the churches in the West have problems and we need to go back to the Scriptures to find out how we should be really 'doing church.' But this book doesn't provide any Biblically sound answers. The whole premise of the book is that most of the practices that are now established in the church (sermons, pastors, tithing, church buildings, etc) actually have pagan Viola and Barna's book Pagan Christianity is a book that asks all the right questions, but comes to all the wrong answers. Sure, many of the churches in the West have problems and we need to go back to the Scriptures to find out how we should be really 'doing church.' But this book doesn't provide any Biblically sound answers. The whole premise of the book is that most of the practices that are now established in the church (sermons, pastors, tithing, church buildings, etc) actually have pagan roots and are hurting rather than helping the Body of Christ at large. The problem with these conclusions is that Viola and Barna are extremely selective in their proof texts for their points and their countless footnotes are filled with liberal scholars, secondary sources and arguments from silence. If you're looking for answers for the questions you have about church, don't look to this book for any help. ...more
5

Dec 04, 2008

This is an excellent book. I don't hand out five stars easily.

But it's a deconstruction, and let me say emphatically that a deconstruction is definitely needed, but don't leave yourself there. After the deconstruction of "the system," you have to reconstruct. Process for a while if you need to, but pick up one of these for when you're ready:
- Viola's follow-up book, "Reimagining Church"
- the fictional, but relevant book, "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore" by Jake Colsen
- Wayne This is an excellent book. I don't hand out five stars easily.

But it's a deconstruction, and let me say emphatically that a deconstruction is definitely needed, but don't leave yourself there. After the deconstruction of "the system," you have to reconstruct. Process for a while if you need to, but pick up one of these for when you're ready:
- Viola's follow-up book, "Reimagining Church"
- the fictional, but relevant book, "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore" by Jake Colsen
- Wayne Jacobsen's classic, "The Naked Church (Revised Third Edition)"
- or something by Floyd McClung, like "You See Bones, I See an Army"

I would personally suggest "So You Don't..." or "The Naked Church". The first, if fiction helps you process or read faster. The second, if non-fiction is easier for you. ...more
5

Nov 03, 2014

This book should have been written as mandatory reading for believers several hundred years ago. This is what we've been missing. Frank Viola takes it back to scripture and reveals how many (MANY) of the church cultural items we don't even think about today are rooted, NOT in scripture, but in pagan practices. Why do we do the things we do in church? A must read.

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