Its a great read and my copy has already been STOLEN by my neighbor who is probably just as fascinated in its contents as I was. Its called Pagan Christianity? by house church guru Frank Viola (not the baseball player) and researcher/author George Barna who have teamed up to give us the most thorough treatment yet of the pagan origins of many of our most cherished Sunday church traditions. Actually, Jim Rutz nailed a few of these in his book Open Church but Viola and Barna have gone far beyond Rutz, or anyone I know, in exposing more elements of Protestant church traditions to the scrutiny of historical research.
Like dressing up for church. Pulpits and 3 point sermons. Clerical dog collars. Church steeples and seminary training.
Pagan Christianity? lets George Barna unpack his argument why the new Revolutionaries mentioned in his previous book are not rebelling against God by setting up organic house communities. And it gives Frank Viola the chance to put forward his best thinking yet in a series that has already assisted thousands of people in dealing biblically and historically with accusations of "lack of covering" or "neglecting church" or more recently, of adopting "pagan" practices in starting emerging churches. Ha! Watch as Franky and Georgy turn the tables!
Yes . . . DUH! . . and the backlash has already started. Frank has responded to some of the objections here. I had one difficulty with the book that I emailed Frank about:
TSK: My main difficulty with it [Pagan Christianity?] is that it does not deal with the pagan/christian culture clash that accompanies all advances of the Kingdom into new areas. Much of what we adopt and have inherited has pagan roots but our response is not always to pull away but rather to redeem.
FRANK VIOLA: Right. I don't disagree; I could have said more about that I suppose. I didn't address a lot of the Constantinian influences on the political outlook of the church, for instance, (a la, church wedding the state) and all the problems we inherited from that simply because other people (McLaren, the radical orthodox folks, Stuart Murray, etc.) have addressed it adequately. I do try to make the point that just because a practice is pagan in origin doesn't make it wrong. We use the example of pile carpets and chairs as well as our calendar. It's the practices that hinder the headship of Christ, suppress the functioning of his body, and violate the church's DNA that we take dead aim at and expose.
As for redeeming *certain* practices, I'm all for it. In fact, if you go to www.ptmin.org/answers.htm you'll see why I don't go after Christmas and Easter in the book, but instead, argue that those pagan holidays, as it were, have been redeemed by Christians.
Thanks, Frank, for your response. Anyway, the book is a great read. And you can start with this free Bonus chapter (PDF). Of course you will have to figure out for yourself how to handle this information. And dont forget to hear Frank this week on the Nic and Josh Podcast. Also, my mate Alan Hirsch gives a positive review and Steve Eastman interviews Frank about some of the book's content, including the pagan origin of the sermon, known by the Greek sophists as the"homily". Ohhhhh . . . . got you hooked . . . haven't I?