This is the third installment of our series on the book Pagan Christianity (from now on PC). This post covers the Introduction written by George Barna. PC is an historical study, and the main focus of this chapter is church history: how we are at a turning point in church history today, and how knowledge of church history can protect us from embracing both old and new church practices that are unfruitful and even potentially harmful.
According to Barna, contemporary Christianity is undergoing a revolution of faith at the moment. Research shows that “millions of Christians throughout the world are leaving the old, accepted ways of doing church” (page xxiv). Although some will see this is a result of nominal Christians falling away, many of these people are apparently genuine Christians who are seeking a greater experience of God and deeper fellowship with other Christians. This growing portion of believers have not stopped meeting with other Christians, they are just meeting in non-traditional ways. Some of these ways are newer and more modern, but many are also older than traditional (such as gathering in homes). Continue reading
This is the second in a series of posts on the book Pagan Christianity (hereafter PC), and in this post we will start the book with the preface to get an idea of what is coming ahead. The preface begins by suggesting that the church of Jesus Christ has fallen into two opposite traps in its approach to the local church: the error of the Pharisees and the error of the Sadducees. The Pharisees were so zealous to obey God’s commands that they developed a whole system of traditions in order to live out their understanding of the Law of Moses practically. However, in doing this they missed the heart of God and introduced many rituals and customs which brought His people into bondage. This ‘tradition of the elders’ was passed on from generation to generation as ‘the way things are done’ and eventually elevated to the same level of authority as Scripture. The Sadducees, on the other hand,erred in the opposite way. Instead of adding to Scripture, they subtracted from it by accepting only the first five books of Moses as the Word of God. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the more supernatural elements of Scripture, such as the existence of angels and the resurrection of the body. Do the Pharisees and Sadducees sound familiar to you? These two parties were the primarily opponents of Jesus during His ministry, and (according to the authors of PC) His church is still greatly hindered by these types of people today.
A while back, I wrote a ramble about the local church. As a follow up, I have decided to publish a series of posts on an interesting book that I recently read on the topic. The name of the book is Pagan Christianity? – written by Frank Viola and George Barna (check it out on Amazon here). The book (from now on called PC) asks the simple question: “Where did we inherit our church practices from?”. In short, it is a guided tour through church history, exploring the historical roots of the traditions commonly found in mainline churches. There is a chapter each on church buildings, the order for services, the sermon, the pastor, church outfits, worship leaders, tithing and clergy salaries, communion, seminary education, the use of the New Testament and Jesus the Revolutionary. I would like to take a chapter at a time and hear your thoughts on each topic.
The basic method of the authors is to assess church practices using four categories (I made up the names myself):