Pagan Christianity Chapter Discussion – Have we really been doing it by the Book?

This is the fourth in a series of posts discussing the book Pagan Christianity (PC) by Frank Viola and George Barna. We have warmed up to the topic in the discussions of the preface and introduction and I hope you are all finding it stimulating. Now we can start the book! In the first chapter, the authors put forward their challenge: “Are we really ‘doing church’ according to the Bible?”  According to them, the answer would shock you if you actually investigated it for yourself. Here is one provocative quote which gives their answer: “As startling as it may sound, almost nothing that is done in our contemporary churches has any basis in the bible. As much as pastors preach from their pulpits about being ‘biblical’ and following ‘the pure Word of God’, their words betray them” (page 4). From what follows, it seems that Viola and Barna are making a call in their book for all Christians to take responsibility for how they practice their faith, to question what they have been taught and to actively follow Jesus rather passively following ‘the way of our fathers’.

“The unexamined life”, said Socrates “is not worth living”. Unfortunately, say the authors, most Christians are living an unexamined Christian life while claiming to model it on the bible. The reason for this hypocrisy, they say, has to do with the incredible power of tradition in people’s lives. Traditions so easily become an idol in our hearts. They give us identity, meaning and belonging in a community. Many Christians have allowed themselves to be labelled and defined by a certain Christian tradition (Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal etc.) and inherited a long list of cherished, calcified practices from it that they automatically assume and defend. They are blinded by their loyalty and emotional commitment to the doctrines and rituals of their denomination, and therefore they feel threatened by people who question them. This is just like the Pharisees. They were brought up and trained in a movement that claimed to be scriptural when in actual fact they were following humanly devised practices and not God’s Word. So despite their emphasis on Scripture, when Jesus claimed that their traditions were not legitimate they closed their ears to Him and tried to destroy Him. In the same way, some Christians will find it disturbing or even offensive to hear that their church experience might not be biblical or legitimate. It takes honesty and courage to challenge what our denomination has taught us and seek the truth whatever the cost will be to our identity. Unfortunately, “if truth be told, we Christians never seem to ask why we do what we do. Instead, we blithely carry out our religious traditions without asking where they came from. Most Christians who claim to uphold the integrity of God’s Word have never sought to see if what they do every Sunday has any scriptural backing” (page 5). It is time, say Viola and Barna, for us to step out of the false emotional security of tradition and humble ourselves so that God can open our eyes to His truth. Just as in the case of the rich young ruler, we too need to be prepared to ‘sell out’ on our Christian traditions in order to follow Jesus if that is where He is leading us.

Viola and Barna warn that one of the biggest obstacles to letting to go of tradition is that we are all trained to defend it with ‘proof texts’ from the bible. All of us can find a few verses somewhere to back up our church experiences, but have Christians always read those passages like that? Do we actually know where our church practices originate from historically? This is the aim of PC; to show us what historical events gave birth to pastors, sermons, church buildings, tithing etc. Here is a quick overview of the authors’ approach to church history. Each chapter in the book looks at the five key eras in the 2000 year history of the church when its practices were drastically altered. They are:

  • The Jewish Messianic era (30 AD – 70 AD)

From the time of Jesus until the destruction of the Jewish Temple by Rome in 70 AD, Christianity was primarily a Jewish ‘kingdom of God’ political movement with Hebrew roots. Almost all our New Testament was written in this time, describing the good news of Israel’s Messiah using words and concepts that were understood in 1st century Palestine. In terms of church meetings, believers gathered initially in the Temple and local synagogues before retreating to home fellowships due to religious persecution.

  • The Greek Philosophical era (70 AD – 324 AD)

From around 70 AD the influence of the Jewish believers and their Judaic worldview began waning, being replaced by the pagan influence and culture of the Greco-Roman gentiles who had begun dominating the churches. Many heresies and open challenges to Christian beliefs were also coming from outside the church, leading to many intellectual debates and the start of Christian apologetics. From here on, Greek culture and philosophical thinking began influencing the Christian approach to theology, discipleship and the Old Testament. The message took on a more existential and less Messianic tone. Gospel truths started becoming more systematic, abstract, dry and ‘confined to the frontal lobe’ (as Viola puts it). God began to be studied instead of worshipped, discipleship became more about information than transformation, and the Old Testament became metaphorical instead of historical. This radically altered the face of the Christianity and the way the local church functioned.

  • the Roman Imperial era (324 AD – 1517 AD)

From 70 AD to around 324 AD, churches remained underground due to political persecution and their Gentile communities were still meeting in homes and small gatherings as described in the New Testament. However, in one of the biggest turning points of church history, the roman emperor Constantine the Great became a believer and Christianity was unexpectedly made the official state religion of the world superpower of the day (just imagine that!). Suddenly, with all their thousands of strange deities and pagan worship rituals, everyone in the empire had to be Christian. It is not hard to imagine how this huge influx of ‘Christians’ had many serious consequences for the faith. Christianity became rich and famous. Massive church ‘Temples’ were funded and built by Constantine. Christianity also thus became official and institutional, absorbing many governmental aspects of the Roman Empire such as hierarchical leadership structures with official salaried posts and a plethora of administrative duties. Lastly, since Christianity became political and imperial, Christendom (the Christian kingdom) was born with church leaders influencing issues of state (think Crusades) and Christian religion became a power base for controlling the masses. It is easy to imagine the incredible changes all this brought to ‘how we do church’ – even to this day.

  • The European Reformation era (1517 AD – 1700 AD)

Over a thousand years later, in the early 16th century in the heart of Europe, Martin Luther headed up the Protestant reformation. It was a reaction to the control of the Roman Catholic Church which was determining church practice and salvation through tradition. The reformers sought to remove many of the pagan traditions that the Roman Catholic Church enforced and to put the Word of God back into the hands of the people so that they could decide for themselves ‘how to do church’. It was an honourable attempt to return to the bible but, according to Viola and Barna, they did not go far enough in restoring biblical Christianity. They won back doctrines such as ‘the priesthood of all believers’ theologically, but not practically. They could not see past many of their ingrained Catholic traditions, and so they just retained some of them (like cathedrals and infant-baptism) and changed others in a superficial way (like communion). And because church remained tied to the state, whole countries were still either Catholic or Protestant. Christianity remained national, but it moved from being imperial to being cultural. Unfortunately, it was back to the Book, but not back to the New Testament church.

  • the Anglo-American Revival era (1700 AD -1900 AD)

The 18th and 19th centuries, with the rise of the British Empire and America, saw great moves of God on both sides of the Atlantic. Through Ewan Roberts in Wales, the Wesleys in Britain, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney in America and many other famous people, significant revivals of the church broke out with renewed passion for experiencing the Holy Spirit. Although there were often excesses, abuses and frauds, the genuine filling and gifting of the Spirit began manifesting among God’s people more frequently and huge open meetings were held where people’s lives were changed and God’s presence was felt. And yet, according to the authors, the Revivalists didn’t go far enough in the changes that they brought. Even the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements which flowed later from this era and brought valuable renewal to the church have not broken free from Greece or Rome and still remain pagan and institutionalized in many respects. They have retained Greek sermons and theological education; they have retained Roman church buildings and clergy. More than that, they have added more pagan elements to the mix – American Christianity (in short) has become commercialized and consumer-driven. Unfortunately, although it was back to the Holy Spirit, it was not yet back to the New Testament church.

It is now, in our generation, that we must begin getting back to the New Testament local church. God restored his Word in the Reformation, He restored His Spirit during the Revivals, and it is now, stress Viola and Barna, that God is restoring the functioning of His church.

THREE QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

Tradition:

Pagan Christianity takes quite a negative view of tradition. What do you think about their point about the blinding effect of church tradition on believers? Aren’t we all naturally born into tradition? Or does God hold us accountable for the traditions that we follow?

History:

There is a memorable quote in the book which says: “When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy. When the Romans got it, they turned it into a government. When the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture. And when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.” Do you think it was part of God’s plan that the church moved through the Greek, Roman, European and American eras of the church, or not? Why…?

Biblicalism:

Viola and Barna make a strong claim that we need to do church according to the principles of the early church as described in the New Testament. Do we really need to do Christianity by the Book and get back to the New Testament church? Or, to extend the organic metaphor, is the Body of Christ supposed to be ‘developing into maturity’ over the centuries?

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Pagan Christianity Chapter Discussion – Have we really been doing it by the Book?

  1. Hi JC, i’ve read through most of what you’ve said here, not the book though, however, I still find it quite complicated to fully grasp the subject, had a lot of thinking involved, and will answer based on what you’ve shared 🙂
    For the time being, I feel I will join in by commenting a bit on Church Tradition.

    Church Tradition
    I agree that we need to ask questions concerning the origins of the practises we have in church, and have to examine the heart and intend behind these things, and how it goes with what God wants of us? (the heart is a very deceitful thing)

    If one reads the bible carefully, looking for reference to traditions, i’m quite sure one will find quite a few, or honestly put, several, and often they may not be inspired by God, but was already part of what the people of that time has done(one needs to distinguish between fleshly traditions and God inspired traditions, Spirit inspired). This is quite a large topic in itself to discuss, of which I don’t think we will be able to cover fully and completely, but I’ll certainly contribute what i’ve learned.
    If we look at something as crucial as “Covenant” to the Christian faith, we will find that there are quite a lot of things involved that one can consider to be called tradition: The involvement of blood to seal the agreement etc., not going to abbreviate to much here, I assume everyone has some understanding of Covenant and can link it to tradition.

    The dictionary defines tradition to be: “An inherited pattern of thought or action, or practice of long standing”

    The example Id like us to bear in mind is the traditions of our fathers. Every family has some sort of tradition, and involves the impartation of ideas, actions, thoughts… I certainly don’t think tradition is wrong, if it does not take the place of God, but rather to have a tradition that is inspired by God and hopefully is directed towards imparting Spiritual gifts and understanding of God, from father to son, whatever it may be.

    If I may refer to a short video clip on Skitguys.com(Father’s day) Here a father is busy discussing with his own dad(no longer living, but present in Spirit), simple things regarding a camping trip, that He did with His dad, and now going to do with his daughters. It’s a simple example of Tradition imparted from father to son, and the heart behind it is, from my perspective, a Father going to build relationship with his two daughters, a time of bonding with them, imparting memories and gifts to them from “daddy”, they get to spend time with their dad, which is crucial in parenting at a certain age, dad gets to spend time with them, away from mom, and giving them the opportunity to receive some “character” input from dad.
    Having seen a simple example of tradition, we need to bring it back to the topic of “Church tradition”.

    I would like to ask the following questions. Is it Holy Spirit led, or not? For ultimately, the Spirit of God is our helper in our walk with God, teaching us how to walk in the Spirit and in truth, for then we truly worship God, so it brings to mind two questions for the time being (1) and (2), and linked to what we do in church and how we do things in church, and do we truly worship God.
    (1) Is it led by the Holy Spirit? (2) How does it connect with the Worship and honouring of God and His purpose and intent for our lives?

    For example: Something we do in our church, that to me, appears to be a tradition, is the topic of “tithing” (pardon my English language usage regarding spelling, to those who read). Initially it bothered me, that every Sunday, before every service, someone brings a short message just before we take up the offering, and sometimes correctly links it to tithing and giving, or sometimes in an obscure way attempts to.
    I found it extremely offensive initially, and asked myself several questions, which I voiced to some friends back then. Do they do so to encourage people to give? Is it a way of teaching people to serve God with their money also, and not making money their god, by learning to give? Do the people simply not give if they are not encouraged to do so? Or quite rudely put, does the church experience financial difficulty due to people not giving, and having now to try and “force” them to give?
    Having asked these questions, I usually ended up becoming fixated on the negative aspects and negative questions regarding this, due to the negative tendencies I had and possibly still have in my character(becoming God redeemed over time). And yes, maybe there is truth in all of it and I have a right to be concerned. However, it’s been three years in my walk with God, i’ve voiced my opinions even to Him, questioning many aspects of Church and Christian life, what is biblical, Spiritual, truth and the correct, perfect way of doing things.
    Many of these things, of which I am constantly still learning of ,or even being proved to be wrong in some of my own understanding over time, having even been able to justify my arguments from scripture. I’ve come to realise, God is constantly teaching us to strive towards the image of His son, and having to teach me, that my view of what is perfect and correct is not always correct, having to learn how to live like a child of God, involves reading the word and being led by the Holy Spirit and my thoughts and understanding becoming like Christ, like the word of God.
    It’s been a long time since then, we still do so in our church(message before tithing), however, even though people sometimes still use scripture wrongfully in some way, the intent is not to do so, when you listen closely to what they say and mean.
    It’s not my place to judge them and try and correct them, God through His Spirit will do so, I certainly don’t have the authority in church to do so, from a leadership perspective, but, I can accept that they have Godly intentions when God opened up my eyes and my ears.
    Let me ask the following question: If you know your brother has the ability to give money, to tithe, and does not do so, will you not, having been given the freedom by him to do so in relationship, speak to him concerning the subject, try and understand his motives for not giving, and if your led by the Holy Spirit, help guide him by again, asking questions, towards the truth of honouring God in his life, with the money he has?
    I apologise if it appears that I’m jumping around regarding the subject of discussion, I am trying to structure my thoughts and explain best I can.

    I believe that what the bible is trying to teach us in every aspect of our lives, as Children of
    God, is to live by the Holy Spirit, and in truth, as scripture tells us to do, for then we are true worshippers of God, that’s our purpose in the Kingdom of God, to worship Him and honour Him.
    When it comes to traditions, especially church traditions, we would like be sure, that its “ impartation”, ways of guidance and inspiration led by the Holy Spirit, towards the worship of God in our lives, and those that follow in our footsteps as Christians.

    The example I used about the father and his daughters earlier taught me one thing concerning that tradition, and connecting it to my reference of understanding from scripture, I would like to impart a Christ like character to my future children and brothers and sisters, tradition is not simply just a ways of doing things and continue to do so generation after generation, but it explains the reasons and intent behind it, its done in some form of relationship, and its intent must also be to impart, affirm, inspire, link your identity to Christ, and should be reflecting the influence of God. Tradition is a reflection of family and identity in some ways, and a blessing if its done in the way as i’ve mentioned above. (1) Facilitated by the Holy Spirit, towards (2) honouring and worship of God.

    • Hi NC! Welcome brother, its great to hear your thoughts and perspective. I will think on what you’ve said. I loved what you wrote about traditions and family – that traditions can enrich family relationships and identity and produce many fond memories. Many of us can relate to this in some way. I guess tradition is not something which we can escape, rather it is something (as you say) which we must develop with God’s inspiration rather than just doing our own thing because ‘it works’ or worse – because it ‘used to work’.

      Would you say then that traditions only belong in a specific place and time? It seems to me that some denominations reproduce very similar versions of their traditions linked rather to their doctrinal label no matter where or when. I have been in a impoverished village in Zambia where the church was very non-Zambian – they had huge expensive speakers and fancy musical instruments being used in a broken down old school in the middle of nowhere by penniless people. It was as if they wanted to be American instead of develop their own traditions. Sometimes it seems church traditions can be ‘exported’ by mission work- it is as if the tradition comes along with the package when evangelism and church planting is done in faraway places. Maybe that’s why some traditions never change and are centuries old…?

      • Hi, sorry for replying so late. I’ve been and still am quite busy, finally getting my thesis back with things I can edit.

        Regarding the topic of discussion: I think traditions are quite a large topic of discussion and we can end up jumping around a lot, but ill mention a few things once again, from my perspective.
        Regarding your example, it might not have been the best thing for that Zambia community to now have to adapt to or inherit a tradition from another community. I think that a community always plays a large role with regards to the traditions they follow or have.
        The missionaries that imparted those musical aspects ” rich people devices” if I may joke a little, certainly brought something with, that was part of their own culture, non-zambian, and maybe not the wisest thing to do.
        I’d consider it an example of bringing tradition effected by culture into the mixture of a different culture with different traditions. Though christian inspired traditions should be universal (like teaching your children godly discipline, values and character), cultural traditions should remain in the culture they are from, lest people struggle to associate with them, or lose their own traditions (unique to their background, and their culture). God has certainly blessed the earth with many nations, and they ended up having many traditions and cultures, however, without having to debate much, we all know that some cultural and traditional things being done, does not honour God. One must ask the question here, (regardless of the fact if it was done with good intentions, which it probably was), do bringing things that are expensive serve the poor community and edify them?Do the intentions of these things identify with the people? Must they now adapt a western way of worship, or shouldn’t we stick to the basics of what they know, perhaps at least initially, maybe adapt our selves to reach them on their level or background like Paul did with the Greeks and their “unknown” god by using their traditions and ways to communicate with them?
        Perhaps, since some traditions are in some way part of how we grow up, part of some legacy and diversity that God created, should we not continue to do so, but led by the Spirit, leaving what is dead, and keeping what is inspired and honouring to God?I’m quite certain traditions are part of a legacy and memory of a peoples that we each come from, not meant to be discarded carelessly.
        It makes me think of the right of the first born son. Its a very strong tradition where the father blesses His first born son, gives him authority and imparts and leaves behind a legacy and all(most) of his possessions for His first born son. Maybe traditions are meant to reflect something of Gods Kingdom, and the blessings and traditions God gives to us as a people, through His son, those of us who believe. A way of reminding us of the traditions that God has given us? Since it teaches us identity in God and ownership/possession of Gods blessings for example?
        The ark of the covenant was something done in the “flesh” in the early times, however was meant to give us and understanding of the spiritual things happening, and having understood that(helping us understand in a way we can comprehend what God tries to convey), we can understand the power in Christ and the new traditions He has left for us, and why Jesus Christ, also a Spiritual Sacrifice at the cross, was perfect compared to the ark of the covenant times. In some way, it helps me appreciate and understand the power of what God has done and the traditions we should cherish, that He has given us.

        • Interesting points. So NC, to make this more personal than Zambia – is it happening around you? Do you think that the churches in your area represent the local culture and country you are in – or do they rather inherit their traditions from some other church culture in another country or time? This links to the other topic I raised – History – what did you think of all the eras of the church etc? I’d like to hear which traditions you experience in church that you feel are especially relevant to you as a South African and which are seemingly irrelevant in this time and place in the world.

          • Brother, i’ve summarized the whole thing and will spend some time on it and answer it a bit later from my side. I think its time to connect my thoughts with the scripture of God on this and give refs., and point out things in a structured manner, just give me some time 🙂

  2. Jewish Messianic era (30-70 AD)
    Jewish nation “Kingdom of God”
    A Political movement with Hebrew roots.
    Believers gather in Temple and Synagogues.
    After religious persecution retreat to home fellowships
    Large gatherings inside buildings, designated as places of worship, still present today. Evidence in new testament of both gatherings in set places of worship and fellowships of believers. The set places of worship though were there to begin with due to the Jewish (Judiac) practice.
    John 4: 20 r Our fathers worshiped on s this mountain, but you say that t in Jerusalem is u the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, v “Woman, believe me, w the hour is coming when x neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 y You worship what you do not know; z we worship what we know, for z salvation is a from the Jews. 23 But b the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father c in spirit and d truth, for the Father e is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
    From my understanding of John 4:20-24, God is trying to convey to the woman at the well, that a place of worship will not be confined to a mountain or Jerusalem, a City or some set place as the question was “ the place where people ought to worship”. Jesus Christ is telling her, that a time is coming and already at hand, when people will worship God in Spirit and in truth, neither on a mountain nor in a City “set place”, Synagogues probably not involving Spirit or truth at that time. If we think about it, the early Christian church certainly have examples of Synagogues and temples as places of worship, and also fellowships in houses. But as they became persecuted started to have their gatherings in different places, homes, underground in secret.
    One of the Roman Catholic traditions have certainly been their Cathedrals, places of worship they consider holy ground. Yet many of them, it not all, are built on top of burial grounds, or have burial grounds outside or inside the church, I remember in Holland, back when I was an unbeliever and still a child, I visited a Cathedral, and the floor, was tomb stones, the coverings of graves. The people were quite impressed about their traditions and history, though pagan and an acknowledgement of not going to church that often, blown off as, that’s normal but not contradicting to their strong beliefs.
    God desires our worship to be in Spirit and in Truth, the body being a Holy temple, the vessel or place of worship, has become the body, our bodies that belong to God, so, for me, in combination with what God told the woman at the well, we can worship God wherever we are, whether on a mountain or in a house or a hall, the place of worship begins when your heart and spirit enters into the presence of God, not a building. This makes one think deeply when you sin with this body and why it is so important not to have communion with darkness through this body, for your body is a place/ vessel that houses The Spirit of God. And what communion does the light have with the darkness, it’s like making a harlot have communion with Jesus Christ.
    So, perhaps the Greek and Roman thinking have fallen from the truth, and the place of worship has become the object of worship. And thus started to become a tradition! And has continued all these years, Europe is filled with a “proud” tradition of Cathedrals that tower into the sky, because of this. Some even have Gothic (dark apparitions) architecture in the mix.
    Greek Philosophical era (70-324 AD)
    Origin of Christian Apologetics.
    Intellectual debates due to Greeks.
    Greek culture & Philosophy influences Christian approach to theology, discipleship and Old testament.
    Study of God instead of worship.
    Discipleship = become more about info than transformation
    Old testament = metaphorical instead of historical
    Greek culture and philosophy influences Christian thinking, people begin to study God, using the word of God as a tool to study God, and forgetting that it is meant to allow us to be changed by it, transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and have a relationship with God. Though scripture certainly also helps us to understand who God is, it is a pathway to relationship with God. Jesus Christ is the word and the truth and the light, the manifested word of God, and no one can have a relationship with God except through Jesus Christ His Word (“no one can come to The Father except through me”). So certainly, the word has to be a beginning and continued process in which we learn to connect with God through relationship with the word of God and not for a study of God.
    The Greeks biggest idol in their own lives were not simply the gods they thought up, it was their own intellect. Their intellect was their idol. Some theological institutes have begun to show their true colors. I’ve even heard their comments and beliefs openly stated over the radio and other media. They simply use the bible as a tool for Spiritual “upliftment”. Moral issues discussed in the bible has become selectively selective, you may choose to follow those “traditions” as some of them have put it… it’s what people believed at that time or, God is simply an idea, as they recently have begun to say; an idea, simply an object of the mind that was thought up. If you think like a Greek, certainly that will be your conclusion, since the god in your mind, was an idea of your own making in the first place.
    This type of thinking makes people of today start calling the bible metaphorical(denial of truth and fact in this case), it’s no longer considered historical, since if it was considered historical, the things that are mentioned and known, also are fact, recorded events in history that become historical and thus also linked to truth. Metaphorical has become a ways of saying, I do not believe that the truth is truth and the facts are facts, it’s like a spirit of denial.
    In our church we have begun to move towards the new testament church of acts, family and disciple making has begun to be our purpose, and the retaining of knowledge as the Greek thinking is, has rather become what God has intended it for, enabling you to go out and actively be a disciple to disciple others in relationship with God. We have and am still busy undergoing massive restructuring, and it is rapidly taking place these last two months. In my Spirit I can see and know that God is busy doing this with us, and that it’s what he wants.
    Roman Imperial era (324-1517 AD)
    Constantine becomes believer.
    Christianity becomes state religion of the empire.
    Pagan people forced to be Christians, obligation, not choice.
    Pagan beliefs cast into the mix with Christianity.
    Introduction of various layers of leadership structures.
    Official salaried posts and administrative duties.
    Christianity “based” power to control others.
    Constantine becomes a believer, a ruler of a “great” nation, and begins to enforce the Christian belief onto others. Layers and layers of leadership and structures appear within the Christian doings, The Empire bringing its structure and rule and the way of doings things into being Christian. In some ways, can be seen as using their great power and success to enforce their ways, once again. Pagan people, not Christian have to start living as Christians, so it’s like mixing water and oil, if you wait long enough, they eventually separate out again, after having appeared to be in the same mix. A forced Christian belief by Constantine on the people, no wonder after so much time, evidences of oil in the water has become quite clear, pagan practices in the Christian faith. If you wait long enough, oil and water will separate from each other, visible difference become clear. The truth will manifest itself, and the fruit be seen.
    If Constantine was a true believer, he might have jumped at bringing the message of God to the people to soon, in His extreme zeal, he was probably so zealous, he might have forgotten the humility and peace that a Christian has to present to another. Perhaps he lacked Godly counsel, and like many of us, fell into the trap, as babies in Christ, and often ignorant or inconsiderate and forceful of things to others. The pursuit of truth and the zeal for truth becomes so important that we neglect the love of God in our doings.
    Paul implores us to live in peace with all men Rom 12:18 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, l live peaceably with all. Though God Himself said there is only one God, He does not force people to believe in Him and become Christian, if that was the case, why do we still have people with the freedom of running after other gods? Instead, it is Gods desire (through a spirit of love and longsuffering) that everyone comes into the knowledge of Him.
    It’s painful to see that we have so much freedom to choose, and in the process cause so much irreverence and dishonor towards God. Paul says none has an excuse to be ignorant, since everything God created testifies of Him. None the less, through a Spirit of love and understanding, we must be humble in our dealings with others who do not believe and in a Spirit of meekness and gentleness lead them to the truth. Constantine’s actions, though possibly with good intensions, certainly did not show this attribute of a Christian. And the consequence was the severe mixing and damage of Christian faith through pagan practices. A huge consequence of sin.
    Though God forgives sin, the consequences often remain, and we have to bare them. God also having to regularly fix the consequences of our sin.
    From my experience in our Church over these three years I’ve been with God, I can see that God is making the scales and consequences of the past fall off, and bring us into His design.

    European Reformation (1517-1700 AD)
    Martin Luther, protestant reformation.
    Reaction against “Roman” Catholic Church, who controlled church practice and salvation through tradition.
    Reformers fought to remove pagan religions and tradition enforced by the Catholic church into Christian belief.
    And to restore the Word of God, back into the hands of the people.
    Won debate on Priesthood of all believers theologically, but not practically.
    Retained Catholic traditions such as infant baptism and cathedrals.
    Changed communion slightly into a superficial way.
    Church remained tied to state, whole countries remain Catholic or Protestant.
    Christianity remained national, but went from imperial to cultural.
    Still broken picture of new testament church times.
    It’s quite clear here, that the people of God were oppressed and it was important to bring the Word of God back into the hands of the people. I’m quite grateful for this. Yet, they retained pagan influences. Perhaps the question here is, does God fix things with a bang? Since He certainly can. Or does He use the imperfect, incomplete things of this world and its people, having become such due to sin, to bring about His perfect will, glory and purpose, and doing so with a gentle Spirit of love though He has every right to do it differently?
    When a sinner begins to live righteously, does that not show the glory of God very powerfully, and His love? Even though the word reached the people, more needed to be done, and rushing into something without Gods guidance is not a wise thing to do. Since pagan practices have been such a big part of the Christian struggle to our regret, it was due to sin and the consequences of sin. The bible warns us that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. How difficult is it not to remove the old evil leaven? We are certainly warned against the leaven of the Pharisees, leaven that’s wicked and far from the truth, and leaven of self worship, just like pagan practices.
    And since God is not forceful, and gently leads people to the truth, the time of events (the length of time it takes for change) is probably also a consequence of sin. If we are truly committed to having God lead us into His perfect will for us, to be like the early church, then the Spirit of God can move freely within us, and change can happen more easily and faster. Do we not all, in some aspect of our lives quench the Holy Spirit of God? And cause ourselves to become stuck or even backslide due to our disobedience of the Holy Spirit.
    The more you submit to God and humble yourselves, the easier it becomes for you to allow God to remove the bad leaven from you, that has become so unrecognizably part of you due to your past sin, or even continued acts of sin after being justified, that’s why sanctification is necessary, justification does not take the place of sanctification, they are both necessary, Justification allows Sanctification to take place, being Justified before God through Jesus Christ now allows you to become Sanctified, your Spirit is no longer dead, and through the Spirit of God, you can now become like Christ, by living in Christ, you are a new creation.
    It’s strange how God uses leaven as an example in many cases, something difficult/ impossible to remove once it’s become part of the dough. Yet God also uses an example of a potter, who shapes a vessel anew. God can make something that’s been unchangeably leavened with the wrong leaven, into a pot of clay, a new creation, something that can be changed, making the impossible possible, and allowing it to become what the Designer intended for it to be, and to hold inside of it, that which the Designer also desires for it to hold.
    Anglo American era (1700-1900 AD)
    Renewed passion for the Holy Spirit of God.
    People began to move in Gods spirit, huge open meetings, and people’s lives being changed.
    Revivalist movements Pentacostal and Charismatic, yet remain in bondage to Greek and Roman aspects.
    Retained Greek sermons – theological education.
    Retained Roman church buildings and clergy.
    Added more pagan elements to the mix.
    American Christianity becomes commercialized and consumer driven.
    Back to the Holy Spirit, but not back to the new testament church.

    Renewed passion for the Holy Spirit, awesome!!! The beginning of true worship is in Spirit and in truth and the enablement of righteous fruit, ridding ourselves of that which is evil and not of God. Yet once again, the presence of the devil and sin has remained and often still ever increasingly become more problematic it seems. Obedience and Spiritual discipline becomes important to keeping sin away from you, and this is only done in the presence of God. Obedience and Spiritual discipline is something that we lack, and is something God has begun to help me to do, and our Church.

    Restoration of Gods Holy Spirit and Word have come, God restoring church function now.

    What do you think about their point about the blinding effect of church tradition on believers?
    There certainly are blinding effects of church tradition on believers. Yet, it is something that can be removed by God through His Holy Spirit. Though tradition has become a ways of belonging, finding your place in a group in society, a ways of finding your identity, it has also made you hard of hearing to the truth of God, that in Him we should find our Identity and place of belonging.
    We have to learn to distinguish between, Godly traditions that ultimately should teach obedience and love and identity in God in Jesus Christ, and the obscured fleshly motivated traditions that lead to sin and away from God which we should avoid.
    Aren’t we all naturally born into tradition? Or does God hold us accountable for the traditions that we follow?
    From my experience, I’d have to say, yes, we are born into tradition naturally, though it does not excuse us from continuing to perform those traditions if they are not of God. No one is excused from the truth through claiming their ignorance as an excuse. I believe that God does hold us accountable for our traditions and shows, gives and makes ample opportunity to remove our ignorance, the scales from our eyes. Nothing we see exists without God, but everything through Him does exist, God spoke all of what we see into existence and upholds it. The sinner is allowed to continue to draw breath even in His ignorance and pride, God upholds even his life. How can we remain blind? We have to ask the questions, is it good, acceptable, honouring of God and directed to God and led by God when we talk about traditions? We are responsible for making our election a surety, by working out our faith and salvation as Paul admonishes us to do, this applies to all we do, especially in things such as tradition.
    Do you think it was part of God’s plan that the church moved through the Greek, Roman, European and American eras of the church, or not? Why…?
    How God works whether it was his plan for us to move through those eras or not, I can’t say, understanding God is a mystery we have to accept. Though, God did know what will happen in those eras, He surely must have used those things as part of His plan. The fact that we have begun to live more according to the Holy Spirit, must be some evidence of Gods work at hand. The many eras it took to get to this point, is probably also strongly influenced by the ever presence and influence of sin in this world. I’m quite sure that even believers, if not careful and making sure to listen to God and obey His will, will cause consequences, disobedience is sin, and will have consequences. One could argue that God wants to slowly lead us into the truth, yet what does that say, does that not say God wilfully withholds some of the truth for a later stage or time? I’m quite sure Gods heart is that all come to the knowledge of Him and the truth as quickly as possible, yet it is our sin that causes us to be blinded, or slowly come to a knowledge of the truth. The more we become Christ like in mind, body and Spirit, and in Character, the easier it becomes to see the truth that is already there. We just have so many layers and layers of scales and consequences of sin that has to be removed.
    Do we really need to do Christianity by the Book and get back to the New Testament church? Or, to extend the organic metaphor, is the Body of Christ supposed to be ‘developing into maturity’ over the centuries?
    When I talk of the perfect Christian Church, I certainly look at the New Testament and the book of Acts and the other scriptures also. Though they possibly were not perfect, there was clear evidence that God was moving Mightly among the people. This brings me to the question, is our desire for the perfect Church one of excellence or perfection? I.e. do we want to have the perfect church, the most well tuned machine that we can possibly make it, or do we strive for excellence where we desire to please God to the upmost, from a heart that desires to please God through being a servant that listens to His instruction or do we listen to our own instruction and find what we think is the best, and do we constantly, this in mind, seek out and examine ourselves and our intensions in what we do?
    Maturity in my opinion is certainly a place where you realise your place and position towards God. If anything has shown us anything, we have been in many cases immature and have not followed the example that God has given Paul and the early church, and which Paul said to us all, imitate me and do as I do. Paul following an example of Christ.

    Just structured everything I’ve read and commented along the way so that I can focus a bit better , hope I put everything out a bit better bro.

  3. Pingback: Pagan Christianity Discussion – The order of worship: Sunday mornings set in concrete | Some Thoughts On Being Christian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s