Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pagan Christianity

Apparently Barna has a new book out, co-authored by Frank Viola. I briefly reviewed Barna's last book, Revolution back in August 2006. The new book, Pagan Christianity is generating a good bit of blog activity—some favorable, lots not. Here's an excerpt from a good post (with links) by The Heresy

Barna used to be a very popular man in the pulpits of North America. His primary role was surveying the spiritual and religious landscape of America. He has shared the fruit of his research through dozens of books, conferences and in academic institutions. His life, career and business were driven by the needs of conventional churches and para-church organizations. Over the years he identified several areas of deep concern for church and tried to be an agent of change. Despite becoming one of the most authoritative voices on the church in America his own research revealed there was very little positive change. He concluded that the average Christian in America was biblically illiterate, failed to hold to a biblical worldview (from an evangelical perspective) and lived a morally indistinct life. He discovered the impact of churches on society was dwarfed by that of the media. After years of trying to help conventional churches change he gave up. Unlike most of the church which keeps trying to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results he changed. He became an advocate of unconventional churches and a prominent voice in the simple church movement...

While I see lots of people coming up with all kinds of criticism (including a healthy dose of straw men and mockery dressed up as humor) of the book I’ve yet to find someone appeal to scripture to prove that contemporary church practices are biblical. The reality is most of conventional church practice has very little basis in scripture. In my very intentional efforts to study what the New Testament says about church I became more and more convinced of this. While a great many Christians are willing to split hairs over what the bible says about sexual ethics or the sovereignty of God most don’t care about what the bible says about the church. This is a huge HUGE mistake. The church in the western world is adrift and we still refuse to consider the possibility that guys like Jesus and Paul actually knew what they were doing. Meanwhile many churches in various cultures that more closely resemble the New Testament church have no problem making disciples.

Too true! I'm going to have to get the book and read it. Meanwhile, you can download a sample chapter here (warning, it's a PDF).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to be more enamored with Barna, but he lost a lot of cred with me when his "biblical worldview" and "evangelical" surveys were missing some key criteria and had several that were tendentious. Upon reviewing his criteria, I realized one could be an evangelical with a biblical worldview and not have an orthodox understanding of the Trinity or the Incarnation.

Unknown said...

Hi, an excellent alternative to Viola's book is "The Ancient Church As Family" by Dr. Joe Hellerman. His work is well researched and addresses many of the "pagan" influences on our faith. Dr. Hellerman's contribution is a blend of good history AND respectful discourse.