pagan christianity

September 2, 2008 | 2 Comments

After hearing about some of our dreams for a unique church community in Austin, a friend sent me a copy of Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. Talk about a book that has left me with mixed feelings…

Viola and Barna make a case that much of what we see as critical elements of the contemporary church originate in cultural practices that the church has adopted through history. Thus, as the title suggests, the church is filled with Pagan practices.

Their research is thorough, and for a history lover, interesting. They do an excellent job of helping the reader strip away so much of what we have added to the church and remind us what the church was at it’s beginnings. For that reason, I loved it. There is a freedom in starting with the simplest ideas of what church can or should be, and then beginning to dream from there.

What troubled me was their stance through much of the book. Viola and Barna feel strongly that the church should strip away these practices and return to how the church operated in the first century. I appreciate their passion, but they come across antagonistic. I share a number of their ideas, but found myself arguing with them throughout the book. Unfortunately, I think their posture will turn many off from hearing what they have to say.

For a thorough response to the book, read Bob Hyatt’s thoughts. You’ll have to scroll down, because I haven’t yet been able to convince Bob to create direct link to this series. ūüôā

  • Jill

    The sequel to ‚ÄúPagan Christianity?‚ÄĚ is out now. It‚Äôs called ‚ÄúReimagining Church‚ÄĚ. It picks up where ‚ÄúPagan Christianity‚ÄĚ left off and continues the conversation. (‚ÄúPagan Christianity‚ÄĚ was never meant to be a stand alone book; it‚Äôs part one of the conversation.) ‚ÄúReimagining Church‚ÄĚ is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at It‚Äôs also available on Frank is also blogging now at . Also, have you seen the spoof video for “Pagan”? Very funny. Check it out at .

  • I was encouraged by two friends to read this book awhile ago. I’m about at the halfway point and so far I tend to agree with your thoughts on their ‘antagonistic’ stance. I think the book is a great tool for church history and the citations are extremely helpful and thorough for a novice on the subject such as myself. But I can’t keep from getting the feeling that they are dismissing a lot of practices, albeit human, that aid the church. They would have been wise to avoid the appearance of an agenda. The book would work great on its own without trying to be dismissive.