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. 🙂