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Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices [Hardcover]

By Frank Viola (Author) & George Barna (Author)
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Item description for Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola & George Barna...

Offering compelling historical evidence, the authors maintain that most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles.

Publishers Description
Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we "dress up" for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola & George Barna has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • CBA Retailers - 10/01/2008 page 27

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Item Specifications...

Studio: BarnaBooks
Pages   295
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.78" Width: 5.69" Height: 1.05"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2008
Publisher   Tyndale House Publishers
Edition  Revised, Update  
ISBN  141431485X  
ISBN13  9781414314853  

Availability  0 units.

More About Frank Viola & George Barna

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Frank Viola has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. He has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. His blog,, is ranked in the top ten of all Christian blogs on the Web today. He ministers to people all over the world from Florida.

Mary DeMuth is a former church planter in France and the author of more than sixteen nonfiction and fiction books. A sought-after speaker and longtime blogger, she has overcome (through Jesus's healing) a difficult childhood full of neglect, abuse, and familial dysfunction to become a living example of what it means to live uncaged. She lives in Texas with her family.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Ecclesiology

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History
Books > Christian Living > Spiritual Growth > Spiritual Formation

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Reviews - What do customers think about Pagan Christianity??

The big picture of Pagan Christianity  May 26, 2010
(I received a review copy of this book.)

In Pagan Christianity, Viola and Barna state that "almost everything that is done in our contemporary churches has no basis in the Bible" (pg. 4). This is the primary concern of their research and their book. Chapter by chapter they demonstrate from historical accounts that the church building (ch. 1), the order of worship (ch. 2), the sermon (ch. 3), the pastor (ch. 4), Sunday morning costumes (ch. 5), ministers of music (ch. 6), tithing and clergy salaries (ch. 7), baptism and the Lord's Supper (ch. 8), and Christian education (ch. 9) arise from culture and not from Scripture. Based on the fact that these practices arise from culture and not from Scripture, and their assumptions which will be covered below, they state the purpose of this book: "[I]t explains how this practice stifles the practical headship of Jesus Christ and hampers the functioning of His body" (pg. 9).

Instead of reviewing this book chapter by chapter, which many have already done, I plan to examine the big picture presented by the book. I want to state at the beginning that I agree with many of the assumptions and conclusions of the authors. I agree than many, if not most, of the practices of the modern church arise from past cultures and not from the teachings of Scripture. I also agree that many of these same practices are unnecessary and in some cases detrimental to the maturity of the church and the believer.

To me, the most important aspect of this book is that it brings to light many practices and beliefs that are not based on Scripture. All believers should consider the importance of these things. If buildings, budgets, paid staff, choirs, etc. are not taught in Scripture, then they are not necessary for us to live together in Christ. Why, then, do we consider these and other practices to be necessary? Could it be that we are missing something important because we focus on things that are scriptural? I think this is happening.

Viola and Barna's historical analysis is very beneficial. Some have discredited them because of their reliance on secondary sources (i.e. history books instead of the actual writings). I also wish that they had included more citations from primary sources. However, if they had relied only upon primary sources, it would have taken volumes to hold the information.

When I read the first edition of this book (authored only by Viola), I was disappointed by the tone and rhetoric. In this second edition, the tone and rhetoric is much more balanced. Many who have negatively reviewed this book complain about the rhetoric. It is true that the authors still make some sweeping statements, overall the tone is much more palatable in this second edition.

My primary concern with this book is the assumptions that the authors make. For example, they assume that the meeting of the church should include input from many different attenders, not just one or two. Similarly, they assume that leadership should be from example, not necessarily from authority. While I agree with their assumptions, the average Christian today - and the average leader - does not agree with these assumptions. Therefore, their arguments fall apart.

For example, the arguments claim that these practices did not arise from Scripture but from culture. Most people will agree with this claim. However, where people disagree is the statement by the authors that these practices negatively affect the church. Why do they disagree? Because they disagree with the authors' assumptions, not with the authors historical analysis. As the authors themselves state, not everything that arises from culture is bad and not everything negatively affects the church. Therefore, they cannot simply demonstrate that these practices arise from culture, they must also demonstrate that the practices negatively affect the church. For the most part, this is assumed without analysis.

In other words, more work is needed. Why is it important for many believers to exercise their spiritual gifts when the church meets? Why is it important for believers to see their leaders as equals instead of as authoritarian figures? Why is it important for music sang to God to arise from the hearts of the people instead of from professionals? I agree with many of their assumptions, but I do not think most of their readers will agree.

I appreciate the work that Viola and Barna have put into this book. The historical analysis alone is worth the price of the book. I hope more people read this book and decide to study these practices in more detail. I hope more people ask the questions that I've asked above. I think that the church will be stronger if we recognize that these practices are not necessary, and instead they sometimes distract believers from how they should live with one another.
Response to Negative Reviews  May 21, 2010
After I finished reading Pagan Christianity, I went and read the negative reviews on this site.

The book, by the way, is fantastic! As I was reading it, I just wanted to tell everybody what I had just read. Now that I am finished, I plan to go back and use the notes that I took to put together a presentation for my youth group (it was THAT good).

Anyway, the negative reviews made me worry that I had just wasted my time reading a biased, unreliable, poorly cited pseudo-history. I took these worries to Frank Viola's website via e-mail, and I was replied to the very next day. The reply was personal and made me feel that my questions were actually valued. In the response was a link to an article on Viola's website that addresses many of the points the negative reviewers have brought up ([...]).

It seems like it is difficult to find factual Christian books that have minimal bias and are free from manipulation and deception. Pagan Christianity is one of these rarities.

If you want to know more about what's in the book, look at the table of contents online.
I Read Pagan Christianity & the Constructive Sequel Reimagining Church  May 18, 2010
When I read this book it was as if it put words and explanations to not only things I felt in my own heart for some time but also what I had experienced being in ministry for years as well as a pastor. First, I want to point out that when approaching this book I had an open mind and didn't read it looking for what was wrong. I have found that helpful to understand the heart of the authors so that I could wrestle properly with some of the more difficult sections. After reading many reviews I find that sometimes people are too quick to jump to conclusions instead of looking into a matter more thoroughly. For me I found the book to be refreshing and could relate to the fact that many of the traditions that were scrutinized I had adopted and accepted as from God Himself. I began to see that yes many of the traditions that we have crystallized into defensible facts of God's church are actually hindrances from realizing His true purpose and experiencing His life to the fullest especially in a community of believers. Unfortunately the institutional system even though God does work within it because there are people, His people in it, by default creates a type of dualism where many view their spiritual lives separate from their daily regular lives. Most kids grow up learning that God and serving Him and worshiping Him is tied to a building or system. Since I did read Reimagining Church, the positive sequel to PC, I can see the major difference between knowing, worshiping and serving the Lord together with your Church family in an ongoing deep and real way that is the expression of the Life of Christ vs. following a set order of worship and having relationship that for the most part is somewhat shallow. By the way that isn't a generalization because i know there are exceptions from time to time.

I believe it is important to take a hard look at the traditions we are following especially those that keep us from experiencing and expressing the fullness of Christ's life and that in many ways are man centered instead of Christ centered. Pagan Christianity is a helpful, honest, thoughtful and well put together book. Although if you read it and especially if you took issue with it because it left you either groping for answers to all of the new questions or angry at the system then you really need to read Reimagining Church Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianityand even From Eternity to Here From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of Godwhich puts these works into a grand theme found in scripture.

In Christ.
Booyah!  May 17, 2010
Glad someone had the eggs to say it, not to mention all the research behind it.
I like it  May 17, 2010
This book I like although it did not give me an earth shattering conviction to leave the institutional church. Many historical perspectives are presented that helped me to understand the reason "why" we do things the way we do them in the institutional church. For example the history behind why we have the one pastor model was presented well.

The solution presented to the institutional church seems to be a bit mystical to me. That is, having home church with Jesus alone as the leader in charge seems to be quite a difficult thing to experience. The examples of the successes of home church seem to be hand picked success stories and I wonder whether or not the services are "that good" consistently.

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