I was sent an advanced copy of the book, Pagan Christianity, to read and review. Though I explained to the publisher I did not know when I would get around to reading it, they sent it anyway. As I thumbed through it over the weekend I was compelled to read and interact with the book as soon as possible. It's the kind of book I read with great frustration (see photo), yet the topics and perspective are provocative enough to elicit good conversation. I will blog on this in a few different parts in order to touch on points I think are of particular importance. I am half way through it, so for now I'll only introduce the book, where the authors are coming from and where I am coming from. This way you'll know what to expect in the coming posts.
Viola and Barna argue that "most" of the practices of the contemporary church "were borrowed from pagan culture." (pg. xix) Our buildings, leadership, order of worship, sermons and much more are all labeled unbiblical, and harmful to the health of Christians. Pagan Christianity is ultimately arguing for an "organic church" model that is "characterized by spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and non-hierarchical leadership." (xix). They admit on the front end that this book is not intended to be a theoretical exercise. They are not interested in simply getting people to think, or become aware of the origins of our current practices. They intend to move us. To bring about change (xxx, 253).
So far I have found myself nodding in agreement with some of their observations about our current practices. They rightly perceive some problems inherent in how we "do church" today. But I also think problems are often overstated, and proposed solutions are an over-reaction. Their concern for the health of the local church and their passion to do things biblically are mine as well. But we wind up coming out at very different places.
I'll begin blogging through the book today or tomorrow.
Joe Thorn Sent via the BlackBerry Pearl