Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pagan Christianity--Frank Viola, George Barna

Ala Frank Viola and George Barna book. Check it out at http://www.ptmin.org/pagan.htm. Good read. Interesting look at how non-biblical culture shapes church culture more than biblical culture. I think it is not just about going "back" to another time that is no longer with us, though that is important for drawing close to the Jesus spirit, but since Jesus is still alive and active today, and since culture today is resonant of culture in the pre-70s time, this re-imagining and living out a different way of being church is also a response to emerging culture as well as to the biblical, or early Jewish Christian scripture times. Some critics point that the organic church folks don't take into account the epistles they attribute to Paul or others (but are actually deutero-pauline) where church structures are laid out in a way supportive of later Empire Church manifestations, but I have no trouble giving more emphasis to the pre-70 spirit and texts, or even the pre-100 texts, than I do to those written to support other church purposes. I know some more conservative Christian brothers and sisters believe it has to be all or nothing, and I think there is meaning to be had from it all, but for the same reason they prioritize scripture over culture or later traditions, I can prioritize within scripture. But if you are wanting to know more about why we have buildings, budgets, bylaws, steeples, sermons, and all the "trappings" of church, god bless them all and even recognizing all the good they have helped to bring about in the world for God, than you will find this book an interesting historical read. If you would like to imagine or help create a church without all those trappings, this is a good book for you too. A lot of broad-brush strokes, as their critics are pointing out, but it will be another "default mode" shifting book like Barna's "Revolution."
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11 comments:

Jaume said...

Ron, the amazing thing for me is that people still have not realized that Christianity is as Pagan (i.e. Greek) as it is Jewish or even more. It is an old tale that the Greek, Platonic, Estoic, you-name-it influence changed Christianity from a Jewish sect to a world religion for the Empire. Not to speak about influences from Mithraism, Manicheanism, and the Egyptian religion. Ratzinger's point in his famous Ratisbone sermon is how Christianity is as much as child of Athens as it is of Jerusalem. But it is good that this story is told again and in full detail.

Ron said...

Hi and thanks Jaume. What is interesting about this particular book is that it isn't so much about theology, overtly anyway, which is how the conversation about Hellenism and Christianity is usually framed, or some limited discussion of how Christmas and Easter borrow from pre-Christian rites, but this book is talking about how the Empire taking over the church and how modernism which followed have shaped people's default mode of what church is and has to be in order to be a church in their minds, and how it is so different from what is in authentic Paul and gospels and early texts. Now if we could just get the same people to see how much radical theology is in fact in those same texts and see how they can apply it to understanding of church (painful to read of people into ancient/future church, for example, who are opposed to women in church ministerial or leadership positions, or who take such a wrong turn on sexuality, etc;...and also of course get the liberals/progressives, my tribe, to see how much radical ecclesia there is and let it underpin their radical theology for our emerging times.

Anonymous said...

the spoof video is so funny.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=hslswIal9u4

Ron said...

That's hilarious. Thanks so much Anon. And as any good satire, so much truth about the reactions.

Jaume said...

For those of us who live in countries that have been Catholic for centuries, the pagan influence in Christian practice is more obvious, particularly in popular devotion (saints, amulets, processions, etc.). Perhaps this is not so obvious if you live in a culturally Protestant milieu, even if you are a Catholic. For those who are unfamiliar with the Roman people's religious practices, a great visual resource is the recent and superb TV series, "Rome" (1st season), in which you can see different kinds of pagan devotions and there are brief explanations in the DVD edition.

Ron said...

Thanks jaume. That is a wonderful series. One of the best ways too to see the way the Roman Empire was so pervasive and so oppressive, and is a great backdrop for the Jesus and Paul movement on the margins of the Empire.

Massagem said...
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Livros e Revistas said...
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Jilliefl1 said...

The sequel to “Pagan Christianity?” is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church”. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at
http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org
It’s also available on Amazon.com. Frank is also blogging now at http://www.frankviola.wordpress.com

Sonbeam said...
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