Pagan Christianity?
2 September 2010
Today we will consider an awesome book I read recently: Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna.
This book goes hand in hand with The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd, which I just finished reviewing in seven recent articles (starting with The "Power Over" Kingdom). In fact, these two books are major and vital pieces of the puzzle, which reveal and explain the profound flaws and errors in the Christian religion for the past 1,700 years (see The Militant Church and Two Peas In a Pod).
You may be saying to yourself: "But I thought this is a Web site about Islam. Why are you devoting so many articles to Christianity?"
That's a good question — and I have a good answer! As I shared in Two Peas In a Pod, for the last 1,700 years, since Constantine, the predominate version of Christianity that has been seen on the earth has NOT resembled Biblical Christianity very much at all. In fact, I would go so far as to insist that this corrupted, perverted, demonically-inspired pagan religion of Christianity and the demonically-inspired religion of Islam have a lot more in common with each other than either one has in common with true Biblical Christianity — for true Biblical Christianity always looks like Yeshua (Jesus), while neither Islam nor traditional, normal, common Christianity look very much like Yeshua at all, as He is revealed in the New Testament. If this idea seems strange or shocking to you, then I suggest that you read the series of seven articles reviewing The Myth of a Christian Nation — or better yet, order this vital book today and read the whole thing, numerous times!
In the 1,400-year history of Islam, the only Christianity the Muslims have ever known on a large scale is this corrupted, perverted, pagan version of Christianity. Biblical Christianity was virtually extinguished three hundred years before Muhammad. I believe that this is the MAIN reason why Muslims have not become followers of Isa (Yeshua, Jesus) in large numbers, and why Muslims are so resistant to the Gospel — because for the entire history of Islam all they have seen lived out by "Christians" and "Christian nations" is a FALSE gospel of "power over" self-centeredness and violence, which is exactly what is found in Islam too.
This is why it is so important to study the history of Christianity and its current condition in the context of examining Islam on this Web site. Only when followers of Yeshua are able to break out of Pagan Christianity in large numbers and return to Biblical Christianity — showing the true Isa to them by truly living like Isa, to the point where we are willing to bleed and die for Muslims like Isa did — only then will we see Muslims being set free from the bondage of Islam. As wrote a couple of days ago in Two Peas In a Pod:
When Muslims finally see a large number of Christians, for the first time in history, faithfully living out the "power under" life of Isa before their very eyes, to the point that we look like Isa dying on the execution stake (cross), THEN and ONLY THEN will the eyes of their hearts be open to see Isa for who He really is.
THEN and ONLY THEN will the Muslims, and all the rest of the world, see a real difference between "power over" Islam (and the very similar "power over" Christianity) and "power under" Christianity — a difference that has never been displayed on a large scale in the 1,400 year history of Islam.
It is very difficult for us Christians to break out of the current Pagan Christianity if we don't even know we are in it. That is why it is so critical that we read, meditate on, and are transformed by books like The Myth of a Christian Nation and Pagan Christianity?.
In Pagan Christianity?, the authors share the results of years of research into the pagan origins of much of what is considered mainstream, normal, common Christianity. The table of contents will give you a good idea of the pagan practices which are incorrectly considered by most people as "Christian":
  • The Church Building
  • The Order of Worship
  • The Sermon
  • The Pastor
  • Sunday Morning Costumes
  • Ministers of Music
  • Tithing and Clergy Salaries
  • Baptism and the Lord's Supper
  • Christian Education
Wow! That's quite a provocative list! How dare they target such "sacred cows"?! Well, all I can say is that the authors present a lot of historical research, with abundant footnotes, to support their assertions.
You may be wondering: "So, what's the point? OK, let's say that some non-Biblical practices have been incorporated into church practice. It's not that big of a deal, is it? If we still have the core values of our Christianity, what's the harm of professional pastors or dressing up on Sunday morning, or any of these other issues they address?"
The point is, these are NOT just harmless additions to, or variations of, Biblical Christianity. As the authors so ably demonstrate, these pagan practices actually CHANGE the intrinsic character of Biblical Christianity into something altogether different, so that it no longer remains Biblical Christianity. These pagan practices, which most Christians consider to be normal Christianity, actually HINDER, and even PREVENT, the practice of Biblical Christianity. Thus, Biblical Christianity has been transformed into Pagan Christianity — and it happened so long ago, we don't even realize it.
I must have used an entire colored pencil or two in highlighting all of the valuable information contained in this book. But it is very hard to share with you a selection of quotes because you really need to read it all in context. So I think the best thing to share with you here are parts of the preface and introduction, where the authors explain why they have written this book and what they hope you will get out of it:
This book is dedicated to exposing the traditions that have been tacked onto God's will for His church. One reason for writing it is simple: We are seeking to remove a great deal of debris in order to make room for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the fully functional head of His church.
We are also making an outrageous proposal: that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a Biblical nor a historical right to function as it does. This proposal, of course, is our conviction based upon the historical evidence that we shall present in this book. You must decide if that proposal is valid or not.
We do not doubt that God can, and undoubtedly does, work through practices invented by humans, that have no Scriptural basis. That God still works through people in the institutional church is beyond dispute. But just because God may use His people in a particular system does not mean that He approves of that system.
This is not a work for scholars, so it is by no means exhaustive. A thorough treatment of the origins of our contemporary church practices would fill volumes. But it would be read by few people. Although this is a single volume, it includes a great deal of history. Yet this book does not chase every historical sidelight. Rather, it focuses on tracing the central practices that define mainstream Christianity today.
Because the roots of our contemporary church practices are so important to grasp, we wish that every literate Christian would read this work. Consequently, we have chosen not to employ technical language, but to write in plain English.
We want you to be informed by the Word of God and by church history. We want you to think carefully and Biblically about how you practice your faith with other Christians. And we want you to influence others to understand what God leads you to discover. Part of the challenge of living in concert with a Biblical view of the world is correlating your spiritual life with God's intentions, as outlined for us in the Bible. We pray that this book will help you to do your part in straightening out the crooked path of the contemporary church.
I firmly believe that this may be one of the most important books you could ever read. Not only for yourself, but for the billion plus Muslims, whose only example of Christianity is a man-made, corrupted, perverted, pagan version of Christianity. It is vital for their eternal salvation that the Church of Yeshua comes forth from its tomb of dead religion and rises into vibrant spiritual life in union with Messiah. When the followers of Yeshua actually start living — and dying — like He did, it will shake the world, and many Muslims — and Jews — will finally see Yeshua (Isa, Jesus) for who He really is.