A couple of days ago Joe mentioned to me a book by George Barna and Frank Viola which is scheduled to be released later this month called Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. From a quick search on Amazon, what you will find is that this book is basically a face-lift of a previous book by Viola called Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices which was published in 2003. In any case, many of you will remember Barna’s last book, Revolution, was less than enchanting (see Sam Storms‘, Chris Treat at Ref 21, and David Wayne’s reviews). David Miller explains in his review at CT,
Unlike the Great Awakenings, which brought people into the church, this new movement “entails drawing people away from reliance upon a local church into a deeper connection with and reliance upon God.” Already “millions of believers have stopped going to church,” so Barna expects that in 20 years “only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their faith.”
Accordingly, the decline and decentralization of the church is an amazing and exciting thing. Well, it looks like Barna was just getting started.
In his newest release, Barna and Viola argue that the practices of the church are not derived from Scripture but have been developed from pagan influences throughout the ages. Such practices as ordained ministers, the centrality of preaching, order of worship, etc. are not a product of biblical fidelity as much as cultural syncretization, or so they say. If Revolution was to overthrow the existence of the local church, Pagan Christianity has the idea to overthrow the practice(s) of the local church.
In all of this, I cannot help but think that of all the problems that this book brings, not the least of which is the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence throughout church history. Perhaps I am wrong in my concerns. But I would strongly encourage you to check out Joe’s blog as he has begun blogging through the book this week. I intend to read the book soon and hope to interact with Barna/Viola as well.