Friday, July 17, 2009

Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna

Several years ago I emailed my pastor. We’d taken Communion at church that week, and I was curious how we ever got started doing the ceremony as we did. I’ve come to discover that there are two major ways of taking Communion in churches today: The first follows the procedures of the Catholic Mass, where a minister presides over the table and the rest of the congregation comes forward for the bread and cup to be administered. Second is the version with which I am more familiar, where a minister recites a few sentences removed from 1 Corinthians 11, prays for the bread – which is actually pre-broken crackers in a plate, and then the deacons (whose original biblical job was, after all, distributing food) carry the plates to the congregation, passing them up and down the pews until everyone has some, then marching in unison to the front where they all surrender their trays, sit down, and let the minister serve them bread. Then he sits down and one of the deacons serves him. Then the minister stands back up and leads the congregation in “partaking.” We do the whole thing over again for the cup, served in trays of thimble-cups. And all I wanted to know is whence this elaborate ceremony came.

But my pastor either didn’t understand the depth of my question or didn’t know and gave me the best he had. No one knows, I concluded. If they don’t teach such things at seminary, where else could you learn about church traditions?


Pagan Christianity? addresses many points of my inquiry. First of all, it does tell me how we got the ceremony we know as Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Specifically the passing of trays was an invention of the church in Geneva where Calvin and his gang emphasized orderliness. Additionally, this short book describes the origins of several other things I mentioned: pastors and ministers, Communion no longer having to do with community, the Lord’s Supper no longer being a supper, churches meeting once a week in buildings, tables or altars at the front of the building, congregations as distinct from the clergy, pew arrangement facing a stage, deacons being reduced to ushers, seminaries, and even the practice of removing “verses” (an added, man-made invention) from context. Most of these are derived either from pagan temple ritual, Roman government structure and formality, or the style of Greek philosophers. On the whole this book is an astounded critique of how the Church of God has not transformed the world, but rather allowed itself to be conformed. We who are to be the image-bearers of God are looking remarkably like His enemy. This apostasy has dramatically affected the mission of the Church. We stand today divided, running after every new program or philosophy the experts throw at us, losing attendance by the thousands, and exhibiting a very weak testimony of the power, holiness, and love of our God. Pagan Christianity? is a wakeup call to the Church to abandon their manmade traditions with which we have replaced the commandment of God.

To God be all glory.

1 comment:

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 .

Also, for a look at the purpose and vision behind these books, check out Viola's brand new book, "From Eternity to Here" at http://www.frometernitytohere.org .