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Author Topic: May 2011 DISCUSSION: Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna  (Read 30451 times)

Offline LaylaMonroe

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Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices
by Frank Viola and George Barna
Available on Amazon.com (hardcover) for $12.23 (used copies from $7.00) or at your local Christian bookstore

About the book:
Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we “dress up” for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices.

DISCUSSION SCHEDULE
Note: The schedule is flexible depending on whatever works for the majority. If we're all moving through the book quicker or slower than we expected, we'll just adjust the schedule. No biggie. *shrug*

May 19 - Discussion of:
Acknowledgments, Preface, Introduction, and
Chapter 1 - "Have We Really Been Doing it By the Book?" (pgs 1-8)


May 26 - Discussion of:
Chapter 2 - "The Church Building" (pgs 9-46)

June 2 - Discussion of:
Chapter 3 - "The Order of Worship" (pgs 47-84)

June 9 - Discussion of:
Chapter 4 - "The Sermon" (pgs. 85-104)
Chapter 5 - "The Pastor" (pgs. 105-144)


June 16 - Discussion of:
Chapter 6 - "Sunday Morning Costumes" (pgs. 145-156)
Chapter 7 - "Ministers of Music" (pgs. 157-170)
Chapter 8 - "Tithing and Clergy Salaries (pgs. 171-186)
Chapter 9 - "Baptism and the Lord's Supper" (pgs. 187-198)


June 23 - Discussion of:
Chapter 10 - "Christian Education" (pgs. 199-220)
Chapter 11 - "Reapproaching the New Testament" (pgs. 221-242)


June 30 - Closing Discussion:
Chapter 12 - "A Second Glance at the Savior" (pgs. 243-252)
**OPTIONAL**
Afterword
Final Thoughts
Summary
Key Figures in Church History (pgs. 253-280)
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Offline LaylaMonroe

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Good morning, folks! I'm opening up the discussion with a question to get the ball rolling. What one sentence that you've read thus far stood out to you the most, or had the most profound impact on you?

(Feel free to answer, add a question, add other thoughts, opinions, etc.)

On page xviii, Viola said "we break the Scripture just as much by burying it under a mountain of human tradition as by ignoring its principles."

That was heavy to me. Only a couple of pages in, and I had to break out the highlighter! LOL.

Also, on pg xxviii, Barna said "The preponderance of evidence shows that these... traditions... and practices often hinder the development of our faith." He never did explain how... So I ask, do you think that how we practice our faith can hinder the development of our faith? :-\
When you're in love you don't want to fall asleep bc reality is finally better than your dreams.

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Yay!!!

Ok, for me, the quote (probably the main idea of the book) that struck me was "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." From what I read they seem to argue that the church of the 1st century was the purest before the other "stuff" came in.

Also, he hit a point that I've been saying for years: traditionally we don't question what we do. We just kind of accept things as is without having a "Socrates" attitude about it. I like this quote "As Christians, we are taught by our leaders to believe certain ideas and behave in certain ways. We are also encouraged to read our Bibles. But we are conditioned to read the Bible with the lens handed to us by our Christian tradition to which we belong. We are taught to obey our denomination (or movement) and never to challenge what it teaches."  I guarantee you that if you was to challenge certain practices in the church, you would be looked at as an outsider.

To answer the first question: to a certain I think yes, how we practice of faith can hinder our development of faith. We have so many practices (what percentage? Idk) that are irrelevant to spiritual growth. Some of the practices support pride, support charisma, and competition. For example, I love choir anniversaries (for tradition and fellowship with others) but many times those anniversaries are a competition and a show. Being a Christian is not about competing with one another and boasting self but about reflecting Jesus Christ in every action!

blyempowered

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Also, let me bring this quote that I think describes how many of us are feeling right now with the current state of the church.

"The heart of the Revolutionaries is not in question. There is ample research to show that they are seeking more of God. They have a passion to be faithful to His Word and to be more in tune with His leading. They ardently want their relationship with the Lord to be their top priority in life. They are tired of the institutions, denominations, and routines getting in the way of a resonant connection with Him. They are worn out on the endless programs that fail to facilitate transformation. They are weary of being sent off to complete assignments, memorize facts and passages, and engage in simplistic practices that do not draw them into God's presence. These are people who have experienced the initial realities of a genuine connection with God. They can no longer endure the spiritual teasing offered by churches and other well-intentional ministries. God is waiting for them. They want Him. No more excuses."

Offline sjonathan02

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I guess I would say that an idea that stuck out to me was the thought of people going to other people's homes.  I mean, think about even smaller churches.  Who has the room for, say, 150 people in their home?  :o :-\


So, it appears to me that the authors are stating that the biggest difference between meeting in a home or a building is whether or not people sleep there.  ?/? :-\


And yes, the whole Churchy idea of the Lord's supper as an entire meal was...interesting.  :-\ :D
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Offline LaylaMonroe

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Ugh! I have so many thoughts. Should've emailed them to myself so I could then copy/paste it here.

Churchy, I'll reply to your stuff when I get to the airport. But the "outrageous" quote dropped my jaw a lil bit too. They make some really bold claims in this book, almost arrogantly... :-\ BMTJM. Anyway (in no order):

1. On pg 8, the answer to question #2 was meat and bones, and one of those bones almost made me choke. The Lord's Supper as a full meal... The scripture they gave (I Cor 11:21-34) did NOT support that claim - AND why didn't they start at vs 20? This is why it's important to read critically. SMH @ them for that one! The rest of that answer, I thought, was meaty.

2. Disappointing that Ch 1 was pretty much a repeat of the preface and intro. But p5 "if the truth be told... scriptural backing" was a great few sentences - and very true, indeed. I would add that when we DO learn that what we're doing isn't scriptural, we then employ "proof-texting" or ignore it altogether or dismiss it as irrelevant or not a big deal.

3. I liked "The Calf Path" a lot.
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blyempowered

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Ok and one more thing:

"We cannot avoid bringing our culture to church with us; it is a part of our very being. But in the light of tradition we need to sort out those cultural influences that contribute to the integrity of Christian Worship from those that detract from it."

I would make the case that a lot of what we do in the black church is based on our cultural tradition (whooping, emphasis on music/praise dancing or shouting as many call it, etc.). How do we determine what cultural aspects of the church are just personal preference versus being a spiritual distraction?

Offline LaylaMonroe

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Oooohh that's a really good question, Churchy.

@Jonathan, you know what? That's a good point. I wonder just how many people they DID have in their homes... ?/? Paul's letters give the impression that the churches were made up of all the Christians in a particular city. How many people were there in each church and how DID they fit??? ?/? :-\ *cant hit the Word right now, but I will in a minute*
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Offline phbrown

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Quote
Organic churches are characterized by Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and nonhierarchical leadership.
page XIX

That to me sums up the whole book. According to the author anything in contradiction is pagan.

nothing really was interesting to me in the 1st chapter.


Concerning the question  "do you think that how we practice our faith can hinder the development of our faith?" I believe so, because it is not until for many people go through a significant event that we start to understand how strong/weak our faith is.




Quote
I guess I would say that an idea that stuck out to me was the thought of people going to other people's homes.  I mean, think about even smaller churches.  Who has the room for, say, 150 people in their home?  :o :-\
150! how about 30 people! Unless you want people to stand in an area that the fire marshal would shut down.

Offline sjonathan02

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page XIX

That to me sums up the whole book. According to the author anything in contradiction is pagan.

nothing really was interesting to me in the 1st chapter.


Concerning the question  "do you think that how we practice our faith can hinder the development of our faith?" I believe so, because it is not until for many people go through a significant event that we start to understand how strong/weak our faith is.



150! how about 30 people! Unless you want people to stand in an area that the fire marshal would shut down.

Exactly my point.  Whereas I understand the underlying point of the authors, I believe, logistically-speaking,  an 'organic church' would need to meet in a sizable building.  I do not believe God would hold that against anyone.  :-\
Despite our communication technology, no invention is as effective as the sound of the human voice.

Offline lordluvr

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'Bout time I finally get to get some things off my chest!

I may or may not answer your question, LaRue, about the one sentence or idea.  I basically highlighted some things and commented.  I'm going through my comments as I type. So, I may have an "Aha" moment in there.  I just don't remember.

I agree with you, LaRue, that the scripture he gave does NOT support the Lord's supper as a whole meal ideology.  I don't remember the entire scripture reference at the moment, and am too lazy to get my bible, but I do remember a phrase or two in the passage catching my attention.  In fact, here's an excerpt from my notes:

"Upon reading that scripture again, I'm just not equating the gathering together to eat with having a full meal for communion.  In fact, I'm seeing that the meal wasn't really for the participants, but rather for others.  Otherwise, why would Paul warn against people coming hungry?"

Another thing that stood out to me is his failing to mention the role of the synagogue with regard to Judaism.  He mentioned the importance of the Temple and the priesthood.  Now, I'm not totally up on my Judaism, but the bible makes reference to synagogues.  I make mention of it because of his premise regarding the NT church meeting in homes and that the "church" was the body of believers and not just the place where they gathered.  To me, the synagogue is a good representation of that concept, AND could also be seen a s a precursor for the idea to meet in a building vs individual homes. 

I have more, but I'll stop here.  Don't wanna bore you guys

Offline lordluvr

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Here's the part of the chapter that I was referring to.  I need to correct my statement.  I meant to say...his failing to mention the role of the synagogue with regard to the church:

"Strikingly, nowhere in the New Testament do we find the terms church (ekklesia), temple, or house of God used to refer to a building. To the ears of a first-century Christian, calling an ekklesia (church) a building would have been like calling your wife a condominium or your mother a skyscraper!"

Frank Viola;George Barna. Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (Kindle Locations 329-331). Kindle Edition.

Offline lordluvr

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Another thing:

While I think having it's own section shows the significance of the book club, I would rather this have been a sticky on the main board.  It's kind of an out of sight, out of mind kinda thing.  I nearly forgot about today's discussion because it wasn't right in front of me. 

Offline phbrown

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Another thing:

While I think having it's own section shows the significance of the book club, I would rather this have been a sticky on the main board.  It's kind of an out of sight, out of mind kinda thing.  I nearly forgot about today's discussion because it wasn't right in front of me.

+1

I almost forgot to post my comments *sigh* luckily its a slow day in the lounge.

Okay I'm going to try to find a positive comment ...blah I read too far ahead I can't wait till we start talking about some other topics :D

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Here's the part of the chapter that I was referring to.  I need to correct my statement.  I meant to say...his failing to mention the role of the synagogue with regard to the church:

"Strikingly, nowhere in the New Testament do we find the terms church (ekklesia), temple, or house of God used to refer to a building. To the ears of a first-century Christian, calling an ekklesia (church) a building would have been like calling your wife a condominium or your mother a skyscraper!"

Frank Viola;George Barna. Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (Kindle Locations 329-331). Kindle Edition.

That may be touched upon in the next chapter.

Ok, let me ask this: If we're saying that the scripture given does not justify communion as a full meal, what evidence do we have that the bread and wine practice that happens generally in the protestant division of Christianity is the "correct" way of communion?

Also, I am open to believe that in the communion practices of the Early church they did have a time in which they took bread and then wine as symbolic of the body and blood of the Lord but yet it seems to me that the communion practice was a part of the meal, not necessarily separate (or on a separate occasion). To me, when I see "supper" I'm thinking full meal. Plus, isn't there evidence that the circle bread and cup (wine or grape juice) is a practice from catholicism that has spread through Protestantism?

Exactly my point.  Whereas I understand the underlying point of the authors, I believe, logistically-speaking,  an 'organic church' would need to meet in a sizable building.  I do not believe God would hold that against anyone.  :-\

Good point! I think the problem of the building is when it becomes the centerpiece of the Christian worship experience/service instead of the ministry work. Also I think the problem is when people think that a fellowship of believers with proper leadership meeting at a place like a coffee shop is not a proper "church."
 

blyempowered

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Another thing:

While I think having it's own section shows the significance of the book club, I would rather this have been a sticky on the main board.  It's kind of an out of sight, out of mind kinda thing.  I nearly forgot about today's discussion because it wasn't right in front of me.

This

blyempowered

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Ok and one more thing:

"We cannot avoid bringing our culture to church with us; it is a part of our very being. But in the light of tradition we need to sort out those cultural influences that contribute to the integrity of Christian Worship from those that detract from it."

I would make the case that a lot of what we do in the black church is based on our cultural tradition (whooping, emphasis on music/praise dancing or shouting as many call it, etc.). How do we determine what cultural aspects of the church are just personal preference versus being a spiritual distraction?

Brown, LL, Jonathan, yall give your take on that please.

Offline lordluvr

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Brown, LL, Jonathan, yall give your take on that please.
Seems to me, some of what you mentioned falls in both categories.  The bottom line is that a distraction is a distraction, no matter what the origin.

blyempowered

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Seems to me, some of what you mentioned falls in both categories.  The bottom line is that a distraction is a distraction, no matter what the origin.

Hmmmm

Offline lordluvr

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That may be touched upon in the next chapter.

Ok, let me ask this: If we're saying that the scripture given does not justify communion as a full meal, what evidence do we have that the bread and wine practice that happens generally in the protestant division of Christianity is the "correct" way of communion?

Also, I am open to believe that in the communion practices of the Early church they did have a time in which they took bread and then wine as symbolic of the body and blood of the Lord but yet it seems to me that the communion practice was a part of the meal, not necessarily separate (or on a separate occasion). To me, when I see "supper" I'm thinking full meal. Plus, isn't there evidence that the circle bread and cup (wine or grape juice) is a practice from catholicism that has spread through Protestantism?

Good point! I think the problem of the building is when it becomes the centerpiece of the Christian worship experience/service instead of the ministry work. Also I think the problem is when people think that a fellowship of believers with proper leadership meeting at a place like a coffee shop is not a proper "church."
It isn't.  I've read the 2nd chapter.
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