Pagan Christianity


I never read this book in its first incarnation, so I thought it’d be well worth a look this time around.

I am about half way thru and finding it a decent read, even if it does caricature the established church somewhat. I find this practice somewhat tiring and attimes have considered just putting it back on the shelf.

However the points Viola and Barna make are substantial enough to warrant some serious consideration. The tone is a tad polemic for my liking, but if you are in an established church and willing to be confronted with some pretty challenging stuff about the origins of our much loved rituals and practices then I’d encourage you to read it.

An email from the PC crew today reported that the book has generated a lot of heat to the point of some maybe even holding book burnings. The email then goes on to ask people to buy up big and create support for the book and its message. This email left me cold.

If the book has currency then it will stand on its own two feet. If it doesn’t then it ought to fall. In my observation any time someone sets out to malign and persecute a minority group they only succeed in drawing attention to them and advancing their cause. Chill out PC crew. Let your work be its own advocate.

11 thoughts on “Pagan Christianity

  1. Yeah, I’ve read the book, I quite enjoyed it, gave me a couple of ideas to Blog, there are quite a few reviews on it on the WWW – both positive and negative, I am about to read Rethinking The Wineskin by the same bloke. The best overview and comments I have found on the book is over at

    the comments again are negative and positive and are very helpful.

  2. Sounds interesting , though I probably wont go out and buy it I have read some stuff about it on the net. What I would like to know though is what do these authors think about our christmas and easter much loved rituals , christmas trees, presents, easter eggs and all the pagan trimmings that we all delight in at these times of the year.Sometimes people love to rip into the established church and pull apart everything they do , and yes maybe somethings do need pulling apart but perhaps that needs to start with each individual in their own life.

    I read a story about a minister who was arrested in Russia during WW2 and put in a Siberian prison camp, he wrote how he had always taken for granted the gathering together with his fellow believers to share in communion and how once that was taken away from him he so desired to be able to share in that once more. I guess sometimes we dont know what we’ve got till its gone.

    I agree also if the book has any merit it will stand if not it will fall, but the sad thing can often be the people it takes with it.

    I also came across an article today ffrom one of my favorite preachers, which seems timely in lite of what u are saying, I have attached it for u to have a read…..


    C.H. Spurgeon

    When we were in Venice we purchased a few curiosities, and finding them burdensome, we thought of sending them home by one of the English vessels lying in the Canal. We went out in a gondola with our box, and having asked for the captain of one of the vessels, we put to him the question, “Will you take a box for us to London, and what is the charge?” His reply was very ready, “I can’t say till I know what’s in it, for I don’t want to get into trouble.” A very common sense answer indeed; we admired its caution and honesty.

    What a pity that men do not exercise as much care in spiritual matters, as to what they will receive or reject. Dear reader, in these times there are thousands of bad books published, and herds of bad teachers sent forth to deceive the unwary; you must be on your guard, lest you be led into error. Take nothing for granted, enquire into things for yourself, and try every new doctrine, and professedly old doctrine too, by the Word of God. You may take contraband goods on board before you are aware of it; keep both eyes open, watch and examine, and when a thing is pressed upon you, find out what’s in it. Do not believe all a man says because he is a clergyman, or eloquent, or learned, or even because he is kind and generous. Bring all to the bar of Holy Scripture, and if they cannot stand the test, receive them not, whatever their bold pretences.

    But reader, is your own present religion good for anything? Do you know what’s in it, and what it is made of? May it not be mischievous and false? Search thyself, and do not take a hope into thy soul till thou knowest what it is made of. The devil and his allies will try to trick you into carrying their wares, but be warned in time, and reject their vile devices. The finished work of Jesus received by faith, is “a good hope through grace,” and there is no other. Hast thou it? or art thou foolishly looking to another? The Lord lead you away from all else to Jesus. Whatever may be the ground of trust which men may offer you, take care to KNOW WHAT’S IN IT before you accept it.


    No. 19.—Sword and Trowel Tracts, by C. H. SPURGEON.—6d. per 100, Post free, 8 stamps.

    Passmore & Alabaster, 23, Paternoster Row.

    I must look like a right hypocrit , writing all this when I havent even read the book. I am going to my local christian bookstore next week so I will check it out for myself, hope I havent offended anyone and if I find I have opened my mouth prematurely I will gladly repent (now theres a word you dont hear very much anymore).


  3. Currently reading “UnChristian” from the same publisher, though different authors. Excellent read about how people who aren’t walking with God view us. It’s really making me recheck my motives and actions.

  4. The Latin term paganus – from which the word pagan is derived – refers to a rural inhabitant, or “country dweller.” So perhaps those who have questioned my christianity are right – I am a pagan after all 😉

    looks like an interesting read, i read Revolution and agree with you that the tone of Barna’s work can sometimes be tiring, however he puts words to what many are experiencing and creates the energy for conversation

    sometimes it seems the only thing happening is conversations. that’s why i enjoy your blog, you are actively attempting to walk the talk

  5. Thanks for sharing, Hamo. I understand what you’re saying about a book succeeding or failing on its own merits. It sounds like it should be true, but as someone who works in publishing I’ve gotta say, it just isn’t. The Purpose-Driven Life may have indeed been (as its supporters feel) “God’s book for the hour,” but they also had insanely savvy marketing, and studied the publishing industry for just the right algorithms to make it a best-seller. Happens all the time. It’s nothing to be cynical about, per se; most people feel that they’ve written worthwhile books, and they want to do what they need to ensure that they get the readership they feel it warrants. What I do feel cynical about is how many great books never effectively see the light of day because their authors/publishers don’t know how to market.

    Oh, and for whatever it’s worth, I talk Pagan today too.

  6. I found this an ok read – good for a brief summary on lots of different parts of our traditional protestant churches today.

    however, i found the format of each chapter was simply too repetitive and made the book a bit boring after a while.

    The authors revealed their hand in their forewords and introductions and then re-summarised their position every chapter which makes the book a handy tool if someone is interested in one particular chapter.

    Having read Stuart Murray’s “Beyond Tithing” – which was a much more in depth and well-written read – i found Viola and Barna’s chapter on tithing a good brief summary of Murray’s work. Again, this is good for someone to have a quick read and get a handle on a pretty massive topic.

    As a participant in house-type of church I found some of Viola’s judgements to be a little too one-eyed, which I think might detract from the validity of much of what is said.

    The chapter on the Bible and how we mis:read it was fascinating and really whet my appetite for some more reading on this subject in particular.

    All in all, an easy read, bound to upset some and be written off by others, but also stands to be well received by many people who know what they feel, but maybe not why they feel it – this will give them some foundational truths to help them settle some of the conflict often felt by those journeying beyond the fringes of the traditional church structure.

  7. Hamo, I thought the book was a great read into the history of the church and the traditions many of us take for being “church”. I grew up in a church that claimed to practive first centurt christianity and I had to chuckle as I read this book over many of the traditions that we followed that were only man’s variations of the original actions! In addition, doesn’t the church of the first century sound like it is much more of a community that was known for it’s love than it’s buildings? I think that’s what I want to be part of.

    I too recieved the email but must say that while it didn’t leave me cold, it left me indifferent and a little saddened that they would have to go to these lengths.

    Quite abit on various blogs about this book too – some good, some bad.

    Look forward to hearing some more of your thoughts about the book!

  8. I read it a couple of years ago, and loved that someone else had done the work that my heart told me was required. The amount of guff that the church has swallowed for so many years has always led me to feel empty and fake.

    Viola certainly pushes his own ‘everyone needs to run a house church’ barrow, but there you go. It doesn’t take away from the crux of the matter, and can be easily filtered.

    I finally got into Velvet Elvis mid-last year, and found it to be complimentary, in that it offers a positive to Viola’s negative.

    I’m about to give PC to a sort-of-Catholic guy I work with. Will be interesting to see how he goes with it.

  9. For those interested, Frank is dialoguing with people on the book over at

    The book does not encourage people to join a house church. In fact the book has lots of criticisms of house churches. Viola’s next book, due out during the summer, will present his positive alternative to the modern church structure.


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