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Excerpts from author's Preface

Pagan Christianity?

Frank Viola

"Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
  [Jesus Christ in Matthew 15:3, NASB]

Pagan Christianity

When the Lord Jesus walked this earth, His chief opposition came from the two leading religious parties of the day: the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The Pharisees added to the sacred Scriptures.  They obeyed the law of God as it was interpreted and applied by the scribes, the experts in the Law who lived pious and disciplined lives.  As the official interpreters of God's Word, the Pharisees were endowed with the power of creating tradition.  They tacked on to the Word of God reams of human laws that were passed on to subsequent generations.  This body of time-honored customs, often called "the tradition of the elders," came to be viewed as being on equal par with Holy Writ. [ref. Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary]

The error of the Sadducees moved in the opposite direction.  They subtracted whole segments of scripture — deeming only the law of Moses worthy to be observed.  (The Sadducees denied the existence of spirits, angels, the soul, the afterlife, and the resurrection.)[ref. New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed.]

No wonder that when the Lord Jesus entered the drama of human history, His authority was arduously challenged (see Mark 11:28).  He did not fit into the religious mold of either camp.  As a result, Jesus was viewed with suspicion by both the Pharisee and Sadducee parties.  It did not take long for this suspicion to turn to hostility.  And both the Pharisees and Sadducees took steps to put the Son of God to death.

History is repeating itself today.  Contemporary Christianity has fallen into the errors of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

First, contemporary Christianity is guilty of the error of the Pharisees.  That is, it has added a raft of humanly devised traditions that have suppressed the living, breathing, functional headship of Jesus Christ in His church.

Second, in the tradition of the Sadducees, the great bulk of first-century practices have been removed from the Christian landscape.  Thankfully, such practices are presently being restored on a small scale by those daring souls who have taken the terrifying step of leaving the safe camp of institutional Christianity.

Even so, the Pharisees and the Sadducees both teach us this often-ignored lesson:  It is harmful to dilute the authority of God's Word either by addition or by subtraction.  We break the Scripture just as much by burying it under a mountain of human tradition as by ignoring its principles.

God has not been silent when it comes to the principles that govern the practice of His church.  I believe the first-century church was the church in its purest form.  That's not to say the early church didn't have problems — Paul's epistles make clear that it did.  However, the conflicts Paul addresses are inevitable when a fallen people seek to be part of a close-knit community.

The church in the first century was an organic entity.  It was a living, breathing organism that expressed itself far differently from the institutional church today.  And that expression revealed Jesus Christ on this planet through His every-member functioning body.  The practices of the first-century church were the natural and spontaneous expression of the divine life that indwelt the early Christians.  Those practices were solidly grounded in the timeless principles and teachings of the New Testament.

By contrast, a great number of the practices in many contemporary churches are in conflict with those biblical principles and teachings.  When we dig deeper, we are compelled to ask:  Where did the practices of the contemporary church come from?  The answer is disturbing:  Most of them were borrowed from pagan culture.  Such a statement short-circuits the minds of many Christians when they hear it.  But it is unmovable, historical fact, as Pagan Christianity? demonstrates.  This book is dedicated to exposing the traditions that have been tacked onto God's will for His church.  We are seeking to remove a great deal of debris in order to make room for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the fully functioning head of His church.

We propose that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does.  You must decide if that proposal is valid or not.  Pagan Christianity? demonstrates beyond dispute that those who have left the fold of institutional Christianity to become part of an organic church have a historical right to exist — since history demonstrates that many practices of the institutional church are not rooted in Scripture.


More Good Stuff:

Church Practice and God's Eternal Purpose — From the beginning, God wanted a bride to marry, a house to dwell in, a family to enjoy, and a visible body through which to express Himself.  This, and not simply weekly meetings, is what the church is all about.

Reimagining Church — The model of church community envisioned in the New Testament has been abandoned in America and replaced with corporate structure.  This is an effort to regain what has been lost.

Rethinking the Will of God: A New Look at an Old Question — God has a moral will for us and gives us room to roam within the boundaries of His Kingdom.  This book explores the Biblical priorities that will help you make optimal decisions.

So You Want To Start A House Church? — This is a seminal discussion on church formation and the nature of apostolic ministry, built on practical experience as well as a thorough examination of the New Testament.

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