Tag Archives: pagan christianity

From Eternity to Here (Book Review)

from eternity picGod’s Love Story

A Book Review of “From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God” by Frank Viola Reviewed by David D. Flowers

Growing up I remember hearing folks call the church the “Bride of Christ.” I only believed it to be one more way to speak of “heavenly” things.

Like many things within institutional Christianity, it was nothing more than a metaphor in a line of many metaphors that were used to talk of God’s love for his children. Viola explains in his book that it is more than a fanciful, nice way to speak of the church… it is “God’s central purpose.” Paul called it “the eternal purpose” (Eph. 3:11).

From Eternity to Here is the fourth book in a five-book series on radical church restoration. (Fifth book is set to be released Sept. 09)  Out of all the books Viola has written, this volume reveals the driving passion behind his life and all of his work. He writes, “in beholding God’s central purpose, I found my own purpose. In touching His passion, I found my own passion” (p.13).

Viola effectively communicates this passion in three parts. The first part is entitled “A Forgotten Woman: The Bride of Christ.” Viola begins by pointing his readers to the “hidden romance” between the great lover (God) and his beloved (the church).

This story begins with Adam and Eve and continues throughout all of Scripture as the true lover is seen through foreshadowing. Viola beautifully describes in detail this great love story between the lover and the beloved that will one day be the wife of God. The story of Adam and Eve is a picture of a greater story. Eve came out of Adam after creation… she was a “new creation.”

Viola says, “There was a woman inside of God before time” (p.41).

Viola is a master storyteller. He has been captivated by God’s love story and is able to wonderfully reveal “the mystery” of Christ to a new generation. “The Holy Spirit must open the eyes of His people in every generation for them to grasp it” (p.25).

“Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come” (Rom. 5:14).

Out of Christ comes his Bride! Finally, a woman for the Lord to love. Viola writes, “All love stories, whether intentional or unintentional, are patterned after this heavenly romance” (p.91).

It is not that God was lonely or that the Trinitarian community was inadequate. It is because “God is love” that he is not content to keep this love to himself. Viola states that the “superabundance of God’s love required a receptacle that was not within the Trinity” (p.40).

God always intended to share his community with his creation. The nature of God’s love is that is given, received, and returned to him. Without God’s creation, he is a “frustrated lover” (p.58). God is sovereign and in control of the future, but indeed frustrated.

Part II is entitled “An Eternal Quest: The House of God.” The chapters within this section look at the divine passion from another perspective. God is homeless and he desires a house that he and his Bride may have a family.

Viola traces God’s quest for a house throughout the Scriptures. As he traces God’s search from Adam to Jesus, he says, “The house of God is not a thing… it is the Lord Jesus Christ” (p.155).

The last half of this section gets personal and compares our own journey to being like that of Israel’s history. Like Israel, as members of the Body of Christ, we must make a choice as to which house we will dwell in. Put another way… what kind of house are we going to be for God?

Egypt: the world system that is driven by pleasures and places earthly pursuits above pursuits of our heavenly home and King.

Babylon: organized religion that is a mixture of fallen humanity and the divine; characterized best by hypocrisy and described best as the “counterfeit of the New Jerusalem.” Babylon can be compared to the institutional church of today. Many of God’s people live there and they will only find themselves building a community centered on man and not Christ and his purposes.

The Wilderness: this is the place where those who leave the world and organized religion will find themselves. It is a place of transition. “To sift us, to reduce us, and to strip us down to Christ alone” (p.191). This is a time of detox. Yet… it is not our home!

The old wineskin must be done away with so that the new can come. The home for which we were made is a land of freedom and one that flows with “milk and honey.”

Part III is entitled “A New Species: The Body of Christ & The Family of God.” This section speaks of Christians being resident aliens. The Bride of Christ is to remain pure and holy as she awaits her bridegroom.

The church is a “new species.” Viola traces this language through the New Testament. A language that many Christians have failed to recognize and apply to their lives.

Viola simplifies Body life as an act of gathering around Jesus Christ. This is our purpose. Likewise, it should be our passion. Yet, the Body of Christ has been forced into an institution and she has forgotten God’s eternal purpose. She has lost sight of the bigger picture and the great landscape of God’s love story. She has been preoccupied and polluted by a theology that leaves out the ageless purpose of God.

How does the church live out the ageless purpose of God? Viola writes, “Very simply: by loving the Lord Jesus as His bride and learning to live by His indwelling life” (p.288).

The book closes with a brief glimpse into Viola’s journey and a call to return to the Headship of Christ in the church that is reflective of the divine image and God’s eternal purpose.

frank-violaViola writes, “Recognizing that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of all spiritual things will change your prayer life. It will change your vocabulary and the way you think and talk about spiritual things. And it will ultimately change your practice of the church” (p.303).

If we seek the centrality and supremacy of Christ and know that our riches are in a Person and not in things meant to further our individual pursuits… we shall be fashioned into that beautiful Bride and usher in the Kingdom. At last… God will dwell with his people when heaven comes to earth at the marriage of the Great Lover and his Beloved.

I recommend this book, especially for those who have been lost in our narcissistic evangelical ecclesiology.

For the brave… I suggest:  Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices

For those who know there must be more to Body Life than you are experiencing… I encourage you to read:  Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity

I also recommend reading:

Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal
Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition

OTHER BLOGS PARTICIPATING IN THE “FROM ETERNITY TO HERE” BLOG CIRCUIT

Today (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Viola’s new bestselling book “From Eternity to Here” (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com: From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God

For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A:

Out of Ur
Shapevine (June newsletter)
Brian Eberly
DashHouse.com
Greg Boyd
Vision 2 Advance
David D. Flowers
kingdom grace
Captain’s Blog
Christine Sine
Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network
zoecarnate
Church Planting Novice
Staying Focused
Take Your Vitamin Z
Jeff Goins
Bunny Trails
Matt Cleaver
Jason T. Berggren
Simple Church
Emerging from Montana
Parable Life
Oikos Australia
West Coast Witness
Keith Giles
Consuming Worship
Tasha Via
Andrew Courtright
ShowMeTheMooneys!
Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer
Jason Coker
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Home Brewed Christianity
Dispossessed
Dandelion Seeds
David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck”
Chaordic Journey
Renee Martin
Bob Kuhn
Living with Freaks
Real Worship
Fervent Worship
Julie Ferwerda
What’s With Christina?!
On Now to the Third Level
Irreligious Canuck
This day on the journey
Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity
Spiritual Journey With God
echurch
The Jesus Feed
Book Disciple
My Journey – With Others
On Now to the Third Level
Christine Moers
Breaking Point
Hand to the Plough
Jon Reid
Weblight
D.L. Webster
Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life


Reimagining Church (Book Review)

reimaginingThe Dream of Organic Christianity

A Book Review of: Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity by Frank Viola

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity by Frank Viola, is sure to send every “clergy-laity” member scratching around for a biblical defense to the claims made against the 1700 year old institutional form of church.  And according to Viola, they will not find a “shred of biblical warrant” to support its existence.

At last, the sequel to the highly controversial book, Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, has arrived!  And it is for certain that not all will applaud its arrival to the bookstore.  No doubt, many readers are still trying to grapple with the favorable recognition and popularity of the first book to this series of 4 books on organic Christianity.

The first time, Viola had the help of George Barna and Tyndale in gaining a few listening ears.  Now that he has the attention of no small number of readers… he has set off to propose serious answers to an audience that is filled with sincere questions.  And Reimgaining Church will not leave readers dissatisfied in their quest for the normal Christian church life.  In fact, it will leave them hungering for authenticity in the New Testament fashion.

As the saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  Many readers have learned that from PC.  So let the reader first understand the title.  Viola states, “it’s the present practices of the church that I’m seeking to reimagine, not the church itself” (p.13).  He clearly outlines his purpose so that there is no misunderstanding.  He writes that the purpose of the book is: “to articulate a biblical, spiritual, theological, and practical answer to the question, Is there a viable way of doing church outside the institutional church experience, and if so, what does it look like” (p.12)?

Let there be no mistake, any serious reader cannot accuse Viola of impure motives or building the house of God on sand.  Indeed, the foundation of the ideas communicated in this book are constructed upon the triune God (i.e. Trinity as archetype for the church).  Therefore, RC should be understood as a proposal that the church of Jesus Christ mirror the very image of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Viola writes, “the church is the earthly image of the triune God” (p.35).  In the spirit of Stanley Grenz, Leonardo Boff, and Miroslav Volf… Viola has wonderfully woven together the fabric of God’s eternal purpose in a clear, concise, and intelligent way.  Its inspiration can be questioned, as with any author, but its scholarship is insurmountable in its presentation.  This is a work for the carpenter and the scholar.

“The Reformation recovered the truth of the priesthood of all believers. But it failed to restore the organic practices that embody this teaching. It was restricted to soteriology (salvation) and didn’t involve ecclesiology (the church)” (p.59).  In the pursuit of an organic Christianity that is rooted in the triune God, the greatest hurdle will be with what lies at the heart of the institutional model of the church: hierarchal leadership.  And Viola goes to great lengths in addressing the error we have made in our teaching and practice of authority and “spiritual covering.”  He even extends his address in the appendix “Objections and Responses about Leadership.”

In every chapter, Viola seems to anticipate the objections and rebukes… and very skillfully, with ease, answers those objections and the many misconceptions that are born out of a first-reading of the ideas presented in PC and RC.  I have read all of Viola’s similar writings in his original series… and RC in this new series is definitely his finest presentation thus far.  He leaves little in his language to trip over… just a great deal of truth to bear.

Readers will appreciate Viola’s honesty and sensitivity to the issues.  Each chapter builds one upon the other and guides you to the end.  I found that when a question would arise, it would quickly be addressed to satisfy a deep-seeded longing to know and follow the truth.  Although it is not necessary for the reader to have previously read PC… it is recommended.  It is always best to start listening to a conversation from the beginning.

Finally, I want to communicate to the reader that only those interested in spiritual revolution, instead of religious reformation, will benefit from RC.  We must be willing to forsake all the new recovery methods of the institution and leave behind all the drama surrounding passions, programs, methods, and movements.  It is time for a paradigm shift!

Viola writes, “Recovering the organic expression of the church and the practical headship of Jesus Christ necessitates that we forsake our ecclesiastical patches and Band-Aids” (p.270).  Only a life fixated on the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ and longing to see that expressed in the church… will find comfort in the reading of this book.

A great exodus is occurring even as I write this book review.  It is not one of rebellion, but one of submission.  Dear reader, consider a renewed Christology that gives birth to a glorious ecclesiology.  Consider the message of this book, and let Christ’s person and work be reflected in all compartments of life.


Religion’s Chains

Man creates the “order of service” within religion.  Christ is the order of service within true Christian community.  Christ is the head of the church and we are the many members with different functions.  Not so in religion.

In religion, man is in charge and he uses the Scripture to support the false dichotomy of “clergy/laity.” In religion, there exists a hierarchal leadership reflected in “offices.”

In Christ’s church, there is equality among all believers and everyone brings something to the table of fellowship. In the true church… the Holy Spirit is free to direct the affairs of the Body. In religion, man uses the wisdom of the world to do as he sees fit.

In protestant denominations religion can be seen in man’s predetermining of who God is and how and when God will work among his people.  God is worshipped at certain times and in certain ways;  ways in keeping with man’s tradition. Jesus is presented only from that particluar sectarian viewpoint and it is only in that viewpoint that the congregation may express its Christianity.

At this point, people are no longer seeking Christ free from man’s agendas and cultural bend… they no longer seek the Christ of the New Testament.  They seek a Christ that is Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. Even when they read the New Testament they read through the lenses of their denomination and cultural upbringing. 

You may only view Christ and his church a certain preordained way that has been decided by man in these religious institutions. You may only see the Lord and his Word in the way that had been predetermined for you.  On top of that… we are all influenced by momma, America, and Santa Claus!

We not only perceive Christianity through these cultural influences, but we perpetuate the influences and continue to cause harm to the Gospel that is presented to the world.  Of course, many can’t see this is what they are doing, but nevertheless, it is in fact what they are doing and have done for centuries.

Has anything really changed since the 16th century “Reformation”?  I submit to you there was only a reformation of pagan catholic doctrine and practice, not a revolution back to the heart of God. Luther’s “Protestant Reformation” was only a half-way reform.  He even admitted that he never intended to break off from the catholic church, only reform it.  He only wanted to tweak it a bit and keep the religion!

I strongly encourage you to look at the facts of history. Do we not understand that this is the model most Christians practice today?  They are hand-me-down models from the catholic church.  Almost every “new” version of church today is only that same religious system tweaked for the pleasing of man. 

Many Christians today are not seeing authentic Christian faith and practice, but only a revised version of a pagan religion!  With Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli… we only saw a return to Sola Scriptura (i.e. Scripture alone). Now it is time for a return to Sola Christus (i.e. Christ alone).

This is the purpose of denominations and divisions, is it not?  It prides itself in what it believes and doesn’t believe; in what it sees and doesn’t see; in how it appreciates things others do not. It does not seek Christ alone and unity among all believers. How can it when it wishes only to enrich its traditional heritage all the more and maintain its ‘distinctives’ from other Christian groups.

How can Christ be pleased in this? Can a Kingdom stand when it is divided?

This religious denominationalism (i.e. divisions, factions, sects) is rooted in the prideful hearts of men. It is proud of those who follow Apollos, Cephas, and Paul. It is determined to continue this way of life by attempting to hold on to this thinking and at the same time pretend to get along with others who are priding themselves in their own denomination.  If you doubt this… attend an annual denominational convention.

Does God work within religious institutional Christianity? Yes. However, his Spirit is only able to work in pockets of ministry. The Lord will never be free to move as he desires in the vehicle of religion that man has adpoted. This is why man will forever be hoping, praying, and waiting for a “revival” that will never come in institutional Christianity. 

Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is not truly welcome. Man demands that the Lord meet him on his terms within his religious rituals. The Lord says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock… you have pushed me out of my church and turned my house (i.e. my people, my Body, my Bride) into a house of desolation!”

I believe this is at the heart of the religious Christian institutions: celebrating man’s way and widening the gap between Christ and his people. Man has gotten so carried away in his “tweaking” of the Christian religion… he has given the religious person many different versions of Jesus.  They may choose from a long buffet of divisions. 

For example… the “conservative, liberal, charismatic, liturgical, King James only, independent, non-denominational, free will, Holy Ghost, post-modern, emerging, mystics!”  just to name a few.

Sure, there are deep problems with the anti-Christ models of leadership within the church. Yes, the institutional church does not match up to the church in the book of Acts. Church history testifies to the 1700 years of pagan accumulation and that the institutional churches reflect Constantinian paganism more than it does New Testament Christianity.

Anyone who cares about historical facts can observe this.

However, I believe the greatest problem of all–the starting point to leaving behind the religious and breaking free of its chains–is returning to the Person and the work of Christ. The church must learn the way of Christ all over again. The church must embrace the centrality and supremacy of Jesus before she can experience genuine community and the power of the Holy Spirit on the earth. 

Let’s not concern ourselves with trying to unravel the mess that has been made these last 1700 years.  Let’s scrap it all!  Push these religious models aside and start again with Christ. We do not need these chains!

We were set free from these chains by the cross. Do not become a slave again to the ways of the flesh. I believe you and I both can see that the religious games of pop-culture Christianity are getting us no where fast! We have been purposefully driven in the wrong direction long enough. May we be willing to start over again like the religious leader Nicodemus.

It is time to gather around at Jesus’ feet and listen to the words of our Lord.

D.D. Flowers, 2008.


Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (Book Review)

Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices

Spiritual Revolution Instead of Religious Reformation

A Book Review of: “Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” by Frank Viola and George Barna

 

“Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices,” may very well be the most important book written on the Christian church in the last two millennia.  Frank Viola and George Barna team up to give their readers a critical examination of the last 1700 years of church history.

 

Does the institutional church have any biblical and historical right to exist?  “Are the practices of the institutional church (the clergy/laity system, salaried pastors, sacred buildings, the order of worship, etc.) God-approved developments to the church that the New Testament envisions? Or are they an unhealthy departure from it?”

The first edition of this book entitled, “Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices” by Frank Viola… is the third book written in a set of five books on church restoration and organic church life.  Viola and George Barna, Christian pollster and author of the book “Revolution,” have co-authored the newly revised and updated “Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices.”

Barna brings to the book a fresh look and a polished language that improves on the delivery of Viola’s original work.  Barna, who has caused no small stink upon his recent confessions regarding the church, makes his decision to leave the institutional church complete with the publication of this book.  If it wasn’t clear in his book “Revolution”… it is certainly clear now.

I enjoyed the new format of this book.  At the end of each chapter, the authors give the reader a “Delving Deeper” section which lists common questions with answers in return.  I felt that this helped to clarify what the authors were truly saying in order that fact might be separated from fiction.  I also enjoyed the updated references and the plethora of footnotes listed at the bottom of each page.  These references may be in a smaller font, but they are the entire foundation of historicity which resulted in the penning of this book.

Therefore, the serious reader will not want to overlook the footnotes.  The reader will also find the “Summary of Origins” and “Key Figures in Church History” in the back of the book a great help as well.  The book may look like a long read… yet, you will find that your interest is peaked beyond that of any other historical book you have ever read.  You will read until you are done… or until you have thrown it out the window.

The serious questions raised in this book will give the Christian reader more than enough to wrestle over.  Viola traces the pagan origins of almost every church practice that institutional Christianity holds dear and holds it to the light of the New Testament.  I remember first reading the original “Pagan Christianity” over a year ago.  I had spent 6 years of my life in “vocational ministry” within the institutional (Southern Baptist) church and I had a degree in Religion/Biblical Studies from a Baptist University.  I had just resigned from my position as Minister to Students/Education because the church’s leaders were opposed to fundamental teachings of Jesus.  My wife and I saw that we could no longer serve among them.

It was during this time that I began to read and study like never before.  I was seeking to be a senior pastor in a church somewhere in the United States.  I studied church history, ecclesiology, Christology, etc. I was seeking the Lord’s will for his church. I compiled a list of what the New Testament described the church looked like in fellowship and among the world. With the help of Viola’s book, I quickly realized that my list did not reflect the church I knew and that that church could not be seen in the model of the traditional church. I had to rethink my understanding of it all.

I know how hard this read will be for many people, especially clergy members. “Pagan Christianity?” will, no doubt, be a most uncomfortable read for all those who believe the Body of Christ is an institution.  For the clergy member, the read will almost be impossible.  At every turn of the page… the flesh will flare up in a horrible display of arrogance and pride.  Many will scoff at its claims and discourage others from reading it before an honest examination can be made.  If the reader is not prepared to reexamine his faith and practice for a paradigm shift… he or she might as well leave this book well alone.

If the reader is not yet at the end of their rope in frustration against the church practices and shallow conception of Christ that is believed and taught within the institutional church… this book will only breed anger and confusion.  But, if you were like me a year ago… you are tired and want answers… and, most importantly, you want more of Christ… then please read this book and allow yourself to be moved by it.  I encourage you to have an honest conversation with the Lord as you read.  And listen to his still small voice.

To the rabid opponents of this book, I strongly recommend you speak to no one before you have done truthful research concerning these matters AND have had an honest conversation with Jesus first.  Many will argue that this book only proposes another “form” or method of church.  This book is not about forms, but about principles.  To argue forms… is to miss the point of this book.

Many will make preposterous claims that this book seeks to tear down the church of Jesus Christ, when in all reality… this book exalts Jesus Christ of Nazareth and submits that we return to simple community gathered around his headship free from the human inventions of man and religion that hinders the Body from every-member functioning.

This book does not propose we mimic the model of first-century Christianity, but that we mimic our Lord.  Out of our Lord’s commands and the principles of his person and work (i.e. life and teachings) will come normal Christian church life!

Why has this book been written?  The authors write, “we have written this book for one reason: to make room for the absolute centrality, supremacy, and headship of Christ in His church.” (p.250)  This statement alone should be enough for any true follower of Christ to pick up and read.  But unfortunately, many people, for whatever reason, will choose to accept slander about the authors (even from trusted pastors) as enough reason to discredit and discount them as credible voices of truth in mainline Christianity.

This is an incredible action considering that many institutional churches in the last decade have built their entire plan of attack off the statistical findings of pollster George Barna.  On top of that… both of these men boldly proclaim Christ in a way that is undeniably and unmistakably from a spirit of love and edification.  The premature responses of the majority prove how mankind is driven by mere human emotions and tradition… instead of biblical truth discovered through a consistent and verifiable method of biblical interpretation that seeks to exalt Christ above all things.

This reviewer and ex-clergy member challenges you to consider the message of these men.  Compare the claims of this book with the Christ and the church of the New Testament before you decide who and what are truly following and being a reflection of pagan Christianity.

All of us must choose between spiritual revolution (i.e. return to Christ) or religious reformation (i.e. tweaking the old pagan systems).  One of these will release the church from her chains and free her from the bondage of man’s religion to experience the natural faith of Christ.  The other will only prolong God’s people from beholding Christ in majesty and splendor to the world.  There is only one life to live.  Choose wisely.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 462 other followers

%d bloggers like this: