Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pagan Christianity

Seems like I am writing my blogs these days on the fly, and this one is no exception. I stumbled across a book at one of the major book chains titled 'Pagan Christianity'. I only had time to just peruse it, so I didn't get chance to really dig in to find out what this author is trying to accomplish. If you know more about this, please add comments, but here is what I gleened.

At first, I expected the book to be an attack on the so-called pagan practices of Roman Catholicism/Orthodoxy (rituals, symbols, praying to saints, etc.). Instead, it seemed to be attacking nearly every major tradition of orthodox (little 'o') Christianity. He did, of course, mention what I mentioned above, but he also attacked the practice of building churches with steeples and the long tradition of giving a sermon at a church service. He said sermons are a carryover from the Greek orator days when sophists spent a great deal of time perfecting their speeches.

I thought that if he is classifying the sermon as a pagan practice, that would pretty much mean all of Christianity is pagan. At this point, I turned to the back cover to see why he wrote this book. Apparently, he is trying to get back to the 'biblical roots' of church emphasizing the 'house church'. Like I said, I am writing this on the fly, and I have not really read the book, but can we really say that the entire church tradition has been wrong all these years? Of course, Orthodox Christians do not believe so, but instead, we emphasize preserving the ancient traditions.

To say they incorporated pagan practices I think misses the point entirely of God revealing Himself to mankind. Didn't pagans have human sacrifices and drink the blood of their victims? Was Jesus instituting paganism into traditional Jewish beliefs by saying we should drink His blood and eat His flesh? Didn't pagans have beliefs about virgin births and the gods becoming men? Maybe he should have said the New Testament is itself a pagan document since it has such 'pagan' things in it.

The truth of the matter is that Christianity brought to light the Truth of God in the world and revealed how pagan beliefs and practices were often a distortion of the ultimate Truth. It explains why the pagan world identified with Christianity so willingly. It was as if the pagans were in the dark, 'feeling' their way through life and someone suddenly turned the light on to reveal what they were 'feeling'. Their descriptions and understanding of what they were 'feeling' changed after the light came on and they saw things as they really were.

Is it anti-biblical to build a church over a holy place, such as where Jesus was born or where a Saint is buried as his book states? The Bible states the Israelites built things where God had done something, such as the memorial built in the Jordan river where the ark of God had been (Joshua 4). It also states in the book of Revelation that the souls of the saints are under the altar in heaven. If the Israelites patterned their worhip after the heavenly model (as God commanded), how much more so should we who have been given the fullness of the faith?

Those are my knee-jerk reactions to my scant perusal of this book. I would be interested to hear from others who may have read this book or heard other such attacks against church traditions.