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Has Christianity become pagan?

Posted by truthtalklive on August 8, 2008

On today’s show Stu interviews The African Rob Smith Again. The African agrees some with author Greg Barna and his book “Pagan  Christianity”. Find out more by going to www.agathosfoundation.org. As always thanks for listening!

 

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118 Responses to “Has Christianity become pagan?”

  1. Burt said

    Ive studied this topic for many years from many angles and think Mr Barna is right on.. Unless youve been out of the country very much or visited many different types of churches its next to impossible to realize just how much American culture has been influenced by big government and corporate mentality, America has allways been a nation of “git er done” and this mentality is not a relational mentality. Gods body on earth”the church” is a living relational body not a business. It has morphed into something it was never intended to be, most american churches are run exactly like a business especially since the advent of the 501c3 classification which gives government the right to muzzle the church in many respects, but thats another story.. The BODY of christ is not a business , corporation or manmade heiarchy, it is a body and when people staff something that has an identity of its own and draw paychecks just like a job, the spiritual connection suffers and the identity of us as a living entity inchrist takes a back seat usually, not to mention most churches are a one man show, the pastor does it all in contrast to a body of believers where many come together with a song or hymn or a word from God that richly flows together .. Its human nature to want to control everything and we dont like to be taken by surprise, but in a true new testament church God is in control and you will be surprised by him when man gets out of the way and quits being politically correct and lives by faith.. It is biblical to support those that labor among us, so put a basket by the door and trust God to provide for what he has told us to do.. ive seen it work admirably.. and it weeds out those that are in it for the wrong reasons…I listened to your show on this topic and felt you hardly gave your african guest a chance to speak or make a point. if a person dosent discern these subtle but enormous differences then being off just a hair can on a long journey lead you to being miles away from the mark. Thats where we are in the american church for the most part.

  2. John said

    No Pagan that I know personally would think that Christianity has become Pagan[aside from the fact that Christianity assimilated some of our holidays and a few other things.].
    I didn’t hear very much if anything about Paganism in regards to Christianity while listening to the show.That is not a complaint[smile].

  3. jAsOn said

    um…don’t you mean, George Barna? The show title says “Greg”.

  4. jAsOn said

    By the way, here are a few other wonderful quotes by Barna, friend to the Church…I think not. After reading the Barna quotes and Mike Horton’s assessment, ask yourself if you trust Barna to criticize an office of the church. There are many churches that don’t practice a “business model” of church structure, yet the pay their teaching elders for their full time service, not all of those congregations which do so, permit the abuse of that salary or the duties of the office. Frankly, I believe that if a local church pursues a biblical polity, this abuse will be less likely.

    “Ours is not the business of organized religion, corporate worship, or Bible teaching. If we dedicate ourselves to such a business we will be left by the wayside as the culture moves forward. Those are fragments of a larger purpose to which we have been called by God’s Word. We are in the business of life transformation.”–George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church (Nashville: Word, 1998), 96.

    “Believers need not find a good church, but they should “get a good coach.”–Barna, The Second Coming of the Church, 68, 138-40.

    Here Mike Horton of the White Hrse Inn has this to say in his article, “no Church, No Problem?”, “”In just a few years,” Barna predicts, “we will see that millions of people will never travel physically to a church, but will instead roam the Internet in search of meaningful spiritual experiences.” After all, he adds, the heart of Jesus’ ministry was “the development of people’s character.” “If we rise to the challenge,” says Barna, America will witness a “moral resurgence,” new leadership, and the Christian message “will regain respect” in our culture. Intimate worship, says Barna, does “not require a ‘worship service,'” just a personal commitment to the Bible, prayer, and discipleship. His book concludes with the warning of the last judgment: “What report of your commitment to practical, holy, life-transforming service will you be able to give Him?” The Revolutionaries have found that in order to pursue an authentic faith they had to abandon the church.

    This is finally where American spirituality leaves us: alone, surfing the Internet, casting about for coaches and teammates, trying to save ourselves from captivity to this present age by finding those “excitements” that will induce a transformed life. Increasingly, the examples I have referred to are what people mean by the adjective “missional.”

    Like the nineteenth-century revivalist Charles Finney, George Barna asserts that the Bible offers “almost no restrictions on structures and methods” for the church. (13) In fact, as we have seen, he does not even think that the visible church itself is divinely established. Nature abhors a vacuum and where Barna imagines that the Bible prescribes no particular structures or methods, the invisible hand of the market fills the void. He even recognizes that the shift from the institutional church to “alternative faith communities” is largely due to market forces: “Whether you examine the changes in broadcasting, clothing, music, investing, or automobiles, producers of such consumables realize that Americans want control over their lives. The result has been the ‘niching’ of America-creating highly refined categories that serve smaller numbers of people, but can command greater loyalty (and profits).” The same thing is happening to the church, Barna notes, as if it were a fate to be embraced rather than an apostasy to be resisted. (14)

    However thin, there is a theology behind Barna’s interpretation of Jesus as the paradigmatic “Revolutionary,” and it is basically that of Finney. “So if you are a Revolutionary,” says Barna, “it is because you have sensed and responded to God’s calling to be such an imitator of Christ. It is not a church’s responsibility to make you into this mold….The choice to become a Revolutionary-and it is a choice-is a covenant you make with God alone.” (15) In this way, however, the work of the people displaces the work of God.”–Mike Horton

  5. Maz said

    Was’nt it Constantine that mixed paganism and Christianity?

  6. F. L. A. said

    He was one.

  7. Maz said

    I love to celebrate Christmas, but it’s to remember that my Savior came here to be born to die.
    I don’t like all the commercialism, I don’t like all the hype and the spending, but I do buy presents for the people that matter to me. I also use this time (but not exclusively) to evangelise. I also make my own cards, so I can put the message within them that is actually relevant for the time of year. Jesus must be central.
    I also love the time of Christs death and resurrection …..in a way more so. It is the wonderful truth that Jesus…. man and yet God the Son, came to give His life for the world.
    I use this time the same way I use Christmas….to get the gospel message out.
    I don’t call it Easter….that is a pagan name.
    Christians must let the world know the real reason why we celebrate these holidays.

  8. ADB said

    I don’t know whether Christianity has become pagan, but you only have to go to a few funerals to hear some really good gnosticism! How many times has someone said “dear ole’ Aunt Susie Mae’s soul- the part that lives forever- has left the prison of her body.” Didn’t mean to hijack a thread, but it’s one of my pet peeves:)

  9. Rip said

    I don’t think it’s a matter of Christianity becoming a pagan religion; Christianity has been a pagan religion for two thousand years. Virtually every aspect of Christianity was borrowed or adapted from earlier, more ancient religions. The fact that Christians neither investigate the history of their belief system nor actually read their Bibles from an objective viewpoint, is a sad commentary on the current state of faith in the Christian community.

  10. John said

    [Smile]
    All things change…in time.
    Maz, you do know that Jesus was not really born in the wintertime around the Winter Solstice, right?

  11. Maz said

    John: Yes. It was probably somewhere around October time. Not 25th December, which was actually a pagan festival…Satanalia. Constantines work again.

  12. Maz said

    Rip: Are you saying that Jesus was a pagan?

  13. Rip said

    Was Jesus a pagan? Absolutely not. He was Jewish. Those who came after him, in an effort to build a structure around his teachings, were forced, by necessity, to borrow many of the concepts already in existance in established and respected religions in order to merge with the existing religious/social order that already existed. If you think about the transition of a Roman society from a rich, ancient, pagan culture to a “Christian” culture you can imagine how this could not have taken place overnight via an edict from the emporer, but would have taken place gradually by adapting many of the existing concepts/celebrations/belief systems that had existed for centuries prior to the onset of Christianity.

  14. Maz said

    Rip: Absolutely right. And His disciples were Jewish. And the Church for several years was on the most part Jewish. Jesus taught His disciples….who became the apostles…who taught the Church. A lot of nasty things were done to Christians after that…..Rome used lions, bulls and crosses. Then Constantine came along and accepted Christianity but never gave up all the other festivals. Freedom came at a price.

  15. Rip said

    Maz: We seem to think alike, but I personally suspect that much of the tradition we have received around the Jesus ===> Apostles ===> Church concept is not really provable. I know that is what we are taught to believe, but there isn’t really any hard evidence for that to have actually occurred. I lean more toward the concept that Christianity was originally a group of Jews who believed the Messiah had come. It failed to take hold in Judaism as a whole for several reasons (destruction of the Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD by Titus, which appears to have been the end of the pure Jerusalem/Jewish church, as well as the fact that a godhead made up of three deities or, to say it simply: the “trinitarian” concept, is quite unacceptable to a Jew who is trained from birth so pray “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”), and was ultimately embraced by the pagans who adapted the religion to their own needs.

  16. Maz said

    Rip: Personally I don’t believe in the traditions of man but in the Word of God and what it teaches. There is a lot of teaching around today, even by ‘men of God’, on Christian TV and in the Church that is not Biblically sound.
    The Jews must have known that God was not a single Deity. The Shema speaks of God being ‘One’ but the Hebrew word used is a compound unity of One. Also Elohim is plural in nature.
    Abraham met the Lord….who did He think this Person was? We know Him as a Theophany, a pre-existent appearance of Jesus Christ. But Abraham would not have fully understood this.
    Also there are many scriptures that speak as if there was more than one Being within God….as in Genesis 1 v 26: Genesis 11 v 7: Isaiah 6 v 8. And ofcourse we have John who wrote John Chapter one about the Word with God and the Word was God.
    We know that as soon as the Church was born on Pentecost that erroneous teachings began to creep in. They have crept in ever since and many Christians today are taking them on board.
    It is imperative that we read and study the Word for ourselves,especially when there are so many false cults and false prophets in these last days waiting in the wings to catch us and brainwash us.

  17. Tripp said

    My goodness…where are all the Christians on this blog? I’m counting less than a handful actually engaged in debate. Seems to be plenty of non-Christians on here. How disappointing.

  18. Maz said

    Tripp: I agree. I’v been wondering that for a long time.

  19. Anonymous said

    Below is a snipit from a critique of Barna’s book by Michael Horton that is well worth reading:

    “The individualistic emphasis of evangelicalism stands in sharp contrast to the covenantal paradigm that we find in Scripture. We are commanded not to become self-feeders who mature beyond the nurture of the church, but to submit ourselves to the preaching, teaching, and oversight of those shepherds whom God has placed over us in Christ. We read at the end of John’s Gospel the account of how Jesus made breakfast for seven of his astonished disciples in his third appearance after his resurrection:

    When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

    As the passage goes on to relate, Jesus was preparing Peter for a difficult ministry that would culminate in his own crucifixion (vv. 18-19). Unlike the false shepherds who scattered his flock (denounced in Jeremiah 23), the Good Shepherd has laid down his life for them and united them together under his gracious rule (John 10). And now through his under-shepherds Jesus will continue to feed his sheep and lead them to everlasting pastures. The church’s min-istry is exercised faithfully when the people are fed, not when the sheep are expected to become their own shepherds.

    Christ does not deliver us from one tyrant only to leave us weak and isolated prey to weather, wolves, and our own wanderings. “Obey your leaders and submit to them,” Scripture exhorts, “for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17-18).

    Yet even this admonition is grounded in the gospel: submitting to the discipline of shepherds is an advantage to us because through it God promises all of his blessings in Christ.

    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb. 10:23-25).”

    The entire article can be found here:

    http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=946&var3=main

  20. Maz said

    Anon: Have you ever heard of the Sheperding movement? Or ‘heavy sheperding’ where shepherds take more control of the flock than they should?

    I have been under many shepherds and have been fed many differing teachings, some opposed to each other, some weird, some unscriptural, and some truth along the way. In this day and age it is difficult to find ‘good’ sound teachers of the Word of God, there are too many nowadays preaching their own ideas and their own phylosophies.

    I thank God I have had some good solid Bible teaching in the past, we need shepherds, but we also need to be like the Bereans, to test and check for ourselves whether what we are being taught is of the truth of the Word. ”Study to show yourselves approved of God….” many Christians today are layed back waiting each week crying ”Feed me! Feed me!” There comes a time when we must mature and feed ourselves aswell.

    I love good Bible teaching when I can find someone who teaches it faithfully. My Pastor is a good preacher, but once a week is not enough for me, (because my Church is some distance from where I live) I need to get into the Word every single day to live in this world. We all do.
    The sheep need shepherds, but sometimes the shepherds are leading their sheep astray because they depend too much on their pastoral provision.

  21. F.L.A. said

    I thought that there were only two non-Christians on this site Tripp, John and now, me.
    Maz, the name of the Ancient Roman Holiday is Saturnalia, not Satanalia.
    And in Eastern Europe there is also the Winter Solstice also known as Yule, December 21st., when John’s main God is symbolicaly reborn.
    Mithras was also born around this time of the year. Mere coincidence? Not at all.

  22. Rip said

    The list of Christian borrowing from pagan religions goes on and on, almost ad infinitum – mortal mother & god father, water into wine, raising people from the dead, healing the blind, saved go to heaven while unsaved go to hades/hell. All of these basic concepts and beliefs were already present in the societies and cultures that created the organized Christian religion over several hundred years. As you pointed out F.L.A., all the Christian holidays were pre-existent, so why not much of the mythology as well? What better way to pass on a teaching than to adapt it into a social and cultural structure that already exists?

  23. John said

    Well, they DO have the Good Friday, Saint Patrick’s Day, Lent,
    and Passover,….. although Passover is Jewish[almost Christian but not quite] and the other three are Catholic, which unfortunately for the Catholics are not considered “Christian enough” to be real Christians according to many of the bloggers on this website.
    Perhaps modern Christians could just learn to accept and be satisfied with their evolved versions of the holidays as they have become.
    But, don’t forget their origins[unless this nagging knowledge keeps you from fully enjoying the holidays].

  24. Maz said

    F.L.A: #21. Wasn’t sure how to spell it!

    Rip: So you are saying that what Jesus did He borrowed from the pagans?

    Jesus Christ is the only One that actually CAN save someone from Hell to go to Heaven, because He was the only one who died to make it so, so whatever anyone else believed before that was not reality. Jesus is the Truth…He is the Reality of the Father God. And what He said was absolute truth and what He did was from God the Creator of the Universe. Everything else is merely mans reaching for a god to worship.

  25. Rip said

    Maz: Not at all. Those who came after Jesus, while in the process of creating a religion that we today call Christianity (or as it was referred to in ancient times – Christainism) borrowed concepts and beliefs that were already part of the pagan culture. As we discussed above, the Christ movement failed among the Jews, and as it expanded among the pagans it quite naturally adopted many of the characteristics of the pagan cultures it became a part of. Christianity of 340 AD was not the same Christianity of 34 AD. Several hundred years of doctrinal development brought us to the place that we are today.

  26. Maz said

    Rip: True Christianity, though adopting many pagan traditions down through the years, still exists today in those who are true believers in Jesus Christ and seek to live according to the Bible. I don’t think it has changed as much as you say. Yes, it is not the NT Christianity in as far as their unity, today we have so many denominations, sects, and even false cults that would name themselves ‘Christian’, but Jesus is still worshipped and followed by millions as the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The basic gospel message is still here today aswell, and I for one still evangelise with that gospel. Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost.
    I would not say that Christianity was ‘created’……Christianity is not a religion like any other, it is a Person….it is having a relationship with Jesus Christ and believing in Him.
    Is that what you believe?

  27. jAsOn said

    Maz,

    From #19 & 20, Hoton isn’t suggesting that the layperson neglect personal Bible study, just that, contrary to Barna’s heterodox conclusions, shepherds are not trying to work themselves out of a job, and as Horton points out, “The church’s min-istry is exercised faithfully when the people are fed, not when the sheep are expected to become their own shepherds.”

    Did you read the Barna quotes I noted in #4?

  28. jAsOn said

    oops, “Hoton” was supposed to be Horton

  29. Maz said

    Jason: I read the quotes but not sure what he is saying….maybe my brain is working so well today, but I know that we need the Church structure in as far as we need leaders filled with he Holy Spirit that will teach the Word of God and feed the flock of God, and the sheep need to suppliment their spiritual diet with their own study and reading of Gods Word daily. The Bible teaches that their are 5 offices that should be within the Church to build it up, sadly some of these offices are either missing or being misused by some. We need fellowship with each other…this is paramount. And if I can’t get to Church I miss that.

  30. Maz said

    That should have been… ”maybe my brain ISN’T working so well today!”

  31. ADB said

    Jason,

    I think you’re right on the money. The idea of “rugged individualism” that is so cherished in American society can be deadly when applied to the church. The church is the body of Christ and is not simply a collection of individuals. To apply Paul’s analogy from 1 Corinthians 12 to what seems to be happening in some right now there are arms, legs, eyes, and ears all over the floor instead of knit together into a body. Some Christian leaders in the past have included “Christian conferencing” as a means of grace along with worship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, study of scripture, etc., because we need each other and grow from each other. All too often, people shop for churches like they shop for clothes, and then shop some more the first time the choir sings something they don’t like, or the minister preaches a message that doesn’t sit well with them. We come to church to worship the living God not “get our needs met.” I suppose that I’m preaching to the choir a little though.

    Best Wishes.

  32. jAsOn said

    I have to agree with you ADB,

    In addition, once the PRIMARY reasons we gather together at a local church become something other than to worship God by “hearing the gospel preached”, and to participate in the sacraments rightly administered, and to submit ourselves to the discipline of the elders, then we are skewing the purpose of God in the local body. When Christ told Peter to feed His sheep, it wasn’t the pragmatic feeding of the food of self help or “moralistic therapy” or the fickle “felt needs” of each individual layperson, it was the food of the gospel that Christ was commanding Peter (and all elders following)to feed His sheep.

    There certainly are SECONDARY and even byproduct reasons for gathering: worship through fellowship, catechizes, and other implements of sanctification, but these can never be elevated to the preaching and hearing of the gospel and the viewing of it in the sacraments of baptism and the Supper.

    Somehow, I think that when we have a hermeneutic that doesn’t lead us to Christ and His gospel as we interpret all of the OT and NT, the result is that a vacuum is created that we try to fill with our “felt” needs.

  33. Maz said

    Jason: I absolutely agree. Jesus first.

  34. F. L. A. said

    Rip, you may as well give up on your method of argumentation with Maz. Others have tried your methods and failed.The notions of Christian theology and the Bible being altered throughout history that you are trying to explain are just too fantastic and heretical for her to ever even begin to think about seriously considering as anything other than a fantasy. Her faith in this matter simply will not allow such possibilities.

  35. Rip said

    F.L.A., thanks for the heads-up!

  36. F. L. A. said

    You are welcome Rip. I would like to entertain the idea that I may be wrong, however past experiences seem to prove otherwise.

  37. John said

    Rip, I am curious, do you have any kind of…personal theological belief system? And if you do, what would it be?

  38. Rip said

    My personal theoligical belief system? It has evolved over the years, from a basis in conservative Protestant Christianity – probably way too complicated to try and relate here. I find scripture study to be endlessly fascinating. I am a firm believer that if a Christian studies scripture in enough depth, doesn’t blindly and emotionally accept the viewpoint of Christian leaders who have a vested/financial interest in “traditional” interpretation, and approaches scripture from a sound historical perspective, it is inevitable that the inerrancy concept will fall away. The tendency of Christians to apply a 21st century template of understanding to bronze age and iron age writings never ceases to amaze me.

    So, a personal theology? For now let’s just say that I’m searching for that – always have, always will. I’ve determined that the documents we Christians collectively refer to as the Bible are not what they are purported to be – the perfect, non-contradictory word of God. They are filled with multiple versions of the same stories, contradictions, and downright mistakes (rabbits chew their cud?).

  39. Maz said

    F.L.A: I would have said this yesterday but for some reason my posts weren’t getting through…..but #34, I would say that you have gotten to know me fairly well!

  40. Jeff42 said

    Here is another good review of the book discussed on this show:

    Pagan Christianity: Exploring Roots of our Church Practices
    Frank Viola & George Barna
    Review by Peter Jones, Executive Director of CWiPP Barna/Tyndale, 2008

    This is a profoundly misleading and disappointing book. Or maybe you want to know what I really think!

    The title, Pagan Christianity, is misleading, even if the subtitle is clear. I was doubtless asked to review this book because of the many years I have spent studying ancient and modern paganism. Great, therefore, was my surprise to discover the absence of any definition of the term. I exaggerate; there is one line: “pagans were those polytheists who followed the gods of the Roman empire” (p.6). That’s it, for a book of 295 pages on “pagan Christianity,” which uses the term to analyze what is wrong with virtually everything to do with today’s Church. One unexamined one-liner about Roman polytheism is all we get by way of definition. Absent is any theological analysis of the general pagan worldview that constitutes all man-made religion. Absent also is any reference to the rise of paganism in our contemporary world, either of the Deepak Chopra/Oprah Winfrey/New Spirituality variety, or of the variety popular in some parts of the liberal wing of the Emergent Movement, which is driving great swathes of Evangelicalism into the arms of “progressive Christian” liberalism. Thus trivialized, the term “pagan” merely functions as a slam against anything in the present church of which Viola disapproves, like dressing up on Sunday (145ff) or Sunday school programs (212). (I say Viola because manifestly Barna is only named as co-author for the six-page preface he writes and the promotional heft he brings to the project).

    The book first finds paganism in the church as the result of the adoption of Christianity by the pagan emperor Constantine in the fourth century AD. The book implies that this period in Church history doubtless explains many of the deviations from biblical orthodoxy in what became known as Catholicism. From that time we observe the mystification of the mass, the development of a priestly, sacerdotal caste, and the development of an imperialistic, hierarchical ecclesiastical polity. Even here, however, one cannot draw a simple, straight line to paganism as a religious worldview. The priesthood is a defining Old Testament notion, and while one can certainly argue that the medieval Church misappropriated the Old Testament system, it is not necessarily for “pagan” reasons. In spite of what Viola claims, hierarchy is a perfectly biblical value, and what he finds as essential to the New Testament church, namely, egalitarianism, is in the final analysis, a much-vaunted pagan ideal.

    This unexamined term is used as a whip to drive out of the present temple all the money-changers and their godless activities. In addition to “dressing up for church” and Sunday School (“swelling the cranium” 199), such pagan activities include: the notion of a “personal savior” (190); the liturgy (even the hymn-prayer-hymn sandwich); the sermon, the ordained, salaried ministry or “pastoral office” (136); robes; youth pastors; elder directed communities; baptism; the Lord’s supper (“a strange pagan-like rite”197); taking an offering and tithing; denominations; Bible Colleges and seminaries; instruments; hymns and church buildings, and choirs. For its all-knowing pretentiousness, one statement is mind-boggling. (Alas, it characterizes so many of Viola’s generalizations.) Dismissing the place of the sermon in Christian worship, Viola reveals: “…the truth is that the contemporary sermon preached every week…is often impractical…[and] has little power to equip God’s people for spiritual service and functioning” (98-99). He also “knows” that “the Sunday morning service is shamefully boring” (76). How does he know? If these judgments have Barna polling data to support them, they are not mentioned!

    Everything must change, so the whip in Viola’s hand becomes a very broad brush, but, alas, not broad enough. When he cannot find a “pagan” cause, he will drag in the Old Testament. But of course, there is one thing that one can confidently say about the Old Testament—it is in no sense pagan.

    Anything that does not fit with Viola’s highly personal, non-theological, emotive notion of the true Church, gets the boot. This is the disappointing part. Such an important theological and exegetical subject is not seriously argued and depends to a great deal on Viola’s subjective preferences for the exciting and the unexpected. It is useful to know that Viola is the author of So You Want to Start a House Church? First Century Styled Church Planting for Today (Jacksonville, Fl.: Present Testimony Ministry, 2003). As he himself says, this is the real agenda that drives the present book: “We have written this book for one reason…we believe this is God’s vision for every church…” (250). What is that vision? “[E]lectric (79)…informal gatherings permeated with an atmosphere of freedom, spontaneity and joy…open participatory meetings”…with “no fixed order of worship…” Such “mutual, organic,…impromptu (88)…edification” has no place for “human officiation” (234), that is, sermons and preachers. Rather, “the Lord Jesus Christ…invisibly” (234), through “every member functioning of his body…[leads believers to experience] the beating heart of God” (246) in “a glorious dynamic” (167). All other types of church are boring and “pagan.”

    The one positive note I retain from this difficult read is the implicit reminder for all churches, in ways appropriate and inventive, to remember and practice the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. For instance, finding a place for personal testimony and for sermon response would be very practical ways of giving more than lip-service to this classic Reformational doctrine.

    The apostle Paul gives the best definition of paganism (and do we ever need it in today’s world!), namely, the worship and service of the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Here is an explicit comparison of biblical theism and pagan monism, of the truth and the lie, of the truth of the Creature/creature distinction and of the lie of the divinity of Nature preached by the prophets of the New Spirituality. Of this true paganism, Viola seems dreadfully or naively ignorant. What could have been a significant book, as the title ambiguously suggests, by containing a solemn warning about the inroads of neo-paganism into the culture and the Church today, will alas succeed in doing the very opposite. By evacuating from the term “pagan” any real theological content, and by failing to identify the re-emergence of ancient idolatry in the form of modern mystical spirituality, this book, with the name Barna emblazoned on the front cover, will simply ensure that many will be inoculated from seeing the real thing, namely, the invasion of real “Pagan Christianity,” which, as the next great impending apostasy, will threaten the Church to its very roots. From that, Viola’s “liver quiver” gatherings will not save us.

  41. F. L. A. said

    Threaten the Church to it’s very roots?
    If there is some kind of a “pagan” invasion planned against modern Christianity then nobody told any of us about it.
    Perhaps “THEY” knew that we wouldn’t play along? I know, maybe it’s just because we’re so darn hard to find way out here in the boonies[huge sharp-toothed grin].

  42. jAsOn said

    I wonder why “The African” Rob Smith hasn’t weighed in on this discussion here, and what he thinks about the critiques of the book and Barna’s ecclesiology in general.

  43. John said

    Thank you for your insight Rip.
    I, we, find your views rather refreshing.
    As for Romans1:25 mentioned within post#40…
    Aztec-19 creator deities
    Egyptian-9 creator deities
    Hindu-14 creator deities
    Kafir-3 creator deities
    Mayan-15 creator deities
    Mesopotamian-6 creator deities
    Polynesian-11 creator deities
    Shinto-7 creator deities
    AND MANY MANY OTHERS.
    My point here is that, it seems rather odd that Pagans around the world with their multitudes of creator deities would be accused of worshiping the creation rather than the creator by a religion with only one creator deity.
    I guess it all a matter of perspective, eh?

  44. ADB said

    Jeff42,
    Thanks for posting the review. If Viola really thinks all these things are unwarranted pagan intrusions into Christianity, he’s totally off his rocker. I’m sure that the psalmists who refer to instruments used in worship would be surprised to know that they are pagan, and that Paul who describes the pastoral office would be surprised to know that he is pagan. And the real clincher- I’m sure Jesus is very amused that he is a pagan for instituting the Lord’s Supper.

    God help us!!

  45. John said

    The label “Pagan” tends to mean different things to many different people.I can think of at least four different definitions common and uncommon off the top of my head. It’s a very…. broad…. label.

    ADB, yes, shocking is it not[smile]? It would be interesting to have Frank Viola come here and explain his thoughts on the matter to us.

  46. Tripp said

    Here’s one for this thread too:

  47. ADB said

    Tripp,
    I’m sure you meant well and he makes some valid points. But, being as Paine was actually pretty hostile to religion of any sort, perhaps he’s not the best one to be using to support the cause.

  48. ADB said

    Here’s another devastating critique of the Viola and Barna book by Ben Witherington III, one of the best New Testament scholars in the field today. Not much doubt what he thinks. (Sorry the link didn’t work)

    http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2008/06/pagan-christianty-by-george-barna-and.html

  49. ADB said

    Ooops, I guess it worked after all:)

  50. Maz said

    John: Whatever the meaning for ‘pagan’ is, Jesus had nothing to do with it.

  51. F. L. A. said

    Holidays of Easter and Christmas aside, John never meant to imply that he personally did, Maz.

  52. Maz said

    F.L.A: I was’nt specifically saying that John had personally implied that, I wanted to point out (as someone else had equated paganism with some things Jesus did) that Jesus had nothig to do with anything pagan, when he mentioned about the meaning.

  53. Jeff42 said

    ADB,

    Thanks for the link to Ben Witherington’s critique of the Viola/Barna book. In my opinion, it is a devastating critique of this book (and of any who would limit the true church to the “house church”). Everyone interested in the book, including The African Rob Smith, should also read Ben’s critique.

  54. Rip said

    While the Witherington review is interesting, I’m not sure I am personally comfortable with his view of early Christianity. Anybody who so readily attributes the books of Timothy and Titus to Paul, while the majority of the scholarly community recognizes these writings as pseudepigrapha, makes me wonder about the man’s objectivity. Or, at a minimum, that he has a “conservative” agenda he is trying to prop up through his observations.

  55. jAsOn said

    The “majority of scholarly community” as you put it Rip, has a hermeneutical assumption of late date NT writings so that Paul COULDN’T have writen those letters if he was dead. Thus objectivity is not a commodity in which they are invested either.

  56. ADB said

    Rip,
    Regarding Witherington, he is a professor of NT at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore KY. This is a pretty large evangelically minded school that is well-respected for academic quality. He is widely published and respected as a leading scholar in the field. He may indeed believe that the pastoral letters are genuinely Pauline, or he may consider that they came from a pauline community, I don’t know personally. Whatever the case, the authorship of these letters is very much up for debate and he would know the arguments for and against Pauline authorship far better than we would here. The use of authorship opinion probably isn’t a good way to judge a writer. Case in point is that N.T. Wright, who is the pre-eminent NT writer today still thinks Paul wrote Ephesians. What did you object to in his description of the early church?

    Best Wishes

  57. Danny said

    Was Jesus a pagan? Absolutely not. He was Jewish. Those who came after him, in an effort to build a structure around his teachings, were forced, by necessity, to borrow many of the concepts already in existance in established and respected religions in order to merge with the existing religious/social order that already existed. If you think about the transition of a Roman society from a rich, ancient, pagan culture to a “Christian” culture you can imagine how this could not have taken place overnight via an edict from the emporer, but would have taken place gradually by adapting many of the existing concepts/celebrations/belief systems that had existed for centuries prior to the onset of Christianity.

    In time the Roman Empire, in which early Christianity began, collapsed. Many historians claim that that collapse was also the time of the final victory of Christianity over paganism. Expressing a different viewpoint, Anglican bishop E. W. Barnes wrote: “As classical civilization collapsed, Christianity ceased to be the noble faith of Jesus the Christ: it became a religion useful as the social cement of a world in dissolution.”—The Rise of Christianity.

    Before that collapse, during the second, third, and fourth centuries C.E., history records that in many ways those who claimed to follow Jesus kept themselves separate from the Roman world. But it also reveals the development of apostasy in doctrine, conduct, and organization, just as Jesus and his apostles had foretold. (Matthew 13:36-43; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 10-22) Eventually compromises came to be made with the Greco-Roman world, and some who claimed to be Christian adopted the world’s paganism. It was this corrupted version of Christianity that attracted the pagan masses and became a force that the Roman emperors first tried to stamp out but later came to terms with and endeavored to use to their own ends.

    Church historian Augustus Neander showed the risks involved in this new relationship between “Christianity” and the world. If Christians sacrificed their separateness from the world, “the consequence would be a confusion of the church with the world . . . whereby the church would forfeit her purity, and, while seeming to conquer, would herself be conquered,” he wrote.—General History of the Christian Religion and Church, Volume 2, page 161.

    This is exactly what happened. In the early fourth century, Roman emperor Constantine tried to use the “Christian” religion of his day to cement his disintegrating empire. To this end, he granted professed Christians religious freedom and transferred some of the privileges of the pagan priesthood to their clergy class. The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Constantine brought the church out of its withdrawal from the world to accept social responsibility and helped pagan society to be won for the church.”

    After Constantine, Emperor Julian (361-363 C.E.) made an attempt to oppose Christianity and restore paganism. But he failed, and some 20 years later, Emperor Theodosius I banned paganism and imposed paganized “Christianity” as the State religion of the Roman Empire. With adroit precision, French historian Henri Marrou wrote: “By the end of the reign of Theodosius, Christianity, or to be more precise, orthodox Catholicism, became the official religion of the entire Roman world.” Orthodox Catholicism had replaced true Christianity and had become a “part of the world.” This State religion was vastly different from the religion of Jesus’ early followers, to whom he said: “You are no part of the world.”—John 15:19.

  58. Danny said

    (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

  59. John said

    You would like a double-headed coin, theologically speaking.

  60. Danny said

    John Said: You would like a double-headed coin, theologically speaking.

    —————-

    ?? Care to expound a little?

  61. John said

    Duality Danny, duality. Balance.
    Light and darkness, good and evil, stupidity and intelligence, Heavens and Hells, ups and downs, life and death…etc.etc.
    All of these things need each other to define one another.
    Does this help any?

  62. Rip said

    ADB: I didn’t intend to trample on Mr. (Dr.?) Witherington’s credentials. I only intended to convey the idea that my perception on early Christianity doesn’t mesh 100% with his viewpoint as stated in the book review. He’s a fine writer and is obviously passionate about the church in its present state. He may be 100% correct in his characterization of Judaism’s influence in the church after 70 AD. Or, he may be like most of us who can speculate about the early church based on certain evidence or scholarship which happens to agree with our gut feelings and personal exercises in logic. The fact is, there is very little hard evidence about the way people really believed in the earliest days of the church, because it appears that any Christian belief system that conflicted with the Roman government endorsed version of religious practice was eliminated, and very efficiently at that. – but that’s another discussion for another time.

    Here’s an example of what bothered me about the review – a quote:

    “The idea is that Christianity had become overwhelming Gentile and already was adopting numerous pagan practices in the last third of the first century A.D. Frankly, this is historically false. Not only did Jewish Christianity continue well into the fifth century in many forms and places and in considerable numbers, including in the Diaspora and not just in Israel and Syria…“

    As proof of his viewpoint Mr. Witherington cites a book called Jewish Believers in Jesus by Oskar Skarsaune, a Norwegian gentleman. I admit that I haven’t read the book, but reviews I have read would indicate an evangelical bias to the work. Mr. (Dr.?) Skarsaune is probably a fine scholar and a great archaeologist, and perhaps his work is the groundbreaking proof that Jewish Christianity permeated and heavenly influenced the early church well into the 5th century – I can’t really say. I guess a larger endorsement by the scholarly community will bear that out over the years.

    Again, it’s easy to site a single, obscure source that agrees with your own viewpoint and declare all other viewpoints “historically false”. Many “respected” scholars let their personal biases creep into their work and it is our job to see through the opinion and get to the facts contained in their work.

    Oh, and thanks for your mini-lecture on using “authorship opinion” as a means of judging a writer – I’ll take that under consideration.

  63. ADB said

    Rip,
    If you’re interested in this you may want to read N.T. Wright’s book “The New Testament and the People of God.” It’s not light reading and is pretty long, but it’s meticulously researched and cited. He spends a lot of time interacting with scholarly opinion as he argues his own position. He is currently an Anglican Bishop, but previously had taught Biblical Studies at Oxford and Cambridge. I would assume the Witherington is a Ph.D., as it would be next to impossible to be a professor at a respected seminary without one, but I don’t know where he earned it.

    Best Wishes

  64. John said

    Thank you for the book recommendation ADB.

  65. ADB said

    John,
    Wright’s a remarkable writer. He’s writes material for more popular audiences, as well as much larger denser books, and both styles are really good. He’s sort of a “traditionalist” in that his interpretations are often what has been traditional over the course of most of church history. This definitely sets him at odds with most liberals today, but also with fundamentalists as well. Enjoy!

    Best Wishes

  66. John said

    You have our gratitude, ADB. We are fond of large, dense, politically incorrect books[smile].
    Gotta go, storms a coming!

  67. Danny said

    John Says:
    August 15, 2008 at 6:40 pm
    Duality Danny, duality. Balance.
    Light and darkness, good and evil, stupidity and intelligence, Heavens and Hells, ups and downs, life and death…etc.etc.
    All of these things need each other to define one another.
    Does this help any?
    ————————-

    You believe then that God created darkness, evil, stupidity, death, etc….because they’re needed to define one another?

  68. Rip said

    I am the LORD, and there is no other. The one forming light and creating darkness. Causing well-being and creating calamity (sometimes translated “evil”). I am the LORD who does all these things. Isaiah 45: 7 (NAS)

  69. jAsOn said

    Rip,

    Verses such as that aren’t trying to establish any duality in the Deity.

  70. ADB said

    Rip,
    The particular Hebrew word (ra) in OT usage normally refers to calamities and disasters in general rather than moral evil. The KJV typically uses “evil” for this word whether or not it’s referring to moral evil as we know it or calamities as we know it, in fact in Jonah 3 it used to refer to the punishment that God threatened to pour out on Ninevah. This is an issue I know personally from encountering it when I had to translate Jonah from Hebrew to English back in seminary.

    While in a general sense grace is meaningless without a concept of wrath, and good is in some sense defined by the presence of evil (as in moral evil), the verse you picked is irrelevant to any supposed duality in the godhead. In fact, if there is one thing that scripture is clear on it’s that God is good; hence Jesus’ reference to none being good but God, and John’s reference to God being love.

    Best wishes,
    The curmudgeonly pastor

  71. ADB said

    Rip,

    By the way, did you ever pick up a copy of Wright’s “The New Testament and the People of God?” I thought it was awfully good and thorough.

  72. Rip said

    ADB,

    Didn’t pick up a copy yet. I have several books stacked up that I need to get through before I add to the “collection”. Currently I am in the middle of a fascinating book called “On Mankind their Origin and Destiny” by Arthur Dyott Thompson. Published in 1872 the book is obviously the culmination of a lifetime of study in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Mr. Thompson’s basic premise is that we have “missed the boat”, so to speak, by insisting that the Christian and Hebrew Bibles are “history” books, and that every word is literally true. For example, according to Mr. Dyott (and several early church fathers as well as Maimonides and others) virtually all of the first three chapters of the book we refer to as Genesis is allegory. Fun stuff.

  73. Rip said

    Excuse me. It’s Arthur Dyott Thomson, not Thompson.

  74. Danny said

    Rightly, God brought evil or calamity upon Adam for his disobedience. In the Scriptures, God is referred to as the Creator of evil or calamity. (Isa 45:7) His enforcing of the penalty for sin, namely, death, has proved to be an evil, or a calamity, for mankind. So, then, evil is not always synonymous with wrongdoing. Examples of evils or calamities created by God are the Flood of Noah’s day and the Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt. But these evils were not wrongs. Rather, the rightful administration of justice against wrongdoers was involved in both cases. At times God, in his mercy, has refrained from bringing the intended calamity or evil in execution of his righteous judgment because of the repentance on the part of those concerned. (Jon 3:10) Additionally, in having a warning given, Gpd has undeservedly provided opportunities for the practicers of bad to change their course and keep living. — Eze 33:11.

  75. ADB said

    Rip,
    I’m not familiar with Dyott Thomson. I would agree with you that to read the Bible as one would read a modern history book is to seriously misuse it. You and I come to this from different perspectives, I imagine though. To insist that it must be read as straightforward history or science is to also insist that the only valid literature is modern western history. Interpretation is simply more than, “the Bible said it, I believe it.” That ignores the most obvious question, which is what does the Bible say?. In my opinion, the writer of Genesis was trying to make a theological point and argument, and to to use it to make scientific points misinterprets it. (I’ll grant that my opinion on this one is a minority among the Christian posters here.) The gospels are also an excellent example. The gospels record events in different orders, sometimes with their accounts a little different. The simple reason is that they were written to be theological documents. They do contain history, as secular history and archaeology prove in some instances, but Luke, Mark, etc. weren’t trying to write an M.A. thesis in History for the University of Jerusalem, but were writing documents to show that Jesus was the son of God, and to address particular needs of a particular people. I could go on but you probably don’t want a boring lecture on hermeneutics 🙂

    Best wishes,
    the curmudgeonly pastor

  76. John said

    Hello again Danny.
    Sorry that it took me so long to get back to you. Anyway, I never said that your God created those things simply for contrast, but I do believe that a person cannot fully understand or appreciate one[any one, take your pick]without any experience, no matter how briefly, with it’s opposite. These things ARE needed to define each other, for better or for worse. I got the impression from post#67 that you think of death and darkness as negatives. I do not.

  77. Danny said

    Hi John,

    Had Adam & Eve remained faithful to God, there would never have been death among humankind. Their offspring would have been born sinless as they were and so on. Being sinless and perfect they would not experience aging, sickness, and eventually death. Do you believe God PURPOSED Adam to sin so that there would be death in the world?

  78. jAsOn said

    Danny,

    Do you believe that God knew that Adam would sin?

  79. F. L. A. said

    One would think that he would have had it all planned out if Jehovah was/is as omnipotent as he is made out to be. Which if so, leads one to ponder what the deities motives may have been to inflict such a horrendous curse. Or why he did not take better precautionary measures in advance to prevent such disobedience. Perhaps God used the serpent to set your Eve up?
    If not, then this could lend credence to the theory that Jehovah started out as a simple “local deity”, like one of John’s “Old Gods and Goddesses”, subject to error and emotional outbursts.

    Danny?

  80. Danny said

    jAsOn Says:

    Do you believe that God knew that Adam would sin?

    ———————–

    He has the ability to foresee what someone will do. He also has perfect self-control to use that ability or to choose not to use that ability. Just as we can pick up a novel and choose to read it from beginning to end or skip to the last chapter and quickly see how it ends. God gave Adam freewill to choose to be obedient and live forever or to be disobedient and return to the dust from which he was created. Sadly for all of his offspring he chose the latter.

  81. jAsOn said

    Danny,

    when you say, “He has the ability to foresee what someone will do. He also has perfect self-control to use that ability or to choose not to use that ability.”

    Do you mean that God can choose NOT to foresee what someone will do? And if so, please establish this belief.

  82. Danny said

    Let me liken it to memory. When someone does something really really abusive to us we often find it hard to forget it. We might be able to forgive…but very hard to forget. Especially when we see the person or hear their name those memories come flooding back in. We dont have much control over that. We WANT to be able to just not recall those painful memories but we lack the control over our brain to stop them from coming back to mind.

    God on the other hand has perfect self-control over all His abilities. He can forgive AND truly forget…forget in the sense that He can choose not to recall a person’s past sins to mind. The memory is still accessable to Him, filed away in his limitless memory, but it doesnt jump out and come to His mind when He thinks of us after He has forgiven us. The same would apply to His being able to have perfect control of His ability to foresee the future. He simply chooses not to foresee things unless needed. He can choose to foresee or He can choose NOT to foresee.

  83. jAsOn said

    Sorry Danny, but your view of God’s knowledge of future things isn’t the biblical one. As a matter of fact, F.L.A.’s description is closer than yours.

  84. Danny said

    Selective foreknowledge means that God could choose not to foreknow indiscriminately all the future acts of his creatures. This would mean that, rather than all history from creation onward being a mere rerun of what had already been foreseen and foreordained, God could with all sincerity set before the first human pair the prospect of everlasting life in an earth free from wickedness. His instructions to his first human son and daughter to act as his perfect and sinless agents in filling the earth with their offspring and making it a paradise, as well as exercising control over the animal creation, could thus be expressed as the grant of a truly loving privilege and as his genuine desire toward them—not merely as the giving of a commission that, on their part, was foredoomed to failure. God’s arranging for a test by means of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” and his creation of “the tree of life” in the garden of Eden also would not be meaningless or cynical acts, made so by his foreknowing that the human pair would sin and never be able to eat of “the tree of life.”

    To offer something very desirable to another person on conditions known beforehand to be unreachable is recognized as both hypocritical and cruel.

  85. Maz said

    Danny: Can you back this theology up with scripture?
    Isaiah 55 v 8,9, ”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
    God knows the beginning from the end, He is omniscient, but how He thinks and what He thinks are beyond our comprehension.

  86. jAsOn said

    Danny,

    Would you say that God did not know that Adam would sin?

  87. jAsOn said

    Genesis 50:18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

    Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

    Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

    Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb:” I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, 26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.'”

    Psalm 103:19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

    Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

    Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

    Proverbs 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. 2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. 3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. 4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

    Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

    Lamentations 3:37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

    Isaiah 46:8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

    Psalm 33:10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

    Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

  88. ADB said

    Though Jason and I would differ over the extent to which God actually controls every event, it is clear I think that God knew from the beginning that humanity would fall. Why else would Jesus be referred to as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world?” We can’t hold a position where Adam and Eve mess up and God says “what am I going to do now?” This, to me, adds to the mystery of God and the love of God.

    Best Wishes

  89. Jeff42 said

    Danny,

    Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?

  90. Maz said

    The amazing thing about God knowing ‘the end from the beginning’ in every aspect of the history of this world, is that He still created man, knowing that he would disobey and ‘do his own thing’, knowing that His Son, His Only Beloved Son, would have to die to redeem fallen man.
    He did it anyway……at the cost of His Son. And Jesus was prepared to go to the cross before we ever existed. That is truly amazing grace. Amazing love.

  91. Rip said

    It is true that foreknowledge of the sacrifice of his son would have been incredible. But what seems even more incredible would be foreknowledge of the death and suffering of billions of human beings, each one a cognizant, feeling and caring individual, doomed to toil and suffer and die on this earth. All this is way too complex and impossible to speculate on accurately, particularly by way of cherry-picking individual out-of-context sentences from bronze and iron age documents (what we call the Bible). I am amazed at the human tendency to apply human characteristics (“foreknowledge”, “thoughts”, “self control”) to a non-corporeal deity. In our human state of being (5 senses, limited understanding of our universe, etc.) we struggle to define the things we do not understand. It’s no different than what the ancient pagans did.

  92. F. L. A. said

    [Huge sharp-toothed grin]Perhaps the DEITIES are as effected by us as we are them, Rip.
    “I would fain know all that I need, and all that I may.I leave God’s secrets to Himself. It is happy for me that God makes me of His court, and not of his council.”-Joseph Hall

  93. Maz said

    Rip: Jesus was not ‘non-corporeal deity’. He was God in the flesh. God knew what is was like to live as a man. He knew what it was like to suffer as a man, and He knew what it was like to die in agony as a man.
    No one can argue that Jesus the man existed in history, the question everyone is faced with is, was Jesus a liar, dillusional, insain, or was He Who He claimed to be.
    For Him to have been anything but the One He claimed to be begs the question, how is it so many people have and still do follow and believe in Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world? How is it so many were and are still willing to suffer and die for Him? How is it that it is the year 2008? All because of a liar? I don’t think so!

  94. Maz said

    F.L.A: The Bible says in Amos 3 v 7, ”Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He reveals his secret to His servants, the prophets.”

    Also Ephesians 3 v 3-5 speaks of the mystery of Gods will being made known to Paul and ‘His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit’.

    And in 1 Corinthians 2 v 9-10: ”But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

  95. F. L. A. said

    Maz, in regards to Jesus, there is another option for you to contemplate.
    Was he who OTHERS claimed him to be. Chinese whispers Maz, remember?

  96. Maz said

    F.L.A: Jesus is not just some historical or religious figure I believe in, He is a Real Living Person that I have met personally. No amount of Chinese whispers can negate my personal experience of meeting my Savior and being changed by Him. There is no other option.

  97. F. L. A. said

    Do you not think that others within other faiths have had similar experiences involving their deities?

  98. Barney said

    “No one can argue that Jesus the man existed in history…” – Maz

    Of course we can. Ever read G.A.Wells?

    “Jesus is not just some historical or religious figure I believe in, He is a Real Living Person that I have met personally.” – Maz

    In a manner of speaking, of course. Unless you’re bonkers.

  99. Maz said

    F.L.A: There is a spiritual realm where spirits work, but the only Spirit that we must let move us and indwell us is the Holy Spirit of God. There are many deceiving spirits working in the world today, Jesus spoke of false Christs and false prophets in the last days, which are motivated by deceiving spirits. There are many that have had ‘spiritual experiences’ but they must line up with the Word of God. That is our spiritual plumbline.

    I’d like to ask you what personal experience you have had spiritually?

  100. Maz said

    Barney: Yes, you are free to argue against the reality of Jesus but it will not change the Truth.

    And no I have never read G.A. Wells.

  101. Barney, Barney, Barney…..come on, man. We don’t call each other “bonkers” on here.

    Moderator

  102. Maz said

    F.L.A: The Bible tells us in 1 John 4 v 1, ”Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone into the world. By this know ye the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is the spirit of antichrist, of which you have heard that it should come, and even now already is in the world”

  103. F. L. A. said

    Can we at least criticize ourselves personally as “bonkers”[Huge sharp-toothed grin]?
    Perhaps if we pass it off as an observation instead of a criticism…?

    Maz, I will not share that information with you. It’s a secret, sorry.
    If you believe that everything within this universe in regards to theology is classified as either “GOOD”[of Jehovah] or “EVIL”[of Satan], with no gray or neutral areas in between, as you have implied within various posts, then everything about people like me[And John]including our very existences cannot help but be satanic.
    The position of devil’s unwilling advocate is forced upon us.

  104. F. L. A. said

    That is to say, I cannot understand in any way that I could fit into Christian theology save for as the position of one of the “bad guys”.
    Maybe in the Old Testament when Your God needed some horrible punishing done….Hmmmmmm…..

  105. Maz said

    F.L.A: That’s fine, lets just say that you have had an experience of a spiritual nature.
    I will share you one time when I ‘felt’ (which is the only way I can describe it) Gods love envelope my very being. It was like a large soft warm blanket that covered me, it gave me a tangible sense of being loved by God. It was a particularly bad time in my life when I needed to feel love. It lasted for a few minutes, but was long enough to comfort my spirit and heart.

    I have had similar experiences of Gods tangible presence in my life but I have also had a frightening experience of another presence….an oppressive, fearful presence, that seemed to want to choke the life from me. I felt my breath was being taken from me so that I could hardly breathe. I was in bed at the time so I pleaded the blood of Jesus but also got up and went downstairs to my husband who was still up. He tried to comfort me and could see I was in distress but not belonging to the Lord he didn’t know what to do. The experience passed fairly quickly after that but the next day I met with a lady from the Church at an Old Peoples Home where we use to visit. She came to me and asked if I was alright. She told me that she had been led to pray for me last night…..I told her what had happened…..she hadn’t known….but God had her pray for me at the time I believe I was being attacked by an evil spirit or spirits.
    I never had another experience like that again.

    It is a sad fact that you are right in the second part of your post, that is why I say what I do, to show you the Truth, that there is only two ways to choose to go not many, one way is Gods way through Jesus, and the other way is the Devils way, straight down to Hell. This is the sad and fearful fact of yours and Johns position. And this is in no way to judge and condemn you, God loves you and wants you to know the Truth that will set you free from sin, judgment, death and Hell for eternity. I can’t stress enough…God loves you….both…and wants you to see the deception you are in.

  106. F. L. A. said

    The matter is more complicated than it would seem, Maz.
    I am not inclined at this time to elaborate.
    Do you remember when you, Mr.Sears[I wonder where he’s been?], and I were having a similar discussion? It was when I used the analogy of being a monstrous thing beneath the water while you were a woman upon the dock.
    Your experience in bed sounded like a “Hag Attack”. Do you know what this is?

  107. Maz said

    F.L.A: Yes, I remember your monster analogy. And no I have never heard of a ”Hag Attack”.

  108. F. L. A. said

    Type into your computer “Hag Attack” and read what you find. There is an especially good article under the site labeled “Visionary Living”.

  109. Mike S. said

    Hey There Ms. F.L.A.
    I’ve been around, I keep up with most of what’s talked about here. However, I have not been contributing because I have a tendency to get entrenched in the discussions and I can not afford to take that time away from neither my family nor my job. Maybe if I can ever retire (early) I could take more time to discuss. I do enjoy it, but I have had to prioritize. Keep up the search!! Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened!! Blessings!! Mike

  110. Maz said

    F.L.A: I had a ”Hag Attack” two mornings ago. I was half awake and couldn’t move. I’v experienced it several times in my life and it’s something to do with your brain connecting with your body between waking and sleeping…..don’t ask me the details…but it is not a paranormal experience, it has a medical explanation. Although it is scary, all I do is try with all my strength to make my body move and after a couple of seconds I can move and I wake properly.

    What I had some nearly thirty years ago was something quite different. I hadn’t been asleep, I was awake. I had just gone to bed and this heavy oppression began to attack me. I could move but I was feeling a very sinister presence trying to attack my life. And in this case the lady who prayed for me would have had no knowledge of my need for prayer if God had not told her I needed it.

  111. jAsOn said

    Wouldn’t Mulder explain a “Hag Attack” as an alien abduction?

    Just joking 🙂

    I am just a big x files fan, and I couldn’t help but make the correlation.

  112. Oh great. That’s all we need on here. A “bonkers” monster.

    Moderator

  113. Maz said

    Moderator: That doesn’t sound like you.

  114. Sorry, Maz. F.L.A. knows I was joking. Even the Moderator has to have a little fun every once in awhile.

    Moderator

  115. Maz said

    I don’t mind, but if you use certain words even in jest you cannot post something like #110 to Barney. I thot he had somehow got on with your name!

  116. F. L. A. said

    Moderator is “In the know”, somewhat, Maz.
    It was your talk of an oppressive fearful presence and evil spirits within your story that made me think of the Hag Attack phenomenon.

    It was good to hear from you again Mr. Sears, it is good to know that you are still around.
    I have a difficult time getting through most doors.

  117. Maz – It’s all in how the words are used and directed. Based on this I shall remain “moderate.”

  118. Maz said

    OK

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