I’m currently reading a book called “Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” by Frank Viola & George Barna. And, while it’s a really interesting book, with a lot of good points, I’m a bit disturbed by some of the things they’re saying. My internal warning bells are going off, big time.
On page 116, the authors write, “The non-New Testament concept of sacerdotalism — the belief that there exists a divinely appointed person to mediate between God and the people — originated with Cyprian [of Carthage].”
But, I beg to differ! In the Old Testament, God did appoint mediators… He gave the Israelites the high priests that were the go-betweens between God & His people. They were the ones who entered the Holy of Holies at specific times to make atonement for the peoples’ sins (see Leviticus 16:1-34). Moses was also a mediator between God and His people. He was the only one allowed to go up the mountain to meet with God, and receive instruction (see Exodus 19).
Originally, I also had issue with the fact that the authors were claiming that the church building was something we shouldn’t have. I thought, “But we’re to meet together with other believers (Heb.10:25), so we need a place to gather“. But, then they clarified that the church’s architecture is made to elicit a response… it teaches us “what the church is, and how it functions” (p.37).
And, their talk about how a pastor is a hinderance also got up my ire. They claim that there’s no mention of a pastor in the Bible. And, I thought, “But it does talk about shepherding God’s people, and leadership. (see 1 Timothy 3 and Ezekiel 34:1-10).” But, then I realized that, even though it talks about shepherds leading God’s people, that also could mean anyone in the church who is gifted with leadership. And the authors then clarified that “shepherds” refers to people who have a natural talent for nurturing and caring for God’s people.
So, I don’t know… I’m still reading this book with a spirit of discernment, and I’m taking it with a grain of salt. I’m thinking that I will take what I love from this book, and then just disregard the rest.
There’s a lot of it that I do agree with, mind you. Like how the authors say that our fixed pews and our stage make it seem like we church-goers are passive spectators on Sunday mornings, and the pastor is providing the “entertainment”. They talk about how –in an organic/home-church– the members would all be able to contribute to the sharing of God’s Word. Whoever feels led to share a word they’ve received could do so. And, everyone would be able to look their fellow members in the eyes easily… not having to strain around to see behind them in a pew.
I also agree that the word “church” should refer not to a building, but to all of God’s people. That’s how it’s meant in the Bible, after all. The Greek word is “ekklesia“, meaning “a gathering of believers“.
More thoughts to come as I continue reading… 😉