Now we terminate Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity with prejudice today.
The previous posts were:
1. Viola's Preface
2. Barna's Introduction
3. The Church Building
4. The Order of Worship
5. The Sermon
6. The Pastor
7. Sunday Go to Meeting Clothes
8. Music in the Church
9. Chapters 8 and 9: Tithing/Paying Ministers (8) and the Sacraments (9)
10. Christian Education
And now, the rest of the book.
First today is Chapter 11, "Reapproaching the New Testament: The Bible is not a Jigsaw Puzzle."
This is the chapter where Viola assumes that all the pastors and seminarians who read the Bible are idiots who don't know that the books of Paul were arranged from longest to shortest, not according to when they were written. He assumes that no one knows that the chapter and verse divisions were added in the late medieval period and that if we would only learn how to read the books (or rather, Paul, he's not as interested in the other books of the Bible) in context, all our problems would be over.
AND... he treats all the house church people who aren't doing it his way ignorant idiots as well. Tell me, who is left to read his books?
Of course those of us who believe in Christian education learned these sorts of things our freshman year in a New Testament Survey course at a Christian college. I can understand that since Viola doesn't believe in Christian education, he would have reason to assume that the people in his assemblies are stupid and don't know the first thing about the Bible. And of course he doesn't believe that there should be pastors who of course then aren't around to bring such basic knowledge to their congregations. Curiously, though, he seems to be willing to teach all those Christian ignoramuses out there what he thinks he knows, preferably on a compound he's developing in Guyana.
Chapter 12: "A Second Glance at the Savior: Jesus the Revolutionary"
Here are some verses Viola might not have put on his "clipboard" (mostly TNIV):
1. "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you" (Matt. 23:2-3). What, you mean Jesus didn't teach rebellion against those establishment Pharisees? Oh.
2. "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23:6). Wait, Paul calling himself a Pharisee in the present tense near the end of his mission?
3."Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said..." (Acts 15:5). Wait, not pseudo-Christians? A group of Christians with distinct ideologies and practices in the Jerusalem church? Wait, isn't that what a denomination is?
4. "Before certain people came from James, Peter used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles... even Barnabas was led astray... I [Paul] called Peter a hypocrite before them all" (Galatians 2:12-13).
5. The verse where Paul tells us Peter, James, and Barnabas finally saw it his way: .
Oh, that's right, they went their separate ways as different "segments" of the early church with distinct theological ideologies and distinct practices. Wait, isn't that what a denomination is?
6. Their perspective on how Gentiles can eat with Jewish Christians: "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality" (Acts 15:29).
7. Paul's comment on their position when dealing with the same issues at Corinth: .
8. Matthew's position on the Law: "Do not think I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets... Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:17, 19).
9. Ephesians' position: "he... has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations" (Eph. 2:14-15).
Wait, doesn't Matthew say Jesus didn't come to destroy the Law and Ephesians says Christ did? Then there's Paul in Romans 3:31, "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." Sounds like distinct theologies of the Law and perhaps some differing practices in relation to the Law in the early church. Wait, isn't that what denominations are?
10. "They [women, descendants of Eve] have come to be in transgression. Nevertheless, they will be saved through childbearing" (1 Tim. 2:14-15).
11. "By grace you have been saved, through faith... not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
12. "... by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Heb. 10:10).
13. "Let women be silent in the churches" (1 Cor. 14:33).
14. "Your sons and daughters will prophesy" (Acts 2:17).
Yeah, the early church didn't have different groups with distinct ideologies and practices and the one, single practice they all had was Viola's theology and practice.
Afterword: "The Next Step"
A new approach to worship: my way.
A new approach to spiritual growth: my way.
A new approach to managing resources: my way.
A new look at your identity: my way.
This last bit is a Q & A, probably based on questions people asked after the first edition. My advice, read this Q & A rather than the book. As usual, he is more measured in the Q & A than in the chapters.
I'm calling it quits. I'll probably never do anything more, but the book I'd like to write to right the wrong in this book and right the right in this book is a book I'd title, Generous Ecclesiology.