A Balanced Review of Pagan Christianity
Dr. Ben Witherington has received permission from Howard Snyder to publish the full text of Snyder’s review of Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna. It is not a long or meticulous review, but addresses what I think is the most important problem with PC. Viola and Barna have a serious paradigm problem, one that the Stone-Campbell tradition has been struggling with for 200 years.
Snyder discusses three paradigms for “understanding the development of the church over history”:
- Traditional Orthodox –“In this view, it is foolish to expect the church today to look like the New Testament church (which was essentially a network of house churches with highly flexible leadership patterns). The New Testament church was the church in embryo; the little seedling that has now wonderfully put forth branches into all the world.”
- Secret History of the Faithful Remnant – “In this view, Constantinianism was a great tragedy—the fall of the church. The only route to fidelity is a return to the New Testament pattern, some form of restoration to the original model.”
- Renewal/Revitalization –“In this view, God has worked throughout history to bring new life to the church through a series of movements. This dynamic is foreshadowed already in the Bible, especially in Israel’s history. It can be documented over the centuries of the church. God has never given up on the church—even the “institutional church.” Neither should we. Yet in particular times and places the church may become so unfaithful that it falls under God’s judgment and may even disappear entirely.”
I think that much of the discussion of PC can be related very well to the struggles of the American Restoration Movement. Let me know what you think!
in HIS love,