The Paganizing of Christianity: Questions Christians Do Not Ask

By: Epe Precious

Socrates (470-399 BC) is considered by some historians to be the father of philosophy.

Born and raised in Athens, his custom was to go about the town relentlessly raising questions and analyzing the popular views of his day.

Socrates believed that truth is found by dialoguing extensively about an issue and relentlessly questioning it.

This method is known as dialectic or "the Socratic method." He thought freely on matters that his fellow Athenians felt were closed for discussion.

Socrates' habit of pelting people with searching questions and dropping them into critical dialogues about their accepted customs eventually got him killed.

His incessant questioning of tightly held traditions provoked the leaders of Athens to charge him with "corrupting the youth." As a result, they put Socrates to death.

A clear message was sent to his fellow Athenians: All who question the established customs will meet the same fate!

Socrates was not the only provocateur to reap severe reprisal for his nonconformity: John the Baptist was beheaded, and Jesus was crucified. Not to mention the thousands of Christians who have been tortured and martyred through the centuries by the institutional church because they dared to challenge its teachings.

As Christians, we are taught by our leaders to believe certain ideas and behave in certain ways. We are also encouraged to read our Bibles. But we are conditioned to read the Bible with the lens handed to us by the Christian tradition to which we belong. We are taught to obey our denomination (or movement) and never to challenge what it teaches.

At this moment, all the rebellious hearts are applauding and are plotting to wield the above paragraphs to wreak havoc in their churches. If that is you, dear rebellious heart, you have missed my point by a considerable distance. I do not stand with you.
My advice: Either leave your church quietly, refusing to cause division, or be at peace with it. There is a vast gulf between rebellion and taking a stand for what is true.

If the truth be told, we Christians never seem to ask why we do what we do. Instead, we blithely carry out our religious traditions without asking where they came from.

Most Christians who claim to uphold the integrity of God's Word have never sought to see if what they do every Sunday has any scriptural backing.

How do we know this?

Because if they did, it would lead them to some very disturbing conclusions that would compel them by conscience to forever abandon what they are doing.

Strikingly, contemporary church thought and practice have been influenced far more by post biblical historical events than by New Testament imperatives and examples. Yet most Christians are not conscious of this influence. Nor are they aware that it has created a slew of cherished, calcified, humanly devised tradition all of which are routinely passed off to us as "Christian."

I believe the first century church was the church in its purest form, before it was tainted or corrupted. That's not to say the early church didn't have problems, Paul's epistles make clear that it did.

However, the conflicts Paul addresses are inevitable when a fallen people seek to be part of a close knit community.

Some of the questions are:

• How did we get the EDIFICE COMPLEX? Why are Christians bedfellows with brick and mortar?
• What is the pastoral office really and why is being a pastor now an occupation?
• Sunday morning service why are they set in concrete, where did we get the idea of Sunday service costumes?
• The Lord’s supper or Holy Communion which is it?
• Bible school: does it stand under scriptural scrutiny?
• Is there a closer, better and more efficient to look at the New Testament?

If we like, accept it or not but we are living in the midst of a shift from the normal way of Christianity to the older way Christianity was practiced.
Those older approaches are rooted in the Holy Scriptures and the eternal principles of the living God.
Consequently, the motivation for this transition from the old to the older is not simply to get us in touch with our history or to reclaim our roots. It is borne out of a desire to return to our Lord with authenticity and fullness. It is a thrust to bond with Him through the Word of God, the Kingdom of God, and the Spirit of God.

I EPE, PRECIOUS along with many others like me long for a genuine connection with God and not the teasing offered by many churches. I want God. No more excuses.

Then again I know a lot people would ask, does it really matter how we practice our faith, as long as the activities enable people to love God and obey Him?

The preponderance of evidence shows that these perspectives, rules, traditions, expectations, assumptions, and practices often hinder the development of our faith. In other instances, they serve as barriers that keep us from encountering the living God.

The way in which we practice our faith can, indeed, affect the faith itself.

Does that mean we must go back to the Bible and do everything exactly as the disciples did between AD 30 and 60? No.

Social and cultural shifts over the last two thousand years have made it impossible to imitate some of the lifestyle and religious efforts of the early church.

For example, we use cell phones, drive in automobiles, and utilize central heat and air.

The first century Christians had none of these forms of human convenience. Therefore, adhering to the principles of the New Testament does not mean reenacting the events of the first century church. If so, we would have to dress like all first century believers did, in sandals and togas!

Also, just because a practice is picked up from culture does not make it wrong in and of itself, though we must be discerning.

As author Frank Senn notes, "We cannot avoid bringing our culture to church with us; it is a part of our very being. But in the light of tradition we need to sort out those cultural influences that contribute to the integrity of Christian worship from those that detract from it."'

It is in our best interest to scour the words of God to determine the core principles and ethos of the early church and to restore those elements to our lives.

God has granted us great leeway in the methods we use to honour and connect with Him. But that does not mean we have free rein.

Caution is advisable as we strive to be humble and obedient people who seek His central will.

Our goal is to be true to His plan so that we may become the people He desires us to be and that the church may be all she is called to be.

One might be tempted to think that the New Testament did not give instructions on how the church is to be organized but that would be a fallacy.

The New Testament actually includes many details about how the early Christians gathered. For example, we know that the early church met in homes for their regular church meetings (Acts 20:20; Romans 16:3, 5; 1 Corinthians 16:19).

They took the Lord's Supper as a full meal (1 Corinthians 11:21-34). Their church gatherings were open and participatory (1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 10:24-25).

Spiritual gifts were employed by each member (1 Corinthians 12-14). They genuinely saw themselves as family and acted accordingly (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:15; Romans 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15).

They had a plurality of elders to oversee the community (Acts 20:17, 28-29; 1 Timothy 1:5-7).
They were established and aided by itinerant apostolic workers (Acts 13-21; all the apostolic letters).
They were fully united and did not denominate themselves into separate organizations in the same city (Acts 8:1, 13:1, 18:22; Romans 16:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1).
They did not use honorific titles (Matthew 23:8-12). They did not organize themselves hierarchically (Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:25-26).