EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and Geroge Barna (Tyndale House Publishers).

Have We Really Been Doing It by the Book?

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
—SOCRATES

“We do everything by the Word of God! The New Testament is our guide for faith and practice! We live … and we die … by this Book!”

These were the words that thundered forth from the mouth of Pastor Farley as he delivered his Sunday morning sermon. Winchester Spudchecker, a member of Pastor Farley’s church, had heard them dozens of times before. But this time it was different. …

Suddenly Winchester had a new thought:  I don’t remember reading anywhere in the Bible that Christians are supposed to dress up to go to church. Is that by the Book?

This single thought unleashed a torrent of other barbed questions. As scores of frozen pew sitters filled his horizon, Winchester continued to ponder similar new questions. Questions that no Christian is supposed to ask. Questions like:  Is sitting in this uncushioned pew, staring at the back of twelve rows of heads for forty-five minutes, doing things by the Book? Why do we spend so much money to maintain this building when we’re here only twice a week for a few hours? Why is half the congregation barely awake when Pastor Farley preaches? Why do my kids hate Sunday school? Why do we go through this same predictable, yawn-inspiring ritual every Sunday morning? Why am I going to church when it bores me to tears and does nothing for me spiritually? Why do I wear this uncomfortable necktie every Sunday morning when all it seems to do is cut off blood circulation to my brain?

Winchester felt unclean and sacrilegious to ask such things. Yet something was happening inside of him that compelled him to doubt his entire church experience. These thoughts had been lying dormant in Winchester’s subconscious for years. Today, they surfaced.

Interestingly, the questions Winchester had that day are questions that never enter the conscious thinking of most Christians. Yet the sober reality is that Winchester’s eyes had been opened.

As startling as it may sound, almost everything that is done in our contemporary churches has no basis in the Bible. As pastors preach from their pulpits about being “biblical” and following the “pure Word of God,” their words betray them. The truth is that precious little that is observed today in contemporary Christianity maps to anything found in the first-century church.

Questions We Never Think to Ask

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 roping 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:  Isaiah was sawn in half, 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.