None. Absolutely, positively none. How could it be otherwise? The average, normal “church” practices summarized here have absolutely no basis in Scripture. Wake up and smell what we’ve been walking in!
The following summary is neither complete nor detailed. Note that all of these practices are post-Biblical, post-apostolic, and mostly influenced by pagan culture. F.V.
- The Sunday Morning Order of Worship - Evolved from Gregory’s Mass in the sixth century to the revisions made by Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, the Free Church tradition, the Methodists, the Frontier-Revivalists, and the Pentecostals.
- The Centrality of the Pulpit in the Order of Worship - Martin Luther in 1523.
- Two Candles Placed on Top of the “Communion Table” and Incense Burning - Borrowed from the ceremonial court of Roman Emperors in the fourth century. The “Communion Table” was introduced by Ulrich Zwingli in the 16th century.
- Taking the Lord’s Supper Quarterly - Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531).
- The Congregation Standing and Singing When the Clergy Enters - Borrowed from the ceremonial court of Roman Emperors in the fourth century. Brought into the Protestant liturgy by John Calvin (1509-1564).
- Coming to Church with a Somber/Reverent Attitude - Based on the medieval view of piety. Brought into the Protestant service by John Calvin and Martin Bucer (1491-1551).
- Condemnation and Guilt Over Missing a Sunday Service - 17th-century New England Puritans.
- The Long “Pastoral Prayer” Which Precedes the Sermon - 17th-century New England Puritans.
- The Pastoral Prayer Uttered in Elizabethan English (when the language was outdated) - 18th-century Methodists.
- The Goal of All Preaching to Win Individual Souls - 18th-century Frontier-Revivalists.
- The Altar-Call - Invented by 17th-century Methodists and popularized by Charles Finney (1792-1872).
- The Church Bulletin (written liturgy) - Originated in 1884 with Albert Blake Dick’s stencil duplicating machine.
- The “Solo” Salvation Hymn, Door-to-Door Witnessing, and Evangelistic Advertising/Campaigning - D.L. Moody (1837-1899).
- The Decision Card - Invented by Absalom B. Earle (1812-1895) and popularized by D.L. Moody.
- Bowing Heads with Eyes Closed and Raising the Hand in Response to a Salvation Message - Billy Graham in the 20th century.
- “The Evangelization of the World in One Generation” Slogan - John Mott around 1888.
- Solo or Choral Music Played During the Offering - 20th-century Pentecostals.
- The Modern Sermon - Borrowed from the Greek sophist, who were masters at oratory and rhetoric. John Chrysostom (347-407) and Augustine (354-430) popularized the Greco-Roman homily (sermon) and made it a central part of the Christian faith.
- The One-Hour Sermon, Sermon Crib Notes, and the Four-Part Sermon Outline - 17th-century Puritans.
- The Church Building - Started by Constantine around
A.D.327. The first church buildings were patterned after the Roman basilicas which were modeled after Greek temples.
- The Sacred Space - Christians borrowed this idea from the pagans in the second and third centuries. The burial places of the martyrs were regarded as “sacred.” In the fourth century, church buildings were erected on these burial places, thus creating “sacred” buildings.
- The Pastor’s Chair - Derived from the cathedra, which was the bishop’s chair or throne. This chair replaced the seat of the judge in the Roman basilica.
- Tax-Exempt Status for Churches and Christian Clergy - Emperor Constantine gave churches tax-exempt status in
A.D.323. He made clergy exempt from paying taxes in A.D.313, a privilege that pagan priests enjoyed.
- Stained Glass Windows - First introduced by Gregory of Tours (538-593) and brought to perfection by Suger (1081-1151), abbot of St. Denis.
- Gothic Cathedrals - 12th century. These edifices were built according to the pagan philosophy of Plato.
- The Steeple - Rooted in ancient Babylon and Egyptian architecture and philosophy, the steeple was a medieval invention that was popularized and modernized by Sir Christopher Wren in London around 1666.
- The Pulpit - Used in the Christian church as early as
A.D.250. It came from the Greek ambo, which was a pulpit used by both Greeks and Jews for delivering monologues.
- The Pew - Evolved from the 13th through the 18th centuries in England.
- The Single Bishop (predecessor of the modern pastor) - Ignatius of Antioch around
A.D.115. Ignatius’ model of one-bishop-rule did not prevail in the churches until the third century.
- The “Covering” Doctrine - Cyprian of Carthage (200-258), a former pagan orator. Revived under Juan Carlos Ortiz from Argentina and the “Fort Lauderdale Five” from the United States, creating the so-called “Shepherding-Discipleship Movement” in 1970s.
- Hierarchical Leadership - Brought into the church by Constantine in the fourth century. This was the leadership style of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.
- Clergy and Laity - “Laity” first appears in the writings of Clement of Rome (d. 100). “Clergy” first appears in Tertullian (160-225). By the third century, Christian leaders were universally called “clergy.”
- Modern Ordination - Evolved from the second century to the fourth. It was taken from the Roman custom of appointing men to civil office. The idea of the ordained minister as the “holy man of God” can be traced to Augustine (293-373), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), and Chrysostom (347-407).
- The Title “Pastor” - Catholic priests who became Protestant ministers were not universally called “Pastors” until the 18th century under the influence of Lutheran Pietists.
- Christians Wearing Their “Sunday Best” for Church - Began in the late-18th century with the Industrial Revolution and became widespread in the mid-19th century. The practice is rooted in the emerging middle class effort to become like their wealthy aristocrat contemporaries.
- The Clergy Costume - Began in
A.D.330 when Christian clergy began wearing the garb of Roman officials. By the 12th century, the clergy began wearing everyday street clothes that distinguished them from the people.
- The Evangelical Pastor’s Suit - A descendent of the black scholar’s gown worn by Reformation ministers, the black lounge suit of the 20th century became the typical costume of the modern pastor.
- The Clerical (Backwards) Collar - Invented by Rev. Dr. Donald McLeod of Glasgow in 1865.
- The Choir - Provoked by Constantine’s desire to mimic the professional music used in Roman imperial ceremonies. In the fourth century, the Christians borrowed the choir idea from the choirs used in Greek dramas and Greek temples.
- The Boys Choir - Began in the fourth century, borrowed from the boys choirs used by the pagans.
- Funeral Processions and Orations - Borrowed from Greco-Roman paganism in the third century.
- The Worship Team - Calvary Chapel in 1965, patterned after the secular rock concert.
- Tithing - Did not become a widespread Christian practice until the eighth century. The tithe was taken from the 10% rent-charge used in the Roman Empire and later justified by the Old Testament.
- Clergy Salaries - Instituted by Constantine in the fourth century.
- The Collection Plate - The alms dish appeared in the 14th century. Passing a collection plate began in 1662.
- The Usher - Began with Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603). The predecessor of the usher is the church porter which traces back to the third century.
- Infant Baptism - Rooted in the superstitious beliefs that pervaded the Greco-Roman culture, it was brought into the Christian faith in the late second century. By the fifth century, it replaced adult baptism.
- Sprinkling Replacing Immersion - Began in the late Middle Ages in the Western churches.
- Baptism Separated from Conversion - Began in the early second century as a result of the legalistic view that baptism was the only medium for the forgiveness of sins.
- The “Sinner’s Prayer” - Invented by D.L. Moody (1837-1899) and made popular in the 1950s with Billy Graham’s Peace With God tract and later with Campus Crusade for Christ’s Four Spiritual Laws.
- Use of the Term “Personal Savior” - Spawned in the mid-1800s by the Frontier-Revivalist influence and popularized by Charles Fuller (1887-1968).
- The Lord’s Supper Condensed From a Full “Agape” Meal to Only the Cup and the Bread - The late second century as a result of pagan ritual influences.
- The Catholic Seminary - The first seminary began as a result of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The curriculum was based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas which was a blending of Aristotle’s philosophy, Neo-Platonic philosophy, and Christian doctrine.
- The Protestant Seminary - Began in Andover, Massachusetts in 1808. It too was built on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas.
- The Bible College - Influenced by the revivalism of D.L. Moody (1837-1899), the first two Bible colleges were The Missionary Training Institute (Nyack College, New York) in 1882 and Moody Bible Institute (Chicago) in 1886.
- The Sunday School - Invented by Robert Raikes from Britain in 1780. Raikes did not found the Sunday School for the purpose of religious instruction. He founded it to teach poor children the basics of education.
- The Youth Pastor - Invented in urban churches in the late 1930s and 40s as a result of seeking to meet the needs of a new sociological class called “teenagers.”
- Paul’s Letters Combined Into a Canon and Arranged According to Descending Length - Early second century.
- Chapters Added to the NT - University of Paris professor Stephen Langton in 1227.
- Verses Added to the NT - Printer Robert Stephanus in 1551.
The preceding summary is roughly an outline/summary of the contents of Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity. This book is an extensive research into the source of the “church” practices which keep so many from being like Christ. It is extensively footnoted for those who wish to check his findings for themselves. To view the bibliography for his book, click here. For those who have the heart of the Lord for His people, all I can say is, “Read it and weep.”n.g.
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