Advice about moving to Durham, North Carolina
Preaching, mission, Barth and Duke: recent Twitter micro-blog posts

Ben Witherington on Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church

Below I have listed the links to Ben Witherington’s 14 part series on Frank Viola’s books Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices and Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity.   Witherington, an Asbury Theological Seminary New Testament professor, a United Methodist, and a prolific commentary writer defends a more traditional and sacramental understanding of the church against the charges by Viola that most churches have drifted far from the New Testament understanding of the church.  Viola argues for a more "organic" model of church that meets in homes--similar to "house churches." 

Witherington and Viola (together with Jon Zens who engages in lengthy rebuttals in the comments to Witherington's earlier posts) address a number of interesting issues: paid pastors vs. lay leadership; church buildings vs. homes; solo leadership vs. shared leadership; worship services vs. edifying meetings; hierarchy vs. equality in the Trinity; serious vs. joyful Lord's Supper; preaching vs. participation; God-centered vs. human-centered; reverent vs. informal.  Almost all of the discussion is exchanging quick comments about biblical texts which is refreshing (Eph 4:11, 1 Cor 14:26; Matt 16:18; Heb 10:-24-25).  It is very long but very casual and informal and pointed and blunt not stuffy.  It took place last summer but it is still a fascinating exchange.  The posts get friendlier later as Witherington and Viola get to know one another and Witherington likes Reimagining Church better than Pagan Christianity. 

Usually I see New Testament scholars defending a more flexible early church structure over against the systematic theologians who defend structures that developed later.  Here you have a New Testament scholar and United Methodist arguing from the biblical text for the legitimacy of later development.  If one pictures a large spectrum between low church and high church,  this is really an argument between low church (Quaker, house church, Anabaptist, baptist, free church, Mennonite, charismatic, Pentecostal) on the one end defended by Viola and Zens against high church (Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian) on the other end defended by Witherington. 

I have sketched some of this low vs. high church spectrum at my post: 60 Theologians on an Ecclesiological Spectrum

I also have a Working bibliography of biblical studies books on ecclesiology 

Witherington occasionally refers to his own books: Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians and Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper.  He also has books on baptism and women in ministry and various Christian traditions and commentaries on almost every book of the New Testament. 

Note as well that Frank Viola has a new book out called From Eternity to Here.

Ben Witherington 14 blog posts on Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church

1. Monday, June 30, 2008 PAGAN CHRISTIANTY: by George Barna and Frank Viola




5. Tuesday, July 08, 2008 Pagan Christianity--- Postlude

6. Saturday, July 12, 2008 Howard Snyder's Review of 'Pagan Christianity'

7. Friday, September 05, 2008 Frank Viola's Reimagining Church-- Part One

8. Saturday, September 06, 2008 Frank Viola's Reimagining Church-- Part Two

9. Sunday, September 07, 2008 Frank Viola's Reimagining Church-- Part Three

10. Monday, September 08, 2008 Reimagining Church--Part Four

11. Friday, September 12, 2008 Reimagining Church-- A Frank Response Part One [Frank Viola responds]

12. Friday, September 12, 2008 Reimagining Church-- A Frank Response Part Two [Frank Viola responds]

13. Friday, September 12, 2008 EPILOGUE TO A FRANK DISCUSSION

14. Tuesday, September 16, 2008 A FRANK CODA [Frank Viola responds]