BWIII takes the book, Pagan Christianity apart

kinnon —  July 2, 2008 — 4 Comments

UPDATE: Kingdom Grace provides an important forum to add to this discussion in her post, I Am Not as Smart as Ben.

pagan-small.jpgBen Witherington III has begun a series taking apart Viola and Barna’s Pagan Christianity. Whether you are a lover or hater of PC, it’s well worth the read. (I would suggest that BWIII is not a neutral party in this discussion – but his scholarship cannot be argued easily.)

Frank Viola is a sharp person, but neither he nor George Barna really interact in this book with the scholarly literature that would call into question their strident claims and theses. They are arguing a particular case, and so they largely cite sources that support their case, for example Robert Banks’ work on Pauline house churches comes in for heavy usage. Their claim to present us with bare historical fact and to stand always on the Biblical high ground needs to be seen for what it is from the outset— good and powerful rhetoric meant to warm the cockles of the hearts of all who affirm Sola Scriptura, but when one actually examines some of the major claims closely, they will not stand close and critical scrutiny.

Read Part Two here.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

4 responses to BWIII takes the book, Pagan Christianity apart

  1. Another scholar punches holes in Ben Witherington’s review of Pagan Christianity. Great response with a lot of insight added. link to

  2. I’m not sure Zens is quite up to the scholarship of BWIII – as BWIII points out at the beginning of Part Three.

    BWIII is blogging his response to the book as he reads it – which Zens chooses to ignore. And Zens definitely has a dog in this race.

  3. Bill, from reading his experience and degrees, Zens is just as qualified a scholar as Witherington is. but that doesn’t really matter does it? I read Witherington’s review and Zens response, and Zens dismantled it factually. Funny that you would say that Zens has a dog in the race when he didn’t write the book and when Witherington has a much larger dog in the race. He’s a well known seminary professor and a pastor! I’m looking forward to Zens next response.

  4. Tom,
    As I’ve said elsewhere, as a charter member of The People Formerly Known as the Congregation, my symphaties should lie with Zens and Viola – but I believe that they (along with BWIII, no doubt) are practicing eisegesis – reading into the text (and history, for that matter) what they want to see. It’s what we all do to some degree or other. They’ve all started with a premise and worked their way back to prove it.

    The question becomes for me, what is the Spirit saying to us in this liminal time? And I doubt any of us, BWIII, Zens, Viola, Barna, you or me have any clear idea. What we need to do is enter into conversations and hold our own ideas lightly – doing our best to apply 1 Cor 13 to our conversations. (And yes, I’m one of the biggest sinners in this regard.)


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