Frank VIola and his books


I would appreciate any commentary from Catholics and Protestants on Frank Viola and his “anti-church” books.

I am currently reading Pagan Christianity and having a hard time of it. I can only handle a chapter every two days.

Basically, the man denounces almost all of our church practices. Buildings, paid clergy, sermons, choirs, dressing up for church, listening, silence, etc. According to Mr. Viola, none of this is “Christian.” All of it originated in paganism and therefore, we should have nothing to do with any of it.

He teaches that Jesus eliminated all of this. He believes that the Church should work the way it did in the New Testament, with home meetings, everyone is a “priest,” everyone is equally qualified to speak up and contribute to the meeting, everyone can contribute a song, etc.

I can’t even imagine how this would work, but he of course claims that once you’ve experienced this “true” Christian church, you will never want to return to the man-made “churches.”

I would love to just toss this book in the garbage, but unfortunately, people are falling for it. We first heard about the book on a Protestant forum, where it was being hailed as the truth. (The book is full of footnotes, but a lot of the footnotes are from the author’s other books.)

There is a fairly popular movement among Protestant Christians to eliminate “church” and “tradition” and “do church differently.”

I think that a lot of Catholics are also getting lured into this, although thankfully we are not able to just “do Mass” the way we would like. But there are split-off groups who call themselves Catholics, right?

So I don’t think the book is just a “fringe nutcase novelty.” I think it is seeping into American Christianity. I think it is very dangerous.

Anyway, I would be very interested in anyone else’s comments about the man or his books. If you would like to simply comment on what I’ve told you about him, that’s fine, too. But I’m especially interested in hearing from people who have read his books, or who have actually been part of Christian “fellowships” like those that he advocates.

Thank you so much.


Cat << I would appreciate any commentary from Catholics and Protestants on Frank Viola and his “anti-church” books. I am currently reading Pagan Christianity and having a hard time of it. I can only handle a chapter every two days. >>

The book is basically garbage historically, in my opinion. My articles on the Eucharist and Baptism blow his tiny little “chapters” away. :rolleyes: For that matter, any of the tracks on the Church Fathers in Catholic Answers library answer the whole book. The book quotes few real Church history scholars, and it relies on other “house church” people. Kind of special pleading.

I used to know Frank Viola as we met “online” in the old BBS days in the mid 1990s, he might still live in the Clearwater FL area, and I’ve talked with him on the phone at least once. He is/was a teacher at a public high school, and was basically a “church hopper” and became disatisfied with Protestant Christianity as he saw it, so he took it upon himself to start his own “home” church “based on the Bible.”

The “home” or “house church” movement has a number of adherents, but it too is basically another Protestant denomination (not Orthodox, not Catholic, and not ancient, basically a 20th century “movement”).

His book Pagan Christianity was taken apart by evangelical biblical scholar Ben Witherington in a recent series on his blog. Let me find it…

Here you go, fairly devastating critique by a non-Catholic scholar (several parts, search around on his blog)

An article by Carl Olson of Ignatius Insight on the “ripping” :stuck_out_tongue:

Phil P


Thank you! God bless you.

One impression that I received of Mr. Viola–and I could be terribly wrong–is that he has no concept of the fact that “listening” IS active participation. This is one of the reasons I think his teachings are dangerous–Christians especially need to practice “deep listening” to God and to others. Visiting the Blessed Sacrament is teaching me this–we don’t always need to be “speaking up.”

Another impression I received about Mr. Viola is that he simply has a hard time sitting still and being quiet. I can’t help but wonder if he perhaps suffers (and I do mean suffers–it is a difficult disorder) from Adult ADD that has never been diagnosed.

I can’t even imagine a “church” where everyone talks all the way through the worship service. Actually, I can imagine it–a few very verbal people would dominate, and almost everyone else would sit there and say nothing, whether or not they agreed with what was being said. Their blood pressure would rise and they would become angry in their spirits, and finally after weeks or months of listening to loud-mouths who have an opinion about everything, the quiet ones would stop coming. Then the “church” would have no one left but the loud-mouths ,and NO ONE would listen to anyone else, and it would be cacaphony.

I happen to be a loud-mouth. ANY conversation–name the topic–I will have an opinion and I will voice it. Even if I know NOTHING about the topic, I will speak up. I am extremely aggressive and will interrupt any conversation, even if I don’t know the people, and I have a huge vocabulary and will use big words to impress people.

Unfortunately, I am not very good at listening. So often I come away from these “discussions” learning nothing and offending people. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to go to people and ask forgiveness for saying more than I should.

My whole family is like this. Back when we were teenagers and dating, my husband used to come to our family get-togethers, and leave with a headache. He said that everyone talked at once and no one ever stopped to listen. And if you didn’t talk fast or loud enough, you didn’t get a chance to join in the “discussion.”

(It’s a good thing I don’t drink alcohol, right?")


Thank God I found this thread! I am currently in a debate with two individuals on this book and the subject of Christinity having pagan roots and I just hated to break down and buy the book. These links help tremendously!!:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

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