Posted by: Bro. Lawrence D. | December 15, 2008

What Do We Do With A Dead Baby?

This will be a short post. (That is unless my hands can ramble as fast as my mouth/brain.)

I have read “Reimagining Church” by Frank Viola. I am in Chapter 9 of “Pagan Christianity” by Viola and George Barna. I encourage everyone who is reading this blog to purchase and read both of these books.

Both books challenge the way Christians, for the most part, do “church” and the effects that that way is having on Christians at large. One book focuses on the unscriptural/unbiblical nature of the practices. The other book focuses on both the unscriptural/unbiblical nature of the practices along with their pagan roots.

So far as I understand the content of both books, I see anyone who would attempt to challenge the information, losing on two grounds: scriptural grounds and historical grounds. The only argument I think anyone could make is the the realm of subjective pragmatism. In other words, the only question that can seem to be raised would be, “How do I know that ‘your method’ would work?”. And the only answer that I could give to such a question would be, “It’s not ‘my method’. And by the way, doing things God’s way ALWAYS works!”

Which brings me to the title of this post. Normally when critiques of the activities that are engaged in and the methods that are employed by the body of Christ corporately are offered, the response is “Hey, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!” Within the statement is an acknowledgement that something is wrong with the bath water. (By acknowledging this people don’t realize that they are admitting that tradition is driving their methods/activities rather than scripture. Who would say, out loud at least, that doing things by New Testament teachings is bath water worthy to be thrown out?! ) But why don’t we ever care about the state of the baby?! In sticking with the analogy of the baby in bath water, let’s call the bath water the “the activities/methods” and let’s call the baby the “institutional structure” itself. 

In the book entitled “Pagan Christianity”, for instance, the following activities (that is, the way they are currently practiced by the “churches” in America) are noted as having pagan or unscritptural roots, or both (this is through chapter 9 where I am): the church building, the order of worship, the sermon, the pastor, the dress, the ministry of music, the tithing and clergy salary.

Now most people would say, “Ok Lawrence, if you really don’t like the way we do these things, then I guess we can change/modify some of them.” But really there is no need. In fact, there is probably a ministry in every county in the country where someone, including me, can find contentment in all of these areas. But would they find them lining up with the New Testament? As a matter of fact, would they find the changes or modifications lining up with the New Testament? And if not, would they be able to trace the reason to the institutional structure itself (the baby) 0r would they still just believe that the activity (the bath water) needed to be discarded or changed? In the book, each one of these activities/methods is traced to the institutional structure.

In other words, there is something wrong with the water BECAUSE there is something wrong with the baby. Therefore, it is more pertinent to have a decision made as to what to do with the baby rather than the bath water. 

Let’s admit at least this, we’ve changed the bath water many times in the history of the Church. From Emperor Constintine to the Reformation to the First and Second Great Awakenings to the Azusa Street “revival” and every stop along the way, different Christians or Christian groups have sought to change the water many times. But very few have stopped to ask, “Has anybody checked on the baby?”

If they had’ve, or better yet if we do, then we may be asking, “What do we do with a dead baby?”!


  1. BLD,

    We give the baby a proper burial! The simple fact is true. We have learned a few things in our small time of dialoguing. That is, most in western christianity are off shoots of the Reformation. We now know that the Reformers had not motive to reform the church from an ecclisological perspective. They just stole Rome’s husband (the State) and tried to kill his ex-wife (a potential title). We are all the offspring of this adulturous relationship. So instead of going further back than the reformers (the bible) we stop where they stop.

    The bring a true reformation from Constatinism means to examine the scriptures and try our best to do what it says in matters of ecclesiology and trust the Spirit where there are gaps. But what we have now fails to even resemble anything I find in the bible.

  2. Well, I suppose we could bury the dead baby. Or, we could dress it up in fine clothing, add perfume so it doesn’t start smelling, move it around occasionally… all in the interest of making it appear to be alive.


  3. I would also suggest that we bury the baby and make sure that everyone is invited to the burial. So they can see that this baby is in fact dead.

    Now it is time to move on to that which is real and truly built upon a firm foundation.

  4. Lionel, Alan and Brian,

    A lot of comedies depict some funeral attendees as being so overcome with emotion as to be desirous to jump in the grave with the dearly departed. This is my fear.

    I definitely am convinced that it is high time to inform scores of “evangelicals” that the baby (aka the institutional church) is indeed dead. Even though I realized that tradition was strong in people, those people were usually the ones who didn’t agree with me theologically. Now I realize that everybody I know, including myself, has or has had some traditional baggage to bury. But alas it seems that we would have multitudes of those same people burying themselves along with their traditions, that is to keep from losing them.

    SMH! 😦

  5. If I may add,

    I was involved in an intensive study regarding the Book “Pagan Christianity”–and I also own “ReImagining Church”, which I think’s fairly solid…even moreso that Viola’s First novel. I must say, however, that there’re other kats within the Organic/Simple Church Model that I thought did a better job that Viola for a myriad of reasons..

    But if anyone’s interested, one can get more by going here to investigate:

    The entire thread was dedicated to studying the Book—and also addressing the larger question that many may not consider when it comes to the logic of “Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater”..and that question would be “Is the person throwing out the Baby infected/disease ridden when deciding he or she is qualified to get rid of the BathWater to save the Baby…and are we simply messing up the water further in trying to save it?”…

    Because outside of Christ being the One bringing deliverance—-whether one has infected bathwater or not–nothing’s getting clean. There were many things within Pagan Christianity that I researched….and as much as I agreed with the man on many points, I discovered that on many things there truly wasn’t an accurate picture regarding the way things were.

  6. THough I used to say otherwise, I’m at the place now where I’d have to say that the institutional church is not really “dead” so much as it is the PEOPLE/MENTALITIES often going along with it….as I know of plenty of groups outside the institutional church and of an organic/house church model that have been JUST AS dead…if not moreso. Christ and His life—in whatever model—and letting his hands clean us up/change us is what made the difference rather than our attempts to “clean out the bathtub” or “giving up on a baby that seems half dead” when in reality it was many times the actions of infected saints seeking to change things apart from His grace/focusing on the forms rather than the substance that made the difference….

    If I wasn’t trained by those skilled/qualified to do CPR, then when encountering a baby that has suffocated, it’d be no surprise that I’d have to give up on the child….and for that matter, if I was infected/not dealing with the disease in me first, how could my vision be clear enough to see what the water looks like many times..

    In studying Church History and a myriad of other issues, I’ve been actually quite amazed at seeing how often the mentality that traditional churches being “dead” was applied inappropiately—and there’re many even within the Organic/House CHurch movement who’ve called out many of the same things that others within Traditional Models have as well…

    One resource I’d recommend investigating is entitled It’s by Dr. Joe Hellerman. His work is well researched and addresses many of the “pagan” influences on our faith. Dr. Hellerman’s contribution is a blend of good history AND respectful discourse, seeing the many accusations on Viola/Barna for not having historical evidence enough or leaving out those points which contradict theirs.

    And to be clear, I think we all need to be honest in saying that there’s really no such thing as an “INSTITUTIONAL” church since all church models are an institution in/of themselves—–with each of them having pros and cons and many times being just as exclusive/hindering as the ones they claim to stand against. Get involved in some circles within the House Church movement and one will quickly see what often seems to be an Elitist Mentality—with plenty of other issues (as I’ve seen them for myself growing up in the movement). People such as Gene Edwards come to mind, as even many in the House Church movement have disassociated themselves with him due to how it seemed he went from one extreme to another. Many of the prominent leaders within the HC movement, such as Steve Atterkerson, Beresford Job, Jon Zens and many others have brought attention to the issue

    For more info on “Pagan Christianity” reviews,
    Ben Withergton did some extensive review on the issue:

    And for counter rebuttal, Jon Zen’s entire response to Witherington’s review can be found here.

  7. For more info on “Pagan Christianity” reviews,
    Ben Withergton did some extensive review on the issue:

  8. The other part of the review by Witherignton..

  9. And for counter rebuttal, Jon Zen’s entire response to Witherington’s review can be found here.

  10. Diaganosis proceddes a cure—and the real issue, IMHO, is whether or not we’re treating the symptoms and not addressing the Disease.

    And on the “Baby With The Bath Water” view, I’d add “Before trying to change the BathWater or Checking the Baby, Has anyone checked to see if they’re viewing the situation with their shades/sun glasses still—as that can color alot of what one sees….”

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