Book Review: Paganism Surviving In Christianity

Paganism Surviving In Christianity, by Abram Herbert Lewis

As someone who reads often about the relationship between Christianity and heathen mystery religions [1], when I saw this book available online to read it was pretty obvious that I would read it, and I found it to be an immensely worthwhile read and the sort of obscure book I feel obligated to share with others.  The author was one of a group of writers, like Alexander Hislop (whose classic The Two Babylons is cited approvingly here) who wrote against the remnants of paganism that were found in Christianity, people who wanted to restore Apostolic Christianity, including the Sabbath, and who found fault with the polemical battles between Protestants and Catholics over who was more Christian, finding both had accepted a great deal of heathen ways into their traditions and ways.  Given the quality of this book, which at a bit more than 300 pages makes not only a good read of its own but a thoughtful examination of a great deal of useful material by other authors, this is a book that deserves to be far better known and appreciated, given that it is still of worth for those who wish to do research on battles over the legitimacy of various aspects of Christian doctrine and practice.

The contents of this book are rigorously organized and full of citations.  Among the most important aspects of this book is the fact that this is a striking book in its period in citing and giving proper credit to other writers.  There is no hint of plagiarism here, no attempt to borrow the ideas of other writers without credit.  What is here are lengthy and thoughtful citations and appropriate comments made upon them.  The author shows himself to be well-read, and quite willing to let various writers from Justin Martyr to Turtullian to more modern ones, speak for themselves and receive full credit or blame for their contentions.  The author begins by asserting the remains of paganism within Christianity, and then proceeds to demonstrate this through an examination of the allegorical interpretation of scripture and history by gnostics and other heathens, several chapters dealing with the perversion of baptism via pagan water-worship, the corruption of Christian worship via solar worship (including the veneration of Sunday), and the corrupting influence of having Christianity be enforced by law as a state religion.  The author then, after having proven his point through excellent research, closes stating his conclusions and his challenge to Christianity, and then closes with a detailed index.  This book delivers everything that could be asked of it, and makes for an excellent read even though the contemporaries of the author that are cited are not generally familiar for modern audiences.

As someone who reads and thinks perhaps more than I should about the religious debates of Late Antiquity [2], I found this book nevertheless managed to deal with some striking issues with some particularly pointed insight.  For example, the author points out the influence of paganism not merely through specific practices or doctrines, but in the whole transformation of Christianity from a religion of extremely simple ceremony focused on godly practice to a complex institution full of conflicts over the definitions of terms and the establishment of byzantine interpretations of doctrine.  This is a legacy that many of us, myself certainly included, have to deal with as we wrestle with the endurance of paganism in our own practice and worldview in the process of seeking to recover original Christianity as it was and a purity of thought and practice, which is a task of daunting difficulty.  This book, though not minimizing the difficulty of that task, is worthy of credit for encouraging people to return to apostolic Christianity and rise above centuries of pagan influence and drink from the pure waters of the Word, undiluted and uncorrupted by heathen influence.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Book Review: Paganism Surviving In Christianity

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