Christless Christianity Q and A With Michael Horton

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On October 31 Michael Horton appeared live on washingtonpost.com’s Viewpoint.  Horton was answering questions about his new book Christless Christianity that was released on November 1.  The book has been doing well selling over 7,000 copies and the live chat at Viewpoint was the best so far.  This is great news!  It would be nice if a book like this would have some impact in the same way Warren’s Purpose Driven Life.  For some reason though, I just don’t think I will be driving by various churches with Christless Christianty Study displayed on their signs.

If you’re unsure about getting this book then maybe a few excerpts from the Q&A will help in your decision.

Norfolk, Va.: What do you consider to be the greatest threat to Orthodox (biblical) Christianity today?

Michael S. Horton: Shallowness. It is far worse than heresy. At least heretics take the gospel seriously enough to distort and deny it. And heresy always makes the church think more deeply about what it believes and why it believes it. However, shallowness is deadly for the Christian Faith.

If you just need some helpful advice, encouragement, inspiration, and uplift from your religion, you just need enough water to get your feet wet. A few slogans and insights will suffice. But Christianity bets all its chips on certain events that happened in history. “If Christ is not raised,” Paul said, “then we are of all people the most to be pitied.” After all, he says, we are false witnesses-perjurers-and Jesus is a fraud. You have not lived a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life if Christ was not raised from the dead; you’ve been duped, and we’re accomplices in that, Paul said (1 Corinthians 15).

The gospel is not a religious feeling, a spiritual journey within, or pious advice. It is a story in the words of the British playwright Dorothy Sayers, “the greatest story ever told.” From this unfolding drama of redemption from Genesis to Revelation arise doctrines, which lead to wonder and thanksgiving, motivating grateful love and service to our neighbors. All of this requires that we submit to the discipline of listening, understanding, and growing in our faith.

But we are channel-surfers. We like to create our own soothing sampler of New Age mysticism, self-help lingo, conservative ideas about virtue, and maybe something to help us keep our kids sober and celibate. Accommodating to this shallow narcissism, churches have largely abandoned their responsibility to teach the rising generations even the basics of the Faith.

Generic religion and spirituality can survive a mindless conservatism or a mindless liberalism, but Christianity cannot. It thrives in an atmosphere of questioning, engaging, wrestling, listening, and reading. If we are only looking for whatever “works”-for the moment, at least for what’s entertaining, fun, or affirming, we will always be spiritual infants, if Christians at all.

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Wichita, Kan.: I have visited some of the Christian Bible Colleges around the country and have sat in some of the classes being offered. I have also visited churches planted by these colleges and they all have become infected by this virus and are now promoters of this Christless Christianity. Question: Since this problem is so sweeping across the country and denominations, do I contact the Presidents of these Colleges? What can we say or do to change the tide? Or are we on the “Downgrade” that Charles Spurgeon warned us about so many years ago?

Michael S. Horton: You put your finger on a major argument in my book. Conservatives often identify “Christless Christianity” with liberalism. However, it is hard to find Christ-centered preaching in so-called “Bible-believing” churches today. Everybody seems to be interested in other things these days.

The prophets, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, the Protestant Reformers, Spurgeon, and countless others had to confront the heresy of self-salvation. It is our default setting to believe that we are basically good people who could be a little better with the right game-plan, support-network, and coaching. “God helps those who help themselves”: according to surveys, most evangelicals thought that this was a biblical quotation, when it actually comes from Ben Franklin. The Good News that the Bible proclaims, however, is that God saves those who cannot save themselves.

The first thing we have to realize if there is going to be genuine reformation in the churches today is that the self-trust that engenders Christless Christianity is not just a problem in some times and places, but is the natural drift of our fallen heart. We have to be taught out of it our whole lives as Christians. One generation assumes the gospel; the next generation forgets it; the next one abandons it. But each of us will be constantly tempted to fall back on ourselves instead of on Christ unless Christ is seen as the center and circumference of the church’s preaching, teaching, the sacraments, and mission.

Read the whole thing!

Dr. Horton makes some strong points.  Are they valid?  I believe so.  Is this book a wake-up call?  I hope so.

For what it’s worth…

Mark

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tagged as , , , , in apologetics,Baptist,books,calvinism,Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,heresy,theology

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Greg Alford December 19, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Mark,

All I can say is Wow!

It takes great courage to speak truth in an age of self deception…

The “supposed” Christian man of today is altogether satisfied with himself… He has followed the prescribed rituals of the Church of his choosing, yet with little or no evidence of “a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit”. And placing his trust in these man made religious rituals (Walking an isle, praying the sinners prayer, etc.) he comforts himself against the conviction of the Holy Spirit, closes his eyes, and refuses to hear the warnings of the faithful minister of God’s Word. Yes, the voice of God’s faithful Ministers falls on deft ears for; the “supposed” Christian man of today is altogether satisfied with himself…

Give us courage Lord to speak truth in an age of self deception…

Grace Always,

2 Thomas Twitchell December 19, 2008 at 8:34 pm

“Christian man of today is altogether satisfied with himself…”

What amazes me is: isn’t this who we were before we came to know Christ?

3 abclay December 19, 2008 at 11:09 pm

johnMark,

Thanks so much for pointing this interview out. I am teaching the importance of the doctrine of total inability this week in Sunday School (Prayers are requested for it is a largely un-reformed congregation). I am going to read some of Horton’s answers to help demonstrate the importance of doctrinal clarity and adherence.

Grace and Peace…

abclay

4 Dr. James Willingham December 30, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Quite an indictment. And so much of it to the point. Not many today want to pay the price of thinking. Real vital Christianity is a thinking man’s faith. Lewis was on the mark when he said it was going to demand the whole of you, brains and all. The requirement of the use of the mind instead of the emotions is the most neglected, ignored, and despised part of the Christian Faith today, and, I suspect, it grows out of Schleiermacher (sp?) and his view that religion is feeling. How any one could over look the fact that the first requirement of the Christian Faith is a change of mind based upon reasoned reflecting on our state and behaviors as God views them? Yet that is what has happened in the past two centuries with the result that we have such shallow, superficial religious commitments that they seemingly amount to nothing more than the lukewarm emetic that our Lord identified in Rev.3. O, by the way, the greater the use of reason, thinking, the mind, the greater, better, purer, more delightful the emotions. Feeling founded on facts out does all that have no basis in reality and truth.

5 Dr. James Willingham December 30, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Today I am 68 years of age. On Dec.7, I was 51 (that is spiritually). While I know myself as a falling depraved sinner (Jeremiah say the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked), my heart’s cry is for more of the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ just to get through each day. I wish to pay tribute to the historical, biblical, supernatural Jesus of Nazareth. There is substance to that book and the Good News it brings; there is dependability and reliability. I have seen the Jesus of the book transform a hell of a home into a heaven on earth…even under circumstances of great ignorance. True I have also seen many failures and misrepresentations, but when it is gotten right the benefits are unimaginably blessed. More power to those who insist on the substance of the biblical faith. There is something as concrete as eternity in it, and it is intellectually the most challenging thing in this life.

6 abclay December 30, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Amen!!

7 Brian O February 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Just ordered the book through amazon—can’t wait to start reading.

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