Tag Archives: Michael Horton

Our Faith is Not a “Fix”

I have found Michael Horton’s Too Good to be True [now published as A Place for Weakness] to be an enormous source of encouragement.  If you or someone you know is struggling with some kind of tragedy, I can highly recommend this book.  It’s very pastoral and above all, scriptural — which is to say, it points to Christ.  In this excerpt, Horton again mentions his friend Steve who took his own life:

Christianity is not true because it works.  In many cases, it does not work.  That is to say, it does not solve all the problems we think it should solve.  It isn’t a technique for our personal therapy, but the truth that God has overcome sin and death in the cross and resurrection of Christ.  Those who became Christians because they were told that it would fix their marriages, only to find themselves in divorce court, might well give up on Christianity.  Those who expected to be free of all their sinful habits, temptations and desires after a conversion in which sudden victory was promised may find themselves disillusioned with God altogether, when they realize they are still sinners saved by grace.

At that difficult funeral of a pastor, friend, father, and brother in Christ who had ended his life of suffering, many people were wondering out loud, ‘If Christianity didn’t work for someone like Steve, how can it work for me?’  It is an honest question, an understandable question.  But it assumes that Christianity fixes everything.  It doesn’t fix everything, not at least here and now.  It does promise that everything will be fixed at the end of history, but in this wilderness experience, we are on pilgrimage to the Holy City.  Some pilgrims will find the journey much more difficult than remaining back in Egypt, in unbelief.  Steve was not one of those pilgrims who turned back to Egypt.  Others will bear their lot in life as best they can, and Steve and his wife were towers of strength to me in my own pilgrimage, as I watched them meet successive disasters by turning again and again to God and his gracious promise.

But Steve was a pilgrim for whom the hike to that eternal city eventually became so heavy that he looked for a shortcut.  With his godly wife, he was ‘longing for a better country’ (Hebrews 11:16), but was unwilling to wait.  He did not accept God’s timing — and yet he still found a mediator who interceded for him at the Father’s right hand.  He, with us, will receive the prize for which he hoped, even in weakness.

Well said, Mike.  Well said.   And there’s far more like that in this book.

(Reposted from Yinkahdinay, 09.27.06)

Book Review: the Gospel-Driven Life

Gospel Driven Life

The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World, Michael Horton, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009.  Hardcover, 271 pages, $19.99 USD.

Last year saw the publication of Michael Horton’s influential Christless Christianity.  That volume was a surgical exposé of how much of North American Christianity is in danger of losing sight of Christ and the gospel.  By its nature it was a negative book, but Horton did promise a sequel in which he would present a positive alternative.  The Gospel-Driven Life is that sequel and Horton delivers on his promise.

According to the Introduction, “The goal of this book is to reorient our faith and practice as Christians and churches toward the gospel: that is, the announcement of God’s victory over sin and death in his Son, Jesus Christ.” (11).  Since the gospel is “good news,” the book attempts to follow the model of a newspaper.  Though this seems forced at points, it does capture the thrust and intent of the Biblical gospel:  it is supposed to be headline news.

There are commendable things to be said about the Gospel-Driven Life.  Above all, Horton ably expresses the gospel and all its riches.  Man’s problem is sin and the wrath of God that sin arouses.  God’s solution is Christ and his obedient life, death, and resurrection.  The gospel is what every believer needs every day.  Says the author, “No less in the middle and at the end than at the beginning, the believer clings to Christ’s righteousness as the only appropriate attire in the presence of a holy God.” (70).

Though this book is intended to be the positive follow-up to Christless Christianity, critique of various religious trends is not absent.  For instance, Horton interacts with Richard Foster and his emphasis on spiritual disciplines.  He makes the helpful observation, “This trajectory of the spiritual disciplines leads us to a host of means of grace besides Word and sacrament, and these other means are actually methods of our ascent rather than God’s descent to us in grace.” (157).  Elsewhere, with a glance at Rick Warren, he notes that it was Christ who lived the purpose-driven life so that we would be “promise-driven people in a purpose-driven world.” (141).

If I would make one critical notation, it would be with regards to this sentiment:  “Christ’s kingdom is its own culture: holy rather than common.  That does not mean that it is an alternative subculture.  In other words, there is no such thing as Christian sports, entertainment, politics, architecture and science.  In these common fields, Christians and non-Christians are indistinguishable except by their ultimate goals and motivations.” (249).  This requires a lot more elaboration to be convincing.  For instance, is it true that there is nothing distinctive about the way a Christian would be involved with politics aside from his ultimate goals and motivations?   While I can agree that the church has no place in the realm of politics, that does not necessarily mean that there is not a Christian way of doing politics, a way guided by the Word of God.

Any blogger knows that the negative posts always get more attention than the positive.  Our nature is drawn to the negative.  For that reason, I suspect that Christless Christianity will be better remembered than the Gospel-Driven Life.  Moreover, to be honest, the first volume was the more engaging read.  The Gospel-Driven Life features some new material from Horton, but there also seems to be some recycling.  The usual suspects make their appearances:  Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, and G.K. Chesterton.  If you listen regularly to the White Horse Inn or have read his other books, this one may seem rather repetitive in places.  While I enjoyed it and can certainly recommend it, it was not the best work that Horton has done.

Hart on Frame v. Horton

Daryl Hart adds his thoughts on Frame’s review of Horton’s Christless Christianity.

Frame Reviews Christless Christianity

John Frame recently reviewed Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity — and he didn’t have much nice to say about it.  Today there’s a response from Eric Landry on the White Horse Inn blog.  By the way, my review of Horton’s follow-up the Gospel-Driven Life will hopefully be published here next week.  Yes, I will have some nice things to say about it.