Oct 09

Christless Christianity, by Michael Horton ★★★★

By now, those who follow my blog might have noted that I have recently reviewed now three books by Michael Horton. I believe this to be the last, at least for a while. I tend to pick up an author and attack a few of their books before moving on, and that’s what I’ve done with Horton.  Like the book just reviewed on the Christian in culture by Horton, this book is another “me-too” book, this time discussing the loss of Christ in the American church. Horton is following in the heels of a number of superb writers on this subject, including Schaeffer, Carson, David Wells, Os Guiness, just to name a few. Yet, Horton does a superb job of putting things together, so he is not entirely repetitive in the task at hand. Several chapters in this book are superb, including the discussion of “smooth talking” and of a “personal Jesus”. Horton excels at developing the theological basis for the problem in the church, as well as the fix. Fundamentally, whether the church is liberal or conservative, they have the same problem, though manifested differently. Both conservative and liberal Christians have focused on the individual, the personal relationship, the walk in the garden with an experience that “none other has ever known”. What is lost is the church, as people turn inward to their own spiritual experience. The church meanwhile attempts programs and strategies for recruiting the member. Rarely do they ever consider returning to what Christ asked the church to do, which is simply to preach the word and to administer the sacraments. Horton likens it to a form of gnosticism to be focused on inner spirituality, while ignoring the church as Christ’s body on earth. Horton uses many examples to develop his thesis. In several chapters, he focuses on a particular person, including Joel Osteen in particular and his focus on happiness rather than the gospel. This book is worth reading for a theological insight into the status of the American church, and is a quite easy read that can be accomplished in several evenings.

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Oct 09

Where in the World is the Church? A Christian view of culture and your role in it, by Michael Horton ★★★

Michael Horton, in this book, resurrects discussion going on since 1951 when Richard Niebuhr published the book Christ and Culture. In that book, Niebuhr discusses the various in which Christians have viewed their dynamic with culture. Five different approaches have been categorized by Niebuhr, and Horton latches onto the last, with Christ as the transformer of culture. In successive chapters, Horton explores the Christians’ interaction with philosophy, the arts, science, work, and then politics. Horton offers advice that he need to engage culture, but in a manner that our Christian orientation tends to be the influencing aspect to the culture that we encounter. Such a book as this has been written many times before, with different perspectives on the Christian’s involvement with the world. My frustration with the book is Horton’s avoidance of defining fundamentals. In the sciences, he speaks little of the presuppositional bases that influence how we make observations about the world about us. In the arts, he fails to discuss the possibility that art can be communicating something quite wrong. As an example, Horton would be very cautious about calling pornography art, and would be quite opinionated about such artworks as “Piss Christ”. Francis Schaeffer did a better job of exploring the fundamental philosophy behind any given artwork, whether it be painting, literature, or music. Our engagement with culture mandates discernment. Horton spends much time discussing “Christian” art or “Christian” science, presented by many as though it offered something better than what culture typically gives us. I agree that such overtly Christian art is usually cheap, if not disgusting. Horton calls us as Christians to engage the secular arena in a manner that preserves our Christian base.

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