You are hereChristless Christianity
OK! I confess! So the following is such an uncool way to begin a book review but here goes anyway: buy it! Yep, this is a book that you should read & then re-read because it is THAT good.
Michael Horton’s book “Christless Christianity” is an extremely thoughtful and constructive critique of modern Christianity.
It’s thoughtful because he has ploughed hour and hours of homework in an attempt to get it right; that is, what is deeply concerning within Christianity today. But it’s also constructive because the book consistently turns the reader back to the Biblical Jesus (the Gospel) – time and time again.
I was floored by this book. Not just academically, or even theologically, but personally – if I may be frank, very personally. May I begin with this first?
Horton, very carefully and methodically, lifted the lid on my own residual personal work’s righteousness. With reference to true covenantal theology, he draws the correct distinction between law (what God requires) with the Gospel (what Christ has done). He abandons neither but places each in its correct context. What I found helpful (OK, convicting) was how easily I confuse the two (daily) and very slyly build a check list of the things I do as a set of criteria for self righteousness.
In short, I become the central actor in the play – not Jesus. He is simply there to assist me in my personal development. I (metaphorically) have lost a few teeth reading this book – knocked out to reveal a toothy smile that others undoubtedly see but do I? Have I left Christ out of my Christianity?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not driven to despair because I walk as a sinner every day because I am also a saint – all because of Jesus. All because of Him! Therefore, in the power of His Spirit I walk as a saint every day too … because of grace, because of Jesus.
The subtitle “The Alternative Gospel of the American Church” should not put non-USA people off in terms of reading this book. It’s an almost irrelevant subtitle because the issues Horton addresses are issues that we all face as Christians everywhere on the planet.
In short, the book is about the ways that we have allowed our “Christianity” to be captivated by such things as consumerism, pragmatism, self-sufficiency, individualism, positive thinking, personal prosperity and nationalism (this one more likely to be felt hardest in the USA).
Therefore, Joel Osteen gets an extensive serve. However, others are examined less so such as the Southern Baptists, conservatives, liberals, Pentecostals, even you and me too! In fact, anyone who wants to add to Christ’s finished work; anyone who wants to devalue what He has done in terms of substitutionary atonement via work of the bloody cross. Horton refuses to discriminate within the family of God – if the shoe fits, wear it!
To Horton, Jesus reigns supreme (not us). Why? Because the Gospel puts the ‘law’ in its place and us in our rightful place; the Gospel lifts high the name of Jesus - Him crucified and risen.
There are too many highlights to mention but I recommend highly the chapter entitled, How We Turn Good News into Good Advice. Particularly challenging is Horton’s rebuttal that the Bible is an instruction manual for daily living (to him, it’s the story of redemption that is central). He then goes on to suggest that our desire to turn significant Bible characters into “heroes” is one that cannot be sustained.
Far from being “heroes” they are in some cases (for example) murderers and adulterers (David); schemers and manipulators (Jacob). What about Joshua? Let me quote from page 149.
“Joshua is not a source for leadership principles unless we’re planning on leading a campaign of destruction against idolatrous nations in order to establish righteousness in God’s holy land. (I knew I shouldn’t have bought that wall plaque with verses about Joshua!) Yet read in the light of the history of redemption, Joshua and his ministry point forward to Christ’s person and work.”
In the same chapter Horton goes onto quote Australian author Graeme Goldsworthy to support his ant-hero thesis, not to mention Luther (which I just did).
Finally, I was very happy with Horton's treatment of Moralistic Therepeutic Deism (we have critiqued this new religion HERE). To Horton, this is NOT exclusively a teen issue at all - it plagues the western church much more than we think.
I have only covered a very small aspect of the book, there is SO much more but here is my verdict …
VERDICT: Buy this book (it is stunning and extremely relevant) and read it – and discuss it with your friends.
Christless Christianity. The Alternative Gospel of the American Church.
Baker Books, 2008.
Monergism's review of Michael Horton's "Christless Christianity'; well worth the read.
Also, check out Horton at the White Horse Inn.
Koorong are kindly donating Horton's follow up book to "Christless Christianity". Free Chapter 1 download from "The Gospel Driven Life" by Michael Horton available HERE. We will have reviewed this book too.
NEWS FLASH! Read an interview with Michael Horton fom 'The Briefing'.
Thanks to Koorong Books (this is a direct link to "Christless Christanity".
Michael Horton discusses Christless Christianity HERE.
(CHRISTIAN FAITH is a non-commercial site. Some companies very kindly donate products to us to be reviewed - at our invitation. Our reviews are our opinions; written in terms of how useful a product may be to you.)