Washington Post Readers Question Michael S. Horton

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SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
Washington Post readers asked Prof. Horton questions about his book Christless Christiantity. The questions are asked in a discussion panel, see the link below:

Washingtonpost Viewpoint: Dr. Michael S. Horton

Here is an excerpt:

San Francisco, Calif.: Last week at my Catholic church in northern California, numerous people got up and walked out when the pastor urged the congregation to vote for Proposition 8 during his sermon.

If you think there should be one, where should the line be drawn today between church and state on issues like Prop 8 and others?

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: There is a big difference between preaching, teaching, and applying God's Word to God's people and enforcing that Word through specific policy prescriptions. As a minister, I can say that's it's a strange and terrifying thing to step into a pulpit and speak in God's name. It's downright dangerous, not because of the people's judgment but because of God's. Am I really saying what he has told me today, right here in this passage today? Or am I full of hot air? Am I respecting the limited authority he has given me by his Word or am I using it as my own bully-pulpit to vent my opinions?

I am obliged by this Word to teach that marriage is a divine ordinance established between one man and one woman, but I do not believe that I have any divine warrant for binding the consciences of God's people to vote for or against a particular policy regarding the state's proper ordering of the common life of my neighbors. I've discussed this proposition with a number of friends and colleagues and even though we hold the same view of marriage as divinely instituted, there are differences over specific public policies.
 

calgal

Puritan Board Graduate
Nice discussion. And Horton's book makes too much sense. :worms:

Atglen, Pa.: Dear Dr. Horton,

What happened to the church being a change agent? It seems we are being changed by our culture. I have been a Christian for 15 years and I am feeling tired and bored with modern day sermons which have no real challenge. I am longing to once again see reverence and awe for God instead of Him just being our buddy. Thank you, John

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: Couldn't agree more, John. In Isaiah 6, God appears to the prophet in a vision, enthroned in majesty, and Isaiah-called by God to pronounce his judgment on Israel-now finds himself "undone" in the presence of the holy God. "For I am a man of unclean lips and dwell among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the Holy One." In the vision, an angel cleanses Isaiah's lips and God says, "Your sins are forgiven." Absolved, the prophet rises to his feet and begs God to let him preach the Good News to his people: "Here I am, Lord, send me!"

The church needs a reality check. We need to be confronted not with charismatic communicators, slick salesmen, frustrated politicians and thespians, and "life coaches," but with the Triune God whose holiness stops us in our tracks and provokes us to cry out for Christ as the only Mediator between God and human beings. It's not by making the Bible culturally relevant, but by simply letting God establish his own relevance that genuine forgiveness and transformation is possible
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
This is worth putting on a placard on the door of a Church:

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

Rev. Dr. 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; or for what's entertaining, fun, or affirming, we will always be spiritual infants, if Christians at all.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
This is priceless:
Sturbridge, Mass.: What is this? You are coming from a primitive, un-evolved consciousness. This is called ethno-centrism. Spirituality is about personal transformation and this is symbolized by the mythological death and resurrection of Jesus. There is no historical independent attestation for a literal, historical Jesus. Do your homework with an objective mind. The only attestation is the bible, which is full of holes, superstition, and contradiction. The truth is that religion and spirituality are about evolution and transformation. Religion is evolving like everything else, albeit much more slowly due to people who cling to literalist interpretations of ancient myth and "theology." The very theology of a savior who had to die to save us from "God's wrath" is a shame based teaching that implied that God did not get it right the first time when he created our Souls in His image. It's nonsense and this is why Christianity is a dying religion.

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: I don't think you would like my book very much. As your argument suggests, if "spirituality is merely about personal transformation," then of course it can be "symbolized by the mythological death and resurrection of Jesus"-or of any other religious figure who either did or did not actually live. But if spirituality is only about what happens inside of us, why would I or anyone else come to the subject with an open mind? We only need to open our minds to a reality that is outside of us and Christianity testifies to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in history. The concrete life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Christ in the flesh is simply unnecessary if the point of it all is merely inner enlightenment, moral uplift, and spiritual transformation.

Last year, my family had to evacuate our home due to the San Diego wildfires. I went from "I can handle this" (at about 4am) to "Let's get in the car!" (at about noon). If I had only my inner thoughts, experiences, and feelings to go by, I might never have left, but there was a fire truck driving by, telling everybody in our neighborhood to leave and head for safety. The fire department was not trying to make me feel bad about myself or my situation, but was simply telling me the facts of the crisis. God's wrath is a fact because he is holy and we are sinful. The Good News is that we don't have to face it: Look outside of yourself and flee to Christ!
 

panta dokimazete

Panting Donkey Machete
Love this:

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: I mean no offence, but this is the sort of teaching that many people are getting in extremely conservative churches where Christ is as evidently left out of the picture as in any rant by Jeremiah Wright. Judging by the enormous popularity of the Left Behind best-sellers, many Christians today are more fascinated by the Antichrist than by Christ. How many books on Christ's person and work top the New York Times Best-Seller List for months?

According to First John, "many antichrists have gone out into the world" even during the time of the apostles, and John identifies them as those who distort the gospel concerning Christ. Even if one holds that there is still a future Antichrist figure who will consummate this line of false prophets, the New Testament teaches that he will take his throne in the temple-that is, in the communion of saints (the church). He will be a religious figure who uses the secular power of the state to persecute the saints.

If we're keeping our eyes peeled for the Antichrist, we should keep our eyes fixed on Christ. If we really know who he is and what he has done in history for our redemption and what he will do when he returns, then we'll know his impostors when we see them. If we are witnessing something like "Christless Christianity" across the religious spectrum today, this is what the Bible calls "the spirit of antichrist." And if that's true, then whatever one's politics, don't look for the Antichrist in Washington, but in false religion.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Washington Post readers asked Prof. Horton questions about his book Christless Christiantity. The questions are asked in a discussion panel, see the link below:

Washingtonpost Viewpoint: Dr. Michael S. Horton

Here is an excerpt:

San Francisco, Calif.: Last week at my Catholic church in northern California, numerous people got up and walked out when the pastor urged the congregation to vote for Proposition 8 during his sermon.

If you think there should be one, where should the line be drawn today between church and state on issues like Prop 8 and others?

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: There is a big difference between preaching, teaching, and applying God's Word to God's people and enforcing that Word through specific policy prescriptions. As a minister, I can say that's it's a strange and terrifying thing to step into a pulpit and speak in God's name. It's downright dangerous, not because of the people's judgment but because of God's. Am I really saying what he has told me today, right here in this passage today? Or am I full of hot air? Am I respecting the limited authority he has given me by his Word or am I using it as my own bully-pulpit to vent my opinions?

I am obliged by this Word to teach that marriage is a divine ordinance established between one man and one woman, but I do not believe that I have any divine warrant for binding the consciences of God's people to vote for or against a particular policy regarding the state's proper ordering of the common life of my neighbors. I've discussed this proposition with a number of friends and colleagues and even though we hold the same view of marriage as divinely instituted, there are differences over specific public policies.

Is he saying that one cannot know how to vote (for said amendment) or that he just is not able to tell us from the pulpit? Is there an out for teaching such in a Sunday School type environment?

The question is not whether or not Christians can disagree about various public policies, it is whether or not, they can disagree on this policy. It is such a specific topic, that there really is not much wiggle room.

CT
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Washington Post readers asked Prof. Horton questions about his book Christless Christiantity. The questions are asked in a discussion panel, see the link below:

Washingtonpost Viewpoint: Dr. Michael S. Horton

Here is an excerpt:

San Francisco, Calif.: Last week at my Catholic church in northern California, numerous people got up and walked out when the pastor urged the congregation to vote for Proposition 8 during his sermon.

If you think there should be one, where should the line be drawn today between church and state on issues like Prop 8 and others?

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: There is a big difference between preaching, teaching, and applying God's Word to God's people and enforcing that Word through specific policy prescriptions. As a minister, I can say that's it's a strange and terrifying thing to step into a pulpit and speak in God's name. It's downright dangerous, not because of the people's judgment but because of God's. Am I really saying what he has told me today, right here in this passage today? Or am I full of hot air? Am I respecting the limited authority he has given me by his Word or am I using it as my own bully-pulpit to vent my opinions?

I am obliged by this Word to teach that marriage is a divine ordinance established between one man and one woman, but I do not believe that I have any divine warrant for binding the consciences of God's people to vote for or against a particular policy regarding the state's proper ordering of the common life of my neighbors. I've discussed this proposition with a number of friends and colleagues and even though we hold the same view of marriage as divinely instituted, there are differences over specific public policies.

Is he saying that one cannot know how to vote (for said amendment) or that he just is not able to tell us from the pulpit? Is there an out for teaching such in a Sunday School type environment?

The question is not whether or not Christians can disagree about various public policies, it is whether or not, they can disagree on this policy. It is such a specific topic, that there really is not much wiggle room.

CT

I've heard Mike talk about this a number of times and, since he's not likely to weigh in here, I will attempt to tell you the point I think he's making.

He is a minister of the Gospel. As such, when he is expositing the Word of God, he is able to bind the consciences of men by the right preaching thereof. His commission, if you will, is to the Word.

Now, as he notes, if a specific proposition comes up for a vote, may he invoke his ministerial authority and speak for God as to whether or not a member of his Church should vote for Proposition 8? In other words, are they bound in conscience to vote for Proposition 8 on the basis of what Pastor Horton tells them?

I think he's stating that he's stepped outside of the sphere of his authority at that point.

He does make good application here though. He would not fail, when expositing Genesis 2 or elsewhere where in Scripture to note that marriage is between man and woman and what God has ordained it for. He would not hesitate to exposit that homosexuality is a sin. The Christian is then equipped to be a neighbor in the world because the Church has performed its ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Mike has noted elsewhere that he believes the Church has authority to govern the Church and to administer Word and Sacrament therein. The citizen, however, also lives in the civil sphere with different ministers raised up by God. While Mike lives in both spheres, he might give a reasoned and passionate plea to his fellow CA citizens to vote for Proposition 8 but, when he steps into the pulpit, his ministry is to exposit the Word of God and not baptize a particular policy direction with a "Thus Says the Lord". He's there to exposit the Word of God, which may have applications toward that end but the Word's primary end far transcends the concerns of California.

Imagine, for instance, I'm visiting Mike's Church from out of state and I'm an unbeliever. All he does is use that time to tell people to vote for Prop 8. Not much of a message for me who can't even vote for it and certainly not a message that will convert my soul. Imagine, too, I'm a man from another country visiting his Church. The Word and its exposition ought to transcend our typical political and cultural boundaries and not be a provincial exercise in local political issues.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Washington Post readers asked Prof. Horton questions about his book Christless Christiantity. The questions are asked in a discussion panel, see the link below:

Washingtonpost Viewpoint: Dr. Michael S. Horton

Here is an excerpt:

San Francisco, Calif.: Last week at my Catholic church in northern California, numerous people got up and walked out when the pastor urged the congregation to vote for Proposition 8 during his sermon.

If you think there should be one, where should the line be drawn today between church and state on issues like Prop 8 and others?

Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: There is a big difference between preaching, teaching, and applying God's Word to God's people and enforcing that Word through specific policy prescriptions. As a minister, I can say that's it's a strange and terrifying thing to step into a pulpit and speak in God's name. It's downright dangerous, not because of the people's judgment but because of God's. Am I really saying what he has told me today, right here in this passage today? Or am I full of hot air? Am I respecting the limited authority he has given me by his Word or am I using it as my own bully-pulpit to vent my opinions?

I am obliged by this Word to teach that marriage is a divine ordinance established between one man and one woman, but I do not believe that I have any divine warrant for binding the consciences of God's people to vote for or against a particular policy regarding the state's proper ordering of the common life of my neighbors. I've discussed this proposition with a number of friends and colleagues and even though we hold the same view of marriage as divinely instituted, there are differences over specific public policies.

Is he saying that one cannot know how to vote (for said amendment) or that he just is not able to tell us from the pulpit? Is there an out for teaching such in a Sunday School type environment?

The question is not whether or not Christians can disagree about various public policies, it is whether or not, they can disagree on this policy. It is such a specific topic, that there really is not much wiggle room.

CT

I've heard Mike talk about this a number of times and, since he's not likely to weigh in here, I will attempt to tell you the point I think he's making.

He is a minister of the Gospel. As such, when he is expositing the Word of God, he is able to bind the consciences of men by the right preaching thereof. His commission, if you will, is to the Word.

Now, as he notes, if a specific proposition comes up for a vote, may he invoke his ministerial authority and speak for God as to whether or not a member of his Church should vote for Proposition 8? In other words, are they bound in conscience to vote for Proposition 8 on the basis of what Pastor Horton tells them?

I think he's stating that he's stepped outside of the sphere of his authority at that point.

He does make good application here though. He would not fail, when expositing Genesis 2 or elsewhere where in Scripture to note that marriage is between man and woman and what God has ordained it for. He would not hesitate to exposit that homosexuality is a sin. The Christian is then equipped to be a neighbor in the world because the Church has performed its ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Mike has noted elsewhere that he believes the Church has authority to govern the Church and to administer Word and Sacrament therein. The citizen, however, also lives in the civil sphere with different ministers raised up by God. While Mike lives in both spheres, he might give a reasoned and passionate plea to his fellow CA citizens to vote for Proposition 8 but, when he steps into the pulpit, his ministry is to exposit the Word of God and not baptize a particular policy direction with a "Thus Says the Lord". He's there to exposit the Word of God, which may have applications toward that end but the Word's primary end far transcends the concerns of California.

Imagine, for instance, I'm visiting Mike's Church from out of state and I'm an unbeliever. All he does is use that time to tell people to vote for Prop 8. Not much of a message for me who can't even vote for it and certainly not a message that will convert my soul. Imagine, too, I'm a man from another country visiting his Church. The Word and its exposition ought to transcend our typical political and cultural boundaries and not be a provincial exercise in local political issues.

Two points,

1)Is there room for applications in a sermon on Sunday? Is a sermon, this passage means X, have a nice day? It seems next to impossible to not put any application in a sermon. Is he saying that he cannot put "that" much application into it?

2)No one is asking for a sermon on how cool Prop. 8 is. One could find room for talking about it, while expositing Rom. 13, or various other passage.

CT
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Two points,

1)Is there room for applications in a sermon on Sunday? Is a sermon, this passage means X, have a nice day? It seems next to impossible to not put any application in a sermon. Is he saying that he cannot put "that" much application into it?

2)No one is asking for a sermon on how cool Prop. 8 is. One could find room for talking about it, while expositing Rom. 13, or various other passage.

CT
Again, I'm not speaking for Mike and he's had a few guests on the WHI that I disagreed with in terms of the Church's ability to make Godly appeal.

Seems like the two points are really answerable within one. I don't see why a minister could not speak to laws around them as an example of the degeneration of mankind in Romans 1 or even an example of magistrates who are not faithful in their responsibility as God's ministers to punish evildoers.

But (and this is not a small but), it goes to the issue of "bandwagons". Is the minister's preaching so provincial that he's going to set up his preaching schedule to ensure that certain topics always coincide with the particular political winds that are blowing in his county, State, or nation. Or is he going to be more concerned about the sheperding of his flock at large?

It's really easy to get sucked into the "Christian Voter's guide" mentality to ministry where the preaching schedule is set to coincide with the political battles raging.

I think the ministry of the pulpit needs to feed the flock of God the Word and exposit the Scriptures on the discerned needs of the flock instead of the winds of political change.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Two points,

1)Is there room for applications in a sermon on Sunday? Is a sermon, this passage means X, have a nice day? It seems next to impossible to not put any application in a sermon. Is he saying that he cannot put "that" much application into it?

2)No one is asking for a sermon on how cool Prop. 8 is. One could find room for talking about it, while expositing Rom. 13, or various other passage.

CT
Again, I'm not speaking for Mike and he's had a few guests on the WHI that I disagreed with in terms of the Church's ability to make Godly appeal.

Seems like the two points are really answerable within one. I don't see why a minister could not speak to laws around them as an example of the degeneration of mankind in Romans 1 or even an example of magistrates who are not faithful in their responsibility as God's ministers to punish evildoers.

So a minister could say that "anti Prop 8" is an example of the civil magistrate (California Surpreme Court) who are unfaithful in their responsibilities as God's ministers to punish evildoers, but they cannot say that voting for Prop 8 is an example of correcting an injustice without overstepping their bounds?

But (and this is not a small but), it goes to the issue of "bandwagons". Is the minister's preaching so provincial that he's going to set up his preaching schedule to ensure that certain topics always coincide with the particular political winds that are blowing in his county, State, or nation. Or is he going to be more concerned about the sheperding of his flock at large?

Do you have an issue with ministers preaching special sermons for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving (Something about the hope and thankfulness that we have because Jesus is not still in the Tomb), Reformation Day (something out of Romans on Justification), etc. etc. You might not do such if you were a pastor, but I really do not see you "going to the mattresses" over such.

I would hope that a preacher would be willing to address whatever issue that comes up, whether or not its political or not.

It's really easy to get sucked into the "Christian Voter's guide" mentality to ministry where the preaching schedule is set to coincide with the political battles raging.

What is in fact wrong with a voterguide?

I think the ministry of the pulpit needs to feed the flock of God the Word and exposit the Scriptures on the discerned needs of the flock instead of the winds of political change.

I understand what you are a saying, but do not understand why politics and discerned needs cannot coincide.

CT
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
CT,

I'm not stating that politics and discerned needs cannot coincide.

My opinions on these things and Mike's probably don't completely overlap but I do agree with him that the Church is more than a social reform society. R.C. Sproul has a pretty decent sermon on this topic that I just happened to be listening to on the way home.

I don't object to the Church speaking to social issues but the Church is also, in one sense, its members acting outside of worship.

There is a tendency for governance issues to become so absorbing that the intricacies of the several political issues run the risk of supplanting the Gospel itself. I was told by one member of an OPC I attended that he wished the Pastor would quit preaching the Gospel so much and focus more attention on social issues. When I pointed out that I need to constantly be reminded of the Gospel he replied: "I don't."

For me, the Gospel is the thing that gives me a social conscience. Amos is preceded, after all, by pointing to the idolatry of the nation and just like in Romans 1, we see degeneration that ensues from abandoning God in the way that governments treat their people.

There are many opportunities to inform people about a responsible way to vote. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Christians being socially active. One of the elders in the PCA I used to attend in Springfield, VA is the head of Gunowners of America. One of the members of my parent Church in Fredericksburg is the executive director of Concerned Women for America. Neither of these two insists that the Pastor "speak to the issues" from the pulpit on Sunday morning - the Pastor preaches the Word for the conversion of sinners and building up of the Saints. Yet, throughout the week, these brothers are engaged within and without the members of the Church informing them of the political issues and affecting political change. I think this is an appropriate mix.
 

Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
I was told by one member of an OPC I attended that he wished the Pastor would quit preaching the Gospel so much and focus more attention on social issues. When I pointed out that I need to constantly be reminded of the Gospel he replied: "I don't."

:eek::eek:
 

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
Two points,


I would hope that a preacher would be willing to address whatever issue that comes up, whether or not its political or not.


CT



I agree CT, I had the same reaction when I read the first quote by Horton. Political policies are not amoral or untouchable somehow just because you are a minister.
 
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