Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Gospel Driven Life, by Michael Horton: a brief review

Michael Horton opens his provocative new book, The Gospel Driven Life, by explaining his intention in writing it: "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."

The stated need "to reorient" implies that Dr. Horton believes that the church has gotten off track. However, it would be incorrect to suppose that this is primarily a negative book. He has previously written Christless Christianity, a book that outlines in depressing detail where the church has become wrongly oriented. In this work, he places primary focus on what Christians and churches should be focused on. In so doing, he has written a book that is relentlessly Christ centered and gospel centered. It is a vigorous call for the church to recenter itself around the gospel of Christ. For many churches, both liberal and conservative, this would represent a change of Copernican proportions.

While Dr. Horton's book is more prescriptive than critical, he does helpfully draw some contrasts throughout the book that help the reader understand what he is getting at. For example:

The gospel is not good advice; it is good news.

The gospel is not about God writing himself into our story; it is about Him givins us a new script, writing us into His story.

The gospel is not something that happens within us; it is something that happened outside of us in real space and time.

The gospel is neither personal nor primarily about our transformed lives; it is a public and objective set of events that occurred in real space and time.

The gospel creates a cross cultural community that has no power other than the gospel and the Spirit; the church does not effect change through coercive means.

Even the modern terminology of the church points to its tendency to conceptually move Christ and the gospel to the periphery. Thus, when we speak about having a "worship experience," we place more emphasis on our pursuit of the experience than we do on the God who is supposed to be worshipped. And, such emphasis on experience in the end leads to burnt out believers.

While Dr. Horton argues that the church should "avoid resorting to hostile rhetoric," he criticizes the church for caving into mindless sentimentality. He writes:

Lazy minds breed lazy hearts and hands.... The greatest threat to Christianity is never vigorous intellectual criticism but a creeping senility that transforms truths into feelings, public claims into private experiences, and facts into mere values. Christianity is either true or false, but it is not irrational.... We must recover our distinctively biblical commitment to rigorous, inquisitive, and persuasive thinking before there can be a genuine renewal of Christian conviction, faith, repentance, and discipleship. It is time once again to love God with our minds.

Indeed. The book suffers from some repetitiveness and as a result is not the most brisk of Dr. Horton's writings. However, it is a worthy exposition of a subject of great import. I highly recommend it.

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