"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

19 December 2010

Christless Christianity

Horton, Michael. Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008.

"The greatest threat to Christ-centered witness even in churches that formally affirm sound teaching is . . . the idea that the gospel is necessary for getting saved, but after we sign on, the rest of the Christian life is all the fine print: conditional forgiveness. . . . We got in by grace but now we need to stay in by following various steps, lists, and practices. There was this brief and shining moment of grace, but now the rest of the Christian life is about our experience, feelings, commitment, and obedience" (119-120).

Horton's work is an attack on the extremes of American Christianity that have drifted away from the gospel.  He casts a critical light both on legalistic churches, where God is angry and people are scared into following lists of man-made rules, and easy-believism churches, where God is like a cosmic therapist or life coach who is just here to improve the quality of your earthly life.  Horton's point is clear: we all need to go back to the basics and remember the gospel.  We were saved through God's grace and we can live for Him only through His grace.

"Even as a Christian, my faith will actually be weakened when it is assumed that I already know the gospel and now I just need a steady diet of instructions. I will naturally revert to my moralistic impulse and conclude either that I am fully surrendered or that I cannot pull this off and might as well stop trying.  When my conscience leads me to despair, the exhortation to try harder will only deepen either my self-righteousness or my spiritual depression" (130).

This book is not quickly digestible, and the author does spend major portions of several chapters focusing on the works of various other authors; however, I would still put this book in the "worthy of checking out of the library" category.  My students would remind me that hard things are good for us, and making a person's brain hurt will likely not kill him.  This book does serve as a good reminder of the importance of the gospel in the life of a Christian.

1 comment:

MICHAEL said...

It is through His grace, His calling, our living faith in Jesus Christ, our Baptism, our gift of the new heart and the new human spirit, the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Sacrament of Confession that make us righteous in the eyes of God, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that gives us the living bread as our assurance of salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us so we may grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit to become shining lights in the world. How abundant are the gifts of our loving Father!