Christian Retailing

Better living trend a ‘silly’ rejection of grace Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 10 November 2008 12:00 AM America/New_York

The growing trend of presenting the gospel as a form of self-help is squeezing out the true message of Jesus, writes Michael Horton in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (978-0-801-01318-8, Baker Books/Baker Publishing Group), which releases this month.

Horton, professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and editor of Modern Reformation magazine, believes that too much outside influence, such as consumerism, has changed the message of the church.

“I think there has been a naïve embrace of cultural practices that we thought were neutral and found out were not,” he told Christian Retailing. “It makes a big difference if we view ourselves as sinners who need radical grace as opposed to being consumers who need a good product.”
Horton also targets the church’s fascination with politics and the transformation of the individual into a better person.

“The therapeutic understanding of human beings is unsound, that they are good souls that need to be loved,” he said. “The biblical view of human beings is that they are created in God’s image but fallen, can’t save themselves, and what they need is the good news, not good instructions.”
Reducing the work of the cross to instructions for better living, Horton contends, actually creates a performance-based relationship with Christ that stands against the grace message of the gospel.

“The gospel doesn’t give us something to do,” he said. “It gives us something to believe.”
Some may argue for positive reinforcement and pep talk, but Horton said it has reached the point in America where it’s become “silly,” as people tend to deny sickness, poverty and even death. He believes that truth, which not only includes the ugliness of the human condition but also the hope of redemption, really can set a person free.

“I don’t think anyone would want a doctor who says ‘my major goal is to make you feel good about yourself,’ ” he said.

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