Friday, March 13, 2009

Christless Christianity - A Review - Part 1

In preparation for Michael Horton's visit to our store I read through Christless Christianity again. I want to spend a couple of posts working through this important work. Horton says that God is "not denied but trivialized--used for our life programs rather than received, worshiped, and enjoyed." (24) What's killing us is not heresy but silliness. The mantra of many in the church today is "do more, try harder." (17) We have a religion that uses God as a personal resource with any number of steps and keys to personal victory or life fulfillment. We have little use for the apostle Paul but want to focus on the Sermon on the Mount. The focus is then "What would Jesus do?" rather than "What has Jesus done?". (26) Hence, "This is the steady diet we're getting today, and it is bound to burn us out because it's all about us and our work rather than about Christ and his work." (26) The God for many in the contemporary church is nothing more that a "moralistic, therapeutic deity." Once the issue of sin is removed as our fundamental problem Christianity is leveled to merely religious ethics. "The key to my criticism, however, is that once you make your peace of mind rather than peace with God the main problem to be solved, the whole gospel becomes radically redefined." (39) Furthermore, Christianity has become privatized and relativized (I know Jesus lives because he's in my heart and that may be a truth for me but not for you). (50) Theologically, the emphasis is on the "freedom of the will" and the "innate human goodness." (59) God is never angry, only loving. People are victims or lacking direction but certainly not in need of salvation. (57) In the end we have a religion with nothing more that can't be found in "secular alternatives." (60) I think Horton's diagnosis is right on target. Before someone too quickly charges that this is just more Calvinistic elitism you should note that the forward was written by William Willimon, Bishop of the United Methodist Church. That doesn't mean he agrees with everything Horton says but that both camps have much to learn from each other. As Willimon observes, "Therapeutic, utilitarian deism is named, nailed, and and (sic) defeated with the best weapon God has given us--the gospel of Jesus Christ." The next post we'll look at "Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity." (chapter 3)

1 comment:

Christine Lynxwiler said...

Thank you for such a precise review. I might have never picked this book up, but now I definitely plan to!