Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church

by Michael Horton


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Is it possible that we have left Christ out of Christianity? Is the faith and practice of American Christians today more American than Christian? These are the provocative questions Michael Horton addresses in this well-received, insightful book. He argues that while we invoke the name of Christ, too often Christ and the Christ-centered gospel are pushed aside. The result is a message and a faith that are, in Horton's words, "trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant." This alternative "gospel" is a message of moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion. It trivializes God, making him a means to our selfish ends. Horton skillfully diagnoses the problem and points to the solution: a return to the unadulterated gospel of salvation. Now available in trade paper.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801072215
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 450,885
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Michael Horton (PhD, University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He hosts The White Horse Inn radio broadcast and is editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is the author/editor of more than twenty books, including Christless Christianity, The Gospel-Driven Life, and The Gospel Commission.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Liberating a Captive Church 9

Acknowledgments 13

1 Christless Christianity: The American Captivity of the Church 15

2 Naming Our Captivity: Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism 29

3 Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity 65

4 How We Turn Good News into Good Advice 101

5 Your Own Personal Jesus 159

6 Delivering Christ: The Message and the Medium 189

7 A Call to the Resistance 237

Notes 261

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Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Mike_in_Seattle More than 1 year ago
I would encourage you to ignore the 'editorial' review. Michael Horton has clearly argued convincingly for the premise he makes regarding the problems in the American Church today. He has also touched on a concern I have had for a number of years while also showing me where my theology has fallen short of the truth of the gospel. Medicine is seldom pleasant tasting but usually necessary for a return to health.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horton gets right to the point that way too much of church is about self-help moralism rather than the work of Christ. He drives it home in chapter after chapter. But the book lacks any more of an answer than go hear a good calvanist preacher, take communion and be baptized. After such a great start, I really wanted more. He rails on performance oriented Christianity, which needs to be challenged, but doesn't follow up with what to do with all of the admonitions in the New Testament.
jgaryellison on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is much to be appreciated in this book, but my one complaint is that Horton is so overly concerned that someone might think that his works contribute to salvation, that he underplays the importance of showing, as John the Baptist preached, the fruits of our repentance.
ThorneStaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Horton approaches his topic - the wholesale sellout of the American Christian Church to pragmatic, self-indulgent, consumer-oriented salesmanship of good advice rather than gospel or good news - from a reformed/Calvinistic perspective, but whether or not your theology matches his it is still possible to get great insights from reading this book.He calls the Church back to the centrality of preaching the gospel - i.e. the Good News that God has in Christ reconciled the world to Himself with a reconciliation wholly outside the realm of human works. He also calls the Church back to receiving God's grace through "the means of grace" which he delineates as baptism, communion, and the right preaching of the Word of God.It't very though provoking and well worth an investment of your time.
superfastreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Synopsis:An examination and critique of the current state of Christianity in America, which shows the pervasive influences of Pelagianism and Gnosticism¿these heresies are closer than you think.Review:Michael Horton had me at ¿Joel Osteen.¿ I was blown away by the incisiveness of Christless Christianity, a stunning work that made me so, so thankful to be attending a church deeply rooted in Reformation orthopraxis.The first section of the book deals with the prosperity gospel, looking at Osteen and others of his ilk who preach that God wants good things for you, but who never mention Jesus or the cross in any of their sermons. Horton shows that the ¿easy¿ road that these teachers proclaim is actually just another form of legalism. All you have to do to live the good life is to follow God and be a good person. God helps those who help themselves. The onus of salvation rests squarely on our shoulders. God does not come down to us; we build a stairway to him. This is Pelagianism, which says that we must play a part in our own redemption. The reformers (Calvin and Luther, etcetera) countered this heresy by preaching that salvation is by grace alone¿we do nothing.The second section of the book delves into the Emergent church and public spokesmen like Jim Wallis and Rick Warren, those who preach that churches are to take up where Jesus left off, and continue to redeem the world. This is the ¿living gospel¿ or ¿deed without creed.¿ Horton explains how these teachings betray Gnostic tendencies that elevate human beings above God.Even more important in this section was Horton¿s depiction of the church as a place where believers come to be served by God through the sacraments and the Word. Too often the modern church becomes another workplace, with believers encouraged to throw themselves into ministry. In fact, church itself is hardly necessary at all. Just go and ¿live the gospel.¿ The sacraments become ¿means of commitment¿ rather than ¿means of grace.¿ Here again, we find a legalistic gospel that says that our works are the most important thing in the salvation equation.Horton emphatically states that believers need to receive the Word and the sacraments, out of which will flow worship and service. Too many churches get it the wrong way round, saying that we need to get our hearts right with God on our own. He writes, "The church has a very narrow commission. It is not called to be an alternative neighborhood, circle of friends, political action committee, or public service agency; it is called to deliver Christ so clearly and fully that believers are prepared to be salt and light in the worldly stations to which God has called them. Why should a person go through all the trouble of belonging to a church and showing up each Sunday if God is the passive receiver and we are the active giver? ¿Not only once upon a time, on a hill far away, but each week the Son of God comes to serve us. We may protest. We may think that it is we who need to serve God rather than vice versa. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us as he told Peter that this is actually an insult, a form of pride. We are the ones who need to be bathed, clothed, and fed, not God. ¿the main purpose of singing in church is not to express our inner experience, piety and zeal but to serve each other by making `the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God¿ (Col. 3:16)¿ Pastors and teachers are not cruise director who provide venues for everyone to channel all of their gifts and energies to the church, but they are deliverers of the message of Christ."So much good news here!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Necessary reading.
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SamTekoa More than 1 year ago
Thomas Jefferson is criticized for cutting all the references to miracles out of his Bible. Horton attempts to a similar feat by demanding a Christianity that excludes any human active participation. This book is one confused polemic of poorly defined terms, grossly misapplied. He takes shots at many Christian groups by name calling and over generalizations. Yes, Christ saves us and that is foundational to Christianity. One example of his extremism - He condemns the classic hymn, "In The Garden", stating that being in a garden alone with God implies that person doesn't need the church. He is like a guy trying to do dental surgery with a sledge hammer and chisel. A very lazy thinker or one suffering from bi-polar disorder. Better to take a nap than read this book.