Out of the Horse's Mouth

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WHI-1264 | Ordinary Grace

“September 2010 marked a turning point in the development of Western civilization,” so begins an intriguing study by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter in A Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. Interesting subtitle, isn't it? How counterculture became consumer culture. It was the month they say that Ad Busters Magazine started accepting orders for the Black Spot sneaker, its own signature brand of subversive running shoes. That's what we need… Subversive running shoes, I hate those just sort of non-subversive behaving shoes. After that day, no rational person could possibly believe that there's a tension between mainstream and alternative cultures. After that day, it became obvious to everyone that cultural rebellion of the type epitomized by Ad Busters Magazine is not a threat to the system. It is the system.

And it enamored of its own amazingness every generation, raises the empire to the foundations and starts over until the next generation as it goes at it. This is no way to build a culture and it's no way to build a life and it's no way to build a neighborhood, and brothers and sisters, it's no way to build a church. Who wants to be an ordinary person living in an ordinary neighborhood with ordinary people going to an ordinary church, having an ordinary calling? Our life has to count. It has to mean something and our legacy has to be measurable. It's something that we have to see preferably, not just in our lifetime but in the next 40 minutes. And yet, there's a growing restlessness I sense out there with restlessness. Some have grown tired of constant calls to reboot their lives or their churches or their ministries or the world. They're less sure they want to jump on to the next bandwagon after having fallen off of a few already.

Writer Rod Dreher observes “Everydayness is my problem.” In his book about his sister, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Dreher signals a growing sense of weariness with the cult of the extraordinary. Alternative is mainstream, extreme is common in a 24-hour news cycle. Now, every now and again, things have to be shaken up because the word of God, above all earthly powers challenges. It shakes things up. It keeps us from settling into our comfortable idolatries. And yet, whenever the word breaks things down, it is to build things up the right way, and building things up take time. That's why the 16th century movement led by the likes of Luther and Calvin was not called “the Revolution” but the Reformation.

Now, movements are usually youth driven, that's why they have so much vitality, whereas institutions are usually elder driven. And bringing these two things together as you know, especially those of you who are pastors, is one of the greatest opportunities and one of the greatest challenges in ministry. To fulfill Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to preserve the bond of unity” and that means across the generations. The fathers aren't always right, as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us looking back at Israel's history. The fathers could be the generation in the wilderness that failed to enter the Promised Land, and it was the next generation that entered.

So, also Paul encourages Timothy, “Don't let anyone despise you because of your youth.” But he doesn't say, “Because remember your charisma. Remember your entrepreneurial skill. Remember all of your personal charm and your gifts, or remember your education.” He says, “Remember what you were taught and by whom you were taught when your mother and your grandmother catechized you into faith. And remember what happened when the elders in the presbytery, the council of elders, laid their hands on you in your ordination.” Very ordinary things… He calls Timothy to look outside of himself to ordinary things that God has done to put his seal of approval on his ministry. Our culture celebrates the next big thing but the Bible celebrates God's faithfulness from generation to generation. Kind of tough when we've been sold whatever it is that we really think is valuable with the slogan, "This is not your father's Oldsmobile." Well this is our fathers and our mothers’ faith, spiritual fathers and mothers at least who have gone before us and the children who will come after.

“[In Genesis] God wasn't ex nihilo creating every piece of fruit, or every animal, every calf. There's a natural process that God himself created and he never stepped away from it for a moment, and he hasn't since. Not for a moment could these natural processes go on without his sovereign providence. That leads us to providence. If you're wondering whether your life counts, think of the ordinary ways in which the extraordinary triune God works. He loves to work in ordinary ways, through ordinary means.
Typically, we identify an act of God with a really big stuff that CNN would cover, earthquakes, hurricanes, parting seas, that's an act of God. Well, it says it in our insurance policy, or a better way of putting it, we identify the big stuff with what can be measured and recognized as direct, immediate, miraculous intervention by God. But that means we miss the most important daily things that God does. God works most of the time through the natural means.’”
– Michael Horton
We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ's disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.
This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.
For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.
(The Belgic Confession, Article 13)
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WHI-1263 | Wisdom for Life & The Cross of Christ

This week on the White Horse Inn we discuss one of Paul's greatest concerns. When writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle had to continually remind them of the danger of distraction by the wisdom of this present age. Their faith was continually sidetracked by the lifestyles of this world. For "Greeks seek wisdom, and Jews seek miraculous signs, but we preach Christ crucified"(1 Cor. 1:22). The wisdom of the cross surpasses the wisdom of this world through the folly of what the church preaches.

On this program the hosts will interact with what the apostle is saying in this passage as they seek to understand the wisdom of the cross and the wisdom of this age. How are we distracted today? Do we have anything to learn from these apostolic warnings? Do we see the same kind of interest in a wisdom that is contrary to our Lord? Regrettably, this same problem arises in contemporary churches. The "wisdom for living” genre is a bestselling commodity in the Christian book industry and can be found in the teaching of contemporary churches. The Christian faith has been emptied of the cross and its meaning. Maybe, it's time for us to stop taking God's name in vain and begin again to be Christians in a pagan culture. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we discuss the centrality of the cross in a world full of misguided wisdom (Originally Aired Aug 14, 2011)

“With Greek philosophy [and Western thought] there is this emphasis on the ‘Inner Light.’ It is by looking within, self-reflection, going deeper into yourself…
“G. K. Chesterton at the turn of the 20th century summarized its main argument that The Romans of the first century, especially the Stoics, were advocates of the Inner Light… ‘But of all horrible religions, the most horrible is the worship of the God within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not to look inwards but outwards to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain… The only fun of being a Christian is that man isn't left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognizes an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.’”
– Michael Horton
"Inner Light"
The “Inner Light,” also called “Inward Light,” is often thought to be a distinctive theme of the Society of Friends (Quakers). This Inner Light is understood to be a direct awareness of God that allows a person to know God’s will for him or her. This expression is often attributed to the teachings of George Fox in the 17th century, founder of the Society of Friends, who had failed to find spiritual truth in the English churches. He experienced an inner light and voice within, “that of God in every man.” The Inner Light should not simply be a mystical experience, but should also result in a person’s working for the good of others.
The practice of Inner Light is believed to be the direct path of ascension towards the divine nature within man. The theme of Inner Light appears in various spiritual traditions as well as in the main religions of the world. Buddhism believes that the one experiences the highest nature of the mind, reaches enlightenment and liberation from the Wheel of Samsara (i.e. bodily existence).
The Society of Friends was influenced by a pivotal figure, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), a German mystic who was raised in Lutheranism. Böhme had considerable influence on Pietism and various mystical sects including Rosicrucianism and theosophy. Böhme sought a melding of various alchemical and Kabbalistic traditions that focused on the inner path to God, which finds parallels with the ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. Böhme was also an important source for German Romantic philosophy, influencing F.W. Schelling. Böhme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist and mystic William Blake. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was profoundly influenced by him as well. The tradition of the Inner Light reaches back into ancient mystical philosophies which have come to profoundly shape modern thinking.
(Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. "Inner Light;" “Jakob Böhme”)
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WHI-1262 | Joy Beyond Agony

This week on the White Horse Inn we talk with Jane Roach who was the Director of Training for Bible Study Fellowship for more than twenty-five years. She currently assists the Texas Hill Country Bible Conference, and directs women’s ministries at her local church. She is the author of the recent book, Joy beyond Agony: Embracing the Cross of Christ.

Many Christians in our day misunderstand the nature of the life we have in Christ. The focus of teaching often centers on practical lessons designed to help us cope with life’s problems, rather than shaping our faith and love in the pattern of Christ. To grow in one’s faith a deeper understanding of the cross of Christ critical. Why is this particular event at the center of the Christian faith? What really happened to Jesus during his crucifixion? Is a suffering Messiah found in the Old Testament? Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we seek to understand the work of Christ in our life in the midst of agony.

“In the high priestly prayer, [Jesus] was anticipating that he would be glorified by the Father as he finished his work, and even in the process of it, and that he would glorify his Father in doing that, but then he prayed not only for his own glory but for the glory of those who are with him. They were in the room. They were hearing him pray these words. And then, I love the fact that he didn't stop with him though, he prayed for all of us, all who would believe in him after those original disciples.
“So, it's almost a prayer of joyful anticipation of what is about to happen. And so keeping that before his mind, I believe is what enabled him to go into Gethsemane, which is a prayer of agony of anticipating all that he was about to face and knowing that it was necessary to go through it and submitting himself to it. And yet yes, the tone of the two prayers is quite different. There's the joyful anticipation and then the agony of anticipating it from a whole different perspective, but the two marry each other and end up with Christ on the cross doing what he came to do, and knowing that this was necessary in order to have that joy that he anticipated in the high priestly prayer”
– Jane Roach
"Substitutionary Atonement"
The process of propitiation envisaged in the Bible is one which involves an element of substitution. In both the Old and New Testaments the means of propitiation is the offering up of a gift, the gift of a life yielded up to death by God's own appointment. The Scripture is clear that the wrath of God is visited upon sinners or else that the Son of God dies for them.... Either we die or He dies. But 'God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us' (Rom 5:8).
By the blood of Christ a propitiation is effected so that those who are of faith no longer need fear the wrath. Thus we see that, whereas originally sinners were liable to suffer from the outpouring of the wrath of God, Christ has suffered instead of them, and now they may go free. But to say this is to say substitution.
(Adapted from Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)
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WHI-1261 | The Embassy of Grace

On this edition of the White Horse Inn we’re talking about the embassy of grace as Paul lays that out in 2 Corinthians 5.

Like worn coins that have lost their embossing with much handling, key words in the Christian grammar have lost their original meaning. “Gospel” has become a modifier like “gospel-music.” It means basically anything that is good or true or at least that we like a lot. It used to be that the “gospel” meant “the good news concerning Jesus Christ,” now we talk about “living the gospel” or even “being the gospel” ourselves.

“Grace” has increasingly come to mean little more than divine indulgence, like you know, your dad winking as he sees you take an extra piece of candy after your mom said “no.” “Grace” is basically God saying, “You’re okay.... I’m okay... Okay?”

And now, gold standard words like “redeem” and “reconcile” are no longer defined by the biblical drama. In the biblical story the triune God is the redeemer who has reconciled sinners to himself through the life, death, resurrection of the incarnate Son. Redemption and reconciliation are done by Jesus, and they are completed events, as in Jesus’ last words on the cross – “It is finished.”

But today, we hear a lot of calls for us to participate with God in the work of redeeming and reconciling the world. Tony Jones explains, “Our calling as a church is to partner with God in the work that God is already doing in the world, to cooperate in the building of God’s kingdom.” He cites Anabaptist theologian, John Howard Yoder: “the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ’s message, but to be the message.”

Similarly, Jones’ own church transforms the traditional service into a conversation. He says, “The point is to jettison the magisterial sermon which has ruled over much of Protestantism for five hundred years. Here, the sermon is deconstructed, turned on its head. The Bible is referred to as the member of the community with whom we are in conversation, and the communal interpretation of the text bubbles up from the life of the community.”

Just as the definition of the gospel widens to include our person and work, God’s reconciling action in Christ, not only motivates, but includes in its very definition our own acts of social justice. Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright, expresses this view. “The church,” he says, “is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world. Mission in its widest, as well as its more focused senses, is what the church is there for. God intends to put the world to rights. He has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting to rights purpose.”

Though still central, and even essential, Jesus seems to be more like the person who gets the ball rolling, than the unique person whose saving work in his first and second advents is unrepeatable and inimitable. Jesus dramatically launches the project, so the kingdom of glory is present, unfolding by degrees. Elsewhere he writes, “God is rescuing us from the shipwreck of the world, not so that we can sit back and put our feet up in his company, but so we can be part of his plan to remake the world.” However, it’s one thing to say that we’re partners with God in bringing the good news to the world, and loving our neighbors in our callings, and quite another to say that we’re partners with God in redeeming and reconciling the world.

Brian McLaren writes, “To say that Jesus is savior is to say in Jesus God is intervening as savior in all of these ways: judging, that is naming evil as evil; forgiving, breaking the vicious cycle of cause and effect making reconciliation possible; and teaching, showing how to set chain reactions of good in motion. Then, because we are so often ignorantly wrong and stupid, Jesus comes in saving teaching, profound, yet amazingly compact. What is this saving teaching? ‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,’ Jesus says, ‘and love your neighbor as yourself.’ And that is enough. That,” says McLaren, “is what it means to say that Jesus is saving the world.” Although Jesus called this the summary of the law, for McLaren it becomes the summary of the gospel.

When the vertical relationship, that is our relationship to God, is eclipsed by the horizontal effects, that is our relationship to fellow human beings and creation, an opposite reduction occurs. Sin is not so much a transgression of God’s covenant that brings God’s judgment, as it is brokenness in our own interpersonal relationships. “On Good Friday, Christ’s crucifixion became the impetus for healed and healing relationships in a world that desperately needs them,” and “the concentration on correct doctrine is a reflection of an earlier time.”

So, in addition to phrases, such as “living the gospel,” and calls to continue Christ’s incarnation and saving work, we often hear these appeals to participate in Christ’s reconciling work. Often these calls to cooperate with God in the redemption and reconciliation of the world, draw these points from Paul’s reference to the ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5. What does Paul actually say there and does it support or contradict this idea of our being co-redeemers and co-reconcilers? That’s our subject in this edition of the White Horse Inn. (Originally Aired Aug 21, 2011)

“So, they’re reacting against an upbringing in which the vertical relationship, being forgiven and reconciled to God, had nothing to do with the horizontal relationship. Now, the pendulum is swinging to the other side, where the horizontal relationship is detached, even to the point where Tony Jones even says, ‘Yeah, we still believe in sin, but it’s not the distance between human beings and God, but the broken relationships that clutter our lives and our world.’
“So, if that’s the problem… If sin is no longer a problem that God has with me, but rather that my relationships aren’t what they should be, the solution… is way, way, way beyond what you need for the problem. If God the Son becomes flesh, submits to the humiliation of suffering even to the point of death on a Roman cross, and bleeds to death for us, you hardly need him to do that in order to fix your marriage!”
– Michael Horton
In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called "liberalism."... [This] movement is so various in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism-that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity.
(Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism)
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We are excited to release a brand new video we have produced thanks to the generosity of donors. We hope to create many more videos like this. Our hope is that they will lead people to our content to drink from the treasure trove of 25 years of resources we are feverishly digitizing, archiving, and tagging – all to help Christians here and abroad to “know what they believe and why they believe it.”

In this case, however, we hope that it will lead people to participate in our spring campaign. The theme for this year’s annual spring appeal is How To Read Your Bible.” We have raised 38% of the funds we are praying the Lord will provide by June 30, 2015.


About 50% of our support comes from our monthly partnership program. The rest is raised in our spring and fall campaigns. If you haven’t already, would you consider a gift to White Horse Inn? In the past we have rejoiced that our supporters have sent gifts of $50, $100, $500, and even $5,000 to us! Would you join us, and help us spread the resources of White Horse Inn around the globe?

Donate $100 and receive a free MP3 CD with over 40 WHI episodes. EVERY GIFT IS IMPORTANT!

I can’t express how deeply grateful I am for your prayers and support of WHI. 


In Christ,

Michael Horton

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WHI-1260 | Consumerism, Pragmatism, & The Triumph of the Therapeutic

This week on the White Horse Inn we had the opportunity to talk with Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. He is the author of several books including Soul Searching and Souls in Transition. In his research Smith coined the phrase "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" to describe the faith of most religious teens, and the religion he fears of their parents as well due to the failings of church leaders and parents to catechize and teach the doctrine of life in Christ.

Many churches in our day attempt to make their services relevant and entertaining in order to attract people in the marketplace of competing options. The focus often centers on practical lessons designed to help us cope with life’s problems. But what are the social and historic roots of this particular approach to ministry? Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we discuss consumerism, pragmatism, and the therapeutic within the church.

“I think that the historical, cultural, and philosophical roots of moralistic therapeutic deism go way back, but I think for evangelicalism part of what it means to be an evangelical in the United States since WWII is not to be a fundamentalist. Yet, part of one’s identity in not being a fundamentalist is, you’re always pushing towards the ‘We’re not rigid. We’re not doctrinaire. We’re not closed minded.’ Which is good, but every good thing can be pushed in a problematic direction.
“In evangelicalism this has been pushed too far… in the direction of ‘We can be cool Christians and participate in the culture, just like everybody else, and it’s just fine.’ The ‘make Jesus cool kind of thing’… craving the affection of the American public. It’s almost a pathetic impulse to be respectable and to be relevant.”
– Christian Smith
"Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"
When Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers, they found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."
As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth." 2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions." 3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself." 4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem." 5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."
That, in sum, is the creed to which much adolescent faith can be reduced. After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and "whatever."
(R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism--the New American Religion," The Christian Post, 18 April 2005. Read the entire article here.)
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The White Horse Inn Weekend is part family reunion, part road trip, and part theology festival. It’s become a big part of our yearly calendar and we hope that you can make it part of yours too! Our next Weekend is coming up July 30 through August 1, 2015. It will be held on the campus of Providence Christian College near downtown Pasadena, California.

 Joining Mike, Kim, and Rod this year are several special guests:

  • David Zahl, executive director of MockingbirdNYC
  • Nancy Guthrie, popular author and speaker
  • W. Robert Godfrey, president and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California

This year, we’re talking about Jesus: who he is and what it means to follow him. In between special lectures, live recording sessions, and lots of question and answer time, you’ll have time to fellowship with our hosts and special guests. We’ve also built plenty of free time into the schedule to allow you to explore Pasadena and other popular southern California hot spots. You can’t find a better combination of three days of teaching, fellowship, and fun

The White Horse Inn Weekend is not a traditional conference and we limit attendance so that our guests and hosts can have times of meaningful interaction with you, our friends and supporters. This year, our registration rate is the lowest it’s ever been and we’re excited to be back in southern California. Take advantage of our Advance Rate of $179 before the May 31 deadline and register today!

We look forward to seeing you along with Mike, Kim, Rod, our special guests, and reformation minded friends from around the world for the third annual White Horse Inn Weekend: “Who Is Jesus? You have to know him before you can follow him.”

For more information and registration, please click here.

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WHI-1259 | Members of the Body of Christ

This week on the White Horse Inn we discuss what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. We are joined by Thabiti Anyabwile who is the assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He has written numerous books, including most recently The Life of God in the Soul of the Church.

Should the church attempt to engage the culture in relevant ways, or does this strategy end up continuing to divide us by worldly preferences and priorities that are opposed to the gospel? What does it mean to be a member of a healthy church and, additionally, what does it mean to be a healthy church member? Join us as we seek discuss the body of Christ, the church, this week on the White Horse Inn.

“When Paul, for example, talks about this idea of our union with Christ, he is always writing to particular, local churches, and he is applying that truth to their particular, local setting of relationships and witness as a community. So, there is no Christianity that is free of the visible, living, local church in a known area.
“In this union with himself, Christ has given us an identity that supersedes all those other natural kinds of barriers. This is what Galatians 3:28 means in part, that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, and so on. Well, it doesn’t mean that men and women no longer exist. It means that in Christ, there is now this new identity that is over and above those lesser identities.”
– Thabiti Anyabwile
"The Body of Christ"
The metaphor of body is used in two New Testament passages concerning the church, Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 1:18. This image must be interpreted in relation to the more basic paradigm of the covenant. The meaning of the “body of Christ” metaphor is to be found in the concrete historical contexts in which it was given. The church as a holy commonwealth exceeds common communities by virtue of the fact that it alone is elected by the Father in the Son through the work of the Spirit. It is held together by the sinews of covenantal love, not simply of friendship; it is the fellowship of brothers and sisters (a family) and not simply neighbors who share the same racial, ethnic, national, socio-economic, or cultural affinities.
The body of Christ is found in union with its head, the Lord Jesus, and in communion with other Christians, the church. Chosen in Christ, redeemed in Christ, sealed in Christ by the Spirit, the church is the one place where worldly divisions no longer take place. Paul links this ecclesiology to the ascension of Christ, as the source of the gifts that he now pours out lavishly by his Spirit to his saints through the ministry of Word and sacrament. It is this ministry alone that creates, sustains, unites, and brings maturity and health to the body of Christ. Each member (or body part) is useful for the whole and in need of each other, as Paul stresses in 1 Corinthians 12. The body of Christ is likened and explained by the marital metaphor in Ephesians 5, where Paul says that Christ is one with his body (the church) in a way that is similar to the union of husband and wife as “one flesh.”
(Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, p 733-36)
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Over the last few days I read, rather hungrily, the recently released Pew Research Center’s new report on America’s changing religious landscape.  The byline is sobering—Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.  I read the report while, with my wife, trying to parent our three children, ages 13, 10, and 8 (listed in order of difficulty!).  As I read, their futures loomed before me, prompting more than a few questions about how they’ll find their way, how they’ll make our faith their own, and so on.  I find it difficult being a parent in this increasingly complex world of ours.  I wonder how much of our efforts to influence the younger generation are suffocated by the enticing, all-powerful, and all-but-omnipresent internet with its Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  I wonder whether this “holy trinity” of electronic wonder does more of the “training up” we’re charged with, than we do—no matter how sincerely we approach the task.  Culture is big.  Culture is powerful.  Culture is unavoidable.  Our culture frightens and sometimes paralyzes me, and more frequently I’ve wondered whether we (speaking as a member of the Evangelical Reformed community) can claim radical distinction from a culture which beckons in louder and brasher tones than the quieter scriptural call to pour out rather than fill up.  Perhaps the 1985 USA for Africa musical hit “We are the World” has come true for us in all the wrong ways.  Are we, people of faith, producing and embracing the very things we should—and honestly hope to—resist?  Do the Pew trends simply reflect the inevitable consequences of our own world-entranced actions?  At first glance the Pew report seems to suggest that people are leaving “our” ranks for the ranks of the world.  But perhaps the distinction between these two worlds is not so sharp.  And perhaps that is something we should more soberly contemplate.

 The Pew report contains a plenitude of rigorously obtained representative data for the US national population.  The first iteration of the report was conducted in 2007.  These “Religious Landscape Studies” were designed to bridge the gap between the dearth of official government data on religion (the US Census does not ask Americans about religion), and the uneven data collected by religious bodies themselves.  The study is based on a sizeable sample of 35,071 adults, interviewed by telephone.  Interestingly, this latest survey was conducted in both English and Spanish.  This second collection of religious data reveal a number of important trends, the foremost of which is the finding that Christians have lost ground “… not only in their relative share of the U.S. population, but also in absolute numbers.”  One of the key findings revealed by the 2014 study is that while in 2007, 178 million of the 227 million US adults identified as Christians; by 2014 the somewhat larger population of 245 million adults contained only 173 million Christians.  That’s a drop from 78% to 71% Christian—a net decline of around 5 million (give or take a few million due to sampling error).   

 An examination of subgroups in the Christian population reveals that the main drop in numbers occurred in mainline Protestantism (PC USA, United Methodist Church, American Baptist Churches USA, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) with a drop from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014.  In contrast, churches in the evangelical Protestant tradition (Presbyterian Church in America, Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Churches of Christ, and others) have grown a bit with an increase of about 2 million since 2007—a current total of about 62 million.  The other big decline is among Catholics—down about 3 million adherents since 2007. 

 But the thing that should, perhaps, concern us more than denominational switching and shuffling, is the increase in religiously unaffiliated adults.  In real numbers there has been an increase of about 19 million among their ranks—bringing their total up to approximately 56 million.  That’s a huge increase, and one that, in my thinking, shows an increase in secularization, and a decrease in how people see religion as a viable way of understanding the world around us and addressing our problems.  The report teases out the composition of the “nones,” indicating that this group is describing themselves in increasingly secular terms.  In 2007, 36% of the nones identified their religion as “nothing in particular,” but maintained that religion was either very or somewhat important in their lives.  In 2014 data, that percentage drops to 30%.  And there’s a difference between a religious “none” and a religious none who has given up on religion altogether. 

 A couple more quick findings:  27% of men, compared with 19% of women identify as “nones,” and 24% of whites, compared with 20% of Hispanics, and 18% of blacks.  This is interesting in that it suggests that those who are best integrated into and benefit most from the social structure are the least likely to affiliate with religion.  This does lend a bit of credence to the idea put forth by some sociologists that religion functions as a compensator.

 How might we respond to these findings?  One response might be to simply see the slight gains by conservatives as evidence that “we’re” on the right track.  But that, I think, would be little more than the sort of self-congratulatory bombast that fails to attract a world so desperately in need of something outside itself.  Rather, this data should compel us to look a little more carefully at ourselves.  We might ask the question, “What does a society look like where 71% of the adults are Christians?”  Does it look like this society?  Should it?  Sometimes we deny the rather impressive “Christian” portion of our population saying things like, “Well, most of those so-called Christians are just ‘cultural’ Christians.”  As though we, the faithful, somehow stand outside culture—that we’re not responsible for its godlessness or sinful patterns.  Another response I sometimes hear from Christians in my community relates feelings of oppression—a sense that Christian freedoms are being restricted; that soon we won’t be able to worship God or speak his name in public.  Maybe.  But, most of what we have in our society is there because most of “our” 71% (declining or not) give it de-facto support.  We decry sexual immorality, but buy our wares at Target who, at present, proudly advertise their exclusive distribution of the uncut version of Fifty Shades of Grey.  We almost without question support big sports (think of the NFL and the Super Bowl), irrespective of their violence, avarice, and highly eroticized advertisements, prompting one Christian writer to label our religion Sportianity.  And we clamor for the material things of this world with the best of them.  Our world provides our youth little in the way of what Peter Berger calls “plausibility structures”—for Christians, social markers and symbols that affirm and support the reality of the world as God would have it.      

 In the end, our response to this world—a world whose resistance to us should come as no surprise—requires the same response it always has.  To repent, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to take the lower place alongside our Savior, and to come and die to the things of this world.  For it is, I believe, when we learn to pour out, rather than fill up, that we will attract our young and our neighbors with the quiet and sincere beauty of the holiness that comes from God.  And perhaps we’ll show my children, in all the right ways, that we are the world. 


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Matthew Vos is professor of Sociology at Covenant College located atop Lookout Mountain, Georgia.  His academic interests, while eclectic, are focused on gender, sociology of sport, religion, and sociological theory.  He lives a well-adjusted life with his guidance counselor wife Joan, and their three adopted children Kate (Bulgaria), Rose (China), and Alec (China).  The Voses live on a small farm in North Georgia where they raise sheep.  When not busy adopting children, they enjoy competitive slalom waterskiing.  Matthew currently serves as president for the Association of Christians Teaching Sociology (ACTS).

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WHI-1258 | The Church & Kingdom of God

This week on the White Horse Inn we discuss the relationship between the kingdom of God and the church. We are joined by Scot McKnight, a New Testament scholar and professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He has written numerous books on topics such as interpretation, early Christianity, the historical Jesus, and current issues in practical theology. Most recently he has written the book, entitled Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.

According to Scot McKnight, there is a great deal of emphasis today on social activism, outreach to the poor, and various kinds of programs which people refer to as “kingdom work.” And yet, if you try to get the same support for evangelism or the ordinary work of the local church, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of interest. "Kingdom" is a biblical term that has been abused by Christians. So how did we get here? Join us on the White Horse Inn as we seek to understand what the Old and New Testaments mean by “the kingdom of God” and how this should realign our vision of the church.

“Any culture that we’re making that is not church-oriented and church-centered is not the culture God wants to make in this world. What I am fixating on here is the idea of ‘culture’ as something good and ‘world’ as something bad. We have an increasing number of people who have abandoned a focus on the ‘world’ as a corrupted, evil, rebellion against God, and seeing our task largely as culture-making as a positive thing.
“I see a lot of discussion today about how to make the world a better place, and of course I don’t want to make the world a worse place, but I really like the statement of Stanley Hauerwas that the best thing the church can do, in respect to the world, is to show the world that it’s the world, or to demonstrate the worldliness of the world to the world; rather, than say we want to make this all a better place.”
– Scot McKnight
"The Kingdom of God"
The great future announced by Jesus is considered entirely from the standpoint of the divine kingship. And then it is not a question of a general timeless statement concerning God's power and reign, but especially of its redemptive-historical effectuation which will one day be witnessed.
Jesus has nevertheless spoken of the coming of the kingdom as a present reality. This does not mean--and this also is an established fact--that there is no room for the future of the kingdom… but it means that the one great kingdom of the future has become present. Its fundamentally eschatological character is maintained as a matter of course. It is the great kingdom, the coming of God into the world for redemption and judgment. The future, as it were, penetrates into the present. The world of God's redemption, the great whole of his concluding and consummative works pushes its way into the present time of the world.
We shall continue to hold fast to the terminology of the gospel including fulfillment and consummation. These terms have the advantage of qualifying the presence of Jesus' coming and his work as well as the beginning of the great era of salvation, and, besides, they hold out the prospect of the definitive, final significance of the kingdom as something of the future.
(Adapted from Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, pp. 19, 55-56)
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WHI-1257 | The Family of God

In the last program we focused on the message, ministry, and marks of the church. Instead of branding themselves according to specialties, every church was and is expected to be committed to preaching and teaching, fellowship, the sacraments, the prayers, and evangelism. We can’t say “Well, other churches are great at evangelism and fellowship but we focus on doctrine and the sacraments.” Or “Our church isn’t that big on doctrine but we’re really committed to outreach.”

In his Great Commission Jesus gave us his marching orders. “Go into all the world and make disciples.” How? “By preaching the gospel, baptizing them in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded.”

In this program we want to focus on the emphasis in the new covenant on the family of God. It’s hard to imagine our local church as our first family. We usually start with the nuclear family, then our extended family, and only then do we think of our church family as a “family” in a metaphorical sense. It’s not metaphorical. In Ephesians 5 Paul says that marriage is an analogy of our relationship to Christ and his body, not the other way around. Our next of kin are actually our brothers and sisters with whom we are baptized, hear the Word, pray, receive the Supper, and serve.

Jesus provoked blank stares when he redefined family and even neighbors. In Matthew 10 he says, “Do not think I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”

Joining us once again to discuss this topic are the same panelists from the last program Sam Allberry and Jeff Mallinson. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the church as the family of God.

“When Paul talks about even Gentiles, who have absolutely no access to the temple and to the rights of forgiveness and the covenants of promise… now Gentiles who trust in Christ are more the children of Abraham, the offspring of Abraham, while those Jews who don’t believe in Christ are actually more the children of Hagar, then they are the children of Abraham. This is as radical as what Jesus said.
“So, our ultimate loyalty is to Christ, that’s what he’s saying here, and we have to realize in our cultures we have loyalties eating away at that. We have alternative loyalties that shape us into thinking, ‘You know what. I am going to take the gospel, this Jesus thing, only this far – as long as it doesn’t interrupt these loyalties.’ We do that in all kinds of ways.”
– Michael Horton
"The Family of God"
In the ancient Near East, the family was a metaphor for the relationship of a lord to his people, his servants. The federation or nation was a family, with the suzerain as the father, and the vassal-people as his son – and therefore brothers and sisters to each other. The Old and New Testaments do not remove this from their use of ancient covenants but reinterpret them according to God’s promises.
In establishing his everlasting covenant with David, Yahweh promises to “be a father to him, and he shall be to me as son.” In this light, Paul refers to the church as “the household of God” (1Ti 3:15), as does Peter (1Pe 4:17). There is one Father over the house, and a Son who is represented as our elder brother, legal heir of the whole estate, which he nevertheless enjoys as a public (representative) person only to dispense his benefits and blessings to his co-heirs (Ro 8:17). Once again, the traditional political and legal practices undergo modification as analogies in this new covenant relationship, since it is after all Christ who in this case is the “Son” and “heir of all things” (Heb 1:2). As he has made us his joint heirs, he has made Jews and Gentiles fellow heirs of the promises made to Abraham (Gal 3:29; 1Pe 3:7). All of those united to Christ, who is the very “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), are adopted as God’s children (Ro 8:23; Gal 4:5), and therefore are being transformed into the likeness of Christ’s image: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Ro 8:29).
(Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, p 724)
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Popular author, blogger, and columnist, Rachel Held Evans represents a growing trend among Millennials.  Frustrated by the evangelical culture of easy answers and clichés, she is also unimpressed by attempts to target-market the gospel to her generation.  Many like her are moving over to more liberal denominations in the search for something authentic—like the ordinary ministry of the Word, sacraments, and the fellowship of the saints.  But are they leaping over the confessional churches?  Or are some finding our churches and only staying in them for a breather before continuing their trek to Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or liberal mainline bodies?  This article, published by newspapers across the country, is a wake-up call. 





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WHI-1256 | The Ministry & Marks of the Church

Finding a church is often compared these days to shopping. That should not surprise us. Many churches, today, market themselves to a particular niche demographic. It’s all about branding. People who shop at Restoration Hardware aren’t the same folks who shop regularly at Walmart.

Some churches say, at least implicitly, we’re all about teaching doctrine, while others brand themselves as the home-base for evangelism, or a place for warm fellowship. Others are known for service and political engagement, whether conservative or liberal. If you are into liturgy, there are plenty of options out there for you too. But according to Acts 2, the first Christians gathered regularly for the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. As a result, the Lord was adding daily to the church, those being saved.

The Spirit creates the church through the Word, so the apostles’ teaching, particularly the good news of Christ’s saving work, was central. But it was the apostles’ teaching AND fellowship, submitting to each other in both doctrine and life. Believers shared their temporal goods with each other as well. Yet, the regular service also included the breaking of bread. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were central alongside the preached Word as means of grace. In fact, in response to Peter’s proclamation of Christ, those who believed were baptized and the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that they partake of communion whenever they come together as the church. The Lord’s Supper wasn’t an optional extra, but a regular means of grace. They gathered also for “the prayers.” Like a trellis, scripturally rooted liturgies train hearts to grow in the right direction together. These public prayers of the whole church in praise, confession, and petition aren’t just for people who go for high church stuff but shape the community’s response to the Lord’s work. And finally, we see the effect of this ministry was to attract unbelievers. The Lord was adding to the church daily, those who were being saved. As Peter said in his sermon, the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are a far off, as many the Lord our God calls to himself. Knowing what they believed and why, believers were able to witness to their neighbors.

In short, the first Christians didn’t have branding consultants. They didn’t do market research to identify their market niche demographic. You didn’t have churches dividing up these ministry emphases. They were all supposed to be places where the sheep were regularly bathed and fed, bound together by the ministry of Word and sacrament, and the prayer and praise of public worship.

Joining us on the program to talk about the importance of this ministry and the marks of the church, first of all is Jeff Mallinson, and second by Sam Allberry. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the marks and ministry of Christ’s church.

“As we gather as God’s people, we gather to hear the Word of God. We need to hear God telling us who we are, so we don’t just hear who the world thinks we are and define ourselves that way. We are called by God, defined by God. We are named by Him. And part of our gathering is to remember afresh who he has called us to be and who he says we are. For some of us, that is a part of our liturgical heritage. It’s part of our weekly service. We are remembering on a weekly basis who God says we are.”
– Sam Allberry
"Means of Grace"
The term "means of grace" is sometimes used in a very general sense to denote whatsoever may minister to the spiritual welfare of believers, such as the Church, the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the Sabbath, prayer, etc. It is generally employed in a more restricted sense, however, as a designation of the Word of God and the sacraments. Strictly speaking, only these two can be regarded as means of grace. When we speak of the Word, we think very specifically of the Word of God as it is contained in Scripture and as it is preached to the Church. It is the Word of God's grace, and as such the most important means of grace.
The sacraments cannot exist as a means of grace and are not complete without the Word. The Word and the sacraments agree in that both have God for their author and Christ as their central content, and in their appropriation by faith.
(Adapted from Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, pp. 306-10)
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WHI-1255 | Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 2

This week on the White Horse Inn we finish our two-part series on how to find Christ in the Old Testament. We are joined once more by Nancy Guthrie, who has written a five-volume book series addressing this topic, entitled Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament.

The focus of this discussion centers on three of Nancy’s books, The Son of David: Seeing Jesus in the Historical Books, The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books, and The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets. Join us as we learn to see Christ from these Old Testament books on the White Horse In.

“The story of the Kingdom of God throughout the Bible has always been about God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule. So, there in Genesis we see God’s people, Adam and Eve, and they’re in God’s place, the Garden of Eden, and are under God’s rule: ‘You can eat of every tree in the Garden; but of this one, you cannot eat.’
And, surely, when God has been talking about this land of Canaan, he describes it as a land of milk and honey. This is intended to be another Eden. This is going to be an Eden-like experience, and they are in a sense getting a second chance. Whereas Adam was disobedient, and in a sense got vomited out, exiled out of the Garden, now, here’s God’s people and they have another chance. And if they will obey him there, they will live with him there forever and this will be another Garden of Eden; but if they disobey him, they will be spit out. They will go into exile. And of course, that is exactly what happened, they go in and they take the land, but they never get rid of all of the Canaanites, and they are eventually corrupted and contaminated by them, and they end up going into exile.”
– Nancy Guthrie
"Type and Shadow (Redemptive-Historical Typology)"
The Old Testament events, offices, and institutions (hereafter OTEOI) are invested by God with spiritual significance as integral steps in his history-long project to reverse sin and its effects.... These OTEOI point beyond themselves, symbolizing the comprehensive, eschatological salvation that is God's purpose for history and that has been inaugurated by Christ in his first coming and that will be consummated by Christ in his second coming.
To understand how any OTEOI preaches Christ and finds its fulfilment in him, we first must grasp its symbolic depth in its own place in redemptive history. Then we need to consider how the OTEOI's original symbolic depth (the aspect of redemption to which it pointed in shadow-form) finds final and complete fulfilment in Christ. Finally, we must identify and articulate how its message applies to ourselves and our listeners.
The apostles' proclamation of Christ as the fulfilment of all God's promises provides abundant direction for the grateful outworking of this good news in personal discipline, family life, church life, and public life in the marketplace—and, if necessary, in a prison, like Paul.
(Adapted from Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim, pp.234–37)
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WHI-1254 | Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 1

This week on the White Horse Inn we begin a two-part series on how the Old Testament pointed to the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. We are joined once more by Nancy Guthrie, who has written a five-volume book series addressing this topic, entitled Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. Nancy has been a regular contributor to the White Horse Inn and is a teacher and author of several other books including Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God, and Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering.

For most Christians today, the Old Testament remains a closed book. If it is read at all, it is understood and interpreted like Aesop’s Fables. Many Christians were raised to believe that the Old Testament was little more than a collection of morality tales written to inspire us to have “faith like Abraham” or the “courage of Daniel.” And yet, Jesus taught his followers that the Old Testament actually pointed to himself (Jn. 5:39). What does this mean as we individually and corporately study God’s Word? How should we look at each Old Testament passage? Join us as we discuss this important topic of seeing Jesus in all of Scripture on the White Horse Inn.

“What the Bible does is it answers the questions that you and I aren’t smart enough to know, to even ask those questions. So, studying the Bible, I think, honors [God] by allowing him to set the agenda. And then, what we discover is that what he says does meet our deepest needs, the ones we hadn’t even identified. But as we go to his Word, and we trust him to speak to us, he does!”
– Nancy Guthrie
"The Scope of Scripture"
The Reformation insisted on the centrality of Christ to the entire Scripture. This centrality does not result merely from the fact that Christ is the goal and center of the messianic and covenantal history between the call of Abraham and the eschaton, but also from the ultimate focus of meaning of every text in Scripture on the work of God in Christ. Luther could insist that the genuine books of Scripture were known by their witness to Christ. Ursinus likewise declared that Christ is taught throughout the whole of Scripture as the foundation of doctrine and as the summation and focal point of the biblical message. On the one hand, this view could lead to a highly Christological reading of the Old Testament, particularly of the Psalms and the prophets. On the other, granting the relationship between Christ as the Word incarnate and Scripture as the accommodated form of the eternal word and wisdom of God, it served to reinforce the doctrine of Scriptural authority and to maintain a more dynamic view of the text in relation to doctrine.
(Adapted from The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, s.v. "Scripture")
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WHI-1253 | The Clarity of Scripture

This week on the White Horse Inn we are looking at the clarity and perspicuity of Scripture. Michael Horton is joined by Mark Thompson. Mark is the Principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, where he teaches theology, philosophy, and ethics. He is an author and contributor of many works including, Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture.

In our day it seems that there are as many interpretations as there are interpreters. Does the incredible variety of Christian denominations and interpretive traditions imply that the Scriptures themselves are unclear? How can we know what the Bible really says if there are so many different interpretations of it? What is the central concern of God’s Word and how does this affect our interpretation of it as a whole? Join us as we discuss the clarity of Scripture and the difficulties of interpretation on the White Horse Inn.

“[God] calls us to faith in Christ! But if we can’t know who Christ is, or what Christ taught, how can we possibly put our faith in him? How can we trust him? How can we know that it’s not some illusion or creation of the church that we’re trusting, rather than the revelation of God?
“So, fundamentally we have to say that God is able to communicate and because he is loving and merciful, and because he is determined to rescue people, he is determined to effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus is not just a veiled truth or an obscure way or a potential life. He is really the Way, the Truth, and the Life and you can know the Father through him.”
– Mark Thompson
"Perspicuity of Scripture"
Over against the position of the Roman Catholic Church, the reformers stressed the perspicuity of Scripture. They did not intend to deny that there are mysteries in the Bible which transcend human reason, but freely admitted this. Neither did they claim such clarity for Scripture that the interpreter can well dispense with scientific exegesis...Moreover, they did not even assert that the way of salvation is so clearly revealed in Scripture that every man, whether he be enlightened by the Holy Spirit or not, and whether or not he be deeply interested in the way of salvation, can easily understand it. Their contention was simply that the knowledge necessary unto salvation, though not equally clear on every page of Scripture, is yet conveyed to man throughout the Bible in such a simple and comprehensible form that one who is earnestly seeking salvation can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by reading and studying the Bible, easily obtain for himself the necessary knowledge, and does not need the aid and guidance of the Church and of a separate priesthood.
Naturally, they did not mean to minimize the importance of the interpretations of the Church in the preaching of the Word. They pointed out that Scripture itself testifies to its perspicuity, where it is declared to be a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path. The prophets and the apostles, and even Jesus Himself, address their messages to all the people and never treat them as minors who are not able to understand the truth…Because of its perspicuity, the Bible can even be said to be self-interpretive.
(Adapted from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p.167)
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WHI-1252 | Objections to the Resurrection

This week on the White Horse Inn we are looking at the historical claims of the resurrection. Our panel of hosts is joined by Craig Parton as we specifically look at the objections raised against the resurrection of Christ. Craig is the United States Director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. He is an apologist, attorney, and author of several works including, The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer's Quest for the Gospel as well as Religion on Trial.

Do other religions make historical claims? How does Christianity relate itself to the resurrection of Christ? When telling others about the resurrection of Christ, objections inevitably arise. How are we to answer someone who claims that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross? Or if they argue that the gospel accounts contain myths and legends that were added over time? Join us as we discuss the nature of the resurrection on the White Horse Inn (Originally Aired June 5, 2011).

“In the Jewish Talmud [a hostile source], Yeshua [Jesus] was said to be a false prophet, hanged on Passover eve, for sorcery and blasphemy. So, he claimed to be God. You can’t turn him into some pale Galilean who was just telling people to be nicer to each other. He was charged with sorcery and blasphemy…
“These references exist in the Talmud: Jesus was a rabbi whose mother, Mary, was married to a carpenter, who was nevertheless not the natural father of Jesus. Jesus went with his family to Egypt as a child, returned to Judea, and made disciples, performed miraculous signs by sorcery, led Israel astray, and was deserted at his trial without any defenders. On Passover Eve he was crucified.”
– Michael Horton
"The Biblical Account of Resurrection"
Resurrection is the claim that on the third day after He was crucified and buried, Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of God for the purposes of testifying to Jesus’ authority to say and do the things He did as the Son of God who would save his people from their sins. There are many points of support for this claim, including the empty tomb being attested by very early and hostile sources, the discovery of the empty tomb by witnesses whose testimony would not be allowed in court, the testimony of the Gospels (which are eyewitness accounts), and the radical change in the disciples after that Sunday.
The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was buried, rose on the third day in fulfillment of messianic prophecy in the Tanakh, and then appeared to numerous people, most of whom, according to Paul, were still alive at the time of his writing. The information about Jesus’ appearances in His resurrected state infers that these people could be questioned. There is no doubt that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus died and was resurrected in bodily form. And this belief remains the best explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death, in spite of the various contrary theories.
(Adapted from Doug Powell, “The Biblical Account of Resurrection,” Holman Quick Source Guide to Christian Apologetics, 294-300)
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1 Corinthians 15:14 – And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Our prayer, now and always, is that our resources may help you communicate the claims of Christ with grace to family and friends.
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WHI-1251 | American Spirituality

The New World was a place of all kinds of new experiments, experiments in liberty, and experiments in religion. It was a place where people felt like they could go and not only have the political freedom to practice their religion, but they were also liberated from external forms and church structures. And so, it’s not surprising that the search for the sacred in America has often taken on a very radical kind of form.

Americans are very religious, very spiritual, very interested in spirituality. Of all American adults 92% say they believe in God. 63% say that the Bible is the Word of God. God, apple pie, and mom just go together when you say the word, “America.” But is that the way it really is once you scratch the surface of this phenomenon?

It gets a little murkier. Take belief in God for example. According to a Pew Study, 92% of American adults give a nod to belief in God, but only 60% say they believe in a personal God. I don’t know what the statistic would be if you narrowed it down to the Holy Trinity, and then a Holy Trinity identified by the attributes we find in the Scriptures. In fact, only 79% of those who’ve identified themselves as Evangelical, Born-Again Christians said that they believe in a personal God. So, despite the public nod to the Bible, most Americans rely on their own ‘Inner Light’ to determine what they believe, and why they believe it. They have their own spiritual playlist, according to the same Pew Study I referred to. Most Americans, including most American Evangelicals, say that there are many paths to salvation.

What does it even mean to say we believe in God? What does it even mean to say that we believe the Bible is the Word of God? What do these slogans, these phrases that roll off our lips, so easily even mean in our contemporary context? Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the spirituality of America.

“What does it mean to be Evangelical? What does it mean to be Born-Again if Jesus isn’t bodily raised at the right hand of the Father? The findings are pretty clear: spirituality is booming and Christianity is on the decline. Religion is seen an entirely subjective affair between you and God… It’s a personal affair between you and God, no external authorities, don’t fence me in. As John Wayne says, ‘I like God until he gets under a roof.’ That’s the rugged individual, American spirit.”
– Michael Horton
"Therapeutic Spirituality"
Today’s spirituality is novel in the sense that it is based upon a person’s felt needs, as opposed to an authoritative person or text. Self-expression has become the new form of worship in both traditional and innovative religious practices, rather than a practice of self-denial. This spirituality adopts preference as a means of self-actualization (i.e. a way of becoming the fullest expression of yourself as a human being). The commitments to these preferences are deeply personal and subjective, which results in the expression, “Your own personal Jesus” who neither confronts with his transcendent ‘Otherness’ nor deals in categories of sin, hell, or judgment. Therapy as a model of spirituality has replaced traditional norms due to the secularization of culture (i.e., the cultural shift that has resulted in religious beliefs becoming wholly individualized and disassociated from the social sphere). Divine Providence over mankind has been replaced by the invisible hand of economic forces. Whereas the Almighty beneficent being was previously seen as integral to daily life and well-being, today, he is seen as a cosmic bell-hop who comes at our beck and call.
With the loss of life’s ‘center’ by these competing visions of reality, faith has been left only with an interior and subjective expression which allows ‘believers’ to cope with the ‘real-world’ science and technology have given them. In the face of this modern nihilism (i.e., the belief that there is no true reality beyond that which is apprehended through the senses), religion has often attempted to fill the vacuum through such therapeutic modes of expression. Even in traditional, conservative contexts orthodox worship and practice may succumb to this mode of spirituality, ultimately leaving little effect upon the practice of the worshipper or in the public square at large. Concrete, external liturgical practices (such as the reading of the law, corporate confession, a declaration of pardon, and corporate supplication) are often displaced by personalized small groups which help believers in their life journey. This is deemed as more ‘relevant’ to the therapeutic man, and an improvement upon the ‘dead rituals’ that don’t speak to the hearts of worshippers. Worship thus becomes a therapy ‘session’ something akin to Alcoholics Anonymous, a place where kindred spirits can hear one another’s stories and help one another cope with their weaknesses and failures, rather than a place of divine judgment and salvation where sinful people meet with a holy God, and through faith in their Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are forgiven for their rebellion, and comforted by the assurance of their salvation.
(Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Spirituality”)
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WHI-1250 | Gifts of the Spirit

Well, in this program we want to focus in on the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. What I’d like to do is start with Ephesians 4, because we’ve talked a little bit about the “Farewell Discourse,” John 14-16. [Jesus] will be gone, but it’s good because he’s going to send the Holy Spirit. And so, the ascension and Pentecost are very closely related.

The passage I want to begin with is Ephesians 4, where the Apostle Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

“Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.”

Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit in the church and in believers.

“As we’re talking about the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit, in this program, the reason I wanted to start with this passage is because of the close connection between the ascension and Pentecost. Christ ascends to the right hand of the Father, just as he promised in the ‘Farewell Discourse’ in John, and now the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to distribute the spoils of victory. Christ, the heir of the Father’s whole estate, has now included us in his last will and testament, and all of that estate we share with him as coheirs.
“The first thing that he mentions out of the gifting of this Holy Spirit, is that everybody shares equally in the gift – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit – baptized by one Spirit. There is one gift of grace. But then he moves to the gifts, plural, that he gave. And this is the one passage that focuses specifically and exclusively on those ministers who are given to preaching. Their calling, their office, is to preach the Word of God. The reason I want to bring this up at the beginning is because I want to start with the most specific gifts where the Word of God creates church, and then move to the other gifts that make the church healthy, and then talk about the fruit of the Spirit… This ordering is crucial”
– Michael Horton
"The Gifts of the Holy Spirit"
The manifold gifts that the ascended King has poured out on his church by his Spirit include offices pertaining to the sound instruction in the one faith and spiritual government. And yet, it also includes the ministry to the temporal needs of the saints. In order that the apostles might give due diligence to the task of the prayers and the Word, the diaconate was created. The particular offices of minister and elder have been given by the Spirit of Christ to equip all of the saints in their general office as prophets, priests, and kings. The Spirit mediates Christ’s threefold office as prophet, priest, and king in this age through these three offices of pastor-teacher, deacon, and elder. Just as no believer is an island, no local church or denomination is the one catholic church; they are only one and catholic as they exist together in Christ through faithful preaching and sacrament. In this communion the gifts of the Spirit are used by Christ to care for the temporal and eternal welfare of his commonwealth and colony of heaven.
Through the extraordinary ministry of the prophets and apostles, the Spirit delivered Christ’s canon by inspiration, constituting the new covenant community; through the ordinary ministry of pastors, the Spirit guides the church by illumination as it is being shaped and normed by that constitution. Just as the event to which the apostles bore witness is unique, unrepeatable, and completed, their office is extraordinary and unique in the church’s history, yet with continual effects on the life of the church.
(Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pp. 858-82)
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