White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Willimon on Sin

Other than Tom Oden, our favorite Methodist is Will Willimon, the Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. Today on his blog, Dr. Willimon posted a short excerpt of a new book of his selected writings, which we thought was a fantastic expose of how we often think about our sin.

Really now, Lord Jesus, is our sin so serious as to necessitate the sort of ugly drama we are forced to behold this day? Why should the noon sky turn toward midnight and the earth heave and the heavens be rent for our mere peccadilloes? To be sure, we’ve made our mistakes. Things didn’t turn out as we intended. There were unforeseen complications, factors beyond our control. But we meant well. We didn’t intend for anyone to get hurt. We’re only human, and is that so wrong?

Really now, Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, we may not be the very best people who ever lived, but surely we are not the worst. Others have committed more serious wrong. Ought we to be held responsible for the ignorance of our grandparents? They, like we, were doing the best they could, within the parameters of their time and place. We’ve always been forced to work with limited information. There’s always been a huge gap between our intentions and our results.

Please, Lord Jesus, die for someone else, someone whose sin is more spectacular, more deserving of such supreme sacrifice. We don’t want the responsibility. Really, Lord, is our unrighteousness so very serious? Are we such sinners that you should need to die for us?

Really, if you look at the larger picture, our sin, at least my sin, is so inconsequential. You are making too big a deal out of such meager rebellion. We don’t want your blood on our hands.

We don’t want our lives in any way to bear the burden of your death. Really. Amen.

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Kevin DeYoung on the Freedom of the RPW

The Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) usually gets a bad rap. This is probably due to the fact that when held up to the RPW much of what happens in many churches is ruled “out of order.” Since we would rather do in worship what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do, the RPW is dismissed outright. Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a post about the freedom that actually comes with following and taking seriously the RPW.

“The Freedom of the Regulative Principle”

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Get LIBERATEd for $55! (ends today)

What is LIBERATE?

The gospel of grace is more drastic, more offensive, more liberating, more shocking, and more counterintuitive than any of us realize. There is nothing more radically unbalanced and drastically unsafe than grace. It has no “but”: it’s unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated. It unsettles everything. There is a dangerous depth to the gospel that needs to be rediscovered and embraced. That’s what the LIBERATE Conference is all about

We are thrilled to be invited back to participate in next year’s LIBERATE conference at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church! White Horse Inn hosts Mike Horton and Rod Rosenbladt will be speaking, plus there will be a live White Horse Inn taping.
You can REGISTER FOR LIBERATE now (if you haven’t already) because the best pricing ends today.
If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the winter cold, this weekend conference in south Florida promises to be of spiritual and climatological benefit to you. We hope to see you at LIBERATE February 23-24, 2012.

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Conversation with Tullian Tchividjian–Redux

Back in June, Michael Horton talked with Tullian Tchividjian about his soon-to-be-released book Jesus + Nothing = Everything. This book was just released on October 31 and we would like to highlight again this great conversation between Mike and Tullian. (Note: this WHI program also contains a fascinating discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile on his conversion from Islam and his current ministry.)

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Get Liberated!

One of our favorite Floridians and Presbyterians (not necessarily in that order) is Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. You’ve heard him on the White Horse Inn and he’s recently featured an interview with Mike on Law and Gospel at his blog. We’re also excited to announce that we are partnering with him for the Liberate Conference in February 2012.

Here’s how Tullian describes it:

I wholeheartedly believe that the gospel of grace is way more drastic, way more offensive, way more liberating, way more shocking, and way more counterintuitive than any of us realize. There is nothing more radically unbalanced and drastically unsafe than grace. It has no “but”: it’s unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated. It unsettles everything. There is a dangerous depth to the gospel that needs to be rediscovered and embraced…and that’s what the LIBERATE Conference is all about.

Beginning February 23-25, 2012 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (and every year thereafter) the LIBERATE Conference will explore the depths and riches of God’s scandalous grace in the gospel. We want it to become a catalytic platform for serious thinking about “a more radical gospel.”

So, to help kick off our first annual LIBERATE Conference, I’ve asked some of my friends to join me–a group of unafraid gospel-addicts, steel-spined soldiers of grace: Michael Horton, Paul Tripp, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Scotty Smith, Darrin Patrick, David Zahl, Rod Rosenbladt, and Doug Sauder. Scott Anderson (Executive Director of Desiring God) will be emceeing and Mark Miller (Director of Music at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church) will be leading us in music.

In addition to their conference sessions, Mike and the other cohosts of the White Horse Inn will tape a live recording from the conference. This is a great opportunity for you to see the conversation that you normally just get to listen to.

Plan on joining us in February at Coral Ridge. You can register here.

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Mike on Issues, Etc. Discussing Barna

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Mike was on Issues, Etc. on September 15 to discuss the research revealed by religious pollster and interpreter George Barna.

Listen to the audio here:

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Part 2 of Tchividjian’s Interview

Tullian Tchividjian is conducting a four part interview with Mike Horton on the distinction between justification and sanctification and the relationship of the law to the gospel. Part one is here. Part two is now available here.

Here’s a preview:

Mike, what are the three uses of the law?

Reformed theology embraces these “three uses”: (1) pedagogical or elenctic—to show us our sin and drive us to Christ; (2) civil (to curb vice with the threat of temporal punishment), and (3) didactic (to guide Christian living).

In order further to drive a wedge between Lutheran and Reformed approaches, I often hear Reformed brethren point to the “third use” as a Reformed distinctive that’s denied by Lutheran theology.  This too is simply inaccurate.  It was Luther’s sidekick Melanchthon who identified the “three uses” and the Antinomian Controversy in Luther’s circle provoked the sternest rebukes from the Reformer.  As a result, the Book of Concord staunchly affirmed the third use of the law—and gives more space to it than any of the Reformed confessions.  To be sure, there are differences.  As I point out in The Christian Faith, the principal difference in my view is the eschatology of sanctification—that is, the relationship between the “already” and the “not yet.”  When both groups go off the reservation, Lutherans usually wander into an under-realized eschatology (downplaying the “already” of the new creation) and we Reformed folks embrace an over-realized eschatology (downplaying the continuing struggle with sin).  However, that’s a difference in emphasis.  In terms of basic doctrine, there is no difference between our confessions.  It’s very helpful for people on both sides actually to read the others’ confessions!

When applying these three uses, it’s important to know our audience.  Our primary audience in preaching is the covenant community.  God has pledged his grace in Christ to his congregation.  They are baptized, hear the Word, make profession of faith, receive the Supper, participate in the communion of the saints in confession, song, fellowship, prayer, and gifts.  At the same time, as under the old covenant, not all physical descendants of the covenant (children of believers) are true children of Abraham.  Some, like Esau, sell their birthright for a cheap dinner.  In our preaching, we must use the law carefully.  We still need to use the pedagogical use: showing believers that they still, even in their regenerate state, do not have the kind of righteousness that can withstand God’s judgment and must flee to Christ.  We proclaim the law to the nations as well (civil use), testifying to God’s moral will for all of his creatures.  And we exhort believers to follow God’s commands (third use).   In all of this, we have to be careful that we do not give the impression either that by following God’s commands one can receive his saving benefits in Christ or that because we are saved by grace alone, apart from works of the law, that God’s commands are no longer obligatory.

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Tullian Tchividjian Interviews Mike Horton

Our good friend Tullian Tchividjian has been the subject of and a participant in a series of web conversations on the relationship of justification to sanctification. He recently posed a series of question to Mike Horton and has begun posting the answers on his blog. I’m sure that I’m biased, but I think there’s some good information here–especially for those who are new to the conversation and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Here’s a preview:

In what sense has the current conversation been merely a matter of different emphases, and in what sense are there genuine disagreements?

I have only had opportunity to read bits here and there. However, I can speak to your question more generally. Sometimes it’s no more than emphasis. However, faithful preaching includes the law and the gospel—never assuming that believers know either well enough that one can be heard without the other. Of course, we do have to be sensitive to different contexts of pastoral ministry, but every believer and therefore every church is simultaneously justified and sinful. Not only at the beginning, but always, every believer needs the law and the gospel.

It would be a lot simpler if we could say that congregations tending toward legalism need more gospel and those leaning toward antinomianism need more law, but I question that this is how it works.

In the first place, I’m not sure that “legalism” and “antinomianism” are the best categories for what seems to me at least to dominate contemporary “Bible Belt” religion in the U.S. today.  Sure, there are some antinomians (in theory) who believe that you can be justified without being sanctified—even without continuing in faith. Sure, there are some who say that the third use of the law (guiding believers) is no longer in effect. In their view, referring to the Ten Commandments as normative for how we should live would be going back “under the law” in the sense that Paul condemned. I’m also sure that there are legalists out there. But the portrait of the preacher threatening card-players with the fires of hell is a distant memory, replaced by the smiling motivational speaker telling you how you can have your best life now if you follow his seven easy principles.

That’s where I think it all gets so tricky. We’re using theological categories when one of the most transformative events in our churches has been cultural: namely, what Philip Reif called “the triumph of the therapeutic.” What we’re dealing with today in the majority of cases, I believe, is not accurately described as either antinomianism or legalism, but a pragmatic and narcissistic appeal to moralism. It’s not “stop going to parties or you’ll go to hell,” but “follow these ten principles and your life will be a party.” It’s “principles for living” on any number of life management topics, mining the Bible for quotes, but for the most part ignoring the interests of the text itself.

So you can’t really call this diet antinomian: it’s full of imperatives (rules, steps, principles, motivational tips—some kind of “To Do” list). But you also can’t call it legalistic, because the reference point isn’t really salvation or damnation—or even God,  but me and my happiness or unhappiness. God only makes a cameo appearance. The whole paradigm is what sociologist Christian Smith defines as: moralistic, therapeutic deism. Say what you will about the legalists and antinomians of yesteryear, but despite their heterodoxy, they were more interested in the Triune God and in interpreting and applying Scripture than a lot of what passes for evangelical preaching today.

Read the rest.

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Horton Interviewed about Breivik on Issues, Etc.

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Our good friend Todd Wilkin from Issues, Etc. called Dr. Horton on Tuesday to talk about his recentblog post on Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian “fundamentalist” and cultural crusader who murdered eighty people at an Oslo camp. Listen to the audio below for Dr. Horton’s take on Breivik’s “mission” and why the confusion of culture and Christendom can lead to violence.

Listen to the audio here:

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Cate-what? Horton on Recovering Catechesis

Mike Horton was recently a guest on Issues, Etc. to discuss his recent Modern Reformation article “Trees or Tumbleweeds” which stresses the need for churches to recover the neglected practice of catechesis.

Listen to the audio here:

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