White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Congregationalist Casino Night

How bad is the rot in American Christianity? Is our heterodoxy, compromise, and worldliness a modern problem or does it perhaps go deeper, down into the DNA of a faith tradition formed more by revivalism than historic faith and practice? Over at Steadfast Lutherans, our friend and Modern Reformation contributor Mollie Z. Hemingway posted an article first published in the Lutheran magazine Witness back in 1916.  The author of the article surveys a number of ministers and practices across the nation and asks, “Is this Christianity?” Here’s a sample:

The Episcopal Churchman, commenting upon the tendency towards sensationalism in the Reformed sects, later suggested that the streets may yet be brilliant with everchanging electric signs flashing forth, “The Congregationalistic Casino,” “The Baptist Hall of Joy.” “The Gospel Free Lunch and Picture Show.”

Leaving off comment about “Reformed sects,” it is interesting to note that the article wasn’t too far off. Casino Night has descended at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Here’s Pastor Jack Schaap playing emcee to the congregation:

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Clark H. Pinnock – 1937-2010

Theologian Clark Pinnock died this past Sunday, August 15th.

Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition has a long review of Prof. Pinnock’s life and theological development.

White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation often turned to Pinnock as a tragic example of the turn in American theology. We’ve collected some of those resources below.

Discussion between Dr. Mike Horton and Dr. Clark Pinnock in 1990 on the “Megashift Debate” and published in the Jan/Feb 1993 issue of Modern Reformation.

Interview with Dr. Pinnock in the Nov/Dec 1998 Modern Reformation on the “Openness Model of God.”

Sept/Oct 1999 Modern Reformation entitled “God in Our Image: Why Some Evangelicals Are Challenging the Traditional View of God” discussing many issues of which Dr. Pinnock was at the leading edge.

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Additional Resources on Distraction

We recently featured a provocative interview with T. David Gordon about the problem of electronic distraction (Distracting Ourselves to Death, July 11, 2010) which is making thoughtful reading, sincere reflection and real concentration increasingly difficult. The program was inspired in part by two documentaries produced by Frontline, both of which are available free online:

Frontline: Digital Nation
Frontline: Growing Up Online

Here are some additional books and articles for further reading on this subject:

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr

The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein

The Atlantic: Is Google Making us Stupid?, by Nicholas Carr

The New York Times: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?, by Motoko Rich

NPR: The Shallows: Has The Internet Rewired Your Brain, by Oscar Villalon

NPR: Audio Interview with Nicholas Carr

Mars Hill Audio Journal 94: This particular issue of the MHAJ by Ken Myers features interviews with Maggie Jackson and Mark Bauerlein.

Mars Hill Audio Anthology: On Books & Reading, featuring extended interviews with Dana Gioia, Maggie Jackson, Eugene Peterson, Gregory Reynolds, and others

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Tragic Church Signs

Welcome to a new segment on the White Horse Inn blog: “Tragic Church Signs.”

The first installment comes courtesy of the comment string in a recent MockingbirdNYC blog post.

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If you’ve seen a Tragic Church Sign, send it in!

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Video Posted: Horton at Saddleback

AN UPDATE FROM MIKE HORTON:

I had a great time at the Lausanne “Global Conversation” held at Saddleback Church and hosted by its pastor, Rick Warren.  It was a privilege to be part of a distinguished panel of evangelical leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Before the panel discussion, Rick Warren interviewed me for his Purpose-Driven network.  In the first interview he focused on my books and the work of White Horse Inn.  In the second, he focused on the question, “What is the Gospel?”  I appreciated the generous spirit in which Rick asked the questions and encouraged me to lay out the case we have for a new Reformation.  It’s great to be able to discuss our differences as well as our common convictions in a spirit of friendship as well as mutual challenge.  Our mission at White Horse Inn is to go to any forum that invites us where we have a chance to clarify what we are convinced is the proper message and mission of the church.  Thanks for your prayers—and for making such opportunities possible.  May God continue to open doors for an ever-wider hearing!

Michael Horton recently participated in a panel discussion on global evangelism at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.  It was part of the 12 Cities / 12 Conversations tour sponsored by the Lausanne Movement, and a video of this conversation is now available online.   In addition to Horton, other panelists include Skye Jethani, Jim Belcher, Jena Lee Nardella, Miles McPhereson, Soon Chan Rah, and Kay Warren. FYI, the discussion doesn’t get rolling until around 16 minutes into the video (after all the introductory remarks).

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Listen Live to Horton at Ligonier

Ligonier Ministries National Conference is in full swing. If you’re in Orlando for the conference, stop by the White Horse Inn booth and say hello to Michele Tedrick, our director of marketing, and Michael Kiledjian, our director of development.  Michele is giving away an iPad this weekend, so be sure to sign up for that!

Mike Horton will be speaking at 5:10 p.m. (eastern).  You can watch live via Ligonier’s webcast.

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WHI Interviews Tullian Tchividjian

surprised2-190x289Back at the end of May, Justin Taylor posted an interview with Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, on his new book, Surprised by Grace.

Last week, Mike Horton interviewed Tullian for an upcoming episode of White Horse Inn. Here’s a preview of that interview along with the interview Justin conducted below.

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Is the gospel a middle ground between legalism and lawlessness?

This seems to be a common misunderstanding in the church today. I hear people say that there are two equal dangers Christians must avoid: legalism and lawlessness. Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules. Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace. Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace. Legalism and lawlessness are typically presented as two ditches on either side of the Gospel that we must avoid. If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace. Too much grace, you need to balance it with law. But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its depth and beauty.

How would you frame it instead?

I think it’s more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel—legalism—but it comes in two forms.

Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the standards, and so on (you could call this “front door legalism”).

Other people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (you could call this “back door legalism”).

So the choice is between submitting to the rule of Christ or submitting to self-rule?

Right. There are two “laws” we can choose to live by other than Christ: the law which says “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules” or the law which says “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I break the rules.”

Both are legalistic in this sense: one “life rule” has as its goal the keeping of rules; the other “life rule” has as its goal the breaking of rules. But both are a rule of life you’re submitting to—a rule of life that is governing you—which is defined by you and your ability to perform. Success is determined by your capacity to break the rules or keep the rules. Either way you’re still trying to “save” yourself—which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects.

If most people outside the church are guilty of “break the rules” legalism, most people inside the church are guilty of “keep the rules” legalism.

What do you say to folks who think we need to “keep grace in check” by giving out some law?

Doing so proves that we don’t understand grace and we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church. A “yes, grace…but” disposition is the kind of posture that keeps moralism swirling around in the church. Some of us think the only way to keep licentious people in line is by giving them the law. But the fact is, the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical acceptance of sinners. The more Jesus is held up as being sufficient for our justification and sanctification, the more we begin to die to ourselves and live to God. Those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly understand that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s.

But don’t Christians need to be shake out of their comfort zones?

Yes—but you don’t do it by giving them law; you do it by giving them gospel. The Apostle Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; he always uses the gospel. Paul always soaks gospel obligations in gospel declarations because God is not concerned with just any kind of obedience; he’s concerned with a certain kind of obedience (as Cain and Abel’s sacrifice illustrates). The obedience that pleases God is obedience that flows from faith—faith in what God has already done, and trust for what he will do in the future. And even though we need to obey even if we don’t feel like it, long-term, sustained, heart-felt, gospel motivated obedience can only come from faith and grace; not fear and guilt. Behavioral compliance without heart change, which only the gospel can do, will be shallow and short lived. Or, as I like to say, imperatives minus indicatives equal impossibilities.

So do you think the law no longer has—or should no longer have—a role in the Christian life?

No, I wouldn’t say that. While the law of God is good (Romans 7), it only has the power to reveal sin and to show the standard and image of righteous requirement—not remove sin. The law shows us what God commands (which of course is good) but the law does not possess the power to enable us to do what it says. The law guides us but it does not give us any power to do what it says. In other words, the law shows us what a sanctified life looks like, but it does not have sanctifying power—the law cannot change a human heart. It’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

You’re the master of good word pictures. Got one for this?

Well, someone told me recently that the law is like a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law never gives any power to do what it commands. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train.

But doesn’t Scripture motivate us by saying that if we love Jesus we’ll keep his commands?

When John (or Jesus) talks about keeping God’s commands as a way to know whether you love Jesus or not, he’s not using the law as a way to motivate. He’s simply stating a fact. Those who love God will keep on keeping his commands. The question is how do we keep God’s commands? What sustains a long obedience in the same direction? Where does the power come from to do what God commands? As every parent and teacher knows, behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be shallow and short-lived. But shallow and short-lived is not what God wants (that’s not what it means to “keep God’s commands.”). God wants a sustained obedience from the heart. How is that possible? Long-term, sustained, gospel-motivated obedience can only come from faith in what Jesus has already done, not fear of what we must do. To paraphrase Ray Ortlund, any obedience not grounded in or motivated by the gospel is unsustainable.

Do you believe in the so-called “third use of the law”?

Yes. I’m a staunch believer in the three uses of the law (pedagogical, civil, and didactic). The law sends us to Christ for justification (the first use—which is correct), but some would also say that Christ sends us back to law for sanctification (a misunderstanding of the third use). In other words, there’s a common misunderstanding in the church that while the law cannot justify us, it can sanctify us—not true. In Romans 7 Paul is speaking as a justified, rescued, regenerated Christian and he’s saying, “The law doesn’t have the power to change me. The law guides but it does not give any power to do what it says.” So, I would caution people from concluding that the third use of the law implies that it has power to change you. To say the law has no power to change us in no way reduces its ongoing role in the life of the Christian. And it in no way minimizes the importance of the law’s third use. We just have to understand the precise role that it plays for us today: the law serves us by making us thankful for Jesus when we break it and serves us by showing how to love God and others.

How would you boil your concern down to one sentence?

We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and God sanctifies us by constantly bringing us back to the reality of our justification.

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BFF

Last night Mike Horton participated in the Lausanne Movement’s “12 Cities 12 Conversations” gathering at Saddleback Church. This is the second conversation Mike participated in; the first was at Fuller Seminary. The Lausanne Movement’s worldwide congress on missions is to be held in Cape Town, South Africa this October. These conversations are leading up to that congress and are taking up important issues of the church’s identity and mission.

The best report from last night’s gathering is that Rick Warren hugged White Horse Inn producer Shane Rosenthal, calling himself a “purpose driven hugger!”  Shane also got this pic of Mike Horton and Rick Warren, proving once again that nothing (not even Rick Warren) gets between Mike Horton and his Calvins.

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Horton in NYC this Summer

Join Mike Horton, James White, Voddie Baucham, and others at the John 10:16 Conference in New York City, August 4-5, 2011.

You only have two more days to register at the early bird rate of $89. Get 10 or more people to come and you can qualify for a group discount. Pastors, missionaries, students, and military personnel also get discounts.

We hope to see you there!

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Really? 1,000? You don’t look that old…

The June 6, 2010, broadcast of White Horse Inn was a very special episode as it was the ONE THOUSANDTH episode of the show to air! From its humble beginnings as a live call-in show on KKLA in Los Angeles, CA, the show has developed into a nationally syndicated show on over 60 stations in the United States, Canada, and the Philippines (not to mention that our website gets hits from about 100 countries a month). The hosts are still going strong in their desire to help people “know what they believe and why they believe it.”

As a special treat for this occasion we are opening up the vault and taking you back to the very first episode that aired on September 16, 1990 (back then Kim actually had hair, Mike just finished puberty, but Rod was still “Dad Rod”).

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While you are listening perhaps you can tell us when you first heard the White Horse Inn and how long you have pulled up a stool and heard what was on “tap” at the INN.

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