White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

WHI-1075 | Making Disciples: The Mission & Its Methods (Part 2)

On this special edition of the White Horse Inn recorded before a live audience at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis, the hosts continue their discussion of the marks and mission of the church, based on the words of the Great Commission, and also take questions from the audience.



Zack Hicks


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Happy Birthday Marty!


Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany. Who could have conceived of the work that the Lord would do through this child of Hans and Margarethe.

The White Horse Inn (both in its original Cambridge location and this organization) is a beneficiary of God’s work in and through Martin Luther and the other Reformers of the Sixteenth Century. Sadly, the work that they started is still in process today: even in our own Reformational churches there is a need for repentance and reformation.

Celebrate Luther by giving your own time and energy to considering how we might work toward reform in the church by joining us at our Conference at Sea: “Conversations for a Modern Reformation.”

Get LIBERATEd for $55! (ends today)


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.

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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WHI-1074 | Making Disciples: The Mission & Its Methods (Part 1)

Many churches in our day put a lot of emphasis on “being the church” or living missionally. Other churches focus on the worship experience, spiritual formation, or the pursuit of various social and political agendas. What is the mission of the church? How are we to make disciples of Jesus Christ? Turning to the Great Commission itself and various passages that unpack it, this special live edition of White Horse Inn, recorded at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis, focuses on disciple-making through the marks of the church that Christ himself ordained.



Matthew Smith


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Horton Interviews McKnight about The King Jesus Gospel

Responding to Michael Horton’s review of his new book, The King Jesus Gospel, Professor Scot McKnight offered further remarks. So we recorded a White Horse Inn interview with Scot. It’s a good discussion for us to have and we’re grateful to Scot for keeping the conversation going. The full interview will be available to our WHI partners and excerpts will be aired in a few months on the White Horse Inn.

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The Great Assurance | November / December 2011 Modern Reformation

The Great Assurance
November / December 2011

We come to the final issue in our yearlong look at the Great Commission (Matt. 28), from the initial triumphant “Great Announcement” to the “Great Commandment.” Now, in this capstone issue, we come to Jesus’ climatic “Great Assurance”: “And lo, I will be with you even unto the end of the age.”

Editor-in-Chief Michael Horton begins with a compelling reminder that Jesus has done everything, and that he will finish the task of calling his people to himself. We have the great joy of telling everyone about it. But what we don’t often think about or realize is that “Christ is more truly present with his church by his Spirit than he ever was while he walked the earth.” This is the sound and encouraging note struck by Reformed minister Brian Lee. Sometimes it is astonishing to think how much good news there really is in the gospel, and part of this good news is that Christ will one day return in glory. Michael Horton discusses this in a “Revelation roundtable” with reliable exegetes Steve Baugh, Dennis Johnson, and Kim Riddlebarger, and missionary David Zadok discusses present-day missions and God’s plan for ethnic Israel.

But what do we do then while Christ builds his church using his appointed means? Professor T. David Gordon reminds us that we are to “work quietly with our hands.” In other words, we pursue our vocations, each of us according to our gifts. What else do we do? We also pray. But have you ever prayed and wondered if it pleased the Lord? Luther asked this in his Large Catechism before recommending the Lord’s Prayer for Christians on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid of frequent repetition, Lutheran pastor John Bombaro insists, because God loves to hear the prayer that he taught his disciples.

It is important to remind ourselves time and time again that Christ will return on the day the Father has set, and in the meantime he will build his church. This relieves us of the impossible burden of doing it ourselves and actually liberates us to proclaim the work that the Triune God has been carrying out since before the foundation of the world!

Click here to see the Table of Contents

WHI-1073 | Should We Reform or Abandon American Protestantism?

Have you grown impatient with your church’s seemingly endless quest for being hip and relevant? Have you become weary of “meaningful worship services” that say more about radio dial preferences than biblical fidelity? Are you irritated by the constant flow of shallow, superficial, and even narcissistic books that stock the shelves of evangelical bookstores? On this program, Michael Horton talks about these issues and more with Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith who describes his conversion to Roman Catholicism in his recent book, How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps. Mike also talks with Christian about his other new book, Lost in Transition.



Doug Powell


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“He Contributed Nothing New to Theology” Celebrating Tom Oden’s 80th Birthday

Thomas Oden had a dream in which he was walking through a cemetery and came upon his own tombstone, which read, “He contributed nothing new to theology.” Given his trajectory, there was nothing in the life and work of the young Methodist theologian that would have suggested such a testimony, much less that he would celebrate that epitaph. Under the thrall of radical existentialism, Tom Oden was like most of his friends in the theological guild of the 1960s. Then he discovered the great conversation that leads from the New Testament to the ancient creeds and Christian writers to the Reformation. Consequently, he began to wrestle with the claims of the gospel in the light of the claims of modernity. After Modernity, What? served as a kind of manifesto for his new course. He saw (and helped to create) a fresh crop of younger evangelicals and erstwhile liberals for whom the orthodox faith shone brightly in the twilight of modernity. He calls them “young fogeys.”

I recall fondly several occasions when Tom was a guest on the White Horse Inn, spending hours afterward regaling us with selections from Athanasius and Theodore of Mopsuestia. The house was always full on those nights with young people hanging on his every word. There was a lot of laughter. In fact, on the program he made the point that the radical gospel of God’s grace in Christ frees us to laugh. He observed that fundamentalists and feminists don’t laugh very much. They take themselves with a deadly seriousness. Tom has written many books, including a systematic theology, but his greatest legacy will undoubtedly be the Ancient Christian Commentaries series.

Robert Godfrey often says, “If you do the old thing long enough it will be new again.” Actually, Tom Oden has contributed much that is new to theology, at least to modern theology. He has not only introduced moderns (and postmoderns) to forgotten giants, but has done so as our contemporary, struggling to free himself of the ancients didn’t wrestle with modernity. Of course, they struggled to find the right formulations for apostolic teaching within their own Greek and Latin backgrounds. However, Oden’s own vocation of retrieval (which is different from repristination) has indeed been one of the new things that continues to enrich evangelical faith and practice.

At a time when so many Christian leaders are putting their finger to the wind, waiting for the latest trend either of academic culture or pop culture to show the way, Oden’s cry, “Back to the sources!”, has led many to take historic Christianity more seriously and to drink from its wells more deeply. He isn’t reducing the richness of the orthodox faith to a few fundamentals. Rather, he is pointing the way to resources that we have often neglected. He actually believes that the Trinity, Chalcedonian Christology, the atonement, and justification through faith alone are more interesting than church growth strategies and forming political coalitions. We join so many other grateful beneficiaries in thanking God, and congratulating our friend, on his 80th birthday.

In addition to the following interview in Christianity Today check out some Modern Reformation articles and interviews.

Billings and Lingenfelter on “Incarnational Ministry”

For several decades now, “incarnational ministry” has been a catch-phrase in evangelical (and mainline) missiology. But is the Incarnation a unique and unrepeatable event in history that we proclaim or is it a metaphor or model for our mission in the world as well? A while ago, Reformed theologian and missionary Todd Billings wrote an article for Modern Reformation challenging greater reflection on this question (see here for links to articles and audio). In that article, he engaged the eminent missiologist Sherwood Lingenfelter, who pioneered the emphasis on incarnational ministry. Professor Lingenfelter responded to this article in our blog comments to which Professor Billings replied.

Here is Professor Lingenfelter’s original comment:

In a lecture at Fuller on Thursday, February 24, 2011 Professor J. Todd Billings of Western Theological Seminary quoted from portions of my book, Ministering Cross-culturally, Baker Academic 2003 (pp. 13-25) that presents the case that the incarnation of Jesus Christ is God’s metaphor for those of us who hope to engage in cross-cultural ministry. I was at the lecture, and felt that did not approve of my characterization of Jesus as a 200% person (100% God, 100% human), and the idea that humans could aspire to be 150% persons.

Billing’s critique of this common missiological theme is appropriate, and helpful. I agree with his point that the incarnation is “a divine act—something only that God can do,” and that “the power in the incarnation is precisely in its uniqueness.” As I have read back through my work, I would no longer write, “If we are to follow the example of Christ, we must aim at incarnation!” (p.25). I have never imagined that humans could become “fully incarnate” into another culture, as Jesus, wholly God, became fully human in our world. In fact my metaphor of becoming 150% persons makes that very clear. We can never achieve “full identification” with people of cultural origins different from our own. Therefore to state that we should “aim at incarnation” is clearly sloppy language and gives people poor direction for ministry.

At the same time, I continue to be moved by the power of the metaphor, and I find it compelling, particularly as presented in Philippians 2: 1-12 (NIV). The apostle Paul pleads with these new believers in Philippi to “have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had,” and then he unpacks that thought, saying, “who, being in very nature God … made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant … as a human being he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.” We can imitate this attitude of Christ, and in fact, if we embrace this as God’s metaphor for our lives as followers of Jesus, we will have the insight to “not cling to” our self-centered cultural ways, and to take on “the very nature of a servant” among whatever people and ministry to which God calls us.

Professor Billings chooses to call this “ministry in union with Christ.” As long as he uses the Philippians text as Paul did to describe this union, and seeks to motivate us to step out of our cultural bias and add to our repertoire those values and practices which enable us to effectively serve and share the living Christ with others, he and I have no disagreement.

Sherwood Lingenfelter
September 12, 2011

Professor Billings was kind enough to offer a response:

First, I want to thank Prof. Lingenfelter for his response to my critique of Incarnational Ministry at the lecture, as well as in this posting online. As I mention in my full-length critique of Incarnational Ministry in Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church, I think that Lingenfelter’s book has helpful practical insights for missionaries, as it responds to a genuine problem that missionaries face: how to move beyond a missionary-compound mentality and genuinely become self-sacrificial learners of another culture. I think that Lingenfelter’s response indicates his virtue as a scholar: in the lecture and the posting, he is willing to rethink theological claims that are central to his book. I have presented a lecture-version of this material to various missiologists, many of whom have responded with much less grace and open-mindedness than Prof. Lingenfelter. When the writer of a common textbook (in a second edition) is willing to acknowledge a shortcoming in his work, it is ironic that those who learned from such textbooks are much less open to rethinking their theology of ministry.

Second, while I would refer readers to Union with Christ for my full argument, I would note that after surveying the literature on incarnational ministry, a central tenet of most approaches is that the act of becoming incarnate is put forth as a “model for ministry” to be imitated. Thus, to accept my conviction that the incarnation is “a divine act—something only that God can do,” and that “the power in the incarnation is precisely in its uniqueness” means abandoning this central, underlying claim to most “incarnational ministry” proposals. In the posting, Lingenfelter refers to this as a “metaphor,” particularly as it occurs in Phil. 2:1-12. In Union with Christ I work with this passage extensively, and show how it simply does not present the act of becoming incarnate as a model. Instead, the passage is about our union with the incarnate one, Jesus Christ the servant – whose life of humble obedience we are called to reflect by our union with Christ through the Spirit. This, it seems to me, is quite different from considering incarnation to be a “metaphor” to serve as a model for our ministries. But Prof. Lingenfelter’s comments on this are brief, so I will just say that we would need to have more discussion about the interpretation of Phil. 2:1-12 after my full account is released next month in Union with Christ.

Overall, I am very grateful to Prof. Lingenfelter for his honest and thoughtful engagement. Let me emphasize again that there are many practical and helpful insights in Ministering Cross-Culturally, which is one among numerous books which uses “incarnational ministry” in a way that is subject to my critique.

J. Todd Billings

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