White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace…in New England!

You are cordially invited to picturesque Bradford, Mass. for a Reformation weekend conference at historic First Church of Christ. A coalition of seven area churches is partnering with White Horse Inn to present Mike Horton and Gordon Isaac on Putting Amazing Back Into Grace: Returning to the Roots of Treasuring Christ.

Here’s Mike’s invitation:

You can register here. We hope to see you there!

We Prefer Mad Men

Shane Rosenthal, the executive producer of the White Horse Inn radio broadcast sent this over today. It’s a sign advertising space for lease in a mixed use facility that used to be a church. The sign won a prestigious award from the American Advertising Federation. You can read more about the campaign and the award in this article from InsiderLousiville.com.

So, now you get to be Don Draper: how would you advertise a sacred space that has been set apart for common use? As a pastor of a church that meets in a high school auditorium, it breaks my heart to see such a space used for offices. I can imagine that there were a number of churches in Louisville that would have jumped at the chance to relocate into that building.

Social Justice: Social Gospel? | September / October 2011 Modern Reformation

Social Justice: Social Gospel?
September / October 2011

In this issue, we shift gears in Matthew 28:18-20, taking up an important discussion of the gospel and social justice. We believe that a Reformation understanding of law and gospel, two-kingdoms theology, and the uniqueness of the task given by God to the church should be brought to bear on this sometimes controversial topic. Our editor-in-chief Michael Horton helps us recognize that the commission and the commandment each has its own logic, means, and application, and that these differences must be recognized so that each one can flourish as God intends. Seminary professor David VanDrunen explains the difference between the church as an institution with offices and means of grace and the church as an organism, or a community of faith and life. Next, Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim and White Horse Inn co-host, spells out the debates concerning eschatology—in particular, amillennialism—that frequently underwrite discussions about the role of the church in relation to culture. Then another White Horse Inn co-host, Ken Jones, also pastor of Glendale Missionary Baptist Church, offers a well-informed discussion of the black church and social justice. And when it comes to realistic strategies for making a difference in this world and loving one’s neighbor, Tim Blackmon—a Christian Reformed minister who serves at the American Protestant Church of The Hague in the Netherlands—encourages us to recover the lost art of hospitality. Finally, looking in passages of Scripture at examples of Jesus’ miracles and service to the poor, Presbyterian pastor Jon Payne reminds us that these events function first as testimonies to Christ’s true status as God’s Messiah.

As you peruse this issue, remember that the gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. Christ’s liberality and merciful charity to us on the cross does indeed have the power to inspire us to grateful lives of service to the poor and the weak. But remember the words of Lee Iacocca when it concerns the mission of the church, “Keep the main thing the main thing.”

Click here to see the Table of Contents

What is the Church?

Along with the good folks at Fourth Presbyterian Church and our friends at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, we cordially invite you to the Washington Conference on the Christian Life to be held October 7-8, 2011 at Fourth Presbyterian in Bethesda, MD.

The Washington Conference on the Christian Life is a new conference in the Washington, DC area which seeks to equip and edify the Church through engaging, vital topics relevant to the Christian life. The topic this year is the church:

What is the Church? Is it a building or institution? Is it people or a specific Age? Is it a word to be avoided or cherished? We use “Church” to refer to all kinds of things, from the mundane to the religious, yet Scripture often employs it in terms of the highest and most intimate relationship we can have with God –  “the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12) — and the most noble of purposes — “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Today we often fail to grasp the Church’s enduring status, life, and mission because we have forgotten whom God intended her to be. We have a pressing need to return to biblical foundations while taking account of where we are and where we are going as a Church, so that we can live more faithfully as the body of Christ and find our own health as Christians within her life. Join us for this foundational year as we seek to remind ourselves of the centrality of the Church for God’s purposes and the faithful living of the Christian life.

Mike Horton will be speaking on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. on “What is the Church?” and again on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. on “The Church and the Future.”

You can register for the conference here.

Mike will be preaching on Sunday, October 9th at Christ Reformed Church in Washington, D.C. at 9:15 a.m.  The service will be followed by a special lecture on The Great Commission and Social Justice at 11:00 a.m., as part of church’s lecture series on Christianity and Politics. For more information, please visit the church’s website.

What a concept–Shepherding Pastors

The Gospel Coalition has released another video discussion. In this video Mike Horton leads a discussion with Tim Keller and Matt Chandler concerning the ministry of the church in their shepherding of the sheep.

People Want a Pastor from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

The Final (for now…) Post of the Conversation Between Mike and Tullian

Tullian Tchividjian has conduced a four-part conversation with Mike Horton dealing with some hot topics in the blogosphere concerning legalism and license among other important distinctions. Part one is here, part two can be found here, and the penultimate installment can be read here. The fourth and final section of the conversation has been posted here.

Here’s a teaser:

Tullian: I’ve argued that 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 (I 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 (I call this “back-door legalism”). In other words, 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.” Either way you’re still trying to “save” yourself—which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects. So that, what some call license is just another form of legalism. How would you respond?

Yes, that’s a great point, Tullian, and I hope everybody takes it to heart in this conversation. “Make a rule” or “break a rule” really belong to the same passion for autonomy (self-rule). We want to remain in control of our lives and our destiny, so the only choice is whether we’ll conquer the mountain by asceticism or by license. However, when Christ comes to us, he does not come to improve the old self, to bouy its self-confidence and encourage its pride. Christ comes to kill us in order to make us alive in him, as new creatures. The gospel is the answer both to the guilt and the tyranny of sin and other lords that cannot liberate but hold us to their breast in a death grip.

Why presidential candidates’ faith matters

The following is by Rev. Dr. Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, D.C. and is used with his permission. Dr. Lee orginially posted this on the blog The Daily Caller


Twenty-five presidential elections ago, a New York Times reporter wondered aloud whether a major nominating convention was a political event or “an assemblage of religious enthusiasts.” This was a fair assessment, as the delegates sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and closed the convention by singing “The Doxology.”

“We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord,” the candidate thundered in his speech, which was subtly titled “A Confession of Faith.”

The party was Progressive, and the candidate’s name was Theodore Roosevelt.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, has resolved in a recent editorial to ask tougher questions about the faith of the Republican candidates for president. He believes 2012—or was it 1912?—offers an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life, since so many candidates belong to “mysterious or suspect” churches.

Perhaps the real question to be asked regarding faith and politics is whether our journalists can be trusted to ask the questions that matter. For starters, Keller wants to know whether the Republican candidates would have “any hesitation” appointing a Muslim or an atheist to the federal bench. Conveniently, anyone who has read Keller’s editorial doesn’t have to bother asking him the obvious rejoinder:

Would you, candidate Keller, have any hesitation appointing an evangelical Christian to the federal bench?

The answer is all too clear.

Besides playing schoolyard gotcha to Keller’s gotcha—”It takes a religious bigot to know one!”—his article raises important questions about how and why we should ask questions about the religious faith of our candidates. Because we must ask such questions.

Candidates’ faith matters because it reveals their character and intellect. Whether and how candidates professes their faith—or unbelief—reveals how they think, and how they respect the beliefs of others. I would no sooner choose to elect a bigoted atheist than a bigoted Christian.

And most especially, we must ask questions about faith when candidates invoke their faith as playing an active role in their public life, and views of governance. Given the importance of talking about faith, it’s a shame Keller’s faith questions give questioning faith such a bad name.

* * *

Let’s start with faith and reason.

Keller opens his article by comparing religious faith to belief in extraterrestrials, and deprecates the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist as a youthful folly. You get the impression he stopped believing his priest about the time he learned the truth about Santa, and for the same reasons.

Keller betrays a classic naturalist bigotry against the supernaturalist in his treatment of the Eucharist. He is not content to personally deny miracles, but rather insists upon the utter impossibility of miracles. He therefore implies with subtle smugness that faith in miracles betrays a fundamental irrationality or childishness. As though anyone dim enough to believe the Catholic teaching of the Mass may at any time try to eat a stone hoping that it may turn into bread.

Christian belief in miracles—whether it be the cardinal doctrine of the Resurrection or ex nihilo Creation—does not imply irrationality, or disbelief in science or history. It is not an obstacle to the practice of science, as any journalist could discover by talking to any one of the many believing scientists. In fact, many have argued exactly the opposite: that the rise and flowering of modern science required belief in a God who both establishes the “laws” of nature and has the power to suspend them.

Isn’t it ironic that on the two scientific hot-button issues of the day—global warming and evolution—Christians are derided for being too skeptical in their approach to the empirical evidence? For insisting that theories be labeled as such, and serve only in a qualified manner as the basis for action in the world?

It does not require a lack of intellect to believe in a miracle. This too is demonstrable. Journalists and historians more capable than I, a humble pastor, can illustrate countless brilliant men and women who have confessed the miracles of Scripture, not only prior to the enlightenment, but today. These people all functioned perfectly well in “the reality-based community.”

The relevant faith questions for politicians are: “What kind of miracles does your God work?” and “How will that impact your governance?”

* * *

Now let’s talk about faith and character.

First, it’s important to note that character is not unrelated to intelligence. By implying that Christians lack reason, Keller is also implying that they lack the ability to exercise moral reasoning. He is impugning their character.

As a journalist, Keller could himself answer a couple of questions of fact about Christians and character. How are Christians commanded to act toward their neighbor (hint: Love). How have Christians in power, in fact, acted? The question is not whether they have been perfect, or sinless. No one is so historically naïve to suggest that. The question is whether they have tended to behave better or worse than those who professed no belief at all, or promoted atheism.

The last century provides a very grim record of unbelieving governance. We recently fought a long, cold war against godless communism. Perhaps that history is still relevant to why the American electorate overwhelming votes for candidates who profess the Christian faith. This includes not only the right, but also the center and the left—even if the latter two don’t care so much whether the candidate (wink, wink) really means it.

Has our politics changed all that much since 1912, or only our political reporters? Is it the case that as our nation’s elites get further and further from the faith of their fathers, the proclivities of all sincere believers look more and more suspect to them?

Questions need to be asked, and answered, when faith enters the public square. But when those who ask treat faith itself as an alien matter, they call into question their own qualifications for doing so.

Finish the Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples

The White Horse Inn is going back to Minneapolis to broadcast live from the Desiring God National Conference from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm on Friday, September 23, 2011.

The theme of the conference is, “Finish the Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples.” Our program will be titled, “Making Disciples: The Mission & Its Methods.” In some churches, the emphasis is on being the church, 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 the White Horse Inn will focus on disciple-making through the marks of the Church that Christ himself ordained.

Be sure to sign up for our breakout session and join the conversation. We’ll be taking questions from the audience. Mike Horton, Ken Jones, Rod Rosenbladt, and Kim Riddlebarger will all be there.

On Saturday, Sept 24, 2011 Mike Horton will be speaking about his recent book “The Gospel-Commission” taking questions (12:30 – 1:00), and signing copies at the Conference Exhibit Hall (1:00 – 1:30).

Hope to see you in Minneapolis!

Does Worship Really Need to be Exciting?

The following is by Rev. Andrew Compton, associate pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, CA and is used with his permission. Rev. Compton is one of the bloggers at The Reformed Reader


I’ve been reading through Kevin Roose’s book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. If you have an interest in learning about evangelicalism and fundamentalism, this book, written by a Brown University student who enrolled at Liberty University for a semester, is a great volume to read. Informed by George Marsden’s more historical Fundamentalism and American Culture, this is a fun and witty memoir of someone who decided to “act the part” of a Christian fundamentalist for a semester.

I was especially struck by Roose’s contrast between the simple, Quaker worship meetings of his youth and the contemporary worship at a local megachurch. He writes:

You can see why I didn’t go to [Quaker worship] meeting[s] much. As a kid groomed on cartoons and video games and Little League, an hour of motionless silence was excruciating. At Thomas Road, on the other hand, there’s almost too much stimulation. The stage lights, the one hundred-decibel praise songs, the bright purple choir robes, the tempestuous bellowing of Dr. Falwell – it’s an hour-long assault on the senses. And all you have to do is sit back in your plush, reclining seat, latte and cranberry scone in hand, and take it all in. It’s Church Lite – entertaining but unsubstantial, the religious equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. And once the novelty wears off, once the music becomes familiar and the motions of praise become pro forma and mechanized, you start to realize that all the technological glitz and material extravagance doesn’t necessarily add up to a spiritual experience.

Today, from my perch in the Thomas Road choir loft, my mind wandered back to the little brown house with stone steps. I think I’d appreciate the minimalist Quaker worship more now than I did as a kid. It didn’t have Jumbotron screens or a five thousand-watt sound system or a cafe in the lobby, and it wasn’t run by a world-famous televangelist with millions of followers. But at least it felt real (The Unlikely Disciple, pg. 199; emphasis added).

Bravo, Kevin! You have nailed it to the wall.

It is only tragic that it takes someone posing to be an evangelical to point out something that the “experts” themselves either can’t understand or chose to suppress—i.e., that the excitement of contemporary “worship” is more driven by consumerist impulses than genuine gratitude or spirituality.

If you’re drawn toward exciting, contemporary worship settings, know this—we all are! But this is not because it is right; not because it is proper; not because God is truly putting a burden on our hearts to pursue worship of him in this way… it is because all of us prefer to worship ourselves! All of us are idolaters who fashion gods in our own image!

If we like video clips, well then God must want us to watch those while worshiping him. If we like rock music, God must like it too. If we like to sit in church with our feet up, drinking a cafe mocha, then there can only be one reason for this—God must want nothing more than for us to sit in church with our feet up, drinking a cafe mocha! Whatever we like to do, God likes to do it too, right?

After all, we’re too genuine to be self-centered, right? Idolatry is only practiced by people out there, isn’t it? What we want to do just feels so right—how can you argue with that?!?!

The Third Installment of Tchividjian’s Interview with Mike

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 and part two can be found here. The third installment was posted today and can be read here.

Here’s a sneak-peek:

Some say that union with Christ is the integrating structure for both justification and sanctification. In other words, we’re justified “in Christ” AND we’re sanctified “in Christ.” Sanctification doesn’t depend on justification, but both depend on union with Christ. How would you respond?

There’s a long and noble history of “the marvelous exchange” in patristic and medieval theology that the Reformers picked up. Bernard of Clairvaux had an especially significant impact on Luther and Calvin, and both Reformers gave a lot of space to this theme of union with Christ as an analogy not only for justification but for all of the saving benefits we have in Christ.

Like Paul (think especially of the transition from Romans 6 to 7), Calvin emphasized that we cannot embrace Christ for justification without at the same time embracing him for our sanctification. We don’t just receive a gift, or even many gifts, but Christ himself by faith. We are united to him. He is the eschatological forerunner, head, Vine, and source for the new creation to which we now belong. The Spirit unites us to Christ by the gospel and the gospel is not only the good news that we are justified, but the good news that the Lord Christ has conquered the dominion of sin and we have been baptized into his death and resurrection. So the gospel is always the source of our sanctification, but the gospel includes freedom from both the guilt and tyranny of our sins.

But some among us suggest that because we receive justification and sanctification in union with Christ, there is no logical dependence of the latter on the former. I don’t find that anywhere in the relevant scriptural passages or in the exegesis offered by the Reformers, the confessions and catechisms, and the Puritans. Reformed theology certainly teaches that justification provides the secure legal basis for our growing and maturing relationship with Christ (i.e., sanctification). At the same time, we’re always returning to Christ for both. So we have to resist the false choice between union with Christ or justification. As much as Calvin referred to the former, he still calls justification “the main hinge on which religion turns,” “the primary article,” etc.. That runs straight through all of the great spiritual writings, sermons, and treatises of the Reformed tradition.

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