White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Give Me That Old Time Religion

Several weeks ago I conducted a funeral for an elderly grandmother, a life-long Presbyterian. In addition to her life-long commitment to Jesus Christ and her hope in the gospel, this grandmother is to be commended for passing on the faith. Surrounding her hospital bed as she died were her children and grandchildren, each sustained by hope in the resurrection.

As their mother and grandmother died, the children and grandchildren decided to sing together. Out came the iPads, iPhones, and Blackberrys as each family member scrolled through their songs or surfed the web for something that the entire family could sing. Several suggestions were made: a hymn, a praise chorus, a Scripture song, a Gospel tune, a contemporary worship song, but sadly the group soon discovered that they could not find a song that they all knew. This family, bound together by a faith that passed through the generations, couldn’t sing the songs of their faith.

Eventually they did find one song: yes, “Amazing Grace”–the first verse at least seems to be known by almost everyone, everywhere! But what was striking to me as I heard this story relayed was that for each succeeding generation it became increasingly difficult to find a song to sing. The grandmother and her generation probably had hundreds of songs that would have been familiar across denominations, stretching back for hundreds of years. The children (now middle-aged), however, only had perhaps a dozen or so songs that they could sing together. The grandchildren (all in their twenties) couldn’t find one song that they all knew. It wasn’t just that they didn’t know their parents’ praise choruses or their grandparents’ hymns, they didn’t know their own generation’s songs.

Of course, what’s strange about this is that their generation is living in a time of unprecedented production of Christian music.  But because the Christian music industry prizes innovation and change, no song ever has the time to become “their” song. When the economic engine is driven by new songs, there is never time for songs to become tried and true songs. Churches compound the problem by constantly updating their “set list” to reflect the songs being churned out by the industry. The result isn’t just a severed connection with the past (as tragic as that may be); this generation is losing its connection to one another. Unless you attend the same congregation (and perhaps the same genre-specific service), you won’t know the songs that your cousins are singing.

This isn’t so much an argument for hymnody (there are better ones than this anecdote), it’s rather a plea for unity: there are very practical consequences to age segregation in the church and a constant reinvention of the mission and marks of the church and a lust for the new and improved. The division of the church along theological lines sometimes can’t be helped, but it’s certainly possible for us to reverse course and find unity across generational lines.

The responsibility to achieve that unity doesn’t just belong to the pastors and church musicians who sometimes determine the cultural situatedness of the congregation, responsibility must also be borne by those who sit and sing and pray and listen. Will they choose to immerse themselves in the history, language, and speech of the faith? Will they reach across generational divides so that when it comes time to sing at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb we won’t all be looking at one another in confusion and dismay?

Calvary Chapel Catholic

King's College - New YorkA guest post by Rev. Dr. Brian Lee from Christ Reformed Church, Washington, DC

There are a lot of interesting ways to slice the recent dust-up over Dinesh D’Souza’s selection as President of the King’s College in New York City, covered thoroughly in a recent article at Christianity Today. We could consider what it tells us about politics and cultural transformation as the core identity of evangelicals, or how it illustrates the transformation of Christian institutions away from their founding principles. But perhaps most interesting is what it says about the status of the doctrine of the church in evangelical circles, and the degree to which individual believers conceive of themselves as atomistic units, defined only by their own faith and experience.

D’Souza is a Roman Catholic married to an evangelical, and has been attending a Calvary Chapel for the last ten years. But none of these ecclesiastical relationships or practices defines him:
“I’m quite happy to acknowledge my Catholic background; at the same time, I’m very comfortable with Reformation theology,” D’Souza told Christianity Today. “I’m comfortable with the evangelical world. In a sense, I’m part of it. …I do not describe myself as Catholic today. But I don’t want to renounce it either because it’s an important part of my background.I’m an American citizen, but I wouldn’t reject the Indian label because it’s part of my heritage. I say I have a Catholic origin or background. I say I’m a nondenominational Christian, and I’m comfortable with born-again.”

Apparently, church membership is like citizenship or cultural self-identification, and we are as free to associate freely with various churches as we are to hold dual citizenship or celebrate our hyphenated ethnic heritage as Indian-Americans, or whatever the case may be. Understood thus, America is as much a theological as well as cultural “melting pot.”

Of course, this flexibility is not unrelated to the fact that the Reformation theology D’Souza is comfortable with is characterized by him as reflecting “an intramural type debate and squabble” among Christians. King’s College Statement of Faith clearly upholds Reformation principles of “Scripture alone,” justification by imputation via “faith alone,” and denies the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. What does it mean to “completely adhere to” such a statement of faith as required by King’s, and not renounce a Roman Catholic faith which explicitly endorses the opposite?

One solution is provided by the Statement of Faith itself, which appears to provide the ultimate escape clause. The introduction notes that:
“We accept those areas of doctrinal teaching on which, historically, there has been general agreement among all true Christians. Because of the specialized calling of our movement, we desire to allow for freedom of conviction on other doctrinal matters, provided that any interpretation is based upon the Bible alone…” (italics added).

This caveat is utterly ambiguous, and doesn’t identify whether it is referring to the list of 17 doctrines that follow, or allowing for some subset of them to be negotiable. The key, however, is in those words italicized above: “Because of the specialized calling of our movement…” Huh? More ambiguity here, but one isn’t sure whether to praise King’s for recognizing that it is at best a “movement” and not a church, or to challenge them for so flagrantly confusing the gospel with cultural transformation.

The Rev. Brian Lee (PhD) is the pastor of Christ United Reformed Church in Washington, D.C.. For any information on the church, contact him at pastor *AT* ChristReformedDC.org

Live White Horse Inn Recording At Desiring God 2010 National Conference

Desiring God - 2010 National ConferenceOur friends over at Desiring God have invited us to participate in their upcoming 2010 National Conference, starting this coming Friday, October 1 and running through Sunday, October 3. Unfortunately, the conference is already sold out. However, if you are one of those who signed up to attend, we wanted to remind you to join us for the following activities:

Dinner with White Horse Inn
Please bring your dinner and join us for a special White Horse Inn recording in the Conference Exhibit Hall from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm on Friday, October 1, 2010. Ask questions and be part of the audience as Mike Horton and the “usual cast of characters” record a program on “Textual Narcissism.”

On this edition of the program the hosts will discuss the rising problem of me-centered biblical interpretation. Is the Bible primarily about us, or is it about God and his grand story of redemption throughout history? That is what’s on tap for this special live edition of the White Horse Inn!

Bookmark this Event
On Saturday, October 2, 2010 Mike Horton will be speaking about some of his recent books, taking questions, and signing copies at the Conference Exhibit Hall from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

White Horse Inn Display
Also, be sure to stop by the White Horse Inn display (booth #26) to get an update of what’s happening at the Inn.

To review upcoming White Horse Inn events click here.

Atheists Know More About Religion?

According to the Los Angeles Times, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has just released the results of a recent survey on general religious knowledge, and apparently atheists and agnostics outperformed religious adherents.

For example, most Protestants were unable to identify Martin Luther as the leader of the Reformation, whereas those who identified atheist or agnostic were more likely to answer this and other questions correctly.  Just below them were Jews and Mormons.  In fact, according to the article, Mormons fared better than Evangelical Protestants in their knowledge of the Bible.

This matches up nicely with the work of Kenda Creasy Dean, project researcher for the National Study of Youth and Religion.  In her new book Almost Christian, Kenda argues that Mormons are more intentional about passing on the faith than any other religious body in the U.S., and her chapter devoted to this phenomena is titled, “Mormon Envy.”  Michael Horton recently interviewed her for a White Horse Inn broadcast, and that will be available at whitehorseinn.org beginning Sunday, October 3rd.

The survey results also confirm our own White Horse Inn polling data.  In a survey we conducted of approximately 70 Christian adults at a recent Evangelical convention we found that less than half agreed with the statement, “There is no one who does good, no not even one. There is no one who seeks God.”  The quotation is from Psalm 14, Psalm 53 and Romans 3, and is one of the principle proof texts for the doctrine of original sin.  Most of the Christians we interviewed were not only unfamiliar with these Bible verses, but were in active disagreement with the theology promoted in these texts (Program note:  the White Horse Inn episode featuring the results to this recent poll will air in late November).

We also conducted a poll in 2009 of approximately 100 individuals at a Christian Music event (70% of whom were young Christians between 13 and 25) and the results were even more troubling.  When we asked about the same verse from Romans 3, we found that only 1 out of 3 recognized it as a Bible text and agreed with its content (31% to be exact).  You can find the complete results to this 2009 survey here.

WHI-1016 | Difficult Texts of Scripture

The hosts have been making the argument for the past few weeks that Christ and his grand rescue mission is the major subject of Scripture. The core of the Christian faith, they argue, is his saving work on our behalf, not our own personal transformation. But if this is really the case, how shall we interpret various biblical texts that seem to contradict this view? For example, Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Do verses like this undermine the doctrine of justification by an imputed righteousness? Tune in to find out (originally aired November 26, 2006).

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New Mosque vs New Church

This interactive map from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows the locations of 35 proposed mosques in the United States that have encountered community resistance.  According to the Mosque Study Project 2000, 688 new mosques have opened in the last ten years.

According to a 2007 report from Leadership Network, nearly 4,000 new churches are started each year in the United States. The simple math is that new churches outnumber new mosques by nearly 59 to 1.

Sufficiency of Scripture Live Taping and Conference – Sept. 24-25

THIS EVENT STARTS TOMORROW!

Are you, or will you be, in the Chicago area tomorrow and Saturday? Don’t miss this RARE opportunity to see all four White Horse Inn hosts live within driving distance!

All four hosts—Mike Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, Ken Jones, and Kim Riddlebarger—will be recording a live White Horse Inn episode followed by a Q & A session tomorrow Friday, Sept 24, in Palos Heights, IL. On Saturday, Sept 25, you will have the rare opportunity to hear from each host individually (see schedule below).

  • There is still plenty of seating – the Chicago Christian High School Auditorium seats 600.
  • Registration is only $30.00. (Groups of 6 or more only $25.00 and children under 10 are free)
  • This is a RARE opportunity to see all four hosts so close to home – so organize a group of people to head out.

REGISTER ONLINE NOW or by phone at (708) 403-3404

The Sufficiency of Scripture - Live Taping and Conference

Details:
  • When – Friday and Saturday, September 24-25, 2010
  • Who – Mike Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, Ken Jones, and Kim Riddlebarger (ALL FOUR HOSTS)
  • What – The Sufficiency of Scripture live taping and conference: designed to enhance our understanding of what the Sufficiency of Scripture means and doesn’t mean; how it is sufficient for doctrine, life, worship, and outreach.
  • Where – Chicago Christian High School, 12001 S. Oak Park Avenue, Palos Heights, IL
  • SponsorCovenant OPC, 9340 West 147th Street, Orland Park, IL 60462 | ph. (708) 403-3404
  • To register – for the conference and taping please click here.
Schedule:

Friday, September 24, 2010

5:30 – 7:30 PM
Registration & Book Table open

7:30 – 7:35 PM
Introductory Remarks
Rev. Iain Wright

7:35 – 8:30 PM
A live recording of the White Horse Inn,
featuring a discussion of “The Sufficiency of Scripture”
Usual Cast of Characters

8:30 – 9:00 PM
Audience Q & A
Usual Cast of Characters

Saturday, September 25, 2010

7:30 – 8:30 AM
Registration and Book Table

8:30 – 9:20 AM
Session 1: The Sufficiency of Scripture: What it does and doesn’t mean – Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone) isn’t solo scriptura (scripture alone). In other words, the sufficiency of Scripture doesn’t exclude the teachings of the church (such as the creeds). Nor does it mean that Scripture is sufficient for everything in life regardless of whether it actually addresses everything or not. What it does mean is that only in Scripture do we find the authoritative teaching of God’s law and gospel.
Rev. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt

9:30 – 10:20 AM
Session 2: Sufficient for Doctrine and Life – Churches of the Reformation teach the value of creeds and confessions not because they’re on a par with Scripture, but because they summarize Scripture. They stand under God’s Word. While other people and institutions communicate truth and oblige us to obey their commands, the church cannot go beyond Scripture in its doctrinal and moral teachings and the believer must refuse all authorities that add to or take away from God’s Word.
Rev. Ken Jones

10:20 – 11:00 AM
Beverage & Light Snacks – Book Table, Book Signing & Meet and Greet the Hosts

11:00 – 11:50 AM
Session 3: Sufficient for Worship – Many churches still use God’s Word in worship, but do we believe that God’s Word is sufficient for defining the public services? Or do we think that we can worship God however we like as long as we’re sincere? Dr. Kim Riddlebarger

12:00 PM – 12:50 PM
Session 4: Sufficient for Outreach – Methods for evangelism and outreach are always changing, we’re told, to make the gospel more relevant to particular times and places. Of course, there is appropriate sensitivity to our context, but is Scripture sufficient for determining not only what we say to the world but how we say it?
Dr. Michael Horton

REGISTER ONLINE NOW or by phone at (708) 403-3404

Chain of Grace?

So my wife was running some errands this morning and drove through Starbucks to get some coffee. When she pulled up to the window, the cashier said her coffee would have been $3.05, but the guy in the car ahead of her had already paid for it. Odd, she thought, but a nice treat and blessing with a sick little girl in the back seat and a stressful day in front of her. Then the cashier went on: there’s been a chain of nine cars that have done this, each has paid for the person coming after them. She told my wife that she could “take her blessing” or pass it on to the person behind her. If it had been me, I probably would have driven off–I hate chain emails and this smacks of something similar! But my wife, being who she is, paid for the person behind her (spending an extra $.80 for their nicer cup of coffee) and then felt guilty for being a little irritated at having to keep the chain of blessing going.

Blessings aren’t supposed to come with chains (either literal or figurative). The only blessing that really is a blessing is one of pure grace, with nothing expected in return (or “paid forward” as the case may be). I think this is a great illustration for how most of us live our lives with a sense of “sanctified karma” rather than gratitude. Sanctified karma says that we’re getting what we deserve, so we’d better do something nice if we ever hope to receive something nice in return. Rather than being motivated by gratitude, we’re motivated by guilt or by a twisted sense of selfishness. Living and giving out of gratitude allows us to give in the face of rejection, to love in the face of criticism, and to live out of our identity as God’s sons and daughters that we have been freely given in Christ.

May all your acts of grace be given without chains!

Interpreting Humpty Dumpty in light of other “2nd nursery rhymes”

There are so many things to be thankful for when it comes to New Testament scholar N. T. Wright. If you’re a monthly partner with the White Horse Inn, you heard Mike Horton on the bonus track for the September 19th broadcast list a number of areas where we not only agree with Wright but benefit from his scholarship and popular writing (you can find out more about our partnership program and its benefits here). Of course we also have strong disagreements when it comes to issues like justification. Along that line, we have something special in the works that will be announced around the time of the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Atlanta in mid-November!

So, in light of both our appreciation and criticism of Wright, we offer up this post from the funny fellows of The Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology: how N. T. Wright would read that great nursery rhyme, “Humpty Dumpty.”

Tom Wright Reads Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Clearly the writer is telling an Israel story, and here alludes to the Temple.  This echoes other lines in early 2nd Nursery Literature, such as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard (the “storehouse” of the Temple) and the bone (resurrection life) which she sought for her dog (“Gentiles”). “But when she got there, the cupboard was bare and the poor little doggie had none.”  The temple had nothing to offer the Gentiles, and they thus remained in their state of Adamic sin and decay.

So here, too, one should not be surprised to discover that the Temple and its “wall” are bankrupt. The next line, then, is not a shock, but an expectation:

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

Again, this is patently a forecast of the Temple’s destruction (and contra Crossan and Borg, an entirely possible historical forecasting).  Doubtless this claim is intended to lead the reader to ponder the eschatological recreation of the Temple. Since Humpty stands for the Temple, he seems to be sharing in the divine identity, functioning as the locus of God’s presence, not outside of, but within creation.

Of course, this fall is an exile of sorts, the loss of God’s presence. The tension is palpable: how will humpty’s story not turn out dumpty?  In other words, this line presupposes what I have called elsewhere the great metanarrative of humpty, not least the promise of resurrection.

But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put humpty together again.

So the Temple will be built again, but not by human hands. Many have undertaken to suggest that this passage runs counter to a belief in resurrection. But this atomistic reading of the text lacks imagination. Of course, it is the king himself who will put humpty together again, and this great act will complete the metanarrative.

After all, Humpty is the place where the Creator God is resident with his creation. But the human inability to recreate Humpty does not negate all human effort for creation, which should be done in light of the proleptic nature of the king’s restoration of Humpty and all creation.

Written in Durham Cathedral, dedicated to Rowan Williams’s left eyebrow.

The author, Jason Hood, also links to “Bultmann Reads Mother Goose.”

WHI-1015 | Good News vs. Good Advice

The most important difference between the religions of the world and the Christian faith is the difference between law and gospel. At the core of every religion is the application of moral instruction and advice for personal transformation. This appeals to all human beings because we are all wired for law. But the essence of Christianity is not law but gospel. Christ fulfilled the law and paid the penalty for our lawlessness. The gospel therefore is not good advice that needs to be applied, but good news to be believed (originally aired February 10, 2008).

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel Driven Life
Michael Horton
The Gospel Driven Life (MP3 Audio)
WSC Faculty
Christless Christianity
Michael Horton

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Andrew Osenga

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