White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

A. S. Byatt on facebook, the new god of our age

In a recent interview with The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins at this year’s Edinburgh international book festival, acclaimed novelist and literary critic A. S. Byatt offered some noteworthy insights into our age.  You really have to hear it in her own words (see link), but it provokes some solemn reflection.  I’ll share a few of mine.

Especially poignant is her description of the vanishing of a Christian consciousness—even vaguely conceived.  Though a professed atheist, Byatt observes that other gods have rushed in to fill the void: including psychoanalysis, the press, and social media like Facebook and Twitter.  In all of these cases, she says, we no longer have God and the biblical narrative to tell us who we are, so we are not even sure that we exist until we see ourselves in the mirror of these media.  There is a kind of anxiety in contemporary life, as we struggle to define ourselves.  She says that “religion has gone away and all we are left with is ourselves.”  But even then, we’re not sure who “we” are, because there is no narrative—or what she calls a map—for our identity.  “Christianity used to provide us with the map, now the press does.”  As “the new god,” Facebook, she thinks, operates as a mirror to reflect back to us who we think we are.  This suggests, to my mind at least, that together, the web of these alternative gods—a new Parthenon of sorts—has made us more dependent on it for piecing together some sense of why we’re here, who we are, and what our lives mean.  A final point worth observing is that these new gods keep us busy and unreflective.  It reminds me of the old man in the “Wizard of Oz,” who keeps everybody under his thumb by distracting them from the fact that he is standing behind a curtain pushing pyrotechnic buttons and pulling smoke-billowing levers. Only when the little dog Toto cunningly pulls back the curtain is the charade finally discovered.

Psalm 37 comes to mind, where God’s people are encouraged to “fret not” over “evildoers” too much. “For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”  Why?  Because God is the Lord and he never forsakes his saints.  “Trust in the LORD, and do good, dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Of course, this is not a blank check: you follow God and he’ll give you that Porsche you’ve been after.  Rather, to delight yourself in the Lord is to direct your desires to the most solid joys and lasting treasures.  In the frenetic pace of everyday life as well as difficulty, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” “In just a little while,” it is promised, the Lord will intervene in world history—both in judgment and in grace.  “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.”  While the gods of the market tell us to stay busy, distracted from discovering their utter poverty of aid, the Lord of the earth encourages us to be still and to know that he is God.  He will set all things straight.  The world is not ours to save or judge.  God will act and our lives now are evidence of that fact.  United to Jesus Christ as the first-fruits of the new creation, we are witnessing the passing of this evil age.  The real world is not the one that is produced for us in Hollywood or New York, but the New Jerusalem that is coming down from heaven.

It is this story that has the power to kill our dead-end characters and write us into the unfolding drama that ends with the new beginning of everlasting rest from sin and death.  Only this story can stand up to the “nowhere man” of our vanishing characters and pointless plots.  It’s the drama of God becoming flesh, just when the new gods have promised us salvation from fleshly embodiment, of his victory through a bloody death and bodily resurrection in an age of “redeemers” that keep us passive and dependent, forgiveness and justification before God, when his rivals offer vain promises of therapeutic well-being, of a communion of pilgrims meeting regularly together in an era of anonymous and bodiless “Internet communities.”  It is a story that, instead of driving us deeper into ourselves in an anxious search for meaning, drives us out—“looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” and out to our neighbors in love.

In this powerful narrative, even toppled gods have their place as servants rather than lords.  Here, there is still a place for cell phones, e-mail, and perhaps even Facebook or Twitter.  Yet they are not where we go as Christians to find out who we are or to tell people who we are.  For that, we will always go back to the Word, back to our baptism, back to the Lord’s Table.  And there we behold not ourselves in a mirror, but our Savior and all of the co-heirs that he has made our brothers and sisters in him.

CNN on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

CNN online recently featured an article on Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telliing the American Church (Oxford University Press, 2010). Dean is a professor at Princeton Seminary who participated with Christian Smith and others in the National Study of Youth and Religion. The CNN article discusses the theme of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a phrase used liberally by WHI hosts for the past few years and coined by Christian Smith to describe the religious and spiritual lives of today’s teenagers. Dean discusses this problem at length in her new book, and argues that teens have received this “fake” view of Christianity from their parents. She writes, “The problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe, namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people…” She goes on to say that “if churches practice MTD in the name of Christianity, then getting teenagers to church more often is not the solution (conceivably it could make things worse). A more faithful church is the solution….Maybe the issue is simply that the emperor has no clothes.”

Michael Horton recently interviewed Kenda Creasy Dean for the White Horse Inn, and that interview will air in early October.

Click Here for the CNN article titled, “More Teens Becoming Fake Christians.”

Senior Pastor Glenn Beck?

It used to be said that Rick Warren was “America’s pastor.” Before that, of course, Billy Graham was the pastor of presidents. Now, it’s Glenn Beck.

Regardless of your political views, you have to admire how Glenn Beck–a one-time drunk, washed up comedian–has transformed himself beyond a mere conservative commentator into a public persona writ large on the American evangelical landscape. A lesser person would assume that Beck had seen where the money and influence was to be had and beat feet to get there.

Professor Russell Moore of The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, spent his Sabbath afternoon writing a brilliant reflection on Beck’s God and Country rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend. You must read it and then start working your way through these articles from Modern Reformation on civil religion and the two kingdoms.

1992: Christ and Culture

1993: Beyond Culture Wars

1994: God and Politics

2000: Why Two Kingdoms

2004: The Christian Voter’s Guide

WHI-1012 | An Interview with Graeme Goldsworthy

According to Australian theologian Graeme Goldsworthy, author of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, and According to Plan, the gospel of Christ is the central story of the entire Bible. But if this is the case, how then do we interpret various Old and New Testament texts in light of that fact? On this program, Michael Horton talks with Graeme about this question and other related issues addressed in his many books on this theme.

RELATED ARTICLES

Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures
Dennis Johnson
The Glory of the Coming Lord
Edmund P. Clowney
Preaching Christ
Edmund P. Clowney

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics
Graeme Goldsworthy
According to Plan
Graeme Goldsworthy
The Goldsworthy Trilogy
Graeme Goldsworthy

PROGRAM AUDIO

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Doug Powell

WHI-1011 | A Conversation on Global Evangelism

On this edition of the White Horse Inn, we’re featuring a panel discussion on global evangelism, sponsored by the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization. This conversation recently took place on the campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and features Skye Jethani, Michael Horton, Jim Belcher, Kay Warren, Jena Lee Nardella, Miles McPherson and Soong Chan Rah.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel-Driven Life
Michael Horton
Deep Church
Jim Belcher
Divine Commodity
Skye Jethani

PROGRAM AUDIO

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Soular

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:

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.

WHI-1010 | American Spirituality

What is the nature of American spirituality, and how does it differ from classical Christian conceptions of God, revelation, and redemption? On this edition of White Horse Inn, Michael Horton walks through various popular views of American religion and contrasts them with the biblical gospel of free grace in Jesus Christ.

RELATED ARTICLES

Christless Christianity
Michael Horton
Precious Moments in American Religion
Michael Horton
Become a Better You
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Christless Christianity
Michael Horton
Made in America
Michael Horton
The Gospel Driven Life
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

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David Hlebo

WHI-1009 | Christ’s View of Scripture

Having established in previous programs that the New Testament documents are the most reliable texts of ancient history, the hosts in this program discuss the way Jesus throughout these texts speaks of the Old Testament Scriptures. Are these a collection of myths and fables with helpful moral lessons? Is one interpretation just as good as the next? Since Jesus Christ rose again from the dead, his view of Scripture may be worth considering above all others (originally broadcast April 29, 2007).

RELATED ARTICLES

The Truthfulness of Scripture
Michael Horton
Why Inerrancy Still Matters
Kim Riddlebarger
Interpreting Scripture by Scripture
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Christ & The Bible
John Wenham
Inspiration & Authority of the Bible
B.B. Warfield
Sola Scriptura
R.C Sproul, et. al.

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E-Pop

WHI-1008 | Christ the Key to Scripture

All great books are difficult to master and according to classicist Mortimer Adler, the Bible is the most challenging of all the great books. This may in part explain why there are so many varying interpretations of this sacred book. But when we begin to see the scarlet thread of redemption running from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible’s central message becomes unmistakably clear.

Bonus Audio – Interview with Dr. Bergsma

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Download Dr. Bergsma Interview Audio (20MB MP3)

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Zack Hicks

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