White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

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.

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

WHI-1001 | Understanding Biblical Criticism

Some today are arguing that the New Testament is so full of transmission errors and scribal additions that it cannot be trusted. But is this really the case? Has the Bible been copied so many times that it is basically unreliable? On this edition of White Horse Inn the hosts discuss this issue with New Testament textual critic Philip W. Comfort, author of Encountering the Manuscripts and editor of The Origin of the Bible.

RELATED ARTICLES

Textual Criticism
Michael Kruger
Canon & Catholicism
Leon Brown
Gospels, Gospels Everywhere
Mark Pierson

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Origin of the Bible
Philip W. Comfort
Encountering The Manuscripts
Philip W. Comfort
An Introduction to Textual Criticism
B.B. Warfield

PROGRAM AUDIO

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MUSIC SELECTION

David Hlebo

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.

photo1

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!

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”).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


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.

WHI-1000 | Religion on Trial

How is a person to know whether or not Christianity is the true religion? Aren’t all religious claims subjective attempts to grasp the ungraspable? Isn’t it all just a matter of personal faith anyway? And if so, why choose one faith over the other? On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts inquire into these questions and more with special guest Craig Parton author of Religion on Trial and The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel.

PROGRAM AUDIO

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MUSIC SELECTION

E-Pop

Horton on Wright’s Latest

UPDATE: Wright responds

Matthew Miller of Christianbook.com interviewed N. T. Wright recently and asked him about this review. Here is the exchange:

Matthew: In a recent review, Michael Horton, writing for Christianity Today, was generally supportive of your book. Yet, he took issue with your, at times, negative articulation of the Reformation and its impact on Christian ethics stating, “in addition to caricaturing Luther’s positions, [Wright’s] criticisms lack any nuance in distinguishing between Reformation traditions.” He argues that your critique is actually more characteristic of “Wesleyan” tradition, rather than the Reformed or Lutheran.

How do you respond to this critique?

Wright: I’m not a church historian and defer to those who are, from whom I hope to learn. I was fascinated by the critique of the medieval ‘virtue’ tradition I found in various sixteenth-century writers, and tried to note that as I went by. I wasn’t trying to give a systematic account of how the different post-Reformation traditions have understood virtue, but was hoping rather to show that the cultural pressures towards a romantic ‘spontaneity’ and an existentialist ‘authenticity’, both of which I see as radically undermining a proper appropriation of NT ethics, have gained (spurious) validation in many quarters by appearing to say what the Reformers say. Some have indeed argued that Luther paved the way for the Enlightenment.

There is a sense in which I think this is true – just as, more obviously, Luther paved the way for Rudolf Bultmann. But life is always more complicated than these over-simplifications. I am much, much more concerned by the fact – and it is a fact – that the Reformers, whom I love and revere, and their various would-be successors to this day, have caricatured St Paul and failed to distinguish different things in his thought. That’s a larger debate I suspect Michael Horton and I ought to have some day. I’ve never met him but I think we would have an interesting conversation.

Christianity Today has posted a review by Mike Horton of N. T. Wright’s newest book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Horton’s review of this latest book by Wright follows a similar trajectory to his reviews of his other recent books: there is much to be appreciated, especially the way in which Wright paints his word pictures; but Wright’s constant mischaracterization of the Reformers and the confessional traditions that emanated from them is frustrating.

In spite of a few quibbles, I was impressed by this book’s popular presentation of themes that I have come to appreciate in Reformed theology. The eschatological emphasis on cosmic renewal (resurrection, not escape) as the impetus for our lives here and now, the emphasis on the church—in fact, just about everything in After You Believe was a fresh way of exploring many familiar truths.

Hence my surprise at the jarring, frequent caricatures of the Reformation, even when the author articulates long-standing emphases in that tradition. As in his other works, indictments of the Reformation rarely come with footnotes. Wright seems to read the Reformers through the distorted lens of liberal existentialists (Rudolf Bultmann and company) or evangelical pietism. Oddly, he blames the Reformation for the romantic, spontaneous, and existentialist view of the Christian life.

In spite of the rich and varied discussions of virtue by the Reformers, the Puritans, and a host of Protestants since, Wright asserts, “Basically, the whole idea of virtue has been radically out of fashion in much of Western Christianity ever since the sixteenth-century Reformation.” Since we are justified through faith apart from works, “why bother with all this morality? … That, in fact, is more or less what Martin Luther declared, thumbing his nose at the long medieval tradition of virtue.” A footnote to Shakespeare’s Hamlet is brought in as a witness, but there is no footnote for Luther’s alleged proposal.

With many evangelicals, we appreciate Bishop Wright’s work on the historical Jesus but we remain perplexed by his refusal to deal substantively with the Reformation on its own terms in his books on Paul, justification, and now even ethics! At some point one wonders if it’s more than just a difference of opinion; is there an axe to grind?

Scary Horton Hair

Nathan Bingham sent this over to us this weekend, a series of videos of Mike Horton speaking about one of his earliest books, The Agony of Deceit.  That book still gets Horton invitations to speak to national news media about the likes of Benny Hinn. Thankfully, his hairstyle has changed!  (Around the office here we refer to that era as the “flock of seagulls” hair days!)

WHI-999 | The Formation of the Canon

Why were some books chosen as part of the biblical canon while others were rejected? Why do Catholic Bibles have an extra section called the Apocrypha? Was the selection process primarily about the exercise of power in determining what ultimately became Scripture, or a submission to the inherent authority of sacred texts? These questions and more will be addressed on this edition of the White Horse Inn.

PROGRAM AUDIO

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MUSIC SELECTION

Zack Hicks

Page 77 of 97« First...102030...7576777879...90...Last »