White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

The Last Gasp of Civil Religion

On the May 16, 2009, episode of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor ended his The News from Lake Woebegone with a group sing of It is Well With My Soul. The entire episode is vintage Keillor: what happens when a lapsed Baptist from Georgia wants to walk the aisle at the Lutheran church?!

As I listened to the broadcast, I was struck by the audience’s willingness to sing the hymn and their familiarity with it. Granted, the show was being recorded in Georgia, but for how much longer will an audience at a public event be willing and able to sing a Christian hymn?

While a decent percentage of that audience may have had Christian convictions or backgrounds, I also wondered about those who, undoubtedly, did not have such convictions: were they (like other public choirs) just enjoying the sounds of many voices melded together in music regardless of the words they sang? Did they respond in any way to the hymn they sang?

Civil religion can be an enjoyable thing when it props up your own beliefs, but there is a significant danger, too: not having been confronted with the claims of Jesus and the demands of the Law, an individual can salve his own conscience with the singing of a hymn. Having done his religious duty or achieved some sort of religious feeling, the heart is ultimately hardened. Christian emotion divorced from Christ-centered preaching, the church, and the sacraments is no better than the hearty singing of a patriotic anthem.

http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2009/05/16/

Eric Landry
Executive Editor, Modern Reformation

WHI-945 | Christ The Center of Scripture

Is the Bible primarily a handbook for living a happy, moral lifestyle? Or perhaps its best understood as a how-to manual showing us how to fix various problems in life? On this program the White Horse Inn hosts offer their critiques of these and other related views as they make the case that the Bible is primarily about the story of redemption through Christ. (Originally broadcast on May 8th, 2005)

RELATED ARTICLES

Preaching Christ Alone
Michael Horton
Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures
Dennis Johnson
What Are We Looking For?
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Him We Proclaim
Dennis Johnson
Preaching Christ in All of Scripture
Edmund Clowney
According to Plan
Graeme Goldsworthy

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: The Pop; Song: “I’ll Fly Away”
Album: Rain City Hymnal Vol. 1

The High Places of Power and Privilege

The changes are dramatic and telling: Christians used to occupy the top jobs in government and universities, they made up the professional class, and were blessed with wealth they used strategically. But over the last one hundred years, and especially in the last generation, the Christian population of the Middle East is declining, both in numbers and influence.

Mideasts Christians Declining in Influence (an article in the May 13, 2009, edition of The New York Times) provides an interesting counterpoint to our own society in which Christians have held places of privilege, but now feel themselves shut out and disenfranchised because of their beliefs. A throw-away line in the middle of the article provides a significant point of comparison between the situation of believers in America and in the Middle East: In America, secularism is often blamed as the reason for the loss of power and prestige. In the Middle East, the article claims, secularism is the only hope for a Christian future in the region.

The challenge for Christians in any age or location is to live as pilgrims, strangers, and exiles with feet planted firmly both in the kingdoms of the world and in the kingdom of God. Our hope isnt in nationalism (either of the American or Middle Eastern kind) or influence peddling. Instead, our confidence is that no matter in what circumstances we live, the Lord still expands his kingdom through the worship and witness of the church.

Despite our circumstances of ease and affluence or persecution and want, all Christians live under the cross in this present age. And whether we are lauded or hounded, we must constantly endeavor to resist conformation to this world (Rom 12:2). Failing to engage our culture with transformed minds that discern the will of God means that we will too-often mistake social success for divine effectiveness or social ostracism for divine disfavor. Can we have confidence in our calling even if the kingdom of man fails to give us the keys to the city?

Fixing our hope on the kingdom that cannot be shaken gives us confidence no matter what the situation is around us. May God sustain the community of Christ in the Middle East. And may God rescue the church in America from doomsday prophets and smiling preachers, both of whom confuse the kingdoms, confuse the sheep, and distract us from our high calling.

They Need a Choice

Michael Gerson, in today’s Washington Post, reviews the current project of sociologists, Robert Putnam and David Campbell, “American Grace: How Religion Is Reshaping Our Civic and Political Lives.” In their new book, Putnam and Campbell examine the religious commitments of the newly popular “nones,” or those Americans (predominantly youngish) who do not claim adherence to any established religion.

Gerson writes:

“But Putnam regards the growth of the “nones” as a spike, not a permanent trend. The young, in general, are not committed secularists. “They are not in church, but they might be if a church weren’t like the religious right. . . . There are almost certain to be religious entrepreneurs to fill that niche with a moderate evangelical religion, without political overtones.””

What does “moderate evangelical religion” sound like? In Gersom’s opinion, it would be marked by “grace, hope and reconciliation…a message of compassion and healing….”

While the message of the cross will always be foolishness and a scandal to some, those of us with Reformation sensibilities would do well to heed this sound advice. If our ministries are in accord with Paul’s view of the church’s mission (1 Corinthians 5:18ff), we may, for once, be ahead of the game. With apologies to Barbara Mandrell, we were all about grace when being all about grace wasn’t cool.

(HT: mockingbirdnyc)

WHI-944 | Culturally Relevant Preaching

Should Christian ministers work hard at being culturally relevant, or does the gospel of Jesus Christ create its own relevance? This edition of the White Horse Inn was recorded before a live audience near Washington DC, and features Michael Horton, Ken Jones, and special guest Rob Norris, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Christless Christianity
Michael Horton
Peculiar Speech
William Willimon
A Better Way
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: Andrew Osenga; Song: “O Help My Unbelief”
Album: Indelible Grace V: Wake Thy Slumbering Children

Caring for Orphans in Their Distress

The New York Times reported today on a new movement in foster care for the children of parents in distress. Instead of waiting until a parent’s distress turned criminal (through neglect, abuse, abandonment, etc.), state agencies are turning to nonprofit (primarily church-related) groups to provide temporary “parents” for children, often at a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Volunteer “parents” step in to provide a home for children for any length of time, from one day to several months.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/us/07safe.html

WHI-943 | Why Johnny Can’t Preach

Something is wrong with today’s preaching. What is the problem, and how can one begin to identify the essential elements of a good sermon? On this edition of the White Horse Inn Michael Horton talks with T. David Gordon, professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College, and author of Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped The Messengers.

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Wanted: Ministers Who Preach Not Themselves
Michael Horton
Evaluating Sermons
Derke Bergsma
What Are We Looking For?
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Why Johnny Can’t Preach
T. David Gordon
Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman
Christless Christianity
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: Soular; Song: “It’s a Shame”
Album: Waiting for Tomorrow

WHI-942 | Biblical Ignorance

In our own informal surveys conducted over the years, the majority Christians we’ve interviewed cannot name the Ten Commandments or define crucial biblical doctrines such as justification or imputation. So why is biblical ignorance so common among Christians today? That’s our discussion on this edition of The White Horse Inn (Originally Broadcast April 1, 2007)

RELATED ARTICLES

Sloth
Michael Horton
Wanted: Thinking Christians
James Boice
Does Justification Still Matter?
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Christless Christianity
Michael Horton
Soul Searching
Christian Smith
Letters to a Diminished Church
Dorothy Sayers

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: WHI production music

WHI-941 | Gospel Driven

On this edition of the White Horse Inn the hosts offer some concluding observations to their study of 1st Corinthians, and briefly discuss some of the issues raised by Paul in his 2nd epistle to the Corinthian church, focusing in particular on the importance of being gospel-centered in all of life, in all our preaching, and in how we approach Christian ministry.

RELATED ARTICLES

The Promise-Driven Life
Michael Horton
Is there Good News in Your Gospel?
Rick Ritchie
Following Jesus
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel-Driven Life
Michael Horton (pre-order for Oct. 2009 release)
Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free
F.F. Bruce
The Cross & Christian Ministry
D.A. Carson

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: The Pop; Song: “The Solid Rock”
Album: Rain City Hymnal Vol.

WHI-940 | If Christ is Not Risen

In the middle of the first century the Apostle Paul boldly asserted that “If Christ is not risen…your faith is in vain.” But many Christians today have turned from this objective and historical approach to a more personal and subjective experience of Christ, as expressed in the lyrics of the popular hymn, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” On this edition of the White Horse Inn the hosts arrive at First Corinthians chapter 15 and discuss the importance and historical reliability of Christ’s bodily resurrection.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Jesus & The Eyewitnesses
Richard Bauckham
The New Testament Documents
F.F. Bruce
Christianity & Liberalism
J. Gresham Machen

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: Ex Nihilo; Song: “Here is Love”
Album: Rain City Hymnal Vol.

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