Leadership says Much About Purpose

If Christianity is about public truth delivered through an external Word, then ministry and evangelism require educated leaders who can expound and apply that truth for the benefit of those under their care.  By contrast, if Christianity is reduced to personal experience, then its leadership will consist of the most successful entrepreneurs and managers of extraordinary staged events.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 51

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What is the Goal of Today’s Preaching?

“Self-salvation is the goal of much of our preaching. In this respect we are heirs of Charles G. Finney,” who thought that conversion was not a miracle but a “purely philosophical [i.e. scientific] result of the right use of the constituted means”

– William Willimon

as quoted by Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 46

We May Talk About a Personal Relationship with God, However…

As much as we might talk about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, there doesn’t actually seem to be much of a relationship at all, except with the self.  Confession is good for the soul  – that is to say, a form of therapy.  Perhaps the result of all this emphasis on my personal relationship with Jesus means, finally that Jesus really becomes my alter ego.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 43

Biblical Worldview vs. Therapeutic Worldview

According to a biblical worldview, confession of sin is about right and wrong.  Real sins are really forgiven by a God who is intimately involved in our everyday lives.  In a therapeutic worldview, there is no sin and guilt to be forgiven by God but only burdens and feelings of guilt for failing to live up to the expectations in oneself or other humans beings.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 42-43

The Theology of Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism

[Christian] Smith defines moralistic, therapeutic deism as expressing this sort of working theology:

  1. God created the world.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 41

How This Generation Contrasts with Those of the Past

In contrast to previous generations that at least had some residual knowledge of the Bible and basic Christian teachings, it seems there is very little serious ability to state, reflect upon or examine their beliefs, much less to relate them to daily life.  Many young people seem to be living on the hype and the familiar circle of  friends in the youth group, both of which eventually lose their influence especially in college.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 41

These Are Nothing More than New Twists on an Old Heresy

“How can I, a sinner, be right before a holy God?” is simply off the radar in a therapeutic mind-set.  Once the self is enthroned as the source, judge, and goal of all of life, the gospel need not be denied because it’s the point.  But people need to see – for their own good – that self-realization, self-fulfillment, and self-help are all contemporary twists on old heresy, which Paul identified as work-righteousness.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 40