If This is the Gospel, Then How Can We Be Recepients of God’s Grace?

After all, if the gospel is about our experience and activity in personal and social transformation rather than how we can be regular recipients of God’s gifts, the means of grace are beside the point.  What we really need are means of commitment and action.  However, this “missional” activism unhinged from the methods God has prescribed has not only failed to lead to an upswing in professions of faith among “all who are far off,” but has led to burnout, instability and dropout among believers and their children.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 197

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What Concerns the Gnostic?

Gnosticism identified God with the inner self, but Christianity has focused all of its resources on God outside of us, who creates, rules, judges and saves us in our complete personal and corporate existence.  It stands to reason that in the Gnostic scheme of the inner self could stand above (even over against) not only the external church but its external ministry of preaching and sacrament, discipline and order, catechesis and communion.  Afterall, it is not the public, historical, visible and messy world that concerns Gnostics but the private, spiritual, invisible and manageable world of inner spirit.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 186

Why Are Gnostics World-Weary?

By contrast, the Gnostic self is rootless, restless, weary of the world not because of its bondage to sin but because it is worldly, longing not for its sharing in the liberation of the children of God but in its freedom at last from creation’s company.  Not the transformation of our times and places, but the transcendence of all times and places is the goal of Gnostic flight.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 185

The Reason We Feel World-Weary

Longing for Christ’s return, the Christian is world-weary because this age lies under the power of sin and death.  But even now there is a new power set loose in the world – the penetration of this present evil age with the powers of the age to come.  So the Christian is longing for the final liberation of creation, not from creation.  Precisely because the believer is rooted in the age to come, of which the Spirit’s indwelling presence is the down payment, there is a simultaneous groaning in the face of the status quo and confidence in God’s promise to make all things new.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 185

That For Which We We Wait Eagerly

Even now, the new birth is not the emancipation of a supposedly truer inner self from the external reality of history and the body, but the pledge of the consummation for which the whole creation waits eagerly (Romans 8:18-25).  Unable to bring final liberation of humanity apart from leaving everything creaturely behind, Gnosticism loses the joy of the Christian gospel that leaves nothing behind but sin and death.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 184

The Holy Spirit: An Abstract Principle or a Person?

When the Spirit is turned into an abstract principle rather than a concrete person of the Trinity or his person and work are regarded as a distraction from rather than mediation of Christ’s person and work, our faith – regardless of whatever official dogmas to which we yield our assent – loses its connection to the Jesus of history who as come and will come again in the flesh.

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 183

You Ask Me How I Know He Lives…

As one gospel song puts it, “You ask me how I know he lives?  He lives within my heart,” but this is a sentiment that could just as easily warm the heart of any liberal Protestant.  It makes no difference whether Jesus rose from the dead in the flesh two thousand years ago, as long as he somehow “still with us” in our personal experience today.

In sharp contrast, Paul defended the resurrection in the flesh as a datable event with eyewitnesses.  John begins his letter of warning about the “antichrists” who deny that Christ has come in the flesh by immediately stating, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with out own eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it.” (I John 1:1-2)

– Horton, Michael; Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 2008; p. 183