Beyond Culture Wars: A Critique of Michael Horton's Wrong Doctrine
|Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary
For since the insolence of the wicked is so great, and their iniquity so obstinate that it can scarcely be restrained by all the severity of the laws, what may we expect they would do, if they found themselves at liberty to perpetrate crimes with impunity, whose outrages even the arm of secular power cannot altogether prevent?
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Book IV.xx.1
Though I greatly admire Dr. Michael Horton and his call for Christians to return to the confessional roots of the Protestant Reformation, I must strongly and vehemently disagree with his position regarding Christian involvement in the political affairs of this country.
That being said, however, I would agree with Horton that civil religion and the Gospel must never be confused. God does not give blanket endorsement to any political party or social class of the American culture.
We shall all be judged by God's moral law as it is stated in the ten commandments and in the other places in Holy Scripture where moral commands are made binding upon us by Christ, the apostles, and the prophets.
Only the ceremonial laws and the judicial/civil laws of the ancient nation of Israel have passed away.
Where I strongly disagree with Horton is the idea that Christians in general cannot and should not try to "legislate" morality. Horton seems to think that legislating morality is a compromise of the doctrines of grace and the
very Gospel itself. This could not be further from the truth. Even if we operate under the two kingdoms theology advocated by Horton, it would not follow that we cannot be co-belligerents with Roman Catholics, heterodox sects, or even Mormons on issues like abortion, gay rights and capital punishment. In fact, I would argue that Horton is guilty of the sin he is accusing the religious right of committing. Horton is advocating legislating morality.
The problem is Horton's view of morality is heretical. Horton seems to think that Christians are morally bound to shut up and let the wicked rule the worldly kingdom, otherwise we risk confusing civil religion with the Gospel. But this is a non sequitur. Christians in every era have always believed that they should be about persuading the world that it is wrong on moral issues.
Where I strongly disagree with Horton is the idea that Christians in general cannot and should not try to "legislate" morality. Horton seems to think that legislating morality is a compromise of the doctrines of grace and the very Gospel itself. This could not be further from the truth. Even if we operate under the two kingdoms theology advocated by Horton, it would not follow that we cannot be co-belligerents with Roman Catholics, heterodox sects, or even Mormons on issues like abortion, gay rights and capital punishment. In fact, I would argue that Horton is guilty of the sin he is accusing the religious right of committing. Horton is advocating legislating morality. The problem is Horton's view of morality is heretical. Horton seems to think that Christians are morally bound to shut up and let the wicked rule the worldly kingdom, otherwise we risk confusing civil religion with the Gospel. But this is a non sequitur. Christians in every era have always believed that they should be about persuading the world that it is wrong on moral issues.
Where it is possible to change ungodly laws for laws which are more in line with natural law and with moral law, then Christians of all denominations should come together to make these changes. It does not follow that if I work with conservative Muslims, Mormons and Roman Catholics for more moral national laws that I must then compromise the Gospel or my witness in order to bring about a more general good for the nation. Co-belligerency on political/ethical/moral issues in the civic realm does not mean that I must then accept the doctrines of those with whom I am fighting to reform an unjust and immoral society. Thus, Horton's entire premise in this article is not only a red herring but is also a non sequitur. It does not follow.
I would also disagree with Horton when he says that, "Now one might argue that one's position on abortion must be consistent with his profession of faith, and I do believe that every Christian ought to seek the end of this worldwide holocaust, but abortion is not in the Apostle's Creed! It is not an article of Christian faith!" And this is precisely where Horton is absolutely and unequivocally WRONG. Abortion falls into the category of moral law; the moral law is NOT optional for the truly converted Christian. Abortion is not in the Apostles' Creed but it IS in the Decalogue! According to the Westminster Confession the purpose of God's law is to:
Chapter XIX Of the Law of God
V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation.
Read the rest of the above article on Michael S. Horton and get more info at:
Michael S. Horton http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/2008/11/beyond-culture-wars-critique-of-michael.html#links
Michael S. Horton - White Horse Inn
The Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of systematic theology and apologetics at
Westminster Seminary California (www.wscal.edu) . He is the mayor host and most visible of The White Horse Inn radio broadcast and
editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He received his M.A. from Westminster Seminary California, his Ph.D.
from Wycliff Hall, Oxford and the University of Coventry,
and also completed a Research Fellowship at Yale University Divinity School.
Michael's teaching clearly reflect his education and PH.D. work at
Oxford and Yale. Because of this, he enjoys the praise of the main
Links related to the theology of Michael S. Horton
The Lies of Michael Horton
Quotes from Michael Horton criticizing Christians in his book Beyond Culture Wars. It appears that Michael Horton would be more at home with the liberal Presbyterian USA crowd.
Pages on Michael Horton:
A conservative reproof of the techniques of Michael Horton White Horse Inn:
Time Magazine Recognizes Tne New Calvinism
Michael Horton Christless Christianity
The main purpose of his book, Beyond Culture Wars seems to be ignore this verse
Summary of His Teaching - Christians should not be the salt of the earth
Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." Our country is in a major mess today, primary because Christians have failed to be the salt of the earth, as R.J. Rushdonny explained when he wrote about the failure of the American Baptist Culture. Horton basically says that we need to do a better job being a Christian, keep Christianity within the four walls of the church, and do nothing to influence our culture, no political websites for Christians.
Dr. Michael S. Horton does not believe that Christians should be involved in political campaigns.
Political Campaign Websites
In Defense of Christianity - A Critical Critique of Michael Horton on Culture Wars
Horton, therefore, seeks to discourage Christian cultural activism, by linking it up with various evils, such as (1) identifying church and state, (2) denying God's sovereignty, (3) confusing culture with God's kingdom, (4) bad Christian art, etc., (5) binding Christian consciences beyond Scripture, (6) Christians adopting the sins of culture, (7) failure to acknowledge a shared culture. But a right kind of Christian activism entails none of these evils. These are a smokescreen, irrelevant to the conclusion Horton seeks to argue.
So, is there such a thing as Christian politics or art? (a) The answer to this question obviously does not follow from the answers to #1-#7 above, as Horton seems to think it does. (b) In the most obvious meaning, "Christian politics" simply refers to Christians making their political decisions on biblical principles. In that sense, there certainly is such a thing as Christian politics. Similarly, art and other cultural activities. (c) If Horton means to deny that we should apply biblical standards to public issues, then he certainly holds a very radical position. This does not follow from any of his previous argumentation, and there is no argument for it in the article. In my judgment this conclusion is directly contrary to 1 Cor. 10:31, "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Read the rest of this article at:
Michael Horton http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2006InDefense.html
Return to Home Page