Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | September 16, 2007

Lord’s Day Quote: Michael Horton

The evangelical faith and practice proclaimed in the Scriptures is always unnatural to us. Born in sin, curved in on ourselves, we natively assume that we are good people who could be better if we just had a good plan, environment, and examples. When visiting people on their death-bed, it is always disconcerting to encounter lifelong members of confessional Reformed churches express the hope that they have been good enough for God to accept them. We’re born Pelagians, trusting in ourselves rather than in God, and this is our default setting even as Christians. That’s why we can never assume the gospel; it has to be the staple diet not only for the beginning, but for the middle and the end of the Christian pilgrimage. When things fall apart in our personal or corporate faith, the direction is always the same: we fall back on works-righteousness.

Periods of genuine health and vitality are always the consequence of rediscovering the gospel of grace; eras of decline are always associated with the eclipse of the gospel of a one-sided divine rescue in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Since Satan lost the war at Golgotha and the tomb, he has turned his assault to the faith of believers in the gospel and the progress of that gospel to the ends of the earth. He knows our weak spot and he exploits it. If he cannot destroy the church by persecution, he will weaken it through heresy. And “Pelagianism”-self-salvation in all its forms-is his best-seller. After conducting numerous studies over the last several years with his team, University of North Carolina sociologist Christian Smith concluded that the religion of America’s youth can be characterized as “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” When we interviewed him for the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation recently, he said that there was no difference between the churched and unchurched or even between the unchurched and young people raised in evangelical churches today….

…The question “How can I be accepted by a holy God?” is replaced with the quest for self-fulfillment, self-respect, self-esteem, and self-effort. And there are plenty of preachers who will cater to our narcissism, dressing our wound as though it were not serious and telling us how we can have our best life now….

…When God is no longer a problem for humanity, but a domesticated icon of either an irrelevant transcendence or a usefully immanent source of therapeutic well-being and moral causes, justification becomes an empty symbol. No longer lost, we are more like somewhat dysfunctional but well-meaning victims who simply need “empowerment” and better instructions. Our experience is remote from that of the Israelites assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai when they heard God’s terrifying voice and begged for a mediator….

…Those who continued to use the sola fide language assumed that they agreed with the reformers no matter how much, under the influence of conversionist pietism and revivalism, they turned the faith that saves into a meritorious good work of the free will, a voluntaristic decision to believe that Christ bore the punishment of sins on the cross for me, for each person individually….

Michael Horton, Does Justification Still Matter?  (published in Modern Reformation Magazine (see links for entire article))


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