Michael Horton

On the Wisdom and Value of the Creeds of the Christian Church

Dr Michael Horton asks an important question over at the Core Christianity website:

If the Creeds of the Christian Church aren’t infallible (being without the possibility of error), then why on earth would we use them?

His answer is illustrative in many ways! In particular, Dr. Horton writes,

“I just believe the Bible” is no defense against cults, superstitions, apostasy, and heresy, since nearly every sect for the last two thousand years has claimed the Bible for support. The answer is not to make the church’s teachers infallible interpreters of Scripture. Nor to ignore the church’s teachers, but to have the humility to recognize that “iron sharpens iron” and that it takes the wisdom and insight of many interpreters over many centuries to help us to see our blind spots. Only a fool would ignore the accumulated wisdom of nearly twenty centuries.

Are the creeds infallible? No, but the universal confession of the whole church since its beginning, despite other divisions, is that the Bible clearly teaches that the affirmations we find in the Apostles’, Nicene, Chalcedonian, and Athanasian creeds are essential for our salvation.
— Michael Horton, Core Christianity

Visit the Core Christianity website to learn more!

Photo by Gustavo Belemmi on Unsplash

What makes the doctrine of Definite Atonement so indispensable?

“Did Jesus make salvation possible for all or did he actually save his people from their sins?”

That is the profoundly important question that Dr. Michael Horton took up in his plenary session at the 2019 Westminster Seminary Faculty Conference in Escondido, CA on January 19, 2019.

Watch Dr. Michael Horton's plenary session from the 2019 Faculty Conference here: https://wscal.edu/resourc…/a-real-atonement-for-real-sinners

I (Pastor Norm), was in attendance at this conference and was tremendously blessed in my heart and soul by Dr. Horton’s message. We were richly fed from the Word of God concerning the Lord’s eternal plan of salvation for his people and the indispensable nature of the doctrine of the definite atonement.

This doctrine, contained in the teachings of the Christian church throughout the centuries and featured in our Reformed and Presbyterian confessions, is also known as the doctrine of the limited atonement (focusing on the actual # of the redeemed who have been bought with a price by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ).

May the LORD nourish your heart and soul through His glorious ministry of grace and kindness to you in Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep.

Thank you to Westminster Seminary California for making this video available for the building up of Christ’s Church!

Thank you to Mingheras Cosmin on Unsplash for the most appropriate photo!

Biblical Worship Must be Reverent and Dignified

I want to give attention to the simple beauty of the liturgy of Reformed churches. This plainness is not because of a cultural aversion to beauty or sentiment. The popular art and music of Reformed communities express beauty and sentiment in equal measure. Nonetheless the sacred worship services of the Reformed are intentionally limited to the prescribed elements of worship contained in the Scriptures.

These elements of the worship service are divinely ordained in the pattern of the covenant renewal ceremony between God and his people in which he “promises to make the new creation a reality among his people.” This covenantal ceremony includes all the congregants as “the story of divine creation and faithfulness is followed by the unfaithfulness of the covenant partner, which in turn is met with divine solidarity to overcome the sin and unbelief of his people through his messiah.” I rehearse these crucial components of Reformed worship to emphasize that the liturgy of Reformed churches is simple because there is so much contained within it. It does not need embellishment or dramatization to be improved upon. In a rightly constituted worship service, the following profound encounter occurs after the votum and singing of the congregation:

"Representing God once more, the minister intercedes on behalf of the covenant people who have thus experienced the drama of the exodus again for themselves. They too have passed from death to life in this liturgical drama, from alienation and despair to the assurance of reconciliation and the response of praise from their side of the covenant – and on that basis they enter the Holy of Holies in this semirealized eschatology. With their covenant mediator and advocate representing their case in heaven, the community's intercession is effective, and the people are prepared to hear God's word in the sermon."

Finally, the last word of the service is “reserved for God, and his parting word is once more the word of Gospel, as God's blessing is laid upon the covenant people in the benediction.” The structure of this divine service is predicated on the principle that worship occurs in a dialogue between God and his people. The dialogical principle serves several purposes: it simplifies the service by removing any extraneous human inventions, it clarifies the service by assigning a clear role to each partner, and it affirms a covenantal relationship which God makes with his church.

Hughes Oliphant Old characterizes Reformed convictions about worship as convictions which arise from the first four commandments. The first commandment directs that “our worship, our deepest devotion, our most ardent love is to be directed to God rather than to ourselves.” John Calvin drew on the first commandment the Christian's obligation “with true and zealous godliness... to contemplate, fear, and worship, his majesty; to participate in his blessings; to seek his help at all times; to recognize, and by praises to celebrate, the greatness of his works – as the only goal of all the activities of this life.” The abundance of the Christian's desire to serve and praise God is particularly expressed in the worship which takes place on the Lord's Day in the house of God. Old comments that the “single greatest contribution that the Reformed liturgical heritage can make to contemporary American Protestantism is its sense of the majesty and sovereignty of God, its sense of reverence and simple dignity, its conviction that worship must above all serve the praise of God.” I also want to draw attention to a commandment that does not receive much recognition in the context of worship, namely the third commandment. Old writes, “the third commandment tells us that were are not to use the Lord's name in vain. Vain means “empty.” The commandment teaches us to worship God sincerely and honestly, to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” to use the words of Jesus.” Worship is of first importance in the Reformed churches. It occupies the entirety of the corporate, public worship service.

(Resources cited: Edmund P. Clowney, The Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995); Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002); Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002); John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 2, 2 vols., The Library of Christian Classics 21 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960)

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Book Recommendation: Ordinary

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Michael Horton's book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World is a great read for every believer who is struggling to keep up with the demands of every new kid on the block with a new strategy to make us bolder and better Christians. 

I'd highly recommend Dr. Horton's message of finding life in the ordinary activities of the Christian life. We so easily neglect the most important means by which God builds our faith and nourishes our souls: His Word and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper). 

Here's an excerpt that identifies precisely what is the problem in our time:

Commonly, the rhetoric of radical in our churches actually mirrors our culture, even when — no, especially when — it invokes the lingo of “countercultural,” “subversive,” “alternative,” “extreme,” and so forth. The likes of Athanasius, Augustine, Bernard, Luther, and Calvin sought to reform the church. But for centuries now radical Protestants have been trying to reboot, reinvent, start over, and reconstitute the real church of the true saints over against the ordinary churches.
— Michael Horton, 'Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World'

Buy the book here

Read a helpful review of the book here