Headphones And Homiletics
Michael Horton’s new book Core Christianity is an excellent introduction of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. For the nonbeliever, this is a wonderfully concise introduction to Christianity fit for the task of presenting the basic beliefs of the faith and answering some (but certainly not all) oppositions to Christianity. For the new believer, it is perfect for enhancing their understanding of the core beliefs of the faith and why these truths are so vital. For the seasoned believer, it is a great opportunity to revisit those essential doctrines which may get pushed to the back burner for more pressing “practical” needs. For discipleship, this book is a useful tool that should be in arm’s reach for anyone dedicated to making disciples. Horton skillfully, concisely, and effectively tackles difficult doctrines such as: Jesus’ divinity, the trinity, and God’s goodness.
Horton’s writing style is very welcoming as he brings heavy doctrinal topics with a conversational tone that feels more like a helpful friend than a lecturing professor. This makes the use of terms such as sabellianism, arianism, and other highly theological verbiage more accessible to an audience that isn’t likely reading a systematic theology to further their understanding of biblical doctrines. This is the most practical and helpful aspect of the book. Readers aren’t left with answers they could find in a few moments of a google search, yet they also aren’t left feeling like the algebra 1 student who accidentally wound up in a calculus classroom. With the exception of a few sections, a person could know very little about the Christian faith and still glean much from a single reading of this book. The person looking to know more could read this book several times and gain great depth from this very same book.
Readers a presented with four D’s which help to see how “knowing, experiencing, and living are interconnected” in each main doctrine of the Christian faith. When describing the first of the four D’s — drama— Horton reminds readers that “God reveals what he is like, not in ivory tower speculation but down on the ground in real history.” This means that God revealed Himself in the context of the bible’s big story, not in a systematic theology or dictionary style book. In speaking on doctrine, Horton says, “from the throbbing verbs and adverbs of the drama we are given stable nouns. God himself teaches us that he has acted wise, justly, mercifully, and omnisciently” because he is those things. Men don’t make up doctrine or theology, they get them from the Bible as part of God’s unfolding drama. That drama and doctrine must then lead to doxology which means “praise”, because God revealed Himself so men would worship and glorify Him. Lastly, doxology should yield love and good works which are manifested in discipleship. These four D’s are helpful for readers as they consider the core aspects of true Christianity.
In Core Christianity, Horton presents readers with several doctrines followed by a big picture overview of the bible. After these, he reminds us that we must rely on the scriptures alone to define our story rather than letting our life experiences and opinions define God and his word. To finish the book, readers are called to stop waiting and respond to these truths in faith. Horton emphatically asks readers, “What are you waiting for?”and then follows this question with the reality and unpredictability of death. Finally, he reminds readers that all believers have callings to work for God’s kingdom whether they are ministers, stay-at-home-moms, or factory assembly line workers. This work happens outside the church doors and none of it happens without keeping the gospel at the heart of Christianity. He ends the book with these powerful sentences: “It is this history of Jesus and not that of this age that is the real rudder of destiny—both the story of the world and the story of our own lives. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.” This is the message and core of Christianity.
I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
More Than Enough by Lee Hull Moses is a discussion of very pertinent topics for both Christians and Non-Christians alike. Moses discusses topics such as: simple living, use of financial resources, sustainable use of energy and water, growing our own food, and even making our clothes! She explains that these things may or may not be easily changed or even possible for most people-including herself. Readers are reminded that hypocrisy is inevitable in some ways because we can never perfectly grasp the complex issues that are related to wealth and sustainable living. More Than Enough is one woman’s attempt to live a more sustainable life in a country that is riddled with excess and materialistic tendencies.
The positive aspects of this book are numerous. Moses presents very convicting questions and facts about the complexities of life, our use of money, the amount of stuff we have piled up, doing good things for our neighbors (wherever they may be), and using our voices to make a change in local and federal government issues. She is very honest and open when she says, “I know that I can’t ignore the broken world just because my life is good, and also—though this has taken along time coming—I know that just because the world is broken doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my good, sweet, holy life”. It is a difficult road to consider the riches of being a middle or upper class American and trying to live a lifestyle which doesn’t crush the people in the world around us. The reality, she says, is that “most of us are not going to figure out how to live self-sustainably”. Moses’ aim is clear in the opening pages as she asks: “So how do we make faithful choices in those everyday tasks of living in the world?” She continues, “Im not going to tell you what choices to make or how to live. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned and what my family has tried—and sometimes what we’ve been meaning to try but haven’t.” Her aim is to give stories, examples, and biblical hope for people seeking change in their materially abundant lives. The point of this book is not that rich people should have less, but that everyone should have enough. For those who have more than enough, she is urging that they find a way to be satisfied with enough and give to those who have less than that.
Though the previous aspects of the book make it a good read for people interested in these issues, I would recommend reading this book very cautiously or finding alternative books which works through these issues. One issue I had with this book came in the form of Moses’ subtle—or maybe not so subtle— nudges in the liberal evangelical direction. Being a reformed, conservative evangelical, I found it a bit alarming that the author nonchalantly mentions participation in yoga classes, support of female pastors, the practice of mindfulness, and what seems to be a supportive stance on the legalization of gay marriage (she says, “gay marriage is finally legal” in a seemingly positive light). I also felt that this book was heavy on social justice and lighter on the essence of the gospel. The gospel is mainly about sinful people being restored to a right relationship with the loving God of the universe so that they may dwell with Him for all eternity in joyful worship and adoration. Christians are indeed called to live as lights in a dark world and bring change. They are also called to make disciples until Christ returns. I feel that a more gospel centered emphasis is important in preventing people from a self-centered, legalistic pursuit at change that must begin on a heart level.
If you read More Than Enough you will surely gain some very valuable insights into social justice, sustainable living, and being agents of change in this world. These are certainly issues that the Church as a whole needs to think through. However, there are more conservative books such as: Radical, Follow Me, or Counter Culture by David Platt which offer a more balanced view of how to bring change in the world by keeping the gospel central and leaving out the liberal aspects discussed above.
I received an advance copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. (less)
Chrys Jones is a Christian, husband, father, teacher, and Christian Hip-Hop artist. I also write at Theology For You.