|Michael Scott Horton (born 1964) is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California since 1998, Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation (MR) magazine, and President and host of the nationally syndicated radio broadcast, The White Horse Inn. Both Modern Reformation magazine and The White Horse Inn radio broadcast are now entities under the umbrella of White Horse Media, whose offices are located on the campus of Westminster Seminary California.
Dr. Horton is an ordained minister in the United Reformed Churches in North America and lives in Escondido with his wife, Lisa, and four children.
Horton believes contemporary challenges to the biblical doctrine of justification undermine the sufficient work of Christ by falling into legalism and antinomianism. A particular error Horton corrected was the teaching of the so-called new perspective on Paul, which is commonly associated with James Dunn, E.P Sanders, and N.T. Wright. Contrary to proponents of the new perspective on Paul, the Reformers understood Paul’s teaching on justification correctly as a great exchange where Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the faithful.
“Justification is not about the ethnic problem of inclusion or how to get in and stay in the covenant,” Horton said. “It’s the opposite. The question of the true nature of Israel is provoked by the coming wrath of God, not whether Jews must circumcise Gentiles. The questions they were asking were, 'How must we be saved? Am I among that Israel?”
Therefore, according to Horton, Paul’s concern with legalism was a secondary concern to his main concern—that Christ alone is our salvation. The Reformation doctrines of the solas, which include Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, and to the glory of God alone, all require the central teaching that man is dependent on Christ alone for faith, grace, and true understanding of Scripture.
“Paul totally rejected self-dependence. He saw man as completely depraved and dependent on God. God, through Christ, provided Paul with a salvation that the law could not provide. The prerequisite for that salvation was the quality Abraham had—faith.” --Travis Hearne; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Michael Horton Delivers Norton Lectures at Southern Seminary 9/15/23
Theology Professor Michael Horton, who is the editor of the theological magazine Modern Reformation, is one of Osteen’s critics. Dr Horton wrote that preachers like Osteen’s message makes religion a commodity, “trivialises faith” and sounds like atheism.
--Michael Horton; White Horse Inn
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westmister California. He is author of The Christian Faith and editor of Modern Reformation magazine, and co-host of the White Horse Inn. At LATC 15 he presented a wonderful paper on Atonement and Ascension – with special attention being paid to Patristic and Reformation theology.
Atonement and Ascension
Ascension is as constitutive as atonement for the redemption of humanity.
- The Ascension highlights what he has saved us for.
- Origen’s or Irenaeus?
- Origen’s Doctrine of Ascension
- It is the ascent of mind rather than the body – this thesis is founded upon his cosmology which originates in 1st Principles
- This world was created as a “school” to gain back our “wings”
- Logos casts of his body – passes from physical to ethereal body
- To Origin – all rational creatures will be saved and restored to their original goal of contemplation of God.
- He has a tri-partite ontology: Body, Soul, Spirit
- Applies this to Scripture as well
- In Medieval Theology – the doctrine goes back and forth between internalization & marginalization
- In Renaissance – Resurgence of Platonism & Origen – Resurgence of a split between Flesh & Spirit.
- Irenaeus Doctrine of Ascension
- The body of Christ did ascend to the height above – giving to the Father his human nature as the first fruits of the resurrection of humanity. – Christ carried our flesh into heaven.
- The Reformation – critical of the Origenest trajectory. Contra the ascent of mind.
- Von Balthasar: Protestants can’t follow Irenaeus when it comes to Ascension
- Horton Disagrees
- Origen’s Doctrine of Ascension
- Protestant theology reflected the Irenean concern about the redemption of the whole of human nature.
- Ireneaus – Recapitulation : Father sends son to be reunited in his workmanship…
- First covenant with Adam & Gospel covenant
- A consummation is never a return to a beginning but an entrance into a state of glory to which no human has ever known
- This is not an allegory referring to something else
- Calvin says – it is the Son’s union with us and our union with him
- Takes Adam’s place in obeying the father
- Calvin – How does Christ abolish sin? Incarnation & course of whole life lived
- Sin Calvin says does not spring from a lower faculty (the impulses of the senses)
- What Adam lost is communion with God.
- Its not just in his divinity that Christ is life-giving – in his human nature too.
- Origen concerned with ascent of mind – Ireneaus focuses on His descent to us and our ascent in Christ.
- Calvin follows Ireneaus’ emphasis on the Humanity of Christ
- The Reformed view – Christ is the mediator in accord with both natures. The exaltation is a state gained, or a reward, for his obedience.
- Christ earns his exaltation through his obedience
- B/c of this our humanity is exalted above its prior dignity.
- This exaltation does not change the divine nature as such
- Explaining away Christ’s ascension in bodily form diminishes the importance of Pentecost
- For Zwingli – omnipresence of divinity
- For Luther – omnipresence of flesh
- For Calvin – H.S. – Spirit is not the replacement for Christ but the way to Christ
- Deification needs the Ascension
- Deification – we keep the same nature
- Renders us like unto Christ
- Contra Origenist views of deification
- Deification – we keep the same nature
- Spirit lifts us up into the life of God
- Glorification & Deification are interchangeable for the Reformers.
- Glorification is our true humanization.
- Like Ireneaus – Calvin fleshes out ascent and descent in thoroughly Trinitarian terms
- Christ Descends to us
- Calvin says that there is a manner of Descent by which Christ lifts us up into himself.
- Spirit raises us up in Christ after Christ has accomplished what needed to be accomplished in our humanity
- Calvin – If we are members of Christ we must be raised to heaven
- To be made like God is not to be less human but more fully so.
- Christ is son by nature, we are sons by adoption
- The end of the gospel is to render us eventually conformable to God, and if we may speak this way to deify us.
- Though this does not mean a change in our nature – not a loss of who we are as human beings.
- Calvin is fond of the image of “ingrafting” to explain this
- To be united with Christ is to be in communion with his body. (Church)
- The mystical union is so real – Calvin can say that this is the highest honor of the church.
- Not until we are together with him is he “complete.” (Totus Christus)
- Day by day Christ grows into one body with us until he becomes one with us.
- The identification of the ascension and resurrection of the dead (i.e. us) into one event.
- This follows from the fleshly ascension of the resurrected Christ
- Contra Von Balthasar – Protestant theology can indeed follow Irenaeus on ascension.
- The ascension forces us to lay our metaphysical cards on the table.
- With the asecntion it is not only God with us and God for us but us with God.
"The Smooth Talking False GospelMichael Horton in the third chapter of Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church focuses on the Word of Faith movement (or prosperity gospel). In particular, he looks at the person who has embodied it successfully, Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. Osteen never uses the words, “sin” or “sinners” (by his own admission), and Horton points out he trivializes sin in a couple of ways. This can be seen not only in Osteen but other authors whose books currently grace the shelves of Christian bookstores.
- Shifts sin’s focus from an offense against God with eternal consequences to an offense against oneself that keeps us from health, wealth, and happiness right now.
- Reduce sin to negative behaviors and actions that can be overcome easily by instruction, rather than sin being a condition from which we are helpless to free ourselves.
“There’s no need for Christ as our mediator since God is never quite as holy and we are never quite as morally perverse as to require nothing short of Christ’s death in our place. God is our buddy. He just wants us to be happy, and the Bible gives us the road map,” he wrote."
"In churches today, many of us might be surprised to hear a sermon on the fear of God. If we do come across one, we may hear that “fear” doesn’t really mean fear. We’re told it means “respect.”
While it’s true that respect and awe are involved, the Hebrew noun pa-had means “dread, a sort of panic.” It means the same thing in Greek, where the word is phobos, from which we get the word “phobia.” The fear of God is a form of xenophobia—a fear of the stranger, or, in this case, the One who is utterly strange and altogether different.
The fear of God is not primarily a fear of something (for instance, judgment) but of someone. It is God himself who provokes our phobia. He is different from us, not only because we’re mere creatures, but because we’re sinful. This is what is sometimes called the sublime. We experience small-scale intimations of the sublime in nature. Describing tornadoes and hurricanes, storm chasers alternate between being terrified by their devastating power and exhilarated by their majesty." Encountering God Should Make You Afraid; Gospel Coalition
June 9, 2022