We have a lot of “gospel-definitions” in circulation these days. While it could be a discussion that leaves us a bit burnt out after a while I think it has been one worth having for the time being. Michael Horton is the most recent to give his take which you can find in this video here. I have summarized some main points so I welcome you to watch and then return here to discuss if you would like to do so.
– “Gospel” is not the equivalent to whatever is good and important in Christianity.
– It is a precise: “From Genesis to Revelation” it is “God’s promise of a Son that will crush the serpent’s head, forgive the sins of his people, raise them from the dead, and give them everlasting life solely on the basis of his grace for the sake of Christ.”
– Euangelion = good news related particularly to military battles. It is a
“victory report”. This makes it not only “good news because of its content” but also in the “form of its delivery”.
– It doesn’t tell us what to do; it tells us what has been done. Law is good, but not the “good news”. We don’t contribute to salvation. Horton adds that we are not an extension of Christ or his redemption in the world; we are his redeemed in the world and witnesses to his redeeming work.
I think I agree with most of this. I did find it confusing that he doesn’t see us as an extension of Christ in the world and therefore God’s saving work. I think I know what he is trying to say, but as I ponder concepts like Paul’s “body of Christ”, and his belief that he shared in Messiah’s sufferings, it does seem like we participate with God in the world’s salvation, though it is totally by God’s grace and Spirit through us.
What do you think of his presentation?
I watched the video.
I think Horton actually provides a monophysite or docetic or nestorian (take your pick) understanding of the Gospel. And I say that because of his emphasis on us “not doing the Gospel, but the Law.” This presupposes that the humanity that Jesus assumed or became wasn’t a doing kind of humanity that lived under the Torah (Gal 3–4); and further that there is no real connection between “our humanity” and “His” (vicariousness) by the Holy Spirit.
The way that Horton describes the Gospel is consonant with his Covenantal/Federal Theology, thus the disjunct between Law and Gospel (in Nestorian like ways).
I would propose that Jesus is the Euaggelion or Gospel, and that the Law/Gospel distinction should be seen as inseparably related and united in the ONE Covenant of Grace (vs. the Covenant of Works/Grace); as is the divine/human in the ONE person, Jesus Christ. So while the Gospel is a declaration, it is also an action which is lived out of Christ’s humanity for us by the Holy Spirit.
@Bobby: I am not familiar enough with Horton’s system to have heard those underlying motifs in what he said. The Law-Gospel distinction did cause me to pause, but there was not much exposition on what he meant. Have you read Horton or do you interpret him this way because he uses language connected to the Covenantal/Federalist approach you noted?
I’ve read Horton, and listened to Horton over the years. I have a friend who attends Kim Riddlebarger’s church (one of Horton’s cohorts on White Horse Inn), and he has been deeply influenced by the “kind” of theology articulated at Westminster California. I’ve also read the historical theologians and theology “behind” Horton’s theology (like English Puritan stuff and behind that). He is dyed in the wool Covenant theology-dude, and I would suggest that he would make a distinction between Evangelical Theology and his “Reformed Theology;” the latter of those two being representative of “Gospel-Truth.” And therefore anyone who is not in his fold, so to speak; is suspect, per their Christianity (I’m not overstating on this, Horton is a better PR guy — his buddy R. Scott Clark and even Kim Riddlebarger ain’t).
Just because TCR is reading Horton, doesn’t make it safe 😉 🙂 .
I’m messing around with the TCR comment, a little friendly jab at our friend/brother TCR! 🙂 Just to be clear.
Bobby, I can take the punches. 😉
Regarding “us as extension of Christ,” according to a recent lecture of Horton’s, he’s talking about the “loose” talk of the church being incarnational.
It sounds to me–granted, without a lot of Horton background to go on–that he is trying to distance himself from much of what is going on in the Church that he doesn’t like. He’s not simply defining the gospel; he’s posturing.
The whole “we are not an extension of Christ” thing tips his hand, in my opinion. Any definition of the gospel that does not include, “Your God reigns” is deficient. And, quite frankly, any understanding of the gospel that does not see the Church as an agent of the task of redemption can’t take Paul very seriously, so it would seem. The Church does much more than simply bear witness.
I would imagine that Horton’s point on “witness bearing” is construed through a highly sacramental lens.
But for a second I thought I might be hearing some Barth influence in there (for Horton); nah 😉 .
@Bobby: If I remember correctly one person who was near the formation of The Gospel Coalition told me that Horton was not invited because he is so divisive about his narrow definition. It sounds like you have heard similar. Interesting.
@T.C.: Where can I find these lectures?
@Will: Agreed, there is a lot of posturing. That may not always be a bad thing (it seems most theology is done with someone else’s error in mind), but it can be very bad if it consumes someone.
Brian, here .
Yes. All you have to do is listen to the White Horse Inn radio broadcast, and the sectarian tone becomes immediately clear. Beyond that, I’ve sat in the pews at Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, CA — Dr. Kim Riddelbarger’s church (friend and cohort of Horton on WHI, and also adjunct at WTS-California), and heard him make an explicit hard and fast distinction between their “kind” of Reformed Theology and Evangelical Theology; both Western Seminary & Multnomah (for example) would fit into the category of “Evangelical Theology,” thus sub-par Christianity. Beyond that I’ve had first-hand interaction with their real bull-dog, R. Scott Clark (when he had comments open before he banned me 😉 ), who (even within staunch “Reformed circles”) is considered too narrow and even sectarian in approach.
I guess unless someone has had first hand experience with such folks it’s hard to grasp the reality of some of this. They are warm and fuzzy Evangelical types, at all, in fact they ridicule things “Evangelical” quite frequently; just listen to them for awhile and you’ll see.
PS. They consider both Barth and N.T. Wright to be pretty much the devil 😉 . . . I’m not kidding!
*”. . . They aren‘t warm and fuzzy Evangelical types . . .”
@Bobby: I like our evangelical theology! Of course, it has its weakness, but it has more elasticity than much of Reformed theology. I need a bit of elasticity in my theology (otherwise, how can we learn much that is new?)!
Wright has been so helpful to me in my journey though I am growing less confident in the historical methodology that he applies (not because of him, but because of the whole project that lends itself toward historicism). Barth is becoming helpful. I don’t think I am going to have fond feelings toward theologians who dismiss both of these! 🙂
I don’t think you’ll have fond feelings in this direction either; that’s why I’m trying to alert you, a bit, to where Horton is really coming from. 🙂 I just posted a quote from Athanasius at the blog, and applied it to Horton’s style of soteriology at the blog (prompted, really by both you and TC’s postings on Horton 😉 ).
There are things and insights in Wright that I really appreciate, I just can’t sign on with Wright whole-sale. I think, as far as “living” and contemporary theologians and approaches, that I’m finding myself to have a lot of resonances with Kevin Vanhoozer.
I really like his definition of euangelion. That was solid – a proclamation of victory.
I see the gospel as centred in the reality of the kingdom rule of God coming via God’s Messiah, Jesus. When Jesus proclaimed the gospel, he proclaimed the reality of the coming of God’s kingdom rule. I think there are other ‘sub-points’ that must be recognised or that we can emphasise different points at different times about the good news of God’s kingdom coming. But I believe it is centrally located in the reality of the rule of God coming.
George Ladd’s book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, is a great focus on this topic. I’ve recently been sharing a bit about this in a few articles at my blog: article 1, article 2.
I’d agree with Bobby here. I feel like we might be being unfair to the Monophysites and Nestorians though (There modern descendants have seemed to have avoided Horton’s excesses)!
@Bobby: I will have to go on over to your blog to read the quote. I agree with you regarding Vanhoozer. My favorite lecture from 2010 was his interaction with Wright’s theology at the Wheaton conference.
@Scott: God’s rule is a central part of gospel proclamation. It includes the King, his salvation, his judgment, and so many things as you noted.
I have to agree with you about that Lecture with Vanhoozer and Wright. Vanhoozer was funny and pithy of course 🙂 .
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