Erdman’s Passive-Aggressive Step-Grandson-in-Law

ErdmanJohn Frame faced a choice. He could have reviewed Mike Horton’s book, Christless Christianity, or he could have abstained. He could have critiqued Horton’s indictment of Joel Osteen. He also could have offered his own critique of Osteen. Even if he disagreed vigorously with Horton, he could have let it go out of a sense of living with the eccentricities of a former colleague and a minister in a church with whom his own communion is in fellowship.

But Frame decided to write a lengthy review in which Horton’s assessment comes off as more theologically flawed than those whom Horton critiques.

On the one hand, according to Frame, Horton is wrong about contemporary evangelicalism:

Speaking, perhaps presumptuously, for “the American church,” let me attempt a reply. For what it is worth, my own perception of American evangelicalism is very different from Horton’s. My observation is anecdotal (just like his, in the final analysis), but based on around 55 years of adult observation in many different kinds of churches including the much maligned mega-churches. In most every evangelical church I have visited or heard about, the “focus” is on God in Christ. There has been something of a shift over the years in what Horton would call a “subjective” direction. But that is best described not as unfaithfulness, but as a shift toward more application of Scripture to people’s external situations and inner life. There is a greater interest in sanctification (not just justification), on Christianity as a world view, on believers’ obligations to one another, on love within the body of Christ, and in the implications of Scripture for social justice.

I don’t see this as wrong, or unbiblical. Indeed, I think this general trend is an improvement over the state of affairs fifty years ago. Scripture is certainly concerned about these matters, and we ought to teach and learn what it has to say.

(By the way, Frame thinks that Horton shares this outlook primarily with secular critics of American religion. But Frame does not acknowledge that conservative Protestants like David Wells and Carl Trueman, or moderate to liberal Protestants such as Douglas Webster, William Willimon, and Stanley Hauerwas agree with Horton more than Frame.)

On the other hand, Frame thinks that the basis for Horton’s critique is theologically defective:

Horton’s alarmism is persuasive to many people, and I have been moved to try to show them their persuasion is premature. The problem is that the yardstick Horton uses to measure the American church’s allegiance to Christ is not an accurate yardstick. Or, to drop the metaphor, Horton measures the American church with a defective theology.

He comes on to the reader as a generic Protestant Christian with a passion for the historic doctrines of the atonement and of justification by faith alone. He writes engagingly. Naturally, then, other Protestants tend to resonate to his arguments. But Horton is not just a generic Protestant or even a generic Reformed theologian. He holds certain positions that are not warranted by the Reformed Confessions and which in my mind are not even Scriptural.

Frame is fully within his duties as a theology professor to review critically the book of another theologian, even one who apparently shares his theological tradition. But he is on shaky ground when he has faulted folks like Horton at other times for being Machen’s Warrior Children, that is, for needlessly criticizing those within the Reformed household. According to Frame:

The Machen movement was born in the controversy over liberal theology. I have no doubt that Machen and his colleagues were right to reject this theology and to fight it. But it is arguable that once the Machenites found themselves in a “true Presbyterian church” they were unable to moderate their martial impulses. Being in a church without liberals to fight, they turned on one another.

For some reason, John Frame thinks he is not a pugilist even after writing reviews like his of Horton (not to mention that the Warrior Children piece contained several punches, some below the belt). If he had a better understanding of “the Machen movement, Frame might realize that every controversy has more than two sides. In the 1920s, the alternatives were not simply conservatives like Machen or liberals like Harry Emerson Fosdick. In between were evangelicals like Charles Erdman who needed to decide whether to agree with conservatives and oppose liberals, or find a way to avoid controversy and work for the unity of the church, even to the point of keeping people who were not Calvinistic in the fold. Erdman never thought that his case for unity was controversial or contested. He thought Machen was extreme and temperamentally defective, and Erdman, an acknowledged evangelical, threw Machen under the bus. In so doing, Erdman made room in the Presbyterian Church for Machen’s enemies.

Blame it on the tri-perspectivalism, but Frame does not see that his notion of evangelical unity does not make room for Horton or other confessional Protestants who critique born-again Protestantism. Does Frame mean to embrace Osteen more than Horton? He may not. But if he doesn’t, why not write his own review of Osteen, instead of waiting to rip Horton’s critique?

John Frame is in denial about being a warrior. But at least he is correct about his family ties to Machen.

68 thoughts on “Erdman’s Passive-Aggressive Step-Grandson-in-Law

  1. Blood is thicker than water, I guess. I couldn’t believe some of his semi-approving comments about Osteen. Blech.


  2. Daryl,

    Thank you for your post. I think Frame’s critique of Horton should be required reading for Senior Seminar at WSC. That way there will be less equivocation on where Frame really stands. That way hopefully there will be less sympathy towards the ‘new-school’ agenda of our day…


  3. Watching closely how this develops. There are “historical antecedents” to this that need development. Rev. Frame blisters Dr. Horton’s book and perspective. Watching closely.


  4. Excellent post. I am curious to know what views that Horton holds are “not warranted by the Reformed Confessions and which in my mind are not even Scriptural.” Is this code for two-kingdoms?


  5. I am not 100% in agreement with Dr. Frame however I would like to note that the influence of Dr. Horton and Dr. Clark at WSC are becoming a bit cult like in the Reformed world. They are producing young men going around and calling everyone ”inconsistantly reformed” or other terms like that, and out of a greater concern for reforming worship by the standards of the 17th Century, they neglect actually going to the unchurched and unbelievers and telling them of Christ out of a greater concern for apoligetic method (there are both classicists and Vantalians in the group I am refering to) and being ”consistent” with the truths of both sovereign grace and responsibility. There is a real danger in the WSC mentality of producing men who become defacto hypercalvinists who are more concerned with the promotion of a puritan understanding of the RPG and supralasparianism than sharing the Gospel with a peer. Dr. Frame’s posistoin though leans too far in the other extreme in my opinion. This is not too suprising coming from a man who embraces essentially the Lutheran principle for worship (ironic that he accuses Dr. Horton of being too Lutheran on Law and Gospel eh). Dr. Frame doesn’t seem to take the Reformed tradition or Confessions very seriously in his writtings except as to where he can manipulate the language to fit his beliefs and has the willingness to let the culture dictate how the Church ought to do her buisness– or as he would probably say it ”how the Church can serve the Culture”. He takes his views on practical theology from the conservative right-wing evangelical revivalistic mainsteam Church and adapts them to the point where there is no notable diffrerence between Reformed Worship and a Southern Baptist Church. Well call me old fashioned but I do believe that the Reformation meant something and apart of the Reformation was a reformation in the Church’s understanding of Worship– though I think a legtimate debate can be held as to how we apply this body of divinity. In conclusion, as it is with most internet discussions, the solutions can be found usually in the center of two extremes presented.


  6. The Warriors continue. Frame’s critique of Horton is spot on. Horton’s inflammatory words are rightly denounced. Machen was right to call it “Christianity and Liberalism” but the same epithet of ‘false-gospel’ doesn’t apply to Protestant Evangelicals who hold to the inerrancy of the Bible and the sufficiency of Christ. Machen was right, but what came afterwards was SIN. The splits that resulted in the OPC, PCA, Bible Pres etc. were clear violations of God’s Word. Heresy is a sin, but so is divisiveness. To mis-triage theological issues as cardinal when they are not is itself a cardinal sin. I hope the Frozen Chosen in Escondido will recover from their Premature-Remnant Syndrome and attempt Christian unity.


  7. I think it fair to say that any teacher has the danger of producing a cult-like following. While I can’t say that WSC is more or less prone to that than others, as one who studied there, I would like to testify that my education drove out my hypercalvinist and supralapsarian tendencies. Learning from the likes of Drs. Horton and Clark has inspired me (an OPC guy) to go share the gospel in Chinese communities who are not part of the OPC or PCA, and mostly have never heard of the OPC or the PCA.

    Perhaps many who doubt Horton’s thesis are mostly in good gospel-preaching circles. I, for one, often find myself in the midst of church circles where the gospel of grace may be believed but it takes a major back seat to the point where it becomes contradicted in practice. Mr. Murphy, perhaps instead of your own inflammatory warrior words and name-calling, you might constructively encourage and pray for us who are laboring where the rubber meets the road?


  8. Robert, the OPC pre-dated the PCA by a near 40-years. A larger question is why didn’t the PCA join the OPC? Was it the OPC’s strong position on subscription to the Standards?

    I’m an old school Anglican, a Calvinistic one, with no dawg in this inter-mural Reformed fight.

    But I’m finding out that CCM–Contemporary Christian Music–informs a good many PCA churches. That also informs a wide swath in AMiA churches.

    Further, the studies of David Hunter, a professional sociologist, on “Evangelicalism” suggest strongly an erosion of foundational loci in the wider evangelical world.

    Ditto for David Wells’ perspectives and his considerable insights.

    I’ll keep reading, but there more to be said about this subject, to wit, the relationship between Confessing and non-Confessing Churchmen.


  9. RM, have you considered that Jacob Arminius and John Wesley believed in inerrancy and the sufficiency of Christ. Come to think of it, Rome also says it believes in an inerrant Bible and the sufficiency of Christ. Somehow, those doctrines merely affirmed don’t settle a whole lot. And when you consider that most of the American evangelical world is Arminian, and the the Synod of Dort anathematized Arminianism, I’m afraid you’re going to have to do better than this.

    Meanwhile, you may want to consider that Machen was not about a fundamentalist or evangelical list of doctrines. He was a confessionalist. There’s a good reason that Horton holds a chair named for Machen.


  10. Love the title!

    Just as in the public square, where liberal tolerance has proved to be profoundly intolerant of those who hold to moral absolutes, so with evangelical inclusivism and its exclusion of confessionalism.

    In true evangelical style, let me borrow a metaphor from popular culture. Horton, like Avon Barksdale, is a soldier and is completely up front about his combatitive approach. He makes no secret of his ‘contending earnestly for the faith’ and as a result he’s taking heat. Frame, on the other hand, is more of a quiet assassin, like Chris Partlow quietly dumping confessing bodies in the vacants while nobody notices. Man, I should put this crap in a book, I’d make a killing.


  11. When Horton gets to edit his own festschrift and when that festschrift weighs in at approximately 1,000 pages, I’ll consider his following cult-like. In the meantime, Mike’s radio and magazine have evangelized in ways that should satisfy your demands.


  12. Nick, love the Wire references. You are a man of impeccable taste. (How could Baltimore produce so many great characters — Machen, Mencken, Avon, Omar, Jimmy, and Bunk?!)


  13. Frame, you will remember DGH, didn’t care much for Richard Muller or David Wells either- not to mention the very acerbic remarks that he has made about Shepherd’s critics. Candidly, Frame’s reputation as a pugnacious barroom brawler is fairly well established-despite his on going claims to be a irenic fellow. Oh, by the way, I too had Frame as a professor in the PhD program at WTS.


  14. Much of Frame’s critique of Horton and crew is summed up in this quote:

    “As among all the doctrines of the gospel, there is none opposed with more violence and subtlety than that concerning our regeneration by the immediate, powerful, effectual operation of the Holy Spirit of grace; so there is not scarce anything more despised or scorned by many in the world than that any should profess that there hath been such a work of God upon themselves, or on any occasion declare aught of the way and manner whereby it was wrought… yea, the enmity of Cain against Abel was but a branch of this proud and perverse inclination.”
    – John Owen, A Discourse Concerning The Holy Spirit


  15. Gee, Richard-tell me from you vast reservoir of knowledge about all thins related to Frame -if Frame didn’t go after Muller, Wells and Shepherd’s critics just as I said? He was highly critical of both Muller and Wells in the class I had with him ( this was hotly disussed in the class)- but you weren’t in that class, were you?


  16. Baltimore looks like a fun place to live. I know of no other show that would be cleverly written enough to have me rooting for a gay ‘rip and running’ gangster. (I’ve just finished season 4.) The best written thing I’ve ever seen. Shows up the poverty of UK TV.


  17. I wouldn’t be too hard on British telly. The original Office is incredibly good. Until the Wire, it was the best tv I’ve seen (not that I watch that much). But you have to give HBO some credit. And having recently discovered the Larry Sanders Show, HBO’s first bit tv hit, I’m more and more impressed by the number of hits rather than misses that network has produced.


  18. Okay, Christian, I’ll bite. Could you please explain how this quotation bears in any conceivably obvious way on the issue at hand? I’d prefer if you explain after taking your meds.


  19. Nick, granted, when it comes to clever TV writing we’ll always have M*A*S*H. But have you forgotten Monty Python’s Flying Circus? And your Office has it up one side and down another on ours.

    DGH, speaking of clever writing and HBO, have you discovered the very Presby-titled Curb Your Enthusiasm (AKA “The Dark Seinfeld”) yet? Its writing is so clever it has no script. Larry David simply gave the actors a vague overview of the scene and they ad-libbed it all. There’s a clever reference to Frame’s mishandling of Horton in there somewhere.


  20. You are absolutely right, Pastor Johnson, I was not there in class at WTS with you. Just pulling your chain. I am appalled at what Frame had to say about Horton’s book. But in the lectures I have listened to by Frame (given at RTS), he has been critical of Horton and his “semi-Lutheranism” in the past, so this is not much of a surprise. I accept that there is a history with Frame on other issues.


  21. Richard
    And I was pulling your! On a more serious note, I was profoundly disappointed with Frame’s remarks in the opening pages of his festschrift about Westminster seminary Calif. and especially his commentsd about the late Meredith Kline ( who I also had as a professor at WTS). Sounded like Michael Jordon’s and the speech he recently gave at the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremonies wher he decided to settle old scores with anyone who he percieved didn’t recognize his greatness.


  22. Take the Holy Spirit and regeneration out of Reformed Theology and you have what Clark and Horton teach to be Reformed Theology. Calvin (and Owen) was a bare foot mystic compared to modern Reformed academics.

    Not just petulant antipathy towards any notion of regeneration; not just practical deism; but also a rather obvious offshoot of that which is a rather condemning lack of interest in spiritual warfare: a subject Reformed Christians wrote on rather explicitly and extensively in the past. But, since Clark for one says Puritans didn’t really actually exist I suppose that is one way to downplay spiritual warfare. Puritans were rather knowledgeable – from experience – about regeneration as well. It would follow that they would need to be Stalinized from the official photographs, in Clark and Horton’s view of Reformed Theology.


  23. Let me get this straight. You agree with Frame. Frame says Horton is one of Machen’s warrior children. You say Horton isn’t a Christian warrior.

    Makes perfect sense — I guess, depending on one’s medication.

    But thanks for clarifying that Frame is not a Reformed academic.


  24. Frame’s “review” was on the surface an irenic, balanced critique of a book, but the bare knuckles (and cheap shots) poked through the velvet glove in too many places to maintain the illusion of a fair-minded review. This was a thinly veiled screed. A person who dropped in from Mars with no knowledge about the history between Frame and Horton would conclude that Frame’s review was animated by personal animus a micron beneath the surface. This is unfortuante, because the differences in philosophy and theology merit a hearing. It’s unfortunate that Frame disqualified himself from participating in a fair minded discussion of those differences. Frame is not the first to make many of the critiques Frame made. It will not do to try to deny that the thrust of WSC’s philosophy of ministry holds to some of the positions ascribed to Horton, at least in terms of emphasis. It is a fair question whether there is too much emphais on the indicative over the imperative, too strong an aversion to applicatory preaching, too much over-reaction against evangelical moralistic preaching, too knee-jerk a reaction against preaching sanctify as if justification swollows the whole of theology, too pugilistic and pugnacious a spirit exhibited too often in too many places that is not necessary to defend the faith once for all delivered. These are fair issues. They should be discussed. But it Frame is too angry to join this conversation.


  25. Yes, when we Christians reference spiritual warfare we are referencing Frame essay on Machen’s warrior children.

    The arrow stings for a reason.


  26. BBarr, I’m not sure how fair these questions are. Some of them sound like “well, how much wife-beating is permissible?” If you want to ask what is the proper relation between the indicative and imperative, that’s one thing. But if you want to ask if there is too much of an indicative over the imperative, your question implies what the right answer should be.

    BTW, have you ever considered that WSC’s philosophy of ministry is closer to Calvin’s than many other Reformed seminaries?


  27. Richard,

    I have sat under Pastor Gary’s teaching for the past 10 years. Lovable isn’t an adjective we at Church of the Redeemer would use to describe him but faithful certainly is. He is a very thoughtful and careful theologian. 🙂


  28. We do have some excellent comedy. I agree that the Office was brilliant (you need to see Gervais’ Extras too).

    Our dramas and soap operas are utterly pathetic though. Watching The Wire emphasised that all the more.


  29. Nick,

    Extras is, as you blokes say, brilliant, but not quite as good as The Office. Gervais is another British comedic genius. What do you guys put in your water? Whatever it is, it seems Frame could use some to cut whatever tonic he’s sipping.


  30. The point many have made, and that Frame made, is that the in the diet of preaching commended by some at WSC, the imperative is in principle and quite intentionally diminished in emphasis (elapsed time, number of words, stress, however you want to measure it) to the point that it is fair to say it is negligible or non-existent. The preacher who preaches imperatives, even grounded in gospel indicatives, draws the criticism that he is “moralizing” or “failing to preach Christ.” The homiletics faculty of WSC, to their credit, do not share this Dennisonian model of preaching where the sermon is a biblical-theology lecture with minimal application, indeed are critical of it. But much of the faculty endorses and models the Dennisonian brand of redemptive-historical preaching. I would say the homiletics faculty of WSC are very close to Calvin’s philosophy of ministry and preaching, but that some other faculty members explicity reject Calvin’s preaching model. To see why, one need only read any given Calvin sermon and hold it up to any given Dennisonian biblical-theology sermon, and it’s evident who is closer to Calvin’s philsophy and who is not. With that said, WSC is nonetheless the finest Reformed seminary today, in my opinion. Frame was not a good fit there, but some of the points he made would have borne further discussion had he not laced his review with so many unfair charges and misstatements.


  31. Christian, that’s an interesting accusation that Horton and Clark remove the Holy Spirit and regeneration from reformed theology. Could you substantiate that claim? Strangely, coming from one who studied under them, Horton’s teaching helped me to see the Holy Spirit’s action with all of God’s works and the whole Christian life.


  32. DGH:

    Is that a fact, that Rev. Frame editted his own Festschrift? (not sure I have the spelling right)

    But my spelling to the side, I thought such a work was to be done by others, not the person in question?

    I’m not in the publishing world, so I don’t know.

    I suppose I’m going to have buy this one also. Going to have to talk to the wife about the budget here.



  33. That’s pretty funny, BBarr. The Dennisonian wing of BT regards WSC (where Dennison is no longer teaching) as Lutheran. In other words, Horton and Dennison are hardly on the same liturgical team. For that reason, you may want to be more careful about how you characterize WSC.


  34. It is true that Frame commissioned and edited his own festschrift. I’m still getting over the disappointment of not being invited. And yes, you are correct that typically a festschrift is the work of those who want to honor a retiring scholar.


  35. Flippant replies from you because you can’t pause and be a bit introspective. What are you protecting, Reformed academics? You’re protecting your shallowness.


  36. DGH:


    Editting a festrift (my spelling again) is questionable enough. But commissioning your own work??

    I saw one post elsewhere that John (I’ll call him that) contributed three articles–himself–to the volume.

    You may be disappointed that you weren’t invited. From another perspective, mine, that’s just over the top. Almost insulting, perhaps rude, and–with strong whiffs of–narcissism.

    Thanks for the info. His “value on the my stockmarket” has gone down. I wasn’t overly impressed with him as my Professor nor with his work on Worship. Nuff said.




  37. Further reflection on the article is shaping up for me. Full of alot of cheap shots and lack of research on the characteristics and nature of evangelical churches. The irenicism is feigned. This was a bar room brawl.


  38. “Take the Holy Spirit and regeneration out of Reformed Theology and you have what Clark and Horton teach to be Reformed Theology. Calvin (and Owen) was a bare foot mystic compared to modern Reformed academics.

    Not just petulant antipathy towards any notion of regeneration; not just practical deism; but also a rather obvious offshoot of that which is a rather condemning lack of interest in spiritual warfare: a subject Reformed Christians wrote on rather explicitly and extensively in the past. But, since Clark for one says Puritans didn’t really actually exist I suppose that is one way to downplay spiritual warfare. Puritans were rather knowledgeable – from experience – about regeneration as well. It would follow that they would need to be Stalinized from the official photographs, in Clark and Horton’s view of Reformed Theology.”

    Amen Christian! I’d rather not call myself Reformed after reading Clark. He has rationalized the Christian faith and is deistic in his theology of the third person in the Holy Trinity and doesn’t reflect Pauline Theology. Though he claims Sola Scriptura he material denies the work of the Spirit in the Church and in the Christian life in his writings. Is there any mystery left in Clark’s theology? He seems to rationalized everything. I do like Horton’s radio show, but it’s nice to see John Frame correct him.

    WSC should be a little more humble instead of hyper and sectarian.


  39. You are wide of the mark and apparently unaware that the moniker “Dennisonian preaching” is seldom used strictly to refer to Rev. Dennison and his philsophy of preaching/teaching. It’s used (including by many WSC students and faculty) to refer to a brand of redemptive-historical preaching that embraces sermons that are more biblical-theology lectures, heavy content, rejects the “application bridge”, eshews most application, believes that to placard Christ in the scriptures requires showing redemptive-historical connections between OT and NT, believer imperatives should be minimized, believes Law and Gospel is not only a hermenuetic but a preaching paradigm, eschews Law-Gospel-Law, etc. It is simply not open to dispute that much of the faculty and graduates embrace this paradigm, and the broader philosophy of ministry with which it is organically connected. I’m not hear arguing for or against it, but we should be honest enough to admit this is what the seminary appears to stand for and produce, outside of a minority of the faculty (e.g., Dr. Johnson’s fine book on preaching is a notable departure from this paradigm and a move toward a more nuanced version of Christ-centered, redemptive-historical preaching that includes application and preaching to the heart and not merely the head). Dr. Frame’s critique, though over the top in so many areas, correctly identified this issue as worthy of debate and discussion.

    Finally, I must mention that the tone of your response to my email was patrononizing and rude. As a pastor older than you, I do not appreciate that tone being taken. I see you using strident rhetoric and unduly pugnatious writing style in your blog that is not God honoring, I respectfully submit with all due respect. I mean you no disrespect, but you might find that you will gain more respect and win a broader hearing for your ideas if you adopt a more gracious style. Indeed, Dr. Frame was not the first to take issue with the unduly pugnacious style adpoted by many Reformed pugilists. Your rhetoric in your blog is emblematic of the problem. I regret that because I respect your scholarship and believe you have many ideas that are worthy of hearing, but I know so many people who will not give you a hearing because they do not respect you, and they don’t respect you because of your pugilist style. It’s something to think about, anyway.


  40. Yes, BBarr, your public rebuke is full of warmth and charity. I said your characterization was “funny.” You say my response is “patronizing and rude.” Hey, now!

    I believe you are still wrong to characterize WSC as Dennisonian. It has been 10 years since he taught there. And because the WSC subject of this post was Horton, it is entirely on mark to say that Horton and Dennison represent different strands of the Reformed world. It is especially important to see that trajectory from Vos to Ridderbos to Gaffin, in which Dennison resides, has been critical of Horton for being Lutheran.


  41. You think Clark and Horton’s sacramental theology is rationalistic? How exactly does feeding spiritually on Christ’s body and blood in the heavenlies weekly make the Christian faith rationalistic? Lot’s of evangelicals claim to believe in the Holy Ghost, feathers and all, and wouldn’t go near the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper because of its mystery.


  42. Hi Darryl (and sorry for misspelling your first name before),

    Can you tease out a little bit more what generally distinguishes Horton from Dennisonians as it would play out in preaching? I was profoundly shaped by Dr. Horton during my WSC days, and I sat under the preaching of Rev. Keele, whom I believe preached Horton’s confessional theology. So, how generally, would Dennisonians depart from the preaching of Rev. Keele (who I know you sat under for a time)?

    I am also not sure I understand the Lutheran accusation either – where does this put Dennisonians on justification, and law/gospel?

    Please feel free to e-mail me if more appropriate.


  43. You think Clark and Horton’s sacramental theology is rationalistic? No DGH, but it’s in their lack of Trinitarian theology and because of that they have made the the reformed an under realized eschatology which is something that the Apostle Paul never recognized.

    So to answer your question again it’s a no! But that maybe the obvious problem though, because if they are only limiting the presents of the third person in the Trinity to the Sacraments then it’s something that the New Testament doesn’t recognize and the confessions don’t recognize that either.

    Evangelicals do? What would you call a Liturgical Pentecostal then? Does that put your theology on it’s head? I’m not one of them, but they are out there in growing numbers and are correcting Pentecostal Spirituality with the help of Calvin and others in Reformed theology.


  44. “they have made the the reformed an under realized eschatology which is something that the Apostle Paul never recognized.” Huh?

    Could it be a liturgical Pentecostal is a hispanic Roman Catholic?


  45. You’re not exercising all your gray matter. Consdier all those Central American Roman Catholics turning Pentecostal.


  46. “In my view, many Christians (especially those in the conservative Reformed tradition that Horton and I both inhabit) use this sort of language far too loosely, even flippantly. It is time we learned that when we criticize someone for preaching “another gospel” we are doing nothing less than cursing him, damning him to Hell.”

    “Notice how far we have come. From “Christless Christianity” and “alternative gospel,” to “well on our way,” we are now exploring “subtle distortions and not-so-subtle distractions,” even “good things” that detract from Christ.”

    “As we have seen, this talk of “focus” or “emphasis” is very vague, so these kinds of charges are very difficult to prove. And given the radical nature of Horton’s charges (or at least his language) we ought to demand a rigorous case.”

    “If there are any actual statistics in this book, I must have missed them.”

    “But he never presents their raw data or presents a critical analysis of the arguments from which these people reached their conclusions.”

    “In the absence of serious argument, I default to my habitual skepticism toward critiques of evangelicalism by non-evangelicals.”

    “For what it is worth, my own perception of American evangelicalism is very different from Horton’s. My observation is anecdotal (just like his, in the final analysis), but based on around 55 years of adult observation in many different kinds of churches including the much maligned mega-churches.” <>

    It would seem the Mr. Frame unwaveringly demands proof. In response, I would submit excerpts (sections 3 & 4) from the Second Church Study along with Recommendations for Action sent to Timothy.

    “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power…
    (You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted)… evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived….Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

    (It is rather a shame that Timothy’s response to Apostolic Church Consultants has been lost. One can imagine his skepticism towards a study than doesn’t even quote primary sources or statistics. Surely, Timothy must have thought Paul to be an alarmist.)

    Despite Paul’s lack of empirical evidence, I’m sure Mr. Frame doesn’t doubt the validity and weight of Paul’s warnings. Perhaps he has merely become distracted from them.

    For forty-plus years I attended self-described conservative, Bible-believing, Evangelical churches (six different states) none (to my memory) of which ever seriously considered personally the warnings and instructions given by Paul to Timothy; they saw these warnings as largely against liberal mainline denominations. While the churches considered these warnings well-heeded, they (1) failed to preach the Gospel as clearly presented in Scripture; (2) did not properly administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper; (3) lacked all manner of church discipline; (4) perceived the Gospel to be for unbelievers only; (5) regularly, officially, and ignorantly engaged in various forms and degrees of legalism and self-righteousness; and, (not exhaustively) (6) arrogantly and condescendingly viewed themselves as better than the world because of their personal piety including their “decision to accept Jesus”. In these churches, the Gospel, as they perceived it, was included only as an appendage to the “service” after preaching “try harder” law; now (in most) even that deformed appendage has been removed and the law has become friendlier and therapeutic.

    A lengthy study in Romans that for the first time properly revealed to me both Law and Gospel brought a Neo-like change in my perception of reality; the churches that I thought had been properly “observing all things” commanded had in fact been operating with their own “playbook” all along.

    Yes, I know that my report is anecdotal, too. But my point is that my perception of my observations (now filtered through eyeglasses of sound teaching), in no way changed the reality within the churches I attended; it only made me aware of the true reality. The existence of what Paul was warning against was always there. But without sound teaching, my observations merely returned illusions of goodness. I didn’t need empirical studies; I needed sound teaching with illumination.

    While there is no denying an appropriate time for studies (and anecdotal sources), do we really presume that they are needed to verify what we (should) know in Scripture to be true? Does Mr. Frame (or anyone else) presume that the *starting* point for arriving at truth in this matter is sources and studies which he personally might find convincing? Or did Dr. Horton simply provide observable occurrences (some anecdotal and some not) of what the Scriptures told us would be so common in the last days? We shouldn’t need the equivalent of a double-blind study to verify what God has already said to be true. If we don’t see the pandemic (see Calvin’s take on 2 Tim 3-4) that Paul warned us about, (especially when it’s pointed out in light of Scripture) shouldn’t we be asking ourselves “why”? Armed with sound teaching, are we not to constantly examine teachers and their teachings to “see if these things are so”; not as a mob of self-righteous witch-hunters, but as dutiful heralds and guardians of the Gospel of Truth, defending and preserving its purity in a spirit of love and thanksgiving. The latter is what I see in Dr. Horton.)

    I submit that Mr. Frame is simply barking up the wrong tree (Mike Horton). He might be better served to take up this issue with the CEO of Apostolic Church Consultants and its Founder.


  47. John Frame’s negative review of Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity has engendered vehement discussions in evangelical circles. I just got around to reading the book this month (2-2010). Frame states, “This is something of a ‘bait and switch.’ Horton scares us to death with his brash title, telling us that we are headed for Hell. But then he backtracks. He says there is really no movement today that could be called ‘Christless Christianity.’ But there are some things going on that could lead the church that way.” Actually, I thought Horton was premature in claiming the church as a body had not arrived at a Christless Christianity considering the various examples he provided.

    A major challenge is to place Horton’s warnings in the correct context.

    Theologian Benjamin Breckinrigde Warfield (1851-1921) addressed the idea of
    Christless Christianity in the early 1900s; see The Harvard Theological Review, v. pp. 423-473; also, The Works of Benjamin Brenkinrigde Warfield 10 vols., BakerBooks, 1932; in vol. III, Christology and Criticism, Warfield’s article “Christless Christianity”. Warfield was responding to an attempt to make Christ some vague person, which people could never really know the truth about because of what was termed as the unreliability of “truths of history.” Warfield explained that what was at stake was the very nature of Christianity or the essence of Christianity (p. 349). “The Christ Myth” by Professor Arthur Drews was published in the early 1900s and used as anti-Christian propaganda. Warfield tells us, “There is asserted here something more than that religion is independent of Jesus. That was being vigorously asserted by the adherents of the Monistenbund; and as for Drews, his ‘Christ Myth’—like the ‘Christianity of the New Testament’ of his master, von Hartmann, before it—was written, he tells us, precisely in the interests of religion, and seeks to sweep Jesus out of the way that men may be truly religious” (p. 316) (The Works of Benjamin Brenkinrigde Warfield 10 vols., 1932; in vol. III, Christology and Criticism, article “Christless Christianity”).
    Warfield quotes German philosopher, Rudolf Eucken, comments about Christ, “’We can honor him…as a leader, a hero, a martyr; but we cannot directly bind ourselves to him, or root ourselves in him: we cannot unconditionally submit to him…’ Eucken thus quite purely carries on the tradition of a non-historical, which is, of course, also in the nature of the case a Christless Christianity” (p. 323).

    “The question” says Warfield, “thus concerns not Christianity in its historical sense, but ‘our religion,’ ‘of to-day’; and it might perhaps be better phrased, not, Is Christ essential to the Christian faith? but, Is the so-called Christianity of today to which Christ is not essential still Christian?” (pp. 349-350, My Emphasis). This is Horton’s point!

    In his book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Michael Horton argues that the American church is on its way to a Christless Christianity by presenting a message which “moralize, minimize, and trivialize Christ in different ways” but does not raise to the point of heresy, says Horton (p. 24 Grand Rapids, BakerBooks 2009). However, whether one reads Warfield’s description of Christless Christianity (pp. 313-367) or Horton’s description of Christless Christianity (pp. 1-270), both are appropriate polemics against a flawed view of Christianity. Horton says “…many Christian Leaders are converting sin—a condition from which we cannot liberate ourselves—into dysfunction and salvation into recovery.” For example, Horton notes that Reformed preacher, Robert Schuller encourages people not to use terms like sin and justification but “shame and [low] self-esteem” become the fundamental issues in life that need to be addressed. He says evangelical leader, Rick Warren informed a national TV audience that Jesus came into the world to give us a “’do-over,’” like in golf. “I realize” says Horton, “that a lot of people who might gravitate toward a more therapeutic approach to life, including their faith, would nevertheless balk at the accusation of works-righteousness. The key to my criticism, however, is that once you make your peace of mind rather than peace with God the main problem to be solved, the whole gospel becomes radically redefined….One may feel guilty, but no one actually is guilty before God.” Horton then rightly explains, “’How can I, a sinner, be right before a holy God?’” is simply off the radar in a therapeutic mind-set. Once the self is enthroned as the source, judge, and goal of all of life, the gospel need not be denied because it’s beside the point. But people need to see—for their own good—that self-realization, self-fulfillment, and self-help are all contemporary twists on an old heresy, which Paul indentified as works-righteousness” (pp.38-40).

    Warfield appropriately ends his article on Christless Christianity with this quote, “’Christ is Christianity itself…without His name, person and work, there is no Christianity left. In a word, Christ does not point out the way to salvation; He is the Way itself’” (p. 367). “[T]here are people” says Lloyd-Jones, “that talk about Christianity without Christ…There is no Christianity without ‘the blood of Christ’….His atoning substitutionary sacrifice” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones God’s Ultimate Purpose, pp.17-18, 1978).


  48. I’m a couple of years late on this, but the door was still open so I thought I’d leave a note, even though it looks like I missed the party.

    From an outsider’s point of view, I didn’t think the review was as bad as all that — it seemed like an “inside job” in the good sense of the term. My take (perhaps naive) was that Horton was under some encouragement from his publisher to write another book. He picked a rather easy topic that could be tacked together quickly from his WHI material. He took potshots at some extremely easy targets (like Osteen), lining up with 60 Minutes and Good Morning America and every other big player in media. He gave the book a jazzy title, warranted or not. And then he shipped it off to the publisher.

    Frame wanted to communicate that this was actually a serious topic being treated in a non-serious way, so he pulled out the stops and, it seemed to me, sought to “school” Horton but calling him to task: if Horton wants to address a serious topic from his privileged position with a big name, an audience, a ready publisher, and influence, he should take that endowment seriously rather than exploiting it a bit. Frame says as much in one of his interviews. “Come on, Mike,” he says, pick on someone your own size. Horton has many advantages — education, insights, resources, followers — and he used them a bit by turning out a quick book rather than a scholarly one.

    I don’t know that that is wrong, but I thought Frame did. Maybe there is more history between the two than I know, but I thought Frame was making two points: one by the content of his review but another by the length and detail of the review.


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