Thursday Review: Michael Horton on The Gospel-Driven Life

A review of Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World, Baker, 2009.
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Michael Horton’s latest book, The Gospel-Driven Life, is in some ways a follow-up to his book, Christless Christianity. Christless Christianity was a critique of debased versions of the gospel. The Gospel-Driven life a constructive: it outlines the biblical, God-centred gospel as an announcement of good news to needy sinners rather than mere good advice for a happy life. And it explores the Christian community that is produced by this announcement. Horton uses news terminology throughout the book, focusing on what should be headline news, the gospel. With helpful anecdotes, lots of Scripture, and relevant application, he encourages us to return to an orthodox understanding of the gospel, to study it, understand it, preach it, live it.

‘The goal of this book is to reorient our faith and practice as Christians and churches toward the gospel: that is, the announcement of God’s victory over sin and death in his Son, Jesus Christ. The first six chapters explore that breaking news from heaven, while the rest of the book focuses on the kind of community that this gospel generates in the world … [It is] written for a wide audience of Christians who are burned out on hype and are looking for hope.’ (11, 13)

Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, California.

This week Dan is going to guest blog through The Gospel-Drive Life. Dan has served with Wycliffe in Papua New Guinea and is currently spending some time with us in The Crowded House.

Looking Up, Looking Out: Breaking news

Chapter 1 – The Front-Page God: Checking the Headlines

The first chapter emphasises that God is great. In the midst of our 24-hour news society God is the headline. In the midst of a multitude of constant distractions, the gospel is the one true constant.

Whereas the law is good, and provides good advice about how to live, the gospel is totally ‘other’. It is this ‘other’ gospel that the church needs to be living out and proclaiming. ‘To bring it back to biblical metaphor, the law makes sense to us already; the gospel has to be told by heralds.’ (21) The reader is encouraged to look outside of himself. The Bible’s focus ‘is God and his action. God is not a supporting actor in our drama; it is the other way around. God does not exist to make sure that we are happy and fulfilled. Rather, we exist to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. God is not a facilitator of our “life transformation” projects. He is not a life coach. Rather, he is our Creator, Lawgiver, Judge, and Covenant Lord. As we will see, he is also our Redeemer.’ (26)

Horton describes western society’s current condition. ‘If the concept of the modern self was that of a master of all it surveyed, the postmodern self is best described as a tourist. There is no destination; just personal journeys from nowhere to nowhere in particular.’ (34)

Horton challenges us: ‘Does our worship focus on this unfolding historical drama of the Triune God? Are we being constantly directed outside of our inner experience and our own felt needs to the real newsmaker in history?’ (29) And, ‘Will we surrender our pretension to being the playwright, producer, and director of our own life move and become part of the thanksgiving parade of liberated captives in the train of the redeeming God?’ (36)

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