Chapter 2 – The Real Crisis
The real crisis today is the lack of gospel witness.
Health care crises, the Middle East and educational crises are all important. However, ‘As debilitating as failing schools are for future leadership in the world, the greater crisis is whether the gospel is being passed from one generation to the next.’ (38) Horton traces the biblical story, showing how humanity failed in its task to glorify God, turning their back on him. As well as theology rooted in the biblical text, he examines the state of humanity in the West today.
Our pastors have become personal coaches rather than faithful prophets. ‘As false prophets, we to ourselves, to others, and to God about who we really are. As false priests, we offer whatever pitiful sacrifices we think might buy god off for a while. As false kings, we seek to dominate rather than serve, expecting everyone—including God—to assume their role in our supporting cast.’ (49-50)
Society doesn’t understand sin, it only recognises ‘mistakes’. (50) However, we offend God. Our offence is a personal offence. And God’s wrath rightly falls on those who reject him. Because sin has become irrelevant to us, so has the doctrine of justification. Substitutionary atonement has no place in a society where no-one is guilty. ‘People still feel guilty (because they are guilty), only now they’re supposed to feel guilty for feeling guilty. Whether we admit it or not, the ultimate source of our guilt, anxiety, depression, and stress is God’s wrath and we cannot wish this problem away by denying it or by numbing our sense of it by focusing on the more manageable symptoms.’ (52-53)
Chapter 3 – The Big Story
The big story is not that Christianity makes our lives better but that God justifies the wicked! (Rom. 4:5) This is ‘A strange story indeed.’ (64) It is a truth that stands or falls on certain historical facts, namely Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. ‘As the apostles were brought before Roman authorities, they said nothing about how Jesus had helped them put their marriages back together or how they found the gospel helpful and useful in daily living. There may well have been stories like that to report. However, that was not their gospel. Rather, they testified to datable events, which they assumed to have been well-known to their judges. It was not a “religious story,” but an international headline of immense world historical significance. (People aren’t persecuted for having an invisible friend who helps them through personal crises.) They referred the secular rulers to eyewitnesses who were still living to back up their claim.’ (69)
‘The Bible’s “big story” does not make a point, it is the point.’ (79) ‘The gospel is not a general belief in heaven and hell or hope for a better life beyond; it is not even confidence in a resurrection at the end of the age. It is the announcement that Jesus Christ himself is our life, for he is our peace with God. He does not merely show us the way; he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).’ (80)