In the first chapter of his new book Christless Christianity, Dr. Michael Horton offers the conclusion that

those who are raised in “Bible-believing” churches know as little of the Bible’s actual content as their unchurched neighbors. Christ is ubiquitous in this subculture, but more as an adjective (Christian) than as a proper name. While we swim in a sea of “Christian” things, Christ is increasingly reduced to a mascot or symbol of a subculture and the industries that feed it. Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.

He argues further that it “is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous.” Empty. Gospel-less. Christless.

Not that we do not hear the name of Christ mentioned in churches. “Jesus has been dressed up as a corporate CEO, life coach, culture-warrior, political revolutionary, philosopher, copilot, cosufferer, moral example, and partner in fulfilling our personal and social dreams,” but very rarely as the crucified and resurrected Redeemer of a powerless people dead in sin.

Throughout the book, Horton offers evidences of this “Christlessness” in the churches. I have read only the sample Chapter 1, but evidences abound by just reading current religion news:

  • Two Christian organizations have compiled a “Naughty and Nice” list based on how “Christmas-friendly” retailers are, encouraging Christians to shop at “nice” retailers that honor Christmas and shun “naughty” companies that don’t. This is what Horton refers to as Christians’ schizoprenia in “annually decrying the commercialization of Christmas by the culture while we assume a consumer-product-sales approach in our own churches every week.” I suppose as well that Christians must investigate if anyone involved in the layout, printing, distribution, mailing and selling of Rick Warren’s latest moneymaker, The Purpose of Christmas, is “naughty.”
  • Christless prosperity gospel: “He wants you to live this abundant life.” “God has planted seeds of greatness in you. You have everything you need to fulfill your God-given destiny… It’s all in you. You are full of potential.” “Have a good attitude, expect good things” (from a recent message by Joel Osteen).
  • The pastor of a Dallas, Texas megachurch preached a charge to his married congregants to have sex for seven days in a row. Earlier this year, a Florida pastor preached an even bigger challenge to his flock, 30 days in a row.
  • Churches across America were recognized for their excellence in facilities design, operation, use, and audio-visual production at the recently held Worship Facilities Conference & Expo (WFX) in Houston.
  • Touted as one of the fastest-growing churches in America in 2004, Without Walls International Church is on the verge of not only losing its walls, but its floors, pews, roof, and property title. A bank has filed foreclosure proceedings against the church for defaulting on a $1 million loan. At its peak before the divorce of their pastors, Randy & Paula White, and financial scandals, the prosperity gospel church raked in $40 million a year.
  • According to a new book, Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Church, admitted God was “pretty useless” in the face of 9/11 terror attacks. The book relates Williams’ thoughts on 9/11: “God didn’t cause this and God [was not] going to stop it, because God has granted us free will, and therefore God has to suffer the consequences of this like we do” (emphasis mine).
  • Prince Charles is planning – when he becomes King of England – to change his title as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England from “Defender of the Faith” to “Defender of Faith” to reflect Britain’s multicultural society. Earlier, his plan to change the title to “Defender of the Faiths” caused a controversy. The prince and the Archbishop of Canterbury obviously agree that the object of the Christian faith is not necessarily Christ, but anyone, anything, or even nothing.
  • My son had a wedding rehearsal the day before his big day. But “Heaven’s Rehearsal” wants “to hold a rehearsal for Christ’s bride in preparation for the day when we will all stand as one before God.” I wonder who they have acting as “the one seated on the throne,” the 24 elders,” and the Lamb “with seven horns and with seven eyes.”
  • The New Monastic Movement, has a vision to imitate medieval monks in their vow of poverty by becoming “true followers of Christ by living simply and as unselfishly as possible.” Debunking the biblical view of the church as a minister-led community “devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” one follower says, “Church is not something we attend. It’s something we are.”

It’s a dizzying world of mindless, Christless Christianity out there.

Christless Christianity News Bytes
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7 thoughts on “Christless Christianity News Bytes

  • November 21, 2008 at 8:58 am
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    Note: 
    To those who are interested in Dr. Horton’s book, “Christless Christianity,” it is still available in the promotional “Book & DVD Double-Deal Package at $18.87 price plus $5.00 shipping.  Go to the Westminster Seminary website, click bookstore.

  • November 21, 2008 at 8:49 am
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    I highly recommend Dr. Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. 
    The book speaks not only to American audience but to believers everywhere.  It challenges us to examine our own christian faith & practice in the light of God’s Word, and then question ourselves if we are still walking on the right path of Biblical orthodoxy, or just being swept by the current wind of “therapeutic moralism” as Dr. Horton calls it.

  • November 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm
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    Mac, you’re right in pointing out that the Church is not a building but the people of God. American evangelicalism is far removed from true Christianity, and this is why it is unique in the world. As I pointed out in a previous post, Christians in India, Iraq, Sudan and China would probably recoil in revulsion if Joel Osteen preached his false prosperity gospel there.

  • November 15, 2008 at 10:39 pm
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    Knowing Mr. Horton, I don’t think so. But in any case, would God have approved it? I doubt it. Yes, I wasn’t there, but after reading this in your website,

    Together, we follow the protocol and worship that scripture describes. As in Heaven… we have no preacher or featured singing group – the honour alone is given to God. We worship with the finest musicians, vocalists, and dancers and we, the bride of Christ, are ushered into the very presence of God.

    I have no desire in participating in events like yours.

  • November 15, 2008 at 10:24 pm
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    From your comments I can tell you were not at Heaven’s Rehearsal in Toronto (The worlds most multicultural city) – There were not actors as you assumed. There was no pretending that we were in Heaven. In Fact it was an assembling in the broadest sense of followers of Jesus perhaps ever.  25,000 people from 140 nations officially represented. A Glimpse into Revelation 7:9… The only name mentioned in all the promotion and during the gathering was Jesus. What took place was reading of the Bible, worship in song and dance.  Christless gathering??? no way – it was the most Christ centered large gathering perhaps in North American history.

    Can you believe… a crowd that size and money or offerings was not talked about… no organization or ministry was credited with this undertaking. The honor alone was the Lords. Author Michael Horton would have loved it.

  • November 15, 2008 at 6:54 am
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    It is a grieving scene these days, but I thank God for men like Dr. Horton who are not afraid to address these issues and publicly proclaim the truth.  The White Horse Inn has been dealing with ‘Christless Christianity’ this year, and has been a great listen each week.

    This book is added to my ‘must buy’ list.

  • November 15, 2008 at 5:51 am
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    I think this just shows that the surrounding American culture has a deep influence on Christianity. America is concerned about money and outside appearances? Well, American Christianity ends up getting concerned with those things too. It’s just very easy to get into a lull when your religion is comfortably accepted (the East and West coasts notwithstanding) and entrenched in the power structures of the country. I do not buy the notion that Christians are being “persecuted” in America. Not yet, anyway. Maybe that will happen in a few decades, and if it does, perhaps American Christianity will be better off because of it!

    I do think there is some merit to that New Monastic quote, however. I think what that quote is trying to get at is that often Christians think of the church only as a building or Sunday service, and that is a very incomplete picture. We ourselves make up the body of Christ — the Church.

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