This is a hard-hitting wake-up call for those of us in the American Church. Horton, a professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, essentially dismantles what passes for theology at most evangelical churches in this country.
While he does confront the errors of “pop theology” movements such as the “Word-Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel” of Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen, and the “seeker-sensitive” or “Emergent Church” of guys like Brian McLaren, his harshest criticism is reserved for those of us who attend conservative evangelical churches. His primary argument “is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal, but that it is becoming theologically vacuous”. In other words, it doesn’t take a great heresy to lead the Church into apostasy. All that is necessary to make the Church ineffective is for Satan to succeed in de-emphasizing the centrality of Christ in our churches. Horton’s argument is that the vast majority of churches follow a “flavor of the moment” mentality, emphasizing programs, political activism, and social work — in and of themselves all admirable undertakings — at the expense of the preaching and understanding of God’s Word. This leads to a lack of discernment among professing believers, leaving many unable to even tell the difference between sound doctrine and heresy.
This is not to say that this book is merely a collection of criticisms. After all, anyone can identify problems. What is needed are visionaries who offer solutions. This is the purpose of the final chapter in the book, in which Horton calls for the Church-at-large as well as individual church congregations to recommit themselves to theology, and, most of all, to the power of Christ and the Word. After all, it is the Word of God that equips us for good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Still, read by itself, this book is long on critique and short on solutions. However, Horton wrote in the introduction that this would be the case, as this book is actually part one of a two-book effort in this area. Its counterpart, “The Gospel-Driven Life”, is entirely solution oriented, giving direction for those who, like Horton, do not believe that the Church has already arrived at “Christless Christianity”, and that reformation is not only possible, but imperative. I hope to offer a review of this second book in the next month or two.
All in all, this is a great read, though you should be prepared to be convicted by it. I certainly was! Buy it here.