Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Review of The Christian Faith by Michael Horton

THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: A SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY FOR PILGRIMS ON THE WAY by Reformed scholar Michael Horton is a systematic theology text that reads like an epic exploration of the nature of God and his revelation of himself to humanity. Horton takes a refreshing approach to systematic theology by showing how the Bible is a story or Drama about God and his creation, and out of this Drama our Doctrine is lifted and embraced, leading to Doxology and finally to Discipleship. Systematic theology is about isolating and expounding the important doctrines of Scripture individually so that a person can study a particular point of doctrine more fully by bringing together everything the Bible has to say about it. This can get really dry very quickly. Horton, however, does a great job of structuring his systematic theology as if he's taking us on a journey through the Bible's compelling narrative to reveal the crucial and, for us, life-changing plot points along the way. Horton contrasts the biblical worldview with history's most prevalent alternative philosophical worldviews. He also interacts with some of history's greatest thinkers and shows us the historical development of each of the doctrines covered.

The book has several great points, such as Horton's topical divisions focused on the roles that God plays in the drama of redemption. The book also looks at theology through the lens of God's covenant relationship with creation, as well as with an emphasis on the trinity in theology. Some of the high points for me were the discussions of the Creator/creation distinction, the incarnation, the already/not yet aspects of the kingdom, the theories of the atonement.

Horton is a Reformed theologian with a Calvinistic bent, so there were a few points of doctrine that I disagreed with him on, such as the view that foreknowledge entails foreordination, God's decree of all things that occur in history, his views on effectual calling and particular redemption, regeneration preceding faith, among others. Horton also appeals to the revealed/hidden will in God paradigm, which states that God's revealed will can be disobeyed, but his hidden sovereign will always occurs infallibly. The incoherence of this point can be illustrated by looking at David's sin with Bathsheba. God's revealed will was that David not commit adultery with Bathsheba, but since God ordains all things, his hidden sovereign will was that David commit adultery with Bathsheba. Holding on to this paradigm causes more problems than it solves because it reveals God to be internally divided, willing something to occur that he doesn't will to occur.

I also found it interesting that Horton subscribes to an amillennial view of the the millennial kingdom, though his discussion of it is thorough and well articulated.

A couple other points of disagreement is his nonliteral view of the six days of creation and infant baptism.

However, despite the few points where Horton and I part ways on our views, I found THE CHRISTIAN FAITH to be an insightful and illuminating text on the greatest doctrines of Scripture. It's a great resource for anyone wanting a more narrative approach to systematic theology. Ultimately, the goal is to draw closer to the triune God who is the focus of theology.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan.

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