Listening In: Michael Horton

WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with theologian, podcaster, author, professor, and magazine publisher Dr. Michael Horton.

Michael Horton’s day job is the J. Gresham Machen professor of theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary, California. It’s a post he’s held for more than 20 years, but he’s also something of a one man publishing a phenomenon. He’s the editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine and he’s host of the nationally syndicated radio broadcast and podcast The White Horse Inn. Michael Horton is widely known for promoting reformed theology within the evangelical church, and he’s been outspoken in his criticism of many trends in the American evangelical church, especially in this book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, that book took on such megachurch pastors as Joel Olsteen and this year it celebrates its 10th year of publication.

I had this conversation with Michael Horton at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Denver, Colorado, where he was a speaker.

Michael Horton, welcome to the program. We’re here at the Evangelical Theological Society. The theme of this year’s conference, there’s usually a theme for ETS, is the Holy Spirit. And if I were being glib or a little bit irreverent, I might say what’s a nice cessationist like you doing in a place like this?

MICHAEL HORTON, GUEST: Thank you, Warren. It’s great to be with you on this program. Yeah, well, I believe in the Holy Spirit. I say it every time, you know, we say the apostles’ or Nicene Creed in church and, but what do we mean by that? And so I’m really glad that ETS is doing a conference on this. We’re no longer kind of defined by the polarization of the 70s and 80s, you know, between the pentecostals on one side or charismatics and non charismatics. And I’m seeing Reformed people draw more deeply from the wells of the past.

We have a lot of reflection on the Holy Spirit in our tradition, and it just was overlooked largely with some notable exceptions, in recent decades. So I’m really excited to see people digging into John Owen and Calvin and Tirtun and others.

SMITH: You are making your presentation—you’re actually presenting a paper here—specifically, what are you telling the group about the Holy Spirit distinctively from your very strong Reformed perspective?

HORTON: Well, my plenary session is on the role of the Holy Spirit in redemptive history, the difference the Holy Spirit makes in every work of God. I think sometimes we tend to cordon them off, you know, Father’s the creator. Then, you know, the Father comes and nudges the Son when it’s time for redemption and says, right now it’s your turn. And then he comes back and says to the Holy Spirit, you go, now. That’s not the way it works. In every work of God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit are all three involved, but differently. So what is that difference that the Holy Spirit brings to every work of God, specifically here, the history of redemption. That’s what I’m going to be talking about. And then there’s going to be a panel discussion about my book on rediscovering the Holy Spirit.

SMITH: What is the work of the Holy Spirit in that all of God’s work in the universe?

HORTON: Yeah, you really can actually narrow it down to this: The Holy Spirit is the one in every work of the Godhead who brings it to perfection to completion. So the Father speaks His word. His word has power. No word that he speaks, comes to, returns to him without accomplishing what it intends. But that’s not just because the Father speaks, it is because it has the Son for the mediator, the content you might say. The Son is what is spoken, the Word, the one in whom and through whom creation is spoken and redemption is spoken. But the Holy Spirit is the one who is at work within the creature. The Father isn’t at work within us. The Son isn’t at work within us. The Father is over us, the Son became one of us. The Spirit is at work within us in order to bring about that effect that the Father intended when he spoke His word.

SMITH: So help me understand why it’s important that we make these distinctions, that we have that kind of understanding about who the Holy Spirit is. How does that help us more fully conform to the image of Christ? How does that help us be better church men and women? How does that help us be better neighbors and witnesses in the world?

HORTON: Well, first of all, Warren, as you know in the in the early church, one of the reasons this became such a flare up over the Holy Spirit was hey, look, not only does the Bible clearly teach that the Spirit is God and he’s the third person of the Trinity, but also we can’t be saved by a creature. That was the whole debate over Christ’s divinity, right? Only God can save us. Well, only God can sanctify us. Only God can unite us to Christ. Only God can lead us to glory. Only God can glorify us on the last day, which is what we’re told the Holy Spirit does. So we need to understand that the Holy Spirit is God. He’s not a thing. He’s not a force. He’s not a socket you plug your spiritual life into. He is a third person of the Holy Trinity, equally God, but he’s also distinct. He’s the Lord and Giver of life. Specifically the giver of life. I think our tendency in western Christianity in particular is toward modalism. That’s the heresy of just running all the three persons together as sort of one person. Now we call him the Father. Now over here, we call them the Son over here, we call them the Holy Spirit.

No, there are three persons, not people, persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Distinct persons. And think about how we pray. You know, I hear some people pray in your name, Amen. They conclude a prayer in your name. Amen. I’m hearing that more and more these days, but we don’t pray in the name of the Father. I stop students when I hear that, I say who are you talking to? Wait, professor, I’m praying right now. No, no, no, no. You’re not praying right now. You’re going to lead the Lord’s people in prayer and you don’t know who you’re talking to? I’m talking to God. Which person of God are you talking to? There is no such thing as God apart from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Who are you talking to? With the Father. All right, then don’t. Don’t pray in the name of the Father. You can only come to the Father in the name of the Son. This used to be stuff you could just assume that that Christians growing up in the church would have, but I think partly because we’ve gutted our liturgies of trinitarian references, it’s really hard.

SMITH: Well, you’ve written a lot about the, and I want to talk more about this later in our conversation, Michael Horton, but you’ve written a lot about how the the Evangelical Church, the American Church has become a mile wide and an inch deep. You wrote a book maybe a dozen years ago now called Christless Christianity, and you’ve had a lot to say about that over the years. Is this one of the reasons that we’ve become a mile wide and an inch deep because we don’t have a robust understanding, a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit? And it’s been replaced with all kinds of heterodox understandings of the Holy Spirit?

HORTON: I think so, Warren. You know, the last couple of years at this conference, in fact, last year at this very Evangelical Theological Society meeting, big debate over the Trinity. Over the Trinity? Yeah, over the Trinity. Eventually it bubbles up into the academy. Most bad teaching in the mainline churches starts from the top—the universities and seminaries—and trickles down. I think in evangelicalism, it trickles up. And I think you just have so many years now of people not really understanding why these debates occurred in the first five centuries, how significant, how important it is, how much we are standing on their shoulders. So they keep reinventing the wheel and it’s never round. And it’s time for us just to really humbly recognize that these debates, there’s almost nothing that can be said that wasn’t said in the first five centuries. And for either good or bad. Let’s at least go back and find out what they said, not repeat their mistakes if we can help it. And yeah, I think that the doctrine of the trinity in one sense, evangelicals and certainly mainline Protestants and Catholics are interested in the Holy Spirit, like never—in the Trinity, like never before. And I think that’s just really exciting. On the other hand, you know, what doctrine of the trinity is it? And that’s going to be a bigger question for decades to come.

SMITH: I’d like to go down a little rabbit trail just for a minute with you, Michael, because you are fairly well known, I guess, within evangelicalism and you’ve self identified as secessionist when it comes to the gifts of the Spirit, can you specifically define what that means?

HORTON: Not really. [Laughs] Yeah, cessationist… I think it’s B.B. Warfield who coined that term. Believing that  the spiritual gifts have ceased. I do connect the spiritual gifts to the distinct gifts of apostleship and also the office of prophet, little p prophet, that was running around in the book of Acts. That office, that apostolic office has ceased, that was a booster rocket office to get the church into orbit.

It isn’t in effect, if the apostolic offices isn’t in effect, then the apostolic signs and wonders aren’t in effect either. That would be my take. Having said that, I can’t say I am a cessationist because God is free to do whatever he wants to do. And I have personally encountered, I’ve been to India and Africa, all around Asia. I’ve seen some really spooky stuff and I know that I have encountered the demonic world. I’ve seen it and I’ve seen the Lord at work in greater ways. And I believe the testimony of those who have been converted from Islam in the Muslim world who say that they had no Bible, had nothing. And the Lord spoke to them in a dream. Well, he didn’t convert them through the dream, but from the dream he sent them to someone who had a Bible. It sounds to me like Cornelius. Cornelius wasn’t saved through a dream. He was led to Peter who would preach the gospel to him. I think that stuff happens all the time. Not all the time, but a lot outside of Western context especially. So let’s celebrate that. When it happens, if it brings someone to Christ, Hurrah.

SMITH: So if I could, and I’m not trying to put you in a box here or put what you’re saying in a box would just, if I could, let me say what I think you said, and you tell me if I got it right or not, that you don’t believe that those spiritual gifts, the signs and wonders gifts are operational normative today, but that God is sovereign. The Holy Spirit is real and he doesn’t need Michael Horton or Warren Smith’s permission to operate.

HORTON: Absolutely. I would say with tongues, for example, my first question, one of the questions I asked in this book on the Holy Spirit is what actually was the gift of tongues? What actually was the gift of prophecy? What actually…? Because I don’t think that what a lot of our pentecostal and charismatic brothers and sisters are doing today is that.

SMITH: Michael Horton, I’d like to pivot a bit in our conversation to talk about the Reformation. I mean, Reformation is kind of your brand. I hate to put it that way, but Modern Reformation is the name of your publication and you’re, you know, you’re very much known, I think, in both academically and in the popular imagination, at least in the evangelical imagination, as someone who is a strong proponent of reformed theology and of the fathers of the reformation. We’re in a season where there are a lot of anniversaries of the Reformation. The anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses on the church door, Lindenburgh, and the 500th birthday of John Calvin was a few years ago, I think, 2012, if I’m remembering right. I don’t remember the exact year. And then the Dordt anniversary is the 400th anniversary. A lot of anniversaries. How are we doing? How is the Reformation doing? Is it still a vital project to end modern evangelicalism?

HORTON: Well, I think in as much as the Reformation was in the 16th century, a great movement of recovering the Gospel, absolutely. We need to recover the Gospel today. In terms of the Reformation itself… It’s interesting. My son and I took him with me to Wittenberg for the 500th anniversary. I was speaking at a conference there on Reformation Day for the 500th anniversary. It was an amazing experience, but we were driving back and he turned on his rock station. He wanted to, you know, all his papers and everything he wanted to, Dad, can I just listen to the rock station for a little while? Sure. Turns it on. They’re saying happy 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. He’s like, Dad, I can’t go anywhere away from this guy. I don’t care if I don’t hear his name for another 500 years. You know, when you look at the Pew Study, the Pew Research Center conducted a study asking people throughout Europe what their views are and what they understand about the reformation.

And at best they were functionally Roman Catholic in their own theology, but that’s putting a pretty good spin on it. They just didn’t really know anything. So here on the radio, on a rock station, they’re saying happy 500th anniversary. For two days, Warren, you couldn’t get things at restaurants and so forth. Why? It was shut down for Reformation weekend, celebrating the 500th anniversary, but they have absolutely no contact or connection with it at all today. Most people in Germany and Switzerland and the Netherlands and the United States and Canada say that we’re saved by grace and works.

And the tragedy is evangelicalism. Evangelical Christians were basically neck and neck with mainline Protestants in either not knowing what the Reformation was about or actually holding views that were similar to the views held by the medieval church. I just think we’re so confused in the church today. The statistics are all pointing in that direction. Moralistic, therapeutic deism, whatever you wanna call it. All of the sociological studies point in the same direction. It’s now become tiresome to repeat and rehearse that statistics. And that’s why 80 percent of those growing in evangelical churches today will be unchurched by their sophomore year in college. There’s just nothing to hold them. They don’t know what they believe. They don’t know why they believe it. So absolutely it’s a serious issue. Even those who say they believe in God, according to the most recent Pew study just came out, they have no idea what kind of God they’re talking about.

You dig down beneath do you believe in God and you realize they really, their conception of God is Buddhist or, you know, just sort of amorphous. So we have a lot of work to do and we have to ask ourselves… There’s still a lot of people who go to church for now. What are they getting? How are they being formed into disciples of Christ if these are the statistics? I think we just have to realize we are in not crash positions, but we’re at a serious fork in the road right now. Whether we’re going to have a reformation today or we’re simply going to go down the stream that leads to basically this condition of Europe.

SMITH: What’s the nature of that crisis? If you could return to first principles is it a lack of reverence for scripture as authority? Is it a lack of authority generally within evangelicalism? I mean, one of the virtues that you might say of Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox is that there is at least a hierarchy right? Now, whether people believe it or not is — and whether that hierarchy has theological legitimacy are questions that I think are important and relevant. But within evangelicalism, it’s like everyone’s a god onto himself in many ways. Is that the crisis? Or is it something else?

HORTON: Yeah. It’s the wild wild west. Well, yeah, I mean, the Pharisees, the Judaism of Jesus’ day also had a hierarchy and respect for authority. But it was the wrong authority. And it was what Jesus said that was so different. Without me, you can do nothing. I have come to seek and to save that which was lost. No one takes my life from me. I lay it down that I may take it up again. I give my life for my sheep. It was just so radically different from anything that was known then. And that’s called the Gospel. The Gospel had just fallen into obscurity in Jesus’ day. And that’s what happens again and again, when you have a hierarchy that doesn’t care about the problem of sin and death, that diagnoses the problem superficially. I think that’s what we have today, Warren. In the church, we have a low view of God and so we don’t really have a deep sense of our own sin and guilt. We don’t measure our sin by God’s holiness and greatness, but by our own aspirations. So I just need to find out how to have my best life now versus I need to be reconciled to a holy God. There are all sorts of ways in which I think we need to be reformed today according to the word of God, but that would be one of them.

SMITH: Well, you mentioned, we’re looking for ways to have our best life now. That’s an unmistakable allusion to one of the most popular evangelical preachers in this country, Joel Olsteen. And I guess I’m wanting you to comment a little bit on the role that sort of the Christian industrial complex plays in this obscuring of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man and the need for Christ to reconcile the two.

HORTON: Yeah. You know, you used to have, for example, in the Presbyterian church, you would have at the bottom of each hymn the notation “permitted to be sung in the church by order of the General Assembly.” So these were all hymns that were approved and the assumption was you don’t sing another hymns. These are psalms and hymns that are approved. And God gave us an approved song book called the Psalter.

Good grief. You have a free for all now. Now you, as long as you pay for it, you license things properly and pay your fee for not infringing on copyright, you can basically seeing whatever you want in church. That’s a very, very tiny example of this Christian industrial complex you’re talking about.

SMITH: But it’s an important example because historically—and Luther taught this, right?—we teach theology through our songs and if our songs today, if the songs we sing in church today are the songs that we learn on Christian radio, and we know that half the people that listen to Christian radio, I mean, I’m glad that Christian radio exists in many ways and I’m glad that half the people that listen to Christian radio are not Christians because they, you know, maybe they’re hearing something that’s helpful to them, but whenever they also start defining what we sing in church, that can be a good thing.

HORTON: No, and that’s what happened, right? I mean, you know this better than I do, the history of evangelicalism kind of shifting from a kind of fundamentalist frown: Don’t go to movies. Don’t dance, drink, smoke, or chew or go with girls that do. To almost a kind of worldly embrace. The next generation saying, I’m not coming to church unless they do it my way. And just the pendulum swung from fundamentalism to consumerism almost overnight. And that’s what we’re dealing with today. Basically asking ourselves, what is the difference statistically, when people are asked, what do they believe and why do they believe it? How do they live? What are their ultimate authorities in making decisions. Christians and non-Christians do not answer differently.

SMITH: Well, just to kind of take you and I out of the curmudgeonly old man category, the get off my lawn kid category. What can we do about this? And let’s stipulate for the record that all that’s true, but you and I have both been rehearsing that message for 20 years in our books and articles and other things that we’ve been doing. What’s the way out of this?

HORTON: I think it isn’t by being curmudgeonly. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by conservatism. I think conservatism is part of the problem. And I mean that. I mean a kind of conservatism for its own sake that says, well, when I was young, when we, you know, we used to do it this way, or we’ve always done it this way.

There has never been a golden age. You can’t go back to — what’s your Golden Age Eisenhower era? You mean when there was great racial division in this country and civil rights were being denied to fellow Christians and you know, which era of the Vietnam era? Where there was a Christian version of the anti-authority movement that overthrew centuries of Christian wisdom about how we worship and whom we worship and so forth. These were really big movements that transformed the landscape of Christianity. And I think that we have to take stock of what happened during that period and not say the conservatives were always on the right side of things or that they always made the right arguments or that they defended even the right things from the right principles.

SMITH: I’ve used Wilberforce as an example. Wilberforce’s views would have, when he was standing against slavery would have been considered progressive views, not conservative used in his era.

HORTON: Oh, exactly. And so we’ve got to get rid of, I think, these categories that polarize us and have a real conversation across generations. I really don’t think that this is generational. I think our deep divide right now is generational. That’s a fact. But the divide I’m talking about is not going back to a pristine generation. In many ways, I think the previous generations planted the seeds for what we’re seeing today. Rather, it is can we all come together across the generations, across the ethnic divides and see a new reformation that brings us all together and who knows, maybe it will bring us together from different church backgrounds as well, even though we’ve been divided for many centuries.

SMITH: Michael Horton, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to kind of do a lightening round of questions that are maybe not related directly to the things that we’ve been talking about, but just things I’m interested in because I’ve been following your career for 20 years. And of course now I work for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. You’ve had a couple of fairly significant interactions with Chuck Coleson in your career 20 years ago. More than 20 years ago, you edited a book that he contributed to called the Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church. So 20 years ago you were talking about a lot of the things that we have been talking about and Chuck was involved with you in that conversation. What was that interaction with Chuck like then? And are we still selling out?

HORTON: Yeah, you know, it was such a great—It came out of a couple of conversations that we had about how evangelicalism is craving power. And the interesting thing is, as you know better than I do, Chuck Colson wanted to give input into public policy, sort of like a Wilberforce, his hero. But he wasn’t interested in power. He’d been there, been there, done that, got the shirt, lived in the White House, basically, knew how power can go to your head, was in jail because it did. So. Nope. After the Lord had given him new birth, that was all in the past. So he saw it like nobody could and he sniffed it. And he said, this is Satan, this is diabolical, this craving of power of many Christian leaders. What he wrote there for that book, it was Power Religion. The title of the whole book was Power Religion. His essay was on political power. We were looking at different kinds of power instead of looking for the cross, we’re looking for power. His was on political power. And I’m telling you, Warren, it was very, very moving, very powerful, coming especially from somebody like that. Look at the same craving for being next to the president. And, you know, what if, what if Constantine, I mean, President Trump what if he isn’t elected again in 2020? What will become of us? And really? This is who we’re looking to rather than to Christ our King?

SMITH: Well, Chuck was fond of saying the salvation doesn’t fly in on Air Force One. That seems to be what you’re saying as well.

HORTON: Absolutely.

SMITH: It is interesting to me that Christians don’t understand that, that they hear that and I think they intellectually, nod in a sense and maybe even laugh at it, but we sure act like we believe that salvation might actually come in on Air Force One.

HORTON: We really do, and part of it is we’re trusting things we can see. We can see Air Force One. That looks like that has a lot of power and it has a lot of power from a human point of view. Once we get a big view of God and a big view of his saving work in Jesus Christ, when you just get a big view of our sin and his grace, everybody else becomes pretty small.

SMITH: You had another interaction with Chuck and that was over evangelicals and Catholics together. While you were very much on the same side when and had a very positive interaction when it came to the coming with that book and Power Religion and understanding the relationship between power and religion in the seduction of power. Y’all were on slightly different sides of the argument when it came to evangelicals and Catholics together, which I guess would come as no surprise to somebody who is so strongly steeped in the reform tradition. Can you talk about that interaction and kind of where the sticking points were between you and Chuck and that effort?

HORTON: Sure. You know, and I really, I have friends on both sides of that, you know, J.I. Packer, very close friend and mentor was on Chuck’s side in that whole debate. But, but here’s what it comes down to is the debate. Evangelicals and Catholics together was, I think a well conceived initiative. What can we do together? What can we affirm together for goodness sake, in a secular culture like ours? What can we say together about God, about the Trinity, about Christ and about scripture and even about the need for salvation. You know, reformed Christians consider themselves Catholics. We’re Catholics, reformed Catholics. We didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And so reformed Christians have even more reason to say, hey, let’s go and talk about what we can affirm together in the secular age without saying that we affirm the Gospel together because we clearly don’t.

And that was made clear in the document itself when it said that we still haven’t worked out questions like merit, the role of Mary in our redemption and the saints in our redemption, and the relationship of justification to sanctification. Well, to me that was like, you know, ‘Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?’ You know, it was — I used to give an illustration that RC Sproul liked. He was a part, we were working together in kind of highlighting the problems of this document. If you have a chocolate chip cookie, you say, here’s a great chocolate chip recipe, but you’ll leave out the chocolate chips and it’s not a chocolate chip cookie. You can have all the ingredients, but you leave that one out. Well, they’re basically leaving out not just one ingredient, but several ingredients of what the whole reformation was about. And yet saying that we agree on the Gospel. Really? We agree on the Gospel, even though we have different views of whether we’re saved by works and grace or by grace alone apart from works through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness? I mean, this is what the whole reformation was about. So I was, I felt very much that those who affirmed ECT, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, were basically selling out on the classic Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. And I still do.

SMITH: What kind of a document would have earned your affirmation? Would it have been one that said, we believe that we are all sinners in need of salvation? Would have said we believe in a triune God? We disagree about the nature of salvation? In other words, if they could have been explicit about and specific about the things that we agree and the things that we disagree on or can’t come to reconciliation on, would that have been a document that you could have affirmed?

HORTON: Absolutely. In fact, I would have loved to, I was asked to be a part of this and I would have signed on very happily, and you know, I remember having dinner with Father Newhouse, Richard Newhouse, who was kind of heading up this whole project. He said, ultimately, we are one church. And I said, well, what do you mean ultimately we are one church? And of course he was Vatican too, we’re just separated brethren, but we really belong to the one holy Catholic church, which he identifies as Rome. And, this doc — I asked him specifically. So following in Vatican two, this, no TV cameras going right now, just you and I, this initiative is just one more step, one small step in the direction of evangelicals becoming more explicitly Roman Catholic.

And he said, sure.

SMITH: I found a quote in one of your books, Pilgrim Theology, that I found fascinating, Michael Horton, and it says this: “Reason quite properly rejects contradiction, but rationalism abhors mystery, which every heresy attempts in its own way to resolve.” Can you say more about that?

HORTON: Sure. Every heresy, if you go down the list of heresies, was the result of not being able to accept the mystery that we can’t solve. So if we say God is one in essence, and three in essence, clearly that’s a contradiction. But we don’t. We say he’s one in essence and three in persons. If we say that Jesus is one person and two persons, we’re contradicting ourselves. But if we say he’s one person with two natures, that isn’t a contradiction at all. It’s a mystery, which means we don’t know how God can be Trinity. We don’t know how Jesus Christ can be God and man in one person, but we know that because scripture teaches us that this is so. So it’s neither contradiction on one hand, nor a resolved mystery on the other. It’s mystery. Now you look down, again, through that list and the arians, the apollinarians, the nestorians. Every heretic who came along or heresy that came along, people basically were falling out on one side or the other. Either God is one and not three or God is three and not one. Either Jesus is God and not man or he’s man and not God. Either, or. That’s what happens when you refuse to allow for mystery. You decide that it’s got to be either or, and here is how I’m going to resolve it. And if you can’t live with mystery, you can’t really live with Christianity because its major doctrines are mysteries. Again, that doesn’t mean we can’t apprehend it, you know, that there can’t be a definition of what it is that we’re saying is a mystery. It also doesn’t mean that it’s a contradiction, but it does mean it’s above our rational ability to unravel.

SMITH: You’ve talked about a liturgy in this conversation, but also elsewhere that we’ve often given up on the liturgy. We don’t recite some of the ancient creeds and ancient doctrines of the faith to sort of form us. One of the ones I remember is in many of the churches liturgies. I don’t, I don’t know. I know it’s in the Anglican Church and probably in others. This is the mystery of faith. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. I mean, these are the core doctrines of the faith, and yet as you say, ultimately there are mysteries and we’ve just got to affirm them and accept them even when we don’t fully understand them.

HORTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. Think of it this way, all of God’s revelation is baby talk. It’s not like we’ve got a mystery here or there, something that we can’t comprehend. Everything is baby talk to us. God is saying, look, you want the truth, you can’t handle the truth. This is so big, it’s so mind blowing, you have absolutely no idea, but you know what? Because I want a relationship with you, you are finite, you’re very small, you’re very fragile, you have only certain abilities to handle things, I am going to stoop beneath my loftiness and stoop beneath the dignity of the things that I’m revealing to you and I’m going to reveal them in baby talk, little morsels that you can understand. That’s the Bible. The Bible’s God’s baby talk and the minute we think that we are higher than baby talk, we start making really serious mistakes.

SMITH: Michael Jordan, at the end of the day, I guess as a Christian you have to be hopeful. Are you optimistic about the direction that the church is going in evangelicalism in particular?

HORTON: I can’t say that I’m optimistic about the direction of evangelicalism. I wish I could. I will say this: I’m very optimistic about what the Lord is doing here and around the world in terms of an amazing interest in the Gospel and recovering the Gospel.

SMITH: Well, you mentioned that you just got back from Brazil where you were a speaker and you said  that the church there, just the Presbyterian church there has two million members.

HORTON: Absolutely. And a lot of it, you know, I can’t say that evangelicals globally are the ones who are coming out in droves, excited about reformation theology and coming to churches where they’re going to hear that.

I just don’t see that. I see evangelicalism globally, not just in America, as increasingly branching off from the reformation. But I’m talking about really orphans, spiritual orphans, people out there who just come from a Roman Catholic, pentecostal or agnostic or Muslim background who just absolutely don’t know anything but they hear this and they say, that’s, I want to hear more. And, you know, the churches in these places that are being faithful to preaching that gospel of God’s good news in Jesus Christ are really flourishing.

SMITH: Michael Horton, I pray you have many, many more years of ministry ahead of you, but you know your scripture well enough to know that it is appointed unto man once to die. Right? So when that day comes, how do you want people to remember Michael Horton?

HORTON: Not. You know, it sounds kind of pious and everything. I seriously do not have the slightest hope that people will remember who I am. I’m like a parish minister who walks in one minute and, you know, dons the gown to open God’s word for a little while and then he sits down and falls asleep. Lets the next guy come in. I’m just one of one of those people. I’ve had the amazing pleasure to be one of those people that God has allowed to stand in his pulpit.

(Photo/Westminster Seminary California)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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