The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton
This volume is a sequel to Christless Christianity in which Horton admonished the evangelical community for leaving Christ out of, or at least on the fringes of, its ministries and message. In The Gospel-Driven Life Horton delivers on his promise to show us the way back—and forward. It was written for those tired of the hype and chasing the latest fad (pp. 13, 17) who simply want “to reorient our faith and practice as Christians and churches toward the gospel: that is, the announcement of God’s victory over sin and death in His Son, Jesus Christ” (p. 11).
I believe Horton accomplished his stated goal, hammering home over and over from every conceivable angle that the essence of Christianity is the good news (p. 20). The author persistently points the believer to the external facts of Christ and His redemptive work and away from an inner, subjective introspection. He challenges pragmatism (pp. 24-25, 69, 72) including Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life. Rather than purpose-driven we should be promise-driven (p. 133). Horton also takes on mysticism with its inward focus and works-based sanctification (pp. 20, 23, 26, 78, 146-149, 156-157). In particular, he almost too graciously exposes Richard Foster and his stable of Roman Catholic mystics (pp. 146-155). Concerning the enemies of gospel-centered living Horton summarized, “The greatest threat to Christians is never vigorous intellectual criticism but a creeping senility that transforms truths into feelings, public claims into private experiences, and facts into mere values. Christianity is either true or false, but it is not irrational” (p. 262).
Of a positive nature, Horton exhorts churches to center their attention and energy on the gospel, the exposition of Scripture and the sacraments, rather than developing endless programs that aim to make us feel better, solve our problems, meet our felt-needs and offer Christians exactly what the world offers but in sanctified wrapping. The church is to concentrate on giving what no one else can: the gospel, Christ and truth. “Satan does not care,” Horton claims, “if our churches are full, as long as people are not being clothed with Christ” (p. 198).
Horton’s Covenantal Theology shows up on occasion, even to the point of at least bordering on sacramentalism. He speaks of believers continuing to pray for salvation (p. 106), the Law serving as our guide in the Christian life (p. 139), baptism making us beneficiaries of God’s commitment (p. 201), Christ giving Himself to us as our food and drink at the Lord’s Table (pp. 202-3), and children of believers being in the covenant (pp. 206-208). He implies that such children are already regenerate when he writes, “The children of believers are often treated in the church as non-Christians who need to ‘get saved’” (p. 206), and other similar statements (cf. pp 206-208). Such an understanding does not flow from Scripture, but from the Covenantal Theological system.
Overall The Gospel-Driven Life is a powerful reminder of the centrality of the gospel and of our need to be shaped by the finished work of Christ. It is the gospel that we are to live and proclaim.