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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

Michael Horton & The Christian Faith

Release date:

January 24, 2011

Michael Horton was recently interviewed by John Starke about his new book The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way. This highly anticipated work is being released this week from Zondervan, and is now available from various online retailers. The book is currently among the top ten bestselling books of Christian theology at Amazon.com, and is #1 in the sub-category of “systematic theology.” Justin Taylor recently reported that the book is heading back to the printers since Zondervan has already sold out of its stock from the first print run. Stan Guthrie and John Wilson recently discussed the book at some length on the Books and Culture podcast. They called it, “A textbook worth reading outside the classroom.” Here is an excerpt from John Starke’s recent interview:

As you look at theological developments today, what challenges should young scholars, pastors, and leaders be spending energy on for the next 20 years or so?
We Americans are activists, and that’s definitely true of evangelicals. That’s been part of the movement’s strength. But [it] can also become a weakness. Like Martha, we can be “troubled by many things,” rather than choosing “the better part” with Mary, sitting at our Lord’s feet as disciples. There is a lot of work to be done in recovering sound doctrine and exegesis, but Christianity is not just a list of truths; it is a church. It’s possible to have been raised in the church today without ever having really belonged to the church. One can go from the nursery to children’s church to youth group to college ministry without ever having been baptized, catechized, and making a public profession of faith for membership in a local body. To be a disciple is to become an apprentice of our Lord through the ministry that he established in the Great Commission. It’s not just about “getting saved,” but “growing up into Christ” in his body. So we need to do theology not only for the church but in the church, and we need to think through more concretely what that looks like in an age of “mission creep.”

Systematic theologies are always, by nature, in summary form. But was there an area in your text that you wished you could have developed further?
That’s part of the torture of writing one of these things. In my four-volume dogmatics series with Westminster John Knox I could wander into themes that interested me already. But that’s also why I learned a lot from having to focus also on many important topics that I had not treated. My Zondervan editors were terrific—and persistent—in keeping to my word limit, so I had to curb my enthusiasm and make sure I treated the whole breadth of Christian doctrine. If I had more space, though, I would have added a fuller exploration of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Classic Reformed treatments (think of Calvin’s Institutes, for example) included these sections, but there’s been a tendency in modern systems to divide the labor between systematic theology and ethics. I think that can contribute to the pulling apart of the fabric of faith and practice, dividing the spoils between theologians and ethicists. Although I endeavor to integrate these throughout the book, having a distinct section on the Decalogue would have been useful, I think.

Resources for further Reading / Listening
Full text of John Starke’s interview with Michael Horton at the Gospel Coalition Blog
9Marks interview with Michael Horton
WSC Office Hours audio interview with Michael Horton
Books & Culture Podcast discussion of The Christian Faith