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The Christian Faith [Hardcover]

Michael S. Horton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1056 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; First edition (25 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310286042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310286042
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 20.1 x 6.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!!!!!!!! 31 May 2013
By Bookman
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Without a doubt best Systematic Theology on the market! Horton writes in a very interesting way and on top of that is gospel-centred. As J.I Packer says 'There is much wisdom here. Make it yours. It is wisdom that we all need'. Michael Horton is now my favourite author alongside Tim Keller.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well presented and interesting as well 25 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have only covered one third of this tome, but have no hesitation in rating it 5 star, of particular note so far is Horton's defense of Scripture as unique testimony for the Christian faith while avoiding the snare of an unexplored commitment to the idol of all scripture being 'inerrant', a concept which owes more to Islamic influence with their notion of the perfect Qu'ran, than traditional Christian teaching, and leads to horrid if this isn't true how can you trust any of it non- reasoning. Liked it so much I downloaded his Pilgrim Theology from Audible to listen to as finding actual reading time isn't easy.
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98 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vibrant, Holistic Systematic Theology for the 21st Century 28 Jan 2011
By Fr. Charles Erlandson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Michael Horton's "The Christian Faith" is a welcome gift to the 21st century. It's a massive (1000 page) one-volume systematic theology that's written with life, passion and the needs of the 21st century in mind. While as an Anglican, I don't necessarily agree with all that Horton writes, I highly recommend his book to a wide variety of readers: seminarians and seminaries, pastors, teachers, and educated laymen. Horton's work is an incredible achievement in that he has taken the worn out discipline of systematic theology and injected it with new life.

How has he done this? First, Horton clearly writes from a position as one who understands the 21st century and the monumental changes we are seeing that are often categorized as the transition from modernity to postmodernity. Horton also draws from a wide range of sources: he not only delves into the historical background to various theological issues but also makes reference to a variety of church traditions, and not just his own Reformed tradition. He also manages to integrate his systematic theology into a living whole by the way he ties everything together through key concepts such as the covenant, Drama, Dogma, Doxology, and Discipleship. This means that Horton's work is useful not just as one more systematic theology but also as a primer in narrative theology, an inspiration to worship, and a resource for all who seek to be more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

Horton's work has been said by some to be one of the most important systematic theologies since Berkhof's. In fact, Horton's is better than Berkhof's, which is a work that betrays a much more modern mindset that categorizes things without necessarily showing how they all relate. Horton's work is a book that should be in the hands of a great many Christians!

The book begins with a wonderful Introduction that pictures systematic theology as a "
theology for pilgrims on the way." He also relates the 4 "D" words he will use in the rest of the work to hold things together: Drama, Doctrine, Doxology, and Discipleship. It all begins with the greatest story ever told, which means that Horton is aware of the importance of narrative theology, and not just an old-school propositional theology. The Drama of the gospel inevitably leads to Doctrine, and Doctrine leads to Doxology or praise. Ultimately, theology must lead to Discipleship as well. Horton wants his work to reflect and embody the goal of doctrine, which must not only be understood and articulated but also "preached, experienced, and lived as a `community of theater' in the world today."

Horton writes from a specifically Reformed perspective, but he is careful not to begin and end his thought with only Reformed categories of thought. Instead, he interacts with exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions from a historically informed position. I'm also glad to see that he has not only acknowledged Eastern Orthodox theology but has clearly benefited from its wisdom and perspective.

Part 1, which consists of the first 5 chapters of "The Christian Faith," deals with "Knowing God: The Presuppositions of Theology." Although these chapters don't begin Horton's systematic theology, they lay a crucial foundation for it. This section may be difficult and not as relevant for all readers, but in these chapters Horton profitably deals with important foundations for theology, which has become more necessary in an age of postmodernism.

It's always interesting to see how a writer handles some of the more difficult aspects of his material, so I was keen to see how Horton dealt with predestination, the Trinity, and the Church, as just three examples of important material. In Chapter 8, Horton tackles the doctrine of the Trinity, which has undergone a resurgence of interest in recent decades. In this chapter, he gives the important and necessary historical background that enables the reader to understand the various views of the Trinity that have been held. This historical background also enables Horton to offer a theology of the Trinity that integrates the best insights of Augustinian, Orthodox, and other views while avoiding some of the potential errors that come from an overemphasis these historical positions are often open to.

While Horton's discussion of predestination in Chapter 9 is useful, he fails to adequately explain how God's predestination relates to the need for human agency in doxology and discipleship (he does deal with this, but inadequately). Likewise, I found his presentation on the Church to be one of the places where Horton's own Reformed perspective triumphs over an attempt at incorporating other views. The book would have been stronger if, in this section, he had dealt more with the views of the early church, as well as the views of other traditions, as he does elsewhere.

In spite of some weaknesses, Horton's work is a superior and delightful achievement. Through his use of the covenant, he's able to integrate the various components of systematic theology into a pleasing whole that should become a standard work for decades to come.

Horton breaks down his book in the following way, which manages to reflect the traditional categories of systematic theology while at the same time revitalizing this field.

Part 1 - Knowing God: The Presupposition of Theology
1. Dissonant Dramas: Paradigms for Knowing God and the World
2. The Character of Theology
3. The Source of Theology: Scripture
4. Scripture as Covenant Canon
5. The Bible and the Church: From Scripture to System

Part 2 - God Who Lives
6. God: The Incommunicable Attributes
7. God: The Communicable Attributes
8. The Holy Trinity

Part 3 - God Who Creates
9. The Decree: Trinity and Predestination
10. Creation: God's Time for us
11. Providence
12. Being Human
13. The Fall of Humanity

Part 4 - God Who Rescues
14. The Person of Christ
15. The State of Humiliation
16. The State of Exaltation

Part 5 - God Who Reigns in Grace
17. Called to be Saints: Christ's Presence in the Spirit
18. Union with Christ
19. Forensic Aspects of Union with Christ: Justification and Adoption
20. The Way Forward to Grace: Sanctification and Perseverance
21. The Hope of Glory
22. The Kingdom of Grace and the New Covenant Church
23. Word and Sacrament: The Means of Grace
24. Baptism and the Lord's Supper
25. The Attributes of the Church: Unity, Catholicity, and Holiness
26. Apostolicity

Part 6 - God Who Reigns in Glory
27. A Dwelling Place
28. The Return of Christ and the Last Judgment
29. The Last Battle and Life Everlasting
112 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best since Berkhof 16 Jan 2011
By Douglas VanderMeulen - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This work by Michael Horton may be the finest systematic theology since Berkhof's classic which I believe was written in the 1930's. Clear, insightful and what I would call a page turner. It is so full of theological jewels I often found myself excited to turn the page or anxiously wanting to get back to reading it after a short break.

Written in a style that is easily reachable even for the common layman, Horton weaves historic, biblical and systematic theology in a way that highlights not only the truth of Scripture but why and how the Christian world-view is necessarily antithetical to pagan and atheistic world-views. Horton has written his text in a manner much different than many systematics. He writes in a style almost like telling a story. His writing style definitely holds the readers attention and is not the dry technical style found in many systematic theologies.

Dr. Horton, writes from a consistently reformed and covenantal perspective. That said, the author understands covenant not as a system forced upon the Bible but one that naturally raises from text itself. The Bible is inherently covenantal in that it is God's own record of His own covenant making and keeping redemptive drama from eternity to eternity. Therefore, covenant becomes the motif for properly understanding God's redemptive purpose and the biblical doctrines that reveal it. God's covenants have a goal. Therefore, eschatology is not merely a stand-alone doctrine but the lens through which we read all scripture. Covenant and eschatology become central to our understanding of ontology, epistemology and all of history. The author interacts with past and current philosophies and theologies as he writes, unpacking the doctrines of the Bible in their historical-redemptive setting.

There are three very helpful tools at the end of the hard copy for the new or not highly trained theology reader. The first is a glossary of terms. The author has given short definitions to key theological terms, Latin phrases and historical events, theological systems and theological movements. This will prove to be very helpful for someone just beginning their dive into serious theological reading. The second tool is Dr. Horton's annotated bibliography of recommended reading. This list is broken down by doctrine and each work is listed as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. With this reading list, the student is directed into a lifetime of great theological reading. Finally, the author has supplied not just a scripture index but on for the reformational creeds and catechisms sited in this work. This could prove to very helpful for the teacher seeking to cross-reference this systematic theology and the creeds and confessions.

It is a rare systematic theology that can prove to be helpful to both the pastor-teacher and the layman. I can't wait to get this into the hands of our congregation. Dr. Horton's, "The Christian Faith" is written not just to promote sound theology, but consistent thinking and living pilgrims growing in faith in Christ.

A must have for anyone seriously interested good theology. Makes a great gift for your pastor, Bible school student or anyone interested in mastering the great truths of the Bible
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint at heart! 19 Mar 2011
By Jared Totten - Published on
The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way by Michael Horton is not your average systematic theology. It's not broken up into simple chapters ending in "-ology" like Christology, hamaritology, ecclesiology, and the like. Instead, Michael Horton means to tell a story because the doctrines of Scripture arise out of the drama of Scripture. Or as he puts it, "The Christian faith is, first and foremost, and unfolding drama . . . The great doctrines of the Christian faith arise out of this dramatic plot".

For these reasons, The Christian Faith isn't primarily a catalog to reference all the topics that make up your typical systematic theology. Rather, Michael Horton tells the story of God, from beginning to end. After an opening section covering the presuppositions of theology called "Knowing God", Horton shapes his systematic theology in a more narrative-like fashion around the following "chapters" of history:

1. God Who Lives
2. God Who Creates
3. God Who Rescues
4. God Who Reigns in Grace
5. God Who Reigns in Glory

The benefit of an approach like this is that The Christian Faith doesn't read like a dry systematic theology. Instead, the very words that Horton uses to describe biblical doctrine and theology--words like "drama", "story", and "narrative"--are also perfectly fitting words to describe Horton's book. He also includes a lot of the history of theology, and does so in an equally engaging way. Names like Augustine, Barth, Berkhof, and Schleiermacher need not necessitate a dull read, and Horton soundly makes this point.

One caution: this book can be an intimidating read on a few different levels. The size itself (just under 1,000 pages) may keep more than a few from cracking the cover. And Horton is a scholar of not only theology but history and philosophy, so the novice may want to keep a dictionary (and a smart friend) nearby.

With those cautions in mind, I cannot recommend this book more highly. If you want a systematic theology that deals with each topic in its biblical, philosophical, historical context, Horton's The Christian Faith is first rate. While this book may not be the top choice for introductory theology, this book is like the best theological jawbreaker. Try and take it fast and it will break you. But take your time on it, savor it, and it will deliver a sweet payoff in the end.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Modern Systematic Theology 12 April 2011
By Mike Robinson - Published on
Michael Horton is like technology; he's been improving our lives for decades now.
Ponder all his fine work on the White Horse Inn, ACE, and his numerous books.
And what did he get for it all?
A professorship at a small Reformed seminary complete with some listless students (and some sharp and eager ones too!).
Mostly Dr. Horton toils for the glory of God--and that is just one powerful reason his work has made such a significant impact.

And in "The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way" the good professor offers an interesting and modern work of Systematic Theology. This volume is large, but breezy; yes a ST that is a smooth and engaging read!

Horton is always covenantally focused and notes that "we were created by God as inherently covenantal creatures--in relationship with God and each other, and redemption restores this extroverted identity..." (p. 27). He reveals his main objective: "There is one faith--the Christian faith--and this volume is an attempt to explore that faith as it is summarized in the confession of Reformed Christianity" (p. 30).

Dr. Horton does not attempt to avoid theological, philosophical, or epistemological concepts as he posits: "The widest horizon for theology--indeed for all of our knowledge--is the question of ontology: what is reality?" (p. 36). And that "Western atheism rejects any transcendent reality beyond the world of sense experience" (p. 39). He presses the need to understand the most essential antithesis for his "model assumes that God and the world are distinct--Creator and creation. The world is dependent on God, but God is independent of the world" (p. 41). Yet the "triune God created us to share in His drama, not in His essence" (p. 44). Horton takes knowledge to depend on the triune God for "epistemology depends on ontology" (p. 47). What one knows, can know, and warrant depend on God's ontic status and not the other way around. Men must "recognize there is no such thing as a neutral epistemological method. We always presuppose a certain view of reality before we ask how to investigate it" (p. 49). Epistemic and ontic issues can be very complicated and tricky, and although the author may offer some hazy distinctions, he provides a respectable account for most of his positions (he is a professor of apologetics at WTS).

This modest presuppositionally-leaning ST includes:

I. Knowing God: The Presupposition of Theology
Dissonant Dramas: Paradigms for Knowing God and the World
The Character of Theology
The Source of Theology: Scripture
Scripture as Covenant Canon

II. The God Who Lives
God: The Incommunicable Attributes
God: The Communicable Attributes
The Trinity

III. God Who Creates
The Decree: Trinity and Predestination
The Fall

IV. The God Who Rescues

V. God Who Reigns in Grace
Called to be Saints
Union with Christ
Forensic Aspects of Union with Christ: Justification and Adoption
Sanctification and Perseverance
The Kingdom of Grace and the New Covenant Church
Word and Sacrament
Baptism and the Lord's Supper

VI. God Who Reigns in Glory

- and plenty more.

The author adds that central to a "biblical worldview, over against its rivals, is the qualitative distinction between God and the world. This distinction holds with respect not only to ontology, but epistemology. In His existence and knowledge, God transcends us. ... Only the triune God is eternal, infinite, and omniscient. And yet, God is not only transcendent in majesty, but immanent in loving in his covenantal condensation" (p. 77).

Horton discusses language in relation to the Word of God: speech involves assertives, directives, expressives, declarations, and other illocutionary acts (p. 121). And he offers a fine exposition of that which he is famous for: the basic distinction within God's Word of "Law and Gospel" pp. 135-154) with quotes to that end from Calvin, Bavinck, Murray, etc.

Also included in this volume:

* Horton discusses approaches, models and, methodology in undertaking Christian theology
* The author's theological approach is Reformed Redemptive-historical
* He concentrates on various facets of modern theology
* Horton contrasts Christian orthodoxy with several heterodox theological views
* He utilizes a covenantal framework (influenced by Meredith Kline)
* The professor rebuts sundry facets of liberal and postmodern theology

Regarding Scripture "the Trinitarian character of divine communication is crucial" in "general and special revelation" (p. 158). He goes on to define Verbal-Plenary Inspiration as well as the relationship between divine and human agency in God's revelation (pp. 160-163). Forasmuch as the source of VPI is "in the triune God." Later he discusses various views of inerrancy including the Princeton formulation (pp. 176-178). The study of scripture is essential, however "the methodological assumptions of textual criticism are quite different from those of higher criticism, which as an apparatus of theological liberalism follows naturalistic presuppositions" (p. 180). We must always remember that whatever "the holy, unerring, and faithful Father speaks is--simply by virtue of having come from him--holy, erring, and faithful" (p. 184). As Anthanasius wrote, "holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us" (p. 194).

Professor Horton discusses the incommunicable attributes of God:

- Simplicity: As infinite spirit, God is not made up of different parts; His attributes are identical with his being.

- Aseity: Self-existence (from-himself-ness, a-se, absolute); independence from the creation (Isaiah 40:8-18); I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:14); god is life; he gives life (Psalm 115:3). He adds Bavinck's words that God is "unbounded, limitless, and absolutely undetermined."

- Immutability: Unchangeableness.

- Impassibility: Incapacity for being overwhelmed by suffering (James 1:17; Psalm 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6).

- Eternity (Psalm 90:2, 102:12; Eph. 3:21): God's transcendence of time (pp. 226-258) for God is omnitemporal in the way He is omnipresent.

This large ST covers aspects of the work of:

Duns Scotus
Turretin (theology "treats God not like metaphysics ... but as the Creator and Redeemer").
Rahner (Rahner advocates for some SV Council doctrines).
Plato (Dr. Horton asserts that "the biblical faith is opposed to any notion of a world emanating from God's essence, with divine souls thrown mercilessly into bodies and the realm of appearances" along with a separate "world of forms").
N.T. Wright's (he refutes Wright's novel view of Justification (pp. 639-641).
Vos ("the concept of knowledge is not Hellenistic" but covenantal).
Polanyi (like Augustine "faith seeking understanding" p. 102-106).
Van Til (Creator-creature distinction; i.e., archetypal-ectypal).
Hegel (for him "everything that exists in reality is rational").
Many Puritans
And many others including interacting with and critiquing the work of unorthodox theologians.

"The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way" is practical, yet almost devotional as Horton outlines "doctrine, doxology, discipleship, and redemptive drama"; perfect for busy pastors, seminary students, and even most laypeople.

Recommended by:

- Kevin Vanhoozer
- David Wells
- Bryan Chapell
- R.C. Sproul
- And other erudite scholars.

In "The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way" one discovers an exceedingly useful and valuable tool for appraising an extensive range of Christian doctrinal and life matters, with an opportunity to evaluate various viewpoints in the process and to ascertain the supporting biblical data for each. I appreciate Dr. Horton's depth of understanding, simplicity, and lucidity. This large volume has aided my research and devotional life. You may not be Reformed, nonetheless don't let that deter you from buying this extremely well documented and annotated educational and spiritual storehouse. You may not agree with all of Horton's positions, but the understanding you gain will be of prodigious profit.

also see the New Apologetic book:
Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity
Dr. Horton has won the 2012 "Christianity Today" book award for best theology/ethics text for this volume.

The award states, "averting his gaze from the kind of popular evangelicalism that is nondenominational in style and never quite confessional in ethos, Horton delivers the Reformed goods to a new generation."
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, with some minor exceptions 5 Feb 2011
By theologicalresearcher - Published on
This new systematic theology book by Michael Horton is probably one of the best systematic theology works out there from an evangelical perspective for the past 50 years. Horton's massive work is what you can call quite exceptional when it comes to conservative evangelical Reformed dogmatics not because of the size but because of its depth, comprehensiveness, and scholarly acumen. It is not only a theology work that deals with issues in systematics but also in historical theology, biblical studies, and practical applications.

Horton's work covers pretty much all the standard topics of systematic theology: from prolegomena to eschatology. He does not shy away from letting the readers know that he comes from a strongly evangelical Reformed background (Horton belongs to the URCNA denomination). Though this colours his interpretation of certain theological subjects, it does not overwhelm the reader as if he is trying to indoctrinate the reader. He has his convictions but he is also charitable to other evangelical views and discusses them fairly as possible (for example, he is solidly Calvinistic in his soteriological convictions and gives reasons why, but he does not condescendingly put down non-Reformed views). He is also fully aware of modern discussions in theology within non-evangelical camps. He interacts quite a bit with the views of postliberals (Lindbeck), neoorthodox theologians (Barth), and mainline high-church Protestants (Jenson) regarding certain theological issues.

The only problems I have with Horton is that his high-church evangelical Reformed convictions does clash with my own premillennial Calvinistic Baptist perspective. One can see that his view of the means of grace (baptism and lord's supper) is much "higher" than those who have Zwinglian, Baptistic, or Free Church convictions. Another issue is with his eschatology. Horton, like many who are non-Baptist Reformed, is an amillennialist who believes in a telescoping eschatology. I found his arguments for an amillennial eschatology not convincing, though he does an able job of presenting a standard Reformed amillennial understanding of eschatology (I believe Erickson, Grudem, Culver, and Lewis/Demarest still do a much better job on this topic).

Overall, this is an excellent book. I would highly recommend it for pastors, students, scholars, and even the average lay Christian. Though there are certain things in the book I am not convinced with it is still a book that deserves a place among the top 10 systematic theologies written in the last 100 years. It certainly beats Berkouwer, Berkhof, Pannenberg, Jenson, Oden, Reymond, Bloesch, Murray, and a few others in terms of soundness, exegetical rigor, and comprehensiveness. I would even recommend it as a primary text in evangelical seminaries. This is a book that all Christians who are interested in systematic theology should have in their library.
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