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
III. God Who Creates
The Decree: Trinity and Predestination
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:
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").
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.
- 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."