New St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Dallas hosts an annual Reformation Conference the weekend before Reformation Sunday. This year saw their fourth such conference, “Gospel-Driven: From Doctrine to Discipleship,” featuring the teaching of Dr. Michael Scott Horton, Associate Pastor of Christ United Reformed Church of Santee, CA (see Dr. Horton’s Adult Bible Class page), J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, host of the White Horse Inn radio show (and podcast), Editor-In-Chief of Modern Reformation Magazine, and author of an ever-growing number of books, three of which were the subject of this year’s conference (see his Wikipedia entry for more info).
Two of the three books have already been published, but the third, on which Dr. Horton spoke, is to be published in the coming months. These books are (in order), Christless Christianity, The Gospel-Driven Life, and I think the title of book three will be The Gospel Commission. The first volume addresses the heart of the problem with all of contemporary evangelical, even Reformed, Christianity–an exchange of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for the preaching of self-salvation by self-improvement in a variety of manifestations–preaching “good advice” at the expense of preaching the good news. The Gospel-Driven Life addresses why preaching the gospel (along with regularly receiving the Lord’s Supper) is essential for Christian growth and sanctification, not just evangelism. Finally, The Gospel Commission (if that is it’s actual title) will go into how the church is to obey the imperative Great Commission out of a conscious response to the gospel indicative of the complete authority over heaven and earth given to the Lord Jesus Christ by his Father (Matthew 28:18).
This was an exciting opportunity for me to meet the man who first introduced me to Reformed theology. Back in 1991 Dr. Horton published his first book, Mission Accomplished (later revised and republished as Putting Amazing Back Into Grace). In the providence of God, Dr. Horton was invited to promote the book on a morning talk show on, of all places, the Trinity Broadcasting Network! During this interview, Dr. Horton had the unique opportunity to introduce Calvinism to the constituents of the Word of Faith heresy of Kenneths Hagin and Copeland, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and more recently Joyce Meyer, John Hagee and Joel Osteen, myself among them. I recall mostly his emphasis on how the doctrine of election and predestination, far from squashing evangelism, actually motivates it. I found my introduction to Reformed theology and its benefits fascinating and exciting. At the time Dr. Horton was leading a ministry called Christians United for Reformation (CURE). I subscribed to CURE’s newsletter for a short time–I found it equally fascinating and really cool, but I also found it to be waaay over my head. So I got on with my life, marrying my first wife, moving off to Missouri to study to be an Independent Baptist missionary (which plan would change), living life between my initial and later providential and interesting encounters with Reformed theology.
I brought my copy of Mission Accomplished with me to the conference to get it autographed by Dr. Horton, along with the copy of The Gospel-Driven Life which I purchased at the conference. It was my joy to be able to personally thank him for his introducing me to Reformed theology, and when I mentioned that I saw him on TBN, he grimaced with shame as if a deep, dark secret had been exposed, and we all enjoyed a laugh at the stark irony of his television debut. Then as he opened my book and began writing on the first page, he informed me that the host of that talk show was fired not long after that episode. He assured me that the fact that he had been a guest on the show “was not unrelated” to his firing–WOW! But it makes perfect sense, considering that it would not be long before Dr. Horton would edit an expose of the Word of Faith movement, The Agony of Deceit. But just think, that TBN host’s firing may have just been one of the best things to ever happen to him. I consider it a noble sacrifice for the cause on his part. I just wish I could remember that host’s name so I could search for videos of his interviews on YouTube in the hopes of finding his interview of Michael Horton. Now that would be a blast!
If you’ve never listened to the White Horse Inn, then you are not aware of just what a heady, yet eminently edifying and motivating speaker Dr. Horton is. The way he helped us understand the covenantal nature of God’s relationship to Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church simply boggles the mind with how it brings together so many aspects of the biblical revelation of redemption and also highlights the importance of the doctrine of justification by grace alone (sola gratia) that is received by faith alone (sola fide). He even mentioned how Pope Benedict XVI has admitted that the Bible’s use of the form and content of ancient Near Eastern Suzerainty/Vassal treaties in his covenantal dealings with his people makes it understandable that the Reformers taught what they did about justification. Horton observed that when the Pope sounds more like the Reformers than contemporary Evangelical theologians, you know you are living in a Salvador Dali painting!
You can download the audio of the messages below (PS–I hear there’s a video in the works, but haven’t heard if and when it’ll be released):
- Christless Christianity: The Problem
- Gospel-Driven Life: The Solution
- Gospel Commission: The Application
- Questions and Answers with Dr. Horton
- The Missionary Servant: The Sermon