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Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church Hardcover – November 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801013186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801013188
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #787,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In another screed on what's wrong with American Christianity, theology professor Horton, of Westminster Seminary California, bemoans the slide of the American Christian church into what he, and others, call a moralistic, therapeutic deism. Drawing on studies, surveys and anecdotal evidence, Horton reaches the oft-repeated conclusion that American Christianity is self-centered rather than Christ-centered, Jesus is a life coach rather than a redeemer, and salvation is focused on therapeutic well-being. He rants against the purveyors of this watered-down Christianity--Robert Schuller, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer--but saves his most savage attack for megachurch preacher Joel Osteen, whom Horton depicts as a snake-oil salesman teaching that God is a personal shopper ready to deliver happiness and prosperity if only individuals let God know their needs. Horton reveals his lack of theological depth when he argues that ancient Gnostics saw God as no different from humans. Yet Gnosticism's entire point is this difference. Horton regrettably offers no recommendation for the reformation of American Christianity beyond a simplistic call to let the church be defined by the Gospel rather than the laws of the market. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap

Invoking Martin Luther's treatise On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Michael Horton fears that the church in America has also been willingly taken captive. The captors are American culture and ideals: consumerism, pragmatism, self-sufficiency, individualism, positive thinking, personal prosperity, and nationalism. Though these are antithetical to the gospel, we have often made them part and parcel with it.

Horton argues that while we haven't yet arrived at Christless Christianity, we are well on our way. Though we invoke the name of Christ, too often Christ and the Christ-centered gospel are pushed aside. The result is a message and a faith that are, in Horton's words, "trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant." This alternative "gospel" is a message of moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion. It trivializes God, making him a means to our selfish ends. Horton skillfully diagnoses the problem and points to the solution: a return to the unadulterated gospel of salvation. Here is a must-read for anyone concerned about the state and future of Christianity and the church in America.

More About the Author

Michael S. Horton

White Horse Inn, President
White Horse Inn Radio Show, Co-Host
Editor-in-Chief, Modern Reformation Magazine
J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California

B.A., Biola University; M.A., Westminster Seminary California; Ph.D., University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Michael Horton is the president of White Horse Inn, a multi-media catalyst for Reformation. He is editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine ( and co-host of the nationally syndicated White Horse Inn radio broadcast ( Michael Horton is also the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. Before coming to WSC, Michael Horton completed a Research Fellowship at Yale University Divinity School. A member of various societies, including the American Academy of Religion and the Evangelical Theological Society, Michael Horton is the author/editor of twenty books, including a series of studies in Reformed dogmatics published by Westminster John Knox, whose final volume (_People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology_) was published in 2008 which won the 2008 Christianity Today Book of the Year award in Theology.

His most recent books are _The Gospel-Driven Life_, _Christless Christianity_ and _People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology_. He has written articles for _Modern Reformation_, _Pro Ecclesia_, _Christianity Today_, _The International Journal of Systematic Theology_, _Touchstone_, and _Books and Culture_.

Michael Horton is associate pastor of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, California, and lives in Escondido, with his wife, Lisa, and four children.

Customer Reviews

This is where the book may be most useful for the conservative Christians who are the audience most likely to read it.
Tim Challies
John MacArthur has remarked that if you listen to Joel Osteen, this will indeed be your best life now, because the one to follow most certainly will not be as good.
Randy A. Stadt
The general thesis of this book is that, in the American Church, we've forgotten the Gospel as it pertains to our practice of Christianity.
D. Morton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 166 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is no small thing to take upon oneself the name Christian. Though it was first used as a form of derision when unbelievers mocked the "little Christs," the name was embraced by the earliest believers. The term, even when used mockingly, nicely encapsulated what they sought to do, namely, to imitate their Lord and Savior. Sadly, in the centuries since then, the word has become far too ambiguous and now refers to any number of faiths that, in one way or another, honor or respect Christ or that have some historical connection to his teachings. Amazingly, some of those called by the name of Christ actually deny him--perhaps not his existence but at least his uniqueness and his divinity. In Christless Christianity Michael Horton argues that such denial of Christ may not be too far from home. More and more evangelical churches, he says, are now essentially Christless. "Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups." Many churches have tossed out Christ and continue on without him, sometimes not even realizing that he has been lost along the way.

This is not to say that American evangelicalism has already reached a point of no return or that every church has rejected Christ. "I am not arguing in this book that we have arrived at Christless Christianity," says Horton, "but that we are well on our way. ...
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By rodboomboom HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Horton is a prolific Christian advocate for historic Christianity which is catholic (universal) and relevant for any culture, any time. This he finds increasingly being blurred and almost to the point of taking Christ completely out of the church for many in America.

He correctly builds the case that this slippage is towards not any new heresy, but towards old heresies with new names and slogans and personalities: "When our churches assume the gospel, reduce it to slogans, or confuse it with moralism and hype, it is not surprising that the type of spirituality we fall back on is moralistic, therapeutic deism. In a therapeutic worldview, the self is always sovereign. Accommodating this false religion is not love--either of God or neighbor--but sloth, depriving human beings of genuine liberation and depriving God of the glory that is his due." n Dangerous to attach Christ directly, these anti-Christs then believe falsely they can change the Gospel, but in doing so, change the Christ even to the point of taking Him out of the picture. (see the dustcover shot)

Tendencies of American bred Christianity which is more attuned to sola cultura rather than sola Scriptura evidences itself in confusion of law and gospel, importing of unbiblical methods and paradigms from marketing, management, etc. in Church Growth movement, unbiblical ecclessiology, more focus on the Christian rather than on the Christ, and a fear of the scandal of particularity which the pure gospel preached and the Sacraments properly instituted as mandated are well documented in this work. As he writes: "the Good News concerning Christ is not a stepping-stone to something greater and more relevant.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Paul Manata on November 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Is God perhaps a supporting character in your life movie, however strong and important a character he may be, or have you been rewritten as a new character in God's drama of redemption? If the former, then the focus is on us and our activity rather than on God and his work in Jesus Christ. "Us and out activities" may be all very fine things. Perhaps we're fixing our marriages, becoming relevant to the culture, making disciples, doing what Jesus would do, overcoming addictions, even blogging and destroying apostate thought in all its forms. We have a "purpose driven life," and "purpose driven churches." We are putting biblical principles in action and seeing "success" in our lives. Better kids, better marriages, and we even make it to every church function in the calendar year. Awesome worship music, and even "awesomer" preaching (they even say "Dude"), all of course ever so "relevant" to our culture. Shoot, this aint your daddy's Christianity, our kid's pagan friends actually have fun at our churches. We're doing just fine, thank you. Oh, by the way, where's Jesus Christ in all of this?

Judging by the tremendous "commercial, political, and media success, the evangelical movement seems to be booming. But is it still Christian?", asks Mike Horton in his latest book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. Of course we still say we believe in Jesus, salvation by grace, the Bible, and the resurrection. That's not in question. But when our teaching and practice is analyzed, what does that say we believe? Horton thinks "that the church in America is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself.
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