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Made In America : The Shaping of Modern American Evangelicalism Paperback – December 16, 1998
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About the Author
Michael Horton (PhD, University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He hosts "The White Horse Inn" radio broadcast and is editor-in-chief of "Modern Reformation" magazine. He is the author/editor of more than twenty books, including "Christless Christianity", "The Gospel-Driven Life", and "The Gospel Commission".
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In some ways I find a degree of sadness in all this, with so many folks missing the mark. Horton keeps on track throughout the book and stays away from prejorative terms which are so often employed by the people that are so blind that they choose not to see. "Made in America" is an appropriate title. It certainly could not be titled "Made in Heaven" with its egocentric world view that has been handed down from the Greek error that "Man is the measure of all things."
This book is about a hot topic guaranteed to divide the sheep from the goats and bring out the best and worst in its readers. It certainly doesn't make the writer into any kind of a hero. There is a logical progression of ideas throughout the book and like it or not, Michael Horton has nailed it in a courteous manner that is maintained all through the book. Perhaps other readers will sense his genuine concern for those sincere and well meaning folks who are taken in by this insidious deception that plays upon our deepest fears of poverty and sickness.
Soli Gloria Deo
The first awakening involved a focus on correct teaching. God was seen as the active party in Salvation creating faith in the hearts of belivers through the means of the preached Word. Worship, doctrine and life were all based upon the clear, consistent teaching of Christ as redeemer, living a life in obedience to God's requirements in the place of the sinner, and His sacrificial death in the place of the sinner. Christ was the active party bringing one to faith (throught the means of preaching Christ) and keeping them saved (through the same means.)
The 1st awakening was a continuation of the Reformation that started in the 17th century.
The theology shifted drastically between the two awakenings. In reaction to the enlightenment, the ideas of a soveregn 'God who saves and sustains sinners' did not play well in the American Frontier. Rugged American individualism demanded a theological system with a much more optimistic view of mankind. Augustianian beliefs in mankind's total deprvity and inability to please God did not fit well with a lifestyle of people who had fought for independence and conquered a frontier. John Wesley had been preaching (in England) about mankind's ability to turn to God of his own volition, and this mixed much better with the optimistic view so common in America. This lead to the 2nd Awakening in which mankind was to turn to God on his own. The content of preaching shifted from Christ and Him crucified to Man needing to make himself Holy before God.
In this system, a large focus was placed on emotionalism. Emotional appeals were made to get a person to "make a decision for Christ". A new hymnody was developed which focus on mankind's feelings about God instead of God and his attributes. In many of these hymns, such as "In the Garden", Christ is almost seen as a lover of the singer. Sentimentalism about an "idea" of Christ, and of the day when one "made his decision" were severly stressed. One promoter of this viewpoint, Charles Finney, even viewed salvation as being completely the work of man, denying the supernatural in regeneration.
The focus of the preaching in the 2nd awakening was all "Do This" oriented. Christ's perfect obiedience in the place of the sinner was (and is ) absent. The sermon on each Sunday was 'doing better' or 'steps and principles to the victorious Christian Life'.
The Reformation understanding of "simultaneously justified and sinful" was dismissed. The church was not a collection of redeemed sinners, but of victorious people. The 10 commandments were replaced with extra-biblical taboos (such as smoking, drinking, dancing, seeing movies, etc.) that Christ himseld had no concern about. Sin was seen as something 'out there', not as something in each human heart.
Hence, the "outcomes based Christianity" that exists today. Most religous discouxse today is a product of this human centered focus. Evengelcalism has developed a Christian subculture with a "spirit-filled" equivolent of most secular activites.
I have a distinct bias in this. As a 'recovering fundementalist', I can state that confronting the history of the 'outcomes based faith' as profiled in this book, I was able to free myself of many man-centered, man-created false ideologies that had so warped my world-view. This text played a large part in leading me to reformation orthodoxy.
Soli Deo Gloria!!
John J. Lazarchi
Horton shows that the gospel of the Puritans is not the gospel of the modern day descendants of the Puritans. Christians have sold into the Philosophies which are anti-Christian in their origin and seek to "entertain" the lost with them. Horton does a good job to show that this came from the Second Great Awakening and not the first, because the first Great Awakening was centered on God and His glory, and not on what God can do for man.
The American church has followed the autonomous American dream more than the communal nature of the church and Horton does a wonderful job of showing this. Unfortunately the themes in this book are just as true as they were when this book was written. Evangelical churches are just as pragmatic and separatistic as when this book was written.
This was one of the first books to critique the Evangelical compromise and as such needs to be read. It is out of date in a few areas (i.e. Open Theism's flirtation with Process Theology, among other things), but Horton hits the nail on the head.