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Too Good to Be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype Hardcover – May 15, 2006
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'With solid scriptural exegesis, Michael Horton outlines a theological conceptualization of suffering. Written for both the pastor and lay person, every reader will see God's plan and purpose more clearly and understand that the compensation for belief in God cannot be spent at Walmart.' (American Association of Christian Counselors)
From the Back Cover
In a world of hype, we may buy into the idea that through Jesus, we'll be healthier and wealthier as well as wiser. So what happens when we become ill, or depressed, or bankrupt? Did we do something wrong? Has God abandoned us?
As a child, Michael Horton would run up the down escalator, trying to beat it to the top. As Christians, he notes, we sometimes seek God the same way, believing we can climb to him under our own steam. But we can't, which is why we are blessed that Jesus descends to us, especially during times of trial.
In Too Good to Be True, Horton exposes the pop culture that sells Jesus like a product for health and happiness and reminds us that our lives often lead us on difficult routes we must follow by faith. This book offers a series of powerful readings that demonstrate how, through every type of earthly difficulty, our Father keeps his promises from Scripture and works all things together for our good.
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Though Horton has written several books throughout his academic career that is very technical and scholarly (e.g., "Covenant and Eschatology," "Lord and Servant," etc.) he has also written books that really touches the hearts of ordinary lay Christians who struggle with living the faith daily - like this one.
The message that Horton wants to get across to his readers in this book is clear: though they are many joys and blessings of being a Christian, Christians will still go through troubles and sufferings. During times of crises Christians need to look to Christ alone as Redeemer for hope and comfort.
Horton's book is divided into two main parts: 1) God of the Cross (chaps. 1-6), and 2) God of the Empty Tomb (chaps. 7-10). The first section deals with the issues of suffering, theodicy, and God's sovereignty; the second deals with God as Redeemer of creation. Readers will find both sections to be practically helpful as they sort out why tragedy strikes and how Christians can have hope even in the midst of these tragedies. In summary form, Horton smashes down the unbiblical ideas presented by the prosperity teachers and seeker-sensitive pastors in this book.
Overall, the book is very helpful and theologically on target. It is also easy to read and, thus, accessible to all types of people. If you're one of those Christians who have no clue on what the Bible teaches about God's character and the nature of the Christian life (i.e., a Christian who thinks that being a Christian automatically makes your life good and easy) then you really need to pick up this book and really see how the Christian life is.
On a personal note, Horton's new book couldn't come at a better time. My father was diagnosed on March 11th, 2006 with terminal lung cancer that has spread through certain parts of his body. And what better remedy than to go out and purchase a mainstream evangelical self-help book which offers me a 10 step solution in how to deal with my pain, and to live a better life from it, or the prayer of Jabez, right? No. Those would only blur our theologies-making God seem like one big vending machine.
Horton's book "too good to be true" goes against this current--don't be fooled by the bright cover, it's a book that we need in these fickle times.
"too good to be true" guided my look at life through a sober lens, realizing that our tough situations are part of a bigger plot where God has redeemed His people from the fall, where through His Son has crushed the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) by Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. This is our hope. Not just hope for the dying, but sinners in this sin-cursed world. This is our hope, Good Friday turning into Easter- and we are not to be pitied. My father, your mother, your son, your grandma who is dying or has died (not passed away) if he is in Christ he will be raised on that last day. This seems too good to be true, but Christ says it himself, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). This is what this book is about and reminds and hammers this truth through.
Furthermore, "too good to be true," gives a biblical and honest view of death in this cursed world. Death is not a `portal to heaven,' a `benign passage way', or something that is natural to life, but it is a "dreaded foe." We shouldn't hide or ignore the harsh reality of death-but to see it for what it really is-an enemy due to sin, the fall. But there is assured hope, Horton takes the reader to Scripture where for those who are in Christ death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55) because the guilt and judgment have been removed. We can cry out honestly to God at this unnatural reality of death, and at the same time sing with the apostle, "O Death, where is your Sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Horton takes us, also, through some horrible theology that many of our Christian evangelical churches subconsciously or consciously echo today. Horton touched on, some mentioned here: Gnosticism, the theology of Frederick Nietzsche, moralistic therapeutic deism, guilt driven moralism. He warned of the danger and harm that bad theology does to the Gospel, Christian churches, and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. With those warnings he brought to light the truths of the apostolic, historic Gospel that needs to be taught to Christian congregations, embraced by families, children, and men and women; old and young, and proclaimed from our pulpits on a Sabbath basis. It seems as though the mainstream evangelical churches have compromised this glorious truth of the Gospel for a lie.
On another `honest' note; the personal stories of Horton's family situations, describing his family trials and struggles were very insightful and encouraging. I'm a reader of Horton's books, and he would not travel this deep in his other writings, as he did here (I might be wrong) about his family and what he went through in the past. I was always curious and interested-from hearing stories in the past about him throwing away all of his Christian music, to writing his first draft of a book titled Mission Accomplished: The Work of Christ when he was 13!, to getting stranded on a trip to Europe and having no money were stories that were so interesting and out of the ordinary for me at the time.
I know Horton is not a fan of personal testimonies, but these were different, they were not testimonies, but personal real life situations that served a larger purpose for the book.
More than just the personal stories that would come on ever so often like commercials in-between the Super bowl game; his brief, but thorough handling of the book of Job, Romans 5-8, and John 11:1-46 is where the meat and heart of the book was. Horton had covered the debate of Romans 7, and told the reader what it was not (the carnal teaching), and what it was. Personally, it gave me a little more cognitive rest since I heard different interpretations of Romans 7. I wish that he would have gone a little more into the other views like Herman Ridderbos' interpretation. Horton, maybe, could have placed a reference in the end notes regarding this debate. Horton's statement on page 144 he writes, "But even if the "I" in Romans 7 is something more than Paul himself, it is surely not less than that." This gave a comforting mood into the passage he was handling, but again, I wish he would have expanded on the debate, but I understand that it was not the place and time in the book or the book to do so. On a side note, the flow of Romans 5 through 8 seems very logical, and I stand with Calvin's (and Horton's) interpretation on the passage, but I was just wanting to know more of Ridderbos', is all I'm saying.
To end this review, "too good to be true" did not hold back any punches, and I believe in this day and age we need more of these type of books to throw these type of punches, to throw us off our horses to make us aware of the bad theology that surrounds us and that we ourselves add into the mix.
If your looking for an evangelical self-help book, buy this book. Because it will save you a lot of money because you will not need to purchase another self-help book after you read this. God willing, may this book lead sinners to this freeing Gospel and, remind us Righteous-sinners (Christians) the joy that we have because of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. May we find that joy in our Salvation in Christ through this pilgrim journey.
--Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison 2 Corinthians 4:16-17