Christless Christianity

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and host of the White Horse Inn radio program joins Christ the Center to discuss his book Christless Christianity. The group covers several topics including the state of the American church, approaches to culture and confessionalism. Listen in on a fascinating discussion.


  • Michael Horton
  • Lane Keister
  • Jeff Waddington
  • Camden Bucey



Horton, Michael Scott. Christless Christianity : the alternative gospel of the American church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: BakerBooks, 2008.

Smith, Christian. American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. 1st ed. University Of Chicago Press, 1998.

—. “Future Directions in the Sociology of Religion.” Social Forces 86, no. 4 (2008): 1561–1589.

—. “Theorizing Religious Effects among American Adolescents..” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42, no. 1 (2003): 17–30.

Smith, Christian, and Melinda Lundquist. Denton. Soul searching : the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Tchividjian, Tullian. Unfashionable : making a difference in the world by being different. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2009.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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11 years ago

That was an interesting interview. I appreciate Dr. Horton for many reasons, one of which is that he helped me transition from evangelicalism to Reformed theology.

I don’t understand his response to the question of writing new confessions. If he was saying that the Westminster Standards and the 3 Forms have said everything that needs to be said so that we don’t need to re-create a round wheel, then why were there so many confessions written such that Jim Dennison can fill multiple volumes with them? On the other hand, if he was saying that the authors of those confessions were in a uniquely better position because they were coming out of medieval Roman Catholicism, it seems like a strong parallel can be drawn between medieval RC and contemporary evangelicalism such that we would find ourselves in a very similar situation.

I wonder if he isn’t concerned about folks who are not passionate and excited about *everything* it means to be Reformed. For most contemporary folks, it seems that the soteriology of the 5 points is what it means to be Reformed. But that neglects many vitals of the Reformed faith. If aspiring confessional authors weren’t excited about things like preaching as the ordinary means of effectual calling, the sacraments as means of grace, the Chalcedonian implications of the Reformed view of the 2nd Commandment (and the list could go on), then the resulting document probably would not look like what we mean by the adjective “Reformed.”

But in light of his comment about the death of the Emergent movement and the possible trajectory of a move toward deeply rooted traditions, it seems to me that the less excited Reformed Christians are about what everything it means to be Reformed, the less attractive our churches will be to disaffected evangelicals looking for a home.

Charlie J. Ray

11 years ago

I think Chris’ questions about Horton’s commitment to classical Reformed confessions, catechisms and theology reveals a lack of understanding of the bedrock and foundational theology of the Protestant Reformation. The minute we begin to worry about how to attract disaffected Evangelical sinners, pagans, and mankind in general we have sold out the sovereignty of God to an anthropocentric theology. Neo-Calvinism in particular seems to want to defend God from the accusation of being unjust and thus proposes the three points of common grace as a semi-compromise with Arminianism, which I should remind you all is a heresy from Reformed theology.

While I would not disagree that Reformed theology can be relevant and restated in modern terms, it is completely out of line to say that new confessions of faith replace the classical confessions of the Protestant Reformation. Rather, we seek to meet modern atheism, apostasy and liberalism head on through a Scriptural restatement of the Apostolic faith. The classical confessions are still relevant because they are indeed founded and grounded upon Holy Scripture. What we need are supplemental statements, not new ones which replace the alleged outmoded classical confessions. Scripture is always relevant and the confessions are based in Scripture.


Jeff Waddington

11 years ago


Good thoughts here. My own thought is that we are not a confession making era. John Frame has made similar comments. Scott Clark disagrees. He clearly believes that we could, in God’s providence, produce good confessions and catechisms. It may be the simple fact that we haven’t done it and so assume we couldn’t succeed even if we tried. My other concern would be that I find the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity exceptionally rich and would find it hard to believe these could be surpassed. Updated and added to, yes, but surpassed, not likely.

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11 years ago

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