When you hear the word doctrine, what enters your mind? For some, it’s “Root canal.” For others, “Ice cream.” If this is God’s good, life-giving word, should it feel like the dentist forgot the Novocain when we read the Bible? Is it possible that we could actually want to read the Bible, to enjoy reading it, to understand it?
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He is the host of the weekly broadcast White Horse Inn and the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. His purpose in writing Core Christianity is “to help you understand your reason for your hope as a Christian so that you can invite others into the conversation” (14). Throughout teaches you about the Bible Story without it feeling like you’re being taught about dreaded doctrine.
Horton doesn’t write only for the new believer. He writes for all believers. The Bible is a hefty book, and it is extremely difficult to find the whole story. Sure there are the main ideas of “Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration,” but what happens in between all of that? And why does it matter every day? Horton quotes Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Horton takes that maxim and points it to Christians, “But it’s also true that the unexamined faith is not worth believing” (16).
Core Christianity is situated between the beginner and intermediate level. It’s a good book for a new Christian to read through carefully, and it’s still a good book for long-time believers. There were insights that I found helpful, like that found on pages 17-18: The 4 D’s: Drama, Doctrine, Doxology, and Discipleship.
- Drama teaches us the story of the Bible, like how Jesus died and rose again.
- Doctrine teaches us that Jesus was “delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4.25, pg. 17).
- Doxology means “praise.” We worship God as we now know that “[e]verything that happened outside of us in history now becomes our story” (18). Christians are found “in Christ,” and his story becomes our story.
- Discipleship comes when the Christian realizes he is no longer the main character of his own story. He are able to live out his role to love God and to love his neighbors.
When looking at us as God’s creation, we who are made in his image, the title of “Son of God” is one of “office” and “intimacy.” This is what makes sin even worse. Horton utters these somber words, “The tragedy of sin is not that animals like us have behaved like animals; it is that sons of God—the Bible includes males and females under this title—have become like the beasts” (123).
Yet we can praise God because he has saved us and placed us within his grand story. From God’s goodness to the role of Scripture, from making a mess of God’s world to his promise that runs through the Old Testament, from Jesus as the servant King to our hope of life (after death) in the new creation (when heaven meets earth, Rev 21-22), Horton gives the church an easily-digestible systematic theology (meaning, what the whole Bible tells us about its main doctrines). No biblical doctrine stands alone. Each doctrine and teaching is part of a team that plays together. No one sits the bench.
The essentials are vital to pin down and understand. They are the core of what we believe, and the core holds everything else together. If we miss the essentials, we’ll go afar into left field. We’ll grow selfish and neglect others. Perhaps instead of viewing God as our loving, holy Father, we’ll view him as our magic genie who agrees to give us everything we could ever want, and we’ll be disappointed when he doesn’t do so. This is not our story, but God’s story which is focused on Christ. And the more we see God rightly (as rightly as we can in this life), the more we will be in awe of our majestic king.
- Author: Michael Horton
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan (April 5, 2016)
(Special thanks to Zondervan for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).