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Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Core Christianity" (Michael Horton)

TITLE: Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story
AUTHOR: Michael Horton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

The story that we believe will determine our responses to events in life. This is the core message of the book. Also known as worldview, author and professor Michael Horton puts it simply as the story we believe in our hearts. For Christians, Horton believes that the story is the Christian story. We understand it by proper doctrine; by living in Jesus; by having reason informed by faith; and the fundamental Christian living determined by the 4Ds.
  1. Drama: The biblical narrative
  2. Doctrine: What the drama means
  3. Doxology: Praising God with grateful hearts
  4. Discipleship: Fruit of love and good works
Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He has also authored several theology textbooks, one of which is Pilgrim Theology. Comparatively speaking, this book is a distilled version for lay readers. It is written with the ordinary church goer in mind. Selecting ten core doctrines, Horton writes in a more direct, conversational, and popular style. Where there is a need to describe in theological terms, the author makes it a point to separately define and explain it, which is useful for those of us unfamiliar with the more demanding words used in theology. The ten doctrines are:
  1. The Deity of Jesus
  2. The Trinity
  3. God
  4. Sin
  5. Old Testament Promise
  6. Salvation
  7. The Gospel
  8. Jesus Christ
  9. The End Times
  10. Witnessing for God

The individual titles of the book are written in everyday language, something that most people would be able to understand. In each chapter, there is a brief introduction via a story, a conversation, or an illustration. This is followed by a careful body of theological information given in basic English. Sometimes, theological words are used but usually explained point by point. Additional definitions or descriptions of theological words are done on the side rather than the main body. This enables a better reading flow. There are elements of apologetics as well, such as the description of the crucificion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a core doctrine in the Christian faith. Nothing is left to chance. Every effort is made to ensure that the reader understands the basic core doctrines.

Let me offer three thoughts about this book.

First, it is a really good primer for understanding the basic Christian doctrines. Just like John Stott's Basic Christianity, Horton has updated the basic doctrines for our era. The difference is that this book delivers the doctrines in a more conversational and personable style, something that should appeal to a postmodern generation. We no longer simply talk about God. We talk in a way as if God is speaking directly to us.

Second, the story invites us into God's story. This is a vivid integration of our Christian faith into everyday living. Sometimes, when people think of doctrines and theology, they may have the impression of some dry theological lessons that are increasingly out of date and out of touch with the modern audience. When we start to think of our small stories in the light of God's bigger story, we see immediate relevance. We see that God's story is bigger than what we may have imagined. We learn that God is not a distant clockmaker, but is very much active and present in our lives.

Third, we need more of such books, not less. Granted, there is a flood of theological resources out there in the market. Sometimes, we may think that there are already too many. Yet, I believe that doctrine is such an important part of the Church that any additional resource is never too much. Perhaps, this book can spearhead another educational initative for believers both young and old, mature and not so mature. This can be used in Sunday Schools, discipleship programs, membership courses, baptismal classes, or small group studies. For the latter, it would be good if the author or publisher can incorporate a half-page or a full page of discussion questions.

I warmly recommend this for all teachers and students of the Bible.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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