Here is an excerpt from a discussion with Dr. Michael S. Horton, author of a new book called “Christless Christianity”. You can go here to see the entire discussion and details on the book. Thanks to Martin for sending the info in the first place.
Seattle, Wash.: I have been a Christian since I was 13. My church then prayed for the salvation of sinners…but never accepted anyone who had sinned or didn’t share their strict beliefs. More and more the church goers judge their neighbors and even relatives for being horrible sinners when these so called “horrible sinners” choose to be open to choices such as love and forgiveness. Choices such as these are seen weak by the “stronger” more righteous Christians. You know who these fake Christians are, they think all other religions and believers are weak and wrong. Then there is the whole, feverish belief that these un-meek Christian would rather die than allow someone their personal unrestricted rights to their own bodies. My question is, what kind of Christian believes in killing thy neighbor with war or bombs or shunning thy fellow man, if thy fellow man disagrees with his beliefs? Because I know that most evangelicals are so biased that they don’t care who or what they destroy for a couple of control issues over people and their freedom of choice.<!–
Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton: If you send me your name and address, I’ll send you Christless Christianity-not because I want to push my book, but because it’s mainly because of people like you that I wrote it. (Just send your information to us using the contact us page of the christlesschristianity.org site) I know the church world you are talking about and share similar experiences growing up in it.
I know that it will sound simplistic, but here goes. Religion and spirituality are chiefly about how to attain power: power over oneself, one’s destiny, others, and even God. The gospel, by contrast, is God’s power for salvation (Rom 1:19). It is God’s means of saving us, not a “to-do” list for saving ourselves. As Paul said in Romans 10, our native religion is “works-righteousness”: If I can ascend up to heaven to pull God down, or descend into the depths to raise Christ from the dead, then I (or we) will finally have (fill in the blank). But “the righteousness that is by faith in Christ,” says Paul, responds differently. It simply hears God deliver his Son to us and receives this Good News. That person is declared righteous then and there. The verdict of the Last Judgment is already rendered here and now. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
Jesus said he came not to save those who thought they were righteous, but sinners. In one parable he told, a religious leader prayed zealously, “God, I thank you that I am not like this sinful tax-collector,” while the tax-collector felt too guilty to raise his eyes to God and simply cried out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “that man went home to his house justified that day rather than the other.” If you believe that your own righteousness is “like filthy rags” (Is 64:6), and that your only righteousness before God is that holiness of Christ in which he has wrapped you, then you come to see that your moral superiority itself is the deepest sin. Christ calls us to die to ourselves: to our fake righteousness as well as to our more obvious sins.
So when we are gathered by Christ around his Word, his Table, and Baptism, we are not active agents of self-salvation in a position to judge everyone else, but fellow sinners who have been justified (declared righteous) through faith in Christ. We are co-heirs of God’s entire estate, including his Spirit who is gradually conforming us to Christ’s image and producing the fruit of righteousness and peace in hearts where strife, domination, envy, and bitterness prevailed. It’s often been said that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints. If we really believed that, wouldn’t it make a difference?