Review: Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church

By | September 23, 2013

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael S. Horton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh.

I was expecting a bit more. It became a chore to read this, basically one long screed about the fact that the church has changed in America from what it once (supposedly) was to what it (supposedly) is now.

I did not rate it a flat one star. There are some interesting ideas that you can suss out. The confidence of Christ in the believer’s life is an important thing. The fact that for Christians Jesus is the center and is essential is good.

But after 270 pages of “what is wrong about the church” I just got tired.

Church is what it is for people because it gives people what they both need and want. A good church will give good things, such as spiritual connection and emotional succor to the appropriate extent.

What I got from this author was a long list of all the ways churches are doing it wrong, all the ways the deep needs of church-goers aren’t being met, and the many, many ways that the majesty of God is affronted by the trivializing of his majesty in weak theological expressions.

I get that.

But you have to ask, why would churches respond the way they do to the American people (this book is for the American audience)? Why would the felt needs of people be a priority in American churches?

We are who we are, and a church, to reach us, has to reach us where we are, speak our language, and understand our needs.

I get it that we need a higher class of Christians, more educated, less attracted to spiritual highs and more attracted to spiritual depth. That would be most excellent to have.

What we deal with are the people like us. So speak to us the way we can understand.

I think there is something good to get from the author’s insistence on the centrality of Jesus of Nazareth in the Christian religion, a real man and fully divine, as the person to worship and trust, and upon the complete nature of Christ’s work in his life, death, and resurrection.

But it came across as hectoring over and over that somehow we Christians need to spend our entire lives focused only on this (which sounds good) but then we would do *nothing else* because anything else is somehow “works.” So all the things that Christ did that he asked us to copy are not important; sitting in church and listening to sermons is.

I know I am not summarizing this well. The argument is far deeper. But the argument goes on and on and on to the point where it becomes tedious to hear the same things over and over.

The beauty of the church is that it comprises nations and tongues and tribes from all continents and all times. The view of the church as represented in the book is a good one, and a strong one. But it is not the only one.

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