Skip to comments.Horton On The Law And The Gospel
Posted on 02/19/2011 2:19:09 PM PST by Gamecock
This is probably the best shortest explanation of the all important distinction between Gods law and Gods gospel that Ive read. Its from Mike Hortons new book The Christian Faith:
In the Reformed tradition, the law-gospel distinction was interpreted within the historical context of distinct covenants in history. The covenant of creation (also called the covenant of works or law) was based on the personal performance of all righteousness by the covenant servant. The covenant of grace is based on the fulfillment of all righteousness by our representative head and is dispensed to the covenant people through faith in him. There is still law in the covenant of grace. However, it is no longer able to condemn believers but directs them in lives of gratitude for Gods mercy in Christ.
As Ive said here before, the commands in the Bible are like a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law, in other words, never gives any power to do what it commands. It shows us what a sanctified life looks like but it has no sanctifying power. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train. This is why the Bible never tells us what to do before first soaking our hearts and minds in what God in Christ has already done.
For your consideration this Christian Sabbath eve.
May you hear Jesus clearly preached in your worship.
Thanks, Game! Again, another great post.
Have a blessed Sabbath!
This discussion recalls the controversy within Lutheranism as to whether the law should be preached to the regenerate. Some Lutherans said that since the law always condemns, it should not be preached to believers, because believers are not under Gods condemnation. Others argued that believers do need the law to expose their residual unbelief and to turn them again to repent and believe on Christ. The second party prevailed. But still a third position prevailed in Reformed theology: that believers need to hear the law simply because they always need to know Gods will. Redeemed people will want to obey God out of gratitude (not works righteousness), and the law tells them how to do so. On this basis, we read the law, not to be condemned anew, but simply to serve the God who has removed from us all condemnation.While Horton is certainly helpful in many areas, he cannot be read without a critical eye towards some of his more novel views.
In this respect, Horton is more Lutheran than Reformed. He defines law as Gods moral requirements, a definition acceptable to all parties in this discussion. But for him the law must always bring condemnation, so that he doesnt think one is really preaching the law unless he preaches it as condemnation.
For Horton, law is unmitigated bad news, with no good news mixed in (63, 91). This view is stressed in Lutheran theology  and has gained an increasing following in Reformed circles. (Review of Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church)
Thanks for your post. I’m still trying to work through the criticisms of Horton (and the defenses). Your post sheds some light on the issues.
I agree. Thats the most succinct explanation I have seen.
I also appreciate your post. It shed some light on some disconcerting information I heard from a former Westminster student in the same regard to Horton. He told me that Horton at Westminster is a different guy from the one I have read. I have never read anything by Horton (I have most of his books and subscribe to Modern Reformation) that was not spot on and edifying. Thanks for including a link to the review. I will read it when I get a chance. I still have a high regard for Mike but I want to know what it is that seems to have caused the controversy.
I am a financial supporter of Pirate Christian Radion which is mostly Lutheran programming but also includes the White Horse Inn. Excellant station compared to everything else out there. Go to their website and find the “Fighting for the Faith” link. There you should be able to listen to podcasts of interviews of both Michael Horton and the Reformed Baptistregarding this issue. I hope all faithful Reformed folks and Lutherans would support this network as it battles Emergent Church and Seeker Sensitive movement head on.
see post 8
Like many here I listen to the WHI. What I have heard him say is consistent with the Three Fold Purpose of the Law.
The way I read it, the Bible gave the law first, long before there was any mention of Christ. The law was our master, but becomes our servant. (Gal. 3:24-4:7)
I too am a listener to Pirate, I love Chris and am a fan on face book. I am reformed, so I do not agree with everything on the station.. but it has has taught me so much about the need to listen closely for what is REALLY being said.
I thought Paul said there was no law between Adam and Moses..
Horton also raised many eyebrows when he endorsed RC apologist Scott Hahn’s book on the theology of Benedict XVI.
Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace. (WCF, 19:6)When I read Horton I get the impression that law is always negative ala Lutheranism. When I read the Reformed Confessions I do not get that same impression.
Interesting, perhaps I should rephrase my statement. Where are you going with this?