Horton's Hypocrisy

July 2010

One’s credibility is severely weakened and sometimes irreparably ruined when one lacks integrity. And nothing is probably more damaging to one’s reputation than when one’s integrity is questioned due to inconsistency between one’s words and actions (commonly called hypocrisy). This is acutely true for those who serve in Christ’s Church as teachers of God’s word, and as examples to their students.

Dr. Michael Scott Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, the co-host of the White Horse Inn weekly national radio broadcast, the editor-in-chief of “Modern Reformation” magazine, and the author/editor of twenty books.

The Trinity Foundation has before critiqued Dr. Horton and his White Horse Inn here and here, but these “modern reformers” are proving today to be more subtle and multi-faceted than the late John Robbins might have imagined.

On April Fools Day, 2010, in his article, "Rick Warren, Modern Reformation, and Desiring God" (at www.whitehorseinn.org/archives/425.html), Dr. Horton wrote the following:

"I admire Rick Warren’s zeal for reaching non-Christians and concern for global challenges. I respect him for giving away much of his income for charitable purposes.

"At the same time, I believe that his message distorts the gospel and that he is contributing to the human-centered pragmatism that is eroding the proper ministry and mission of the church. Judging by The Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Warren’s theology seems to reflect run-of-the-mill evangelical Arminianism, especially with its emphasis on the new birth as the result of human decision and cooperation with grace. There are also heavy traces of Keswick ‘higher life’ teaching throughout the book. None of this disqualifies him from being an evangelical statesman. After all, much the same can be said of Billy Graham."

And: "While I applaud his concern for social justice, I am concerned that he confuses the law with the gospel and the work of Christians in their vocations (obeying the Great Commandment) with the work of Christ through his church in its ministry of Word and sacrament (the Great Commission)."

And: "Getting the gospel right and getting the gospel out, as well as loving and serving our neighbors, comprise the callings of the church and of Christians in the world. However, confusing these is always disastrous for our message and mission."

Shorthand Hortonese: “I admire and respect and applaud Rick Warren, though he disastrously distorts the gospel, and confuses law and gospel.”

Dr. Horton included in this article what has sadly proven to be a most cryptic “prophecy”:

“Pastor Warren tailors his appeals to his audience. To Calvinists, he stresses his support for the ‘solas’ of the Reformation. Yet he tells prosperity evangelist David Yonggi Cho, ‘I’ve read your books on Vision and Dreams – speak to pastors about how you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit? …What advice would you give to a brand new minister? …Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?’ (‘Breakfast With David Yonggi Cho And Rick Warren,’ Pastors.com). In a June 2006 article in JewishJournal.com, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman reported on a speech that Warren gave for Synagogue 3000, after Rabbi Ron Wolfson became involved in the Purpose-Driven pastoral training seminars. ‘Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus — a testament to his savvy message-tailoring.’ When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, ‘I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?’ (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?”

Dr. Horton failed to heed his own warning here, for in June of 2010 he participated in the Lausanne “Global Conversation,” hosted by Pastor Warren and his Saddleback Church.

In his blog, Dr. Horton reports: "It’s great to be able to discuss our differences as well as our common convictions in a spirit of friendship as well as mutual challenge. Our mission at White Horse Inn is to go to any forum that invites us where we have a chance to clarify what we are convinced is the proper message and mission of the church." www.whitehorseinn.org/archives/522/cpage/1.html#comment-1463

You can judge for yourself how much "challenge," "clarification," or "proper message" were given by Dr. Horton in the two Saddleback webcasts. These are at www.saddleback.com/webcast/12cities12conversations/

To his credit, Dr. Horton did at least say the following (emphases his):

“Jesus Christ is the only gospel. He did it. He fulfilled the law in our place, bore the curses for our not having fulfilled it, and rose again as the first-fruits of the redemption of the world order. That is the gospel, and it's wonderful good news because it's not about me; and it's not about my plans for making the world a better place.” (Part One @ 61:19)

“I just think we keep running away from the gospel in the name of ‘mission.’ Sometimes talking about ‘mission’ and ‘being missional’ and ‘being the gospel,’ and not talking about the gospel, Jesus Christ, so that our children and grandchildren and we ourselves, really, uh, are deepened in it. We take the gospel itself for granted, I think, in the church today.” (Part One @ 62:50)

But when one says, “Gospel, Gospel, Gospel,” after an hour of inane “seeker-speak,” as Dr. Horton did at Saddleback, without reproving those who promote a distorted or confused false gospel, one fails to honor Christ, edify his saints, or confront his enemies, per Galatians 2:5, 11, 14ff; Titus 1:9; Jude 3; and elsewhere.

Dr. Horton holds back with the right hand what he appeared to give with the left, for when given the opportunity in person to “hammer” (a WSC colleague’s description of Horton in reference elsewhere to Warren) his seeker-friendly Lausanne co-panelists, Horton failed to challenge the neo-evangelical status quo.

Instead, after having accused the purpose-driven pastor of being a disastrous distorter of the Gospel, Dr. Michael “The Hammer” Horton smilingly hugs Pope Rick in a bizarre photo at Saddleback Church, 2½ months later! You can see them embrace and grin over a small wood carving of Calvin at www.whitehorseinn.org/archives/503.html

Dr. Horton writes online that he had "a great time" (www.whitehorseinn.org/archives/522.html) with a man who “distorts the gospel," and who "is contributing to the human-centered pragmatism that is eroding the proper ministry and mission of the church."

He was all hugs and smiles for one whose "theology seems to reflect run-of-the-mill evangelical Arminianism, especially with its emphasis on the new birth as the result of human decision and cooperation with grace."

But it's all O.K., since according to Dr. Horton: "None of this disqualifies him from being an evangelical statesman."

Apparently Dr. Horton and his Inn have capitulated to crass pragmatism, wanting a place at Lausanne’s table, a foot in the neo-evangelical door, in order to “share” the Gospel.

But worse, it also looks a lot like rank hypocrisy, since Dr. Horton at one time exposed Warren’s confused false teaching, and later turns around to literally embrace the man.

“Why the uncertain sound,” you may ask, “emanating from the White Horse Inn?” It appears that Luther truly is dead, and that opportunism is now the order of the day.

We await either Dr. Horton’s recantation of his April 1st attacks against the purpose-driven pastor, or his repenting of his crass posturing with Warren and Co. The two stances are mutually exclusive, inconsistent, and unbecoming a teacher and defender of the Gospel.

Very sadly yours,
Hugh McCann