Core Christianity

Michael S. Horton
Monday, February 29th 2016
Mar/Apr 2016

In my new book, set to be released in April, I take another look at the primary doctrines of our Christian faith. Continuing the project that began with The Christian Faith and Pilgrim Theology, this new book, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story (Zondervan, 2016), was written to help you answer basic questions about what we believe.

That’s really the first question that needs to be addressed: “Why should you be interested in Christian doctrine?” We study things we care about. We pursue an education to work in a particular field. People invest enormous amounts of time and energy in sports, culture, business, child-rearing, learning a new technology, and various hobbies. It’s all about desire. What do we really love? What are the most important things in life?

In some cases, doctrine seems irrelevant because there is a firewall between faith and reason, believing and thinking. “I just believe,” people say, but what do they believe? And why? The average person on the street relegates religion to the realm of irrational feelings, not facts, and dismisses it accordingly. To such people, belief is completely subjective. The question is not whether it’s true, but whether it works for you. That might be a legitimate assumption for other religions and self-help philosophies, but Christianity rests on historical, public claims. These claims are either true or false; they cannot be true for some people and not for others.

Another question that must be answered is one some of our friends and family, even in our own churches, ask us: “Shouldn’t we just concentrate on loving Jesus and get on with life?”

Imagine that you’ve just been told you have cancer. You’re going to need surgery immediately. As you tell the story to your spouse or friend, you are asked details about the diagnosis, the symptoms, and the cure. You shrug and say, “I’m not sure. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll just go with the flow.” Well, what about the doctor? What are his or her credentials? Has the surgeon performed this operation before? What’s the success rate? Again you shrug. “Hmmm. I haven’t really checked.” Obviously, anyone who loves you is going to press you to take it all a little more seriously and do some homework. “Look,” you reply. “I just have to trust the process and hope it all turns out all right. Right now it’s working for me.”

This is an absurd scenario for most of us. We would take our physical health more seriously than this person. But what about our spiritual health? Despite medical advances, one day you and I will die. In comparison with eternity, whatever life span we’re given seems pretty brief. The time we have now is for asking the big questions’and finding answers. That is what theology or doctrine is all about: exploring the most important convictions that shape our outlook, desires, hopes, and lives. For more on what we believe and why what we believe matters, I hope you’ll check out Core Christianity.

Photo of Michael S. Horton
Michael S. Horton
Michael Horton is editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation and the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido.
Monday, February 29th 2016

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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