With all the respect that I have for Dr. Horton and the Westminster staff in Escondido and all the wonderful things they have done for the kingdom of God, I have come to realize a devastating truth prevalent in there theological gleanings.
about a year ago and thought Horton was spectacular in his theological explanation, concise in his message and loving in his demeanor. Now I only hold to the latter two…
While there are good things that he says in 3 minutes there are some things that are unexpected which makes ones eyes light up and think “did he just say that?”
He has a strict definition of what gospel means, namely, “God’s promise of salvation in Christ…a victory announcement” something that we are passive in, something that we don’t live but believe in, not what we do but what has been done which are all true; but the gospel cannot be limited to that. This line of reasoning may lead to lax sanctification and a neglection of the grace of the law.
In Romans 1:5 before Paul’s declaration that “the just shall live by faith” he declares that the gospel of the resurrected Christ is proclaimed “to bring about the obedience of faith…to all nations”. Paul makes it clear that the gospel entails obedience in and of itself! See also Romans 1:18 and Romans 16:17-20.
Further, in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul again states that anyone who does not “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” will have the Lord’s wrath and vengeance upon him. Jesus says the exact same thing (John 3:36). Calvin writes:
“For if obedience is not rendered to the gospel through faith, as he teaches in the first and in the last chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, [Romans 1:18ff,16:17-19,] unbelief is the occasion of resistance to it. He charges them at the same time with ignorance of God, for a lively acquaintance with God produces of itself reverence towards him. Hence unbelief is always blind, not as though unbelievers were altogether devoid of light and intelligence, but because they have the understanding darkened in such a manner, that seeing they do not see. (Matthew 13:13.) It is not without good grounds that Christ declares that this is life eternal, to know the true God, etc. (John 17:3.) Accordingly, from the want of this salutary knowledge, there follows contempt of God, and in fine, death.” (Commentary 1 Thessalonians 1:8, pg. 204
Also, Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:17 echoes these very words of Paul to the Thessalonians and says “judgement…will be the outcome of all those who do not obey the gospel of God.” It seems that both Peter and Paul were stringent with their words of obeying the gospel and the fate of those who didn’t. So will Dr. Horton take back his bold statement wherein he says, “You can’t do the gospel. That’s a category mistake, it is the most fundamental theological mistake that you can possibly make to confuse the law with the gospel.” (2:00-2:06) Because we are not confusing anything. The gospel demands obedience, and anyone who wants to take away the law out of the gospel is antinomian and not in line with traditional Reformed theology but is more closely assimilated with Lutheranism.
I understand Dr. Horton’s concern and him wanting to upholding the doctrine by which the church stands or falls (justification by faith alone), but there is way to do that without restricting the gospel to one sense. When the Scriptures speak about the “obedience to the gospel” we should speak about the obedience of the gospel. When the Scripture declares justification by faith alone through the work of Christ then we should declare the same.
Dr. Murray writes: “In contrast to justification, which is accomplished for us with no reference to what we’ve done or not done, sanctification involves our not doing certain things and doing certain things, all by God’s enabling grace.” Further he writes, “the Gospel is certainly a message about Christ’s external substitution. But it does not stop there. The Gospel is also a message about internal transformation (a major part of sanctification). Christ saves us from our sins objectively and subjectively, from the penalty of sin and the presence of sin.” Both justification and sanctification flow from the work of Christ and can both be gospel properties. But Horton thinks because sanctification is “doing” it can not be a gospel property but belongs with the law. There in lies the problem: the majority of Reformed scholarship would disagree with him on that point.
Hopefully in the future, I can write a post with numerous quotes and citations from 16th and 17th Reformed theologians not dichotomizing the law and the gospel.