Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton
Disappointed By This One
I know lots of people have read this book and absolutely loved it. I had seen it recommended by at least two sources that I highly respect, so I expected it to be great. The truth is, I had to force myself to finish it, and really didn’t enjoy it at all.
It wasn’t the theological perspective. I’m highly sympathetic to Horton’s theology, with the exception of his paedo-baptism. It’s not that I think his book is “unscriptural”. In fact, he quotes hundreds and hundreds of scriptures throughout the book. It’s not that it was difficult to read. Other reviewers, and even J.I. Packer in the foreward, refer to this as “pumping intellectual iron.” (p. 8) I didn’t find it very stimulating at all, and it is curious to me that so many have described it that way.
It seems that it is intended to be a primer of Reformation Theology, put in accessible terms. The 5 points of Calvinism are sprinkled throughout, though given different names. The 5 Solas get their piece. A presbyterian view of the sacraments gets a chapter (infant baptism, the “spiritual presence” of Christ in communion). He concludes with an chapter on amillenial eschatology. Throughout the book Luther is referred to much more frequently than Calvin (hardly at all), though the doctrine is definitely Calvinist and not Lutheran.
One big disappointment for me, was that it felt so canned and pre-packaged. Instead of really digging into the texts of scripture, dozens of texts are simply referenced, and then smothered with thick layer of Systematic Reformation interpretation. It’s not even that I disagree with Reformed Theology, or a systematic approach. Something about the way it was done here was, frankly, kind of boring, and I labored to keep getting through it.
What annoyed me most was the condescending tone toward his own evangelical background. All along the way, he took potshots at what he was taught during his upbringing, with the sense that “I’m so much smarter than that now.” I didn’t think it was necessary, and it detracted from his project.
I understand that this was one of the first books that Horton wrote as a younger man, and so this may just reflect where he was at, at the time. I’m currently reading his Pilgrim Theology and am enjoying it, so I know it’s not the author, probably just this one book.
An introduction to theology that I like better is John Frame’s Salvation Belongs to the Lord. Frame is irenic where Horton seems chippy. I found Salvation . . . delightful to read where Putting . . . was a chore for me.