An Interview with Dr. Michael Horton
Mike Horton is a husband, a father, and a pastor. He’s also a professor, an editor, and a prolific author. From reading his long list of academic credentials you might get the impression that he’s an ivory-tower theologian with no time or concern for people. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is one of the more caring and sincere men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I first met Mike in Chicago in 1999, as he stood beside James Montgomery Boice. In 1999 we didn’t have much in common, but now we have at least one thing in common in that we’re both editors of Reformed magazines, a labor in which we both take great delight.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Mike. Our conversation, along with Ligonier’s executive vice-president, Chris Larson, was recorded as we spent a couple hours discussing everything from the benefits of the iPhone to the importance of good coffee and everyone from N.T. Wright to Pope Benedict XVI. As I have written previously here about my reasons for conducting these interviews, I hope the Lord will use these interviews to help edify and equip His people with the wisdom from those He has raised up to serve Him in His church.
Dr. Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He is Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine and the host of White Horse Inn. He also serves as associate pastor of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, California, and he is author/editor of twenty books, including Putting Amazing Back into Grace,A Better Way: Re-discovering the Drama of Christ Centered Worship, Introducing Covenant Theology, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church and The Gospel Driven Life.
In the late 1980s, Dr. Horton began an organization called Christians United for Reformation (CURE). CURE’s purpose was to remind American evangelicals of their biblical roots and the rich faith and practice recovered during the Protestant Reformation. One of the first efforts to broaden their influence came in 1990 with the launch of the weekly radio broadcast, White Horse Inn, with hosts Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, Rod Rosenbladt, and Ken Jones. [For more on why they chose the name White Horse Inn, click here.] In 1992, the organization began publishing a magazine, Modern Reformation, to apply timeless Christian doctrines to the questions of the day.
Please tell me a little about your family.
I have a wonderful wife who cares for me better than I deserve, and I have four children about whom I can say the same thing. They are six years old and seven, and they’re wonderful kids. Three of them are the same age—they are triplets. James is the oldest, a year and a half older than the triplets.
Name a few less commonly known books that have proven most helpful in your life and ministry over the years.
The Cappadocian Fathers—Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory Nyssa, and Basil of Caesarea— two brothers and a buddy—they had a huge impact on shaping the early Trinitarian and Christological debates, and many Christians, especially Protestants have never heard of them, but we speak their language because they had to plow through a lot of conceptual difficulties in articulating the faith against the heresies. And that language that they used for the Trinity and for the doctrine of Christ are now terms that we take for granted, in the formulations that we take for granted—a remarkable trio of men.
Like many Christians, I was raised in a dispensational background, and we can be critical of Dispensationalism, but there’s no doubt that I learned a lot about Scripture and about grace from people in the Bible Churches who were trained at Dallas Theological Seminary. I remember reading Dwight Pentecost’s book Things That Become Sound Doctrine from cover to cover about five times. That was a formative book for me in terms of opening my thinking up to the world of systematic theology—it was on my Mom’s bookshelf; I pulled it down and really benefited from it. There are things in there that I would differ on today, of course, but it was helpful.
I would recommend any of Thomas Goodwin’s works. I did my doctoral dissertation on Goodwin, so I did a lot of reading of Goodwin—it was always as devotional as it was intellectual and informative. Goodwin is a very moving writer and like other Puritans he was able to paint the world with pictures and illumine the Scriptures with words.
Also, I would recommend anything by Richard Sibbes and William Perkins, who probably haven’t received the attention they deserve, but I’m glad to see John Owen receiving more attention. I’m also thankful to see continental theologians getting more attention: Zacharias Ursinus, Caspar Olevianus, and others.
Do you read any blogs, and if you do, what are some of the most helpful blogs?
I don’t. I’m kind of in that in-between generation. Well, I can’t really blame that as a factor. A lot of people my age and older read the blogs. I just never got into it. However, we just started doing a blog for The Whitehorse Inn, and they tell me it’s doing well.
So The White Horse Inn blog is your favorite blog?
Sure, it’s my favorite blog, but I don’t even read it. Nevertheless, I hear people all over the place talking about the Riddleblog, the Heidelblog, Justin Taylor’s blog, and Tim Challies’ blog; so I’m aware of them, it’s just not part of my daily routine.
What book or books are you currently reading?
I just finished Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, which is really fantastic. I don’t agree with everything, but it’s challenging and one of those powerful books that makes its mark. I’ve just started another book that has me captivated. It’s Christopher J. H. Wright’s The Mission of God: Unfolding the Bible’s Grand Narrative (IVP). Wright is the director of John Stott’s international missions arm and this is his magnum opus. It’s not just another book on missions. He interprets the whole Bible in the light of its messianic center and mission-oriented concern. God is the real missionary and we’re supporting actors. It’s great stuff so far.