Power Religion

Power Religion is edited by Michael Horton, who also edited the best selling Agony of Deceit and authored Made in America: The Shaping of Modern American Evangelicalism. Concerning the latter two books, critics have complained that Horton only goes after the easy targets (Copeland, Tilton, Cho, etc.) leaving the big names/popular heretics (i.e., the psychologizers) untouched. Writing about Made in America, one reviewer says: "It is an assault on the evangelical right, the easy targets, while silent concerning the heresies of respected icons on the evangelical left (e.g., Campolo, Sider, Wheaton, Trinity, Christianity Today)."

Power Religion is subtitled The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church. We think it is Horton who has sold out. Again, the big names are not targeted. Instead, some of them are the authors of the book's individual chapters! (Others have apparently been deemed untouchable by the book's neo-evangelical publisher, The Moody Bible Institute.) Called on by Horton to author chapters in the book are ecumenical, Catholic-sympathizer Charles Colson; neo-evangelical J.I. Packer; pop-psychologizer R.C. Sproul; psychological integrationists Don Matzat, Dave Powlison, and Ed Welch; and some lesser known names affiliated with the neo-evangelical Trinity Evangelical Divinity School/Evangelical Free Church of America (Don Carson, Bill Hull, and Tom Nettles).

The book purports to be a critique of Christian activism (Power Politics), the signs and wonders movement (Power Evangelism), the church growth movement (Power Growth), psychology (Power Within), and personality cults (Power Preachers). Yet Horton claims that we can still learn something from the purveyors of these heresies. He says:

"The contributors to Power Religion would be quick to note that these disciplines [sociology, psychology, and politics] are not in themselves evil or unnecessary ... None of the authors suggests that those who support Christian political activism, the signs and wonders movement, the church growth movement, the therapeutic movement, or sensational or potentially authoritarian schemes, are non-Christians or enemies of the faith masquerading as disciples of Christ ... In fact, none of us suggests that there is nothing to learn from these various movements. Speaking for myself, I know that my own Christian faith and life would be the poorer without interaction with some of my close friends who are charismatic, for instance. Likewise, I have admired the zeal of some church growth leaders ... miracles, philosophy, corporate and psychological insights, and political positions may well be part of the life of any Christian, [although] they are weak substitutes for the gospel." (Jacket & pp. 14-15, 333.) (Emphasis added.)

One begins to wonder why Power Religion was even written. Consider the hypocrisy of political activist Chuck Colson writing an article warning about the dangers of Christian activism. Or of Don Carson and John Armstrong, both supposedly writing against the signs and wonders movement, yet finding many things to praise in Wimber's Vineyard movement. Also, church growth advocates Bill Hull and Tom Nettles, supposedly writing against the church growth movement, never mention Bill Hybels, the guru of church growth who "pastors" at Willow Creek (possibly because the book's publisher, MBI, employs Hybels to speak at its conferences). Dave Powlison, Ed Welch, and Don Matzat are all integrationists, yet they each write an article in the book's anti-psychology/anti-"therapeutic movement" section. And Ken Riddlebarger, currently studying in the doctoral program at the psychologized, charismatic, doctrinally void Fuller Seminary, writes an article in which he is highly critical of Dave Hunt's alleged, but unspecified, "various doctrinal errors."

Michael Horton is right about one thing. The evangelical church is certainly being "sold out." Unfortunately, Horton doesn't appear to be able to discern the difference between the sellers and the buyers.