Michael Horton was president of Christians United for Reformation (CURE)
until its 1994 merger with the Philadelphia based Alliance of Confessing
Evangelicals (ACE). (Actually, CURE/ACE acted as a joint organization until
1999, when the CURE name was dropped entirely.) He is now the
President and Chairman of the Council of ACE, and an Associate
Professor of Apologetics and Historical Theology at Westminster Theological
Seminary in Escondido, California. He was educated at Biola University
(B.A.); Westminster Theological Seminary in California; Wycliffe Hall, Oxford,
and the University of Coventry (Ph.D.);
also completed a Research Fellowship at Yale University Divinity School. Horton is a minister in the United Reformed Churches, having served in
three churches in Southern California, and is the publisher of ACE's Modern
Reformation magazine. Since 1990, he has hosted a 30-minute, weekly radio
talk-show called "The White Horse Inn" ("exploring
issues of reformational theology in American Christianity"), which
is aired weekly on Sunday evenings on approximately 27 stations in the U.S. and
Canada (as well as a Sunday evening national broadcast from Los Angeles via the
Horton is recognized as a young champion of the Reformed faith with a "prophetic" ministry of calling the church to repentance. He is vitally involved with ACE, which claims to exist to revive the rallying cries of the Reformation, including "Scripture Alone," "Christ Alone," "Grace Alone," "Faith Alone," "Glory to God Alone," and "The Priesthood of All Believers." Horton is known for exposing false teachers and false doctrine, and has, thereby, become a key spokesman in "Evangelical" circles. He is a prolific author having written or served as editor of many well-known "evangelical" books (fourteen at latest count), including Putting Amazing Back into Grace, Made In America, The Agony of Deceit, Power Religion, Christ The Lord, Beyond Culture Wars, The Law of Perfect Freedom, Where In The World Is The Church?, We Believe, and In The Face of God. His books come endorsed by many well-known neo-evangelicals, including James M. Boice, Carl F. Henry, and R.C. Sproul.
Horton's latest book is A Confessing Theology For Postmodern Times. Two others yet to be released are A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship, and Covenant and Eschatology: the Divine Drama. He has written articles for Modern Reformation, Pro Ecclesia, Christianity Today, The International Journal of Systematic Theology, and Books and Culture. He is a member of the Oxford University Union Society, the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the American Academy of Religion, the American Theological Society, and the Calvin Studies Society. (Source: 8/27/01, ACE Internet Web Site.)
In a CURE "Dear Friends" letter dated 8/1/95, Horton said,
"The vision of the organization is to enable evangelicalism to rediscover
its roots in the writings of the Reformers and to heighten awareness of the
ideas and methods developed by those Reformers in addressing the issues of their
day. The organization is not sectarian or separatist but is
concerned to enable denominations, or groups within denominations, to recover a
sense of identity or purpose." (Emphasis added.)
Moreover, "The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals exists to call the church, amidst our dying culture, to repent of its worldliness, to recover and confess the truth of God's Word as did the Reformers, and to see that truth embodied in doctrine, worship, and life" (ACE/CURE Internet Web Site -- 6/97).
It is clear that Horton and the ACE organization see themselves as the protectors/defenders of Reformed theology and true Christian worship in the evangelical church. However, as stated above, Horton has no intention of letting the Biblical doctrine of separation get in the way of the perverted view that doctrinal strength comes through ecumenical unity. He says:
"At this particular time he [James Boice] served as a catalyst for bringing together many like-minded folk from diverse traditions, including Presbyterians (R.C. Sproul), Congregationalists (David Wells), Lutherans (Gene Veith), and Baptists (John Armstrong) -- all of us agreeing that the solas were the bedrock of our faith. The result was the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), an organization chaired by Dr. Boice and vice-chaired by David Wells and me, and headquartered in the CURE offices" ("A Short Note About CURE's  Merger with ACE," by Michael Horton, ACE/CURE Internet Web Site -- 6/97).
Horton is strongly committed to Reformed (combining Luther
and Calvin) and Covenant theology. He is very opposed to Dispensational
theology. Because of his Reformed and Covenant theology, he sees water baptism
as the counterpart of circumcision in the Old Testament. He, therefore, like
Calvin, holds to infant baptism as the means for bringing babies into the
"Covenant." But, like Luther, he also holds baptism to be the means
by which saving grace is communicated.
Horton does not speak for all those who hold to Covenant theology (there are various views), but his views correspond to what many believe. As one reads Horton, it appears that he is driven by a presuppositional commitment to his system of Reformed/Covenant theology, rather than by a literal systematic interpretation of the whole counsel of God. Nevertheless, it is easy to agree with Horton as he addresses error within the church, particularly with his earliest works exposing the psychological gospel (i.e., The Agony of Deceit and Made In America), albeit never condemning it.
While agreeing with Horton regarding various issues, there are also many things in his theology that are greatly concerning. These concerns relate to the most basic and critical issues of HOW ONE RECEIVES CHRIST. In fact, Michael Horton clearly teaches ANOTHER gospel! It is a SACRAMENTAL GOSPEL that says Christ is received through the Sacrament of water baptism. This view is better known as BAPTISMAL REGENERATION. This is a most serious matter! (cf. Gal. 1:6-9)
On the one hand, Horton will strongly state that we are saved by FAITH ALONE.
On the other hand, he states repeatedly that water baptism is the "means of
grace" by which we are saved. This is obviously a contradiction. We cannot
be saved by FAITH ALONE and FAITH plus BAPTISM at the same
time. It has to be one or the other. Of course, the problem is that Horton
redefines Grace and Faith in light of his Covenant beliefs. The fact remains,
however, that the act of baptism is a work, and Grace and works
are mutually exclusive (Rom. 11:6).
The Bible is clear that the GOSPEL is distinct from WATER BAPTISM (1 Cor. 1:17). The Gospel is that "... Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. ... That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed" (1 Cor. 15:3b-4; Rom. 10:9-11). Baptism then follows as a symbol or testimony of our identification with Christ (1 Pe. 3:18-21).
In his earlier works, Horton often hinted at his BAPTISMAL REGENERATION views, but it was always somewhat unclear as to where he was coming from. However, in his major book, In The Face of God, he leaves no doubt as to his views on how one receives Christ. Note the following quotes: (Emphases added.)
(a) It is one thing for an evangelical to believe that the Word is a means of grace. It is quite another to add that the sacraments are a further means of grace. Even the word "sacrament" sounds "Catholic" to many evangelical ears. In fact, it is a biblical concept. ... (p. 139).
(b) The sacraments serve the same purpose as the Word itself, not only offering or exhibiting God's promise, but actually conferring His saving grace by linking us, through faith, to Christ and His benefits (p. 141).
(c) The Roman Church undermined the importance of God's ordained sacraments by adding sacraments of their own. The Anabaptist enthusiasts undermined them by reducing the efficacy of the two sacraments [Baptism and the Lord's Supper] Christ instituted (p. 142).
(d) Furthermore, a sacrament not only reveals; it confers. Through Word and sacrament, God actually gives that which he promises in his gospel -- forgiveness of sins, freedom from the tyranny of sin and eternal life. The sacraments not only testify to or signify divine activity in salvation, but are part of that divine redemptive activity (p. 219).
(e) Nothing other than the Word, baptism, and the Lord's Supper are given this place by God as a means of grace (p. 219).
In saying that BAPTISM is a means of GRACE, Horton confuses God's Grace and
human works. Grace is defined Biblically as the demonstration of love/favor that
is unearned, undeserved, and unrepayable; God imputes merit where none
previously existed and declares no debt to be where one had been before. Grace
is not dispensed on the basis of good works, including the good work of baptism.
Baptism, therefore, is not "a means of saving grace" as Horton declares. Rather, GRACE is God's unmerited favor in choosing us before time began (2 Tim. 1:9). GRACE is Christ dying in our place (Heb. 2:9). GRACE is the work of God in our hearts bringing us to saving faith (1 Tim. 1:14). We proclaim the "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), and when this GOSPEL is believed, the person is saved (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is the MESSAGE of God's kind and gracious undeserved favor which He has provided for our salvation (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The way Christ is RECEIVED is by FAITH (John 1:12), not by baptism or any of the other sacraments. Faith is a matter of the HEART -- "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness ..." (Rom. 10:10).
How serious is the error of BAPTISMAL REGENERATION? It is FATAL! Paul defines TRUE believers as those who "worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). He goes on to say that he had "suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:8-9). "All things" means all things, including all good religious rituals and exercises. In order to gain Christ, a person must completely reject everything else as meritorious for salvation and TRUST in Christ ALONE. EVERYTHING must be counted as a total loss. Paul counted it "dung." Why such strong language? Because if you trust in anything other than Christ alone it will DAMN your soul!
Horton's deception is not new. Many of the Reformers, while rejecting various aspects of Roman Catholicism, yet held on to much damning baggage. While Catholicism had SEVEN sacraments, Luther pared it back to only TWO. The fact is, though, if one is trusting in seven sacraments, two sacraments, or just one sacrament to save his soul, the result is the same -- HE IS LOST! Saving faith is entirely a matter of the heart as a result of the regenerating work of God's grace in the heart. God opened Lydia's heart (Acts 16:14), so that she might believe the truth of the Gospel. That is GRACE! The only means of Grace is the cross and God Himself working by His Spirit through the Gospel for His own glory.
One only need peruse the ACE Internet web site to understand just how deep is
Michael Horton's love for Luther's
sacramental gospel. One of the site's recommended reading lists,
"Luther & Lutheranism: An Introductory Bibliography," lists 138
recommended books, including eight that teach baptismal regeneration
and nine that teach consubstantiation. (These same kinds of materials can also
be found in the current ACE "Online Catalog" -- 2/02, ACE Internet Web
There are also links to other Luther web sites, including "Project Wittenberg," described as "A tremendous location for Lutheran works. Articles by Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Martin Chemnitz, and others are available. Also gives you access to Lutheran documents." Also available is Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, and other "Lutheran Links, Journals & Resources."
Moreover, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt is one of Horton's co-hosts on "The White Horse Inn" radio program; he is a professor of theology at the Lutheran Concordia University in Irvine, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Pacific Lutheran College. He is also an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
After reading the above, one might say, "What else needs to be said
about Michael Horton? He believes and teaches a false gospel; that's all we need
to know." That is true, but there are other aspects of Horton's teachings
that have deceived many. For example, Horton claims to be against the
therapeutic psychologies and the integration of such into the professing church.
But is Horton actually a psychologizer in his own right?
Power Religion was the title of a 1992 book edited by Michael Horton. In two earlier best-selling books (The Agony of Deceit and Made In America), critics complained that Horton only goes after the easy targets (Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, David Yonggi Cho, etc.), leaving the big names/popular heretics (i.e., the psychologizers) untouched. Writing about Made In America, one reviewer said: "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's Moody Press.) Called on by Horton to author chapters in Power Religion are ecumenical, neo-evangelical, Catholic-sympathizers Charles Colson and J.I. Packer (both of whom signed the ECT document -- see section below on "The Roman Catholic Connection"); pop-psychologizer R.C. Sproul; psychological integrationists Don Matzat, David Powlison, and Ed Welch; and some lesser known names affiliated with the neo-evangelical, psychologized Trinity International University/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 ... [That is a large part of the problem today -- the acceptance of everyone as genuine Christians, regardless of their doctrinal fruit.] 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.)
Noting the above quotation, one wonders why Power Religion was
Consider also the hypocrisy of political activist Chuck Colson writing a chapter 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 John 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?). David Powlison, Ed Welch, and Don Matzat are all psychological integrationists, yet they each write a chapter in the book's anti-psychology/anti-"therapeutic movement" section. And Ken Riddlebarger (the senior pastor at the Reformed church where Horton co-pastored), at the time studying in the doctoral program at the psychologized, charismatic, doctrinally-void Fuller Seminary, writes a chapter in which he is highly critical of the critics of psychoheresy, who, according to Riddlebarger, purportedly see a "legion of demons under every psychiatrist's couch."
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.
There is additional evidence of Horton's outright support for the use of psychology in the church. In an official letter dated 4/18/92 from Alan J. Maben, CURE's Director of Communications at the time, Maben writes:
"... while we oppose the 'end-run' around the cross that psychology often performs when it assures non-believers that God is on good terms with them, we do not condemn psychology itself, only its attempt to usurp the place of God. Psychology is a very helpful and necessary tool when used wisely" (Emphasis added.)
Are we to assume that 2 Peter 1:3 is no longer operative for the church
today? -- According as His divine power hath given unto us all
things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of
Him that hath called us to glory and virtue --We now need
(i.e., "necessary tool") psychology to augment the Bible's timeless
truths given to believers for the living of a godly life?
Mr. Maben also claimed that this writer (The BDM Letter, March 1992) had "misunderstood" R.C. Sproul's comments made at Sproul's February, 1992, "Hunger For Significance" conference, whereat Sproul claimed that the Bible was sufficient for salvation, but not for all other matters of life and godliness (again, see 2 Pe. 1:3). (Sproul, a self-love psychologizer, is on the ACE Council1).
Sproul's exact words were: "We talk about the sufficiency of the Scriptures to lead one to 'salvific' life, obviously, but for the whole structure of life, we need MORE than the Bible."
It couldn't be more clear than that! Has not R.C. Sproul directly (and ACE/Maben/Horton indirectly) denied the sanctifying sufficiency of the Word of God?! Or if Sproul is correct (in his contention that "we need more than the Bible"), then the Holy Spirit, for nearly 2,000 years of Church history, somehow, either through ignorance or oversight, failed to include in the Scriptures the vital psychological tools necessary for sanctified, godly living! One can come to only one of two conclusions. Either Sproul's/Horton's so-called psychological truths are false, and that's why God left them out of Holy Writ, or somehow, the Bible is deficient.
Announced at a press conference on March 29, 1994, was an ecumenical
declaration titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian
Mission in the Third Millennium" (ECT).
The negotiations toward the declaration were initiated in September of 1992 by
Chuck Colson and Richard Neuhaus (former liberal Lutheran clergyman [ELCA]
turned Catholic priest) under the auspices of the ecumenical and theologically
liberal Institute on Religion and Public Life (headed by Neuhaus). The
declaration starts with "We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics
who have been led through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions
about Christian faith and mission." It goes downhill from there. The
coalition specifically called for an end to aggressive proselytizing of each
other's flocks (in effect, a mutual non-aggression pact). The signers of the
Accord also confessed their past sins against Catholic/Protestant unity.
The declaration said: "All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ." This conveniently ignores the fact that Catholics espouse a works-salvation false gospel! In a revealing admission of what brought these groups together, some signers said it was the experiences of worshiping together in the charismatic movement and working together in political causes such as anti-abortion [Moral Majority for example]. In fact, one writer correctly assessed that the declaration "amounts to a truce on theological issues so that the parties can continue to cooperate on political issues."
Forty people signed or endorsed the document (20 Catholics and 20 so-called evangelicals), including Protestants J.I. Packer, Pat Robertson, Bill Bright, Os Guinness, and Mark Noll (a historian at Wheaton College who said, "Evangelicals can no longer consider Catholics as ogres or anti-Christs"). Catholic endorsers included six priests, three bishops, one Archbishop, and one Cardinal. By joint declaration, then, J.I. Packer and friends have, in effect, declared the Protestant Reformation a tragic mistake!
Michael Horton has written articles2 and spoken out on his radio programs against the ECT; yet J.I. Packer is on the Board of CURE and Horton defends Packer's signing of the Accord! In late-1994, due to the criticism Packer was receiving for signing the ECT, Horton drafted a document titled "Resolutions for Roman Catholic & Evangelical Dialogue"; the final product was revised by J.I. Packer and copyrighted by CURE/ACE ("Resolutions for Roman Catholic & Evangelical Dialogue," Drafted by Michael Horton; revised by J. I. Packer 1994 CURE/ACE; ACE/CURE Internet Web Site -- 6/97).
The RC&E Dialogue was written and "offered as material for dialogue
between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, following from the recent document,
Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third
Millennium, drafted by Richard John Neuhaus and Charles Colson, with others ...
in a spirit of irenic debate on issues arising from that important joint
statement. As that document was crafted to encourage cooperation on the basis of
a consensus deemed sufficient for the purpose, though confessionally incomplete,
so the following statements seek to identify issues of concern to evangelical
Protestants that the thrust of the document raises. What follows is intended to
encourage further discussion of the possibilities and problems of acting
The RC&E Dialogue goes on to postulate areas of disagreement between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals so that, despite these "problems of acting together," dialogue might continue amicably and not disturb the ecumenical efforts desired. What are these problems attested to by Horton and Packer?:
(1) There is not agreement on the "essential elements" of the Gospel;
(2) The doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is rejected by Roman Catholicism (Rome has, in fact, anathematized those who embrace this doctrine!), making Rome's gospel one that "falls short" of this "tenet that distinguishes a true from a false church" (i.e., Horton admits that Roman Catholicism is a false church!);
(3) Evangelicals "radically" disagree with "the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that unbelievers may be saved by their good works, apart from faith in Christ";
(4) Nevertheless, despite Rome's false gospel and Rome's anathematizing of all who disagree with her, there remains sufficient "creedal consensus that binds orthodox Evangelicals and Roman Catholics together [for] the making of common cause on moral and cultural issues in society.[!!] Roman Catholics and Evangelicals have every reason to join minds, hearts, and hands when Christian values and behavioral patterns are at stake." Not to fear though, despite Biblical data to the contrary, Horton/Packer claim that "it is incorrect to regard such cooperation among Christians as common ecclesial action in fulfilling a common ecclesial mission" (cf. Amos 3:3; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 2 John 11);3
(5) Moreover, "Christ's prayer for unity requires vigilant patience and diligence as we seek a greater visible unity";4
(6) If an individual Roman Catholic does "not self-consciously assent to the precise definitions of the Roman Catholic Magisterium regarding [the elements of Rome's false gospel], but who think and speak evangelically about these things, are indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ, despite Rome's official position."
Signers included Michael Horton, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, James Boice, Erwin Lutzer, and Kim Riddlebarger (CURE/ACE) ("Resolutions for Roman Catholic & Evangelical Dialogue," Drafted by Michael Horton; revised by J. I. Packer 1994 CURE/ACE; ACE/CURE Internet Web Site -- 6/97).
Michael Horton teaches a false sacramental gospel, he has exhibited a fondness for the psychological gospel and those who teach it, and he supports ecumenical efforts with Rome. Horton and the various ACE ministries should be avoided.
1 In R.C. Sproul's 1991 book titled The
Hunger For Significance (which was a rewrite of his 1983 book titled In
Search of Dignity), Sproul espouses his psychological gospel: "Every
person needs to feel significant. We want our lives to count. We yearn to
believe that in some way we are important and that hunger for significance --
a drive as intense as our need for oxygen -- doesn't come from pride or ego.
It comes from God because he wants each of us to understand how
important we are. ... We must seek our roots, our origin, and our destiny so
that we can know our present value. ...Written for anyone who shares
the hunger for significance. This book explores the human cry for dignity,
the hallowed longing for love and respect. ... Wherever people come
together, we can help each other discover our self-worth. We can help
each other realize that we are persons of significance being made in the
image of God." (Emphasis added.) [Return
2 For example: "A couple of years ago, a document entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together confirmed that our concerns regarding the church were well-founded. Many of the leaders of evangelicalism demonstrated in their endorsement of this document that the doctrine of justification was no longer their central concern ("A Short Note About CURE's  Merger with ACE," by Michael Horton, ACE/CURE Internet Web Site -- 6/97). [Return to Text]
3 This is what one is led to when one sees the church as a conduit for social action -- Horton/Packer write that "The mission of the church as such is primarily the fulfilling of the Great Commission of Christ through the ministry of Word and sacraments, and cultural, moral, political and social concerns in which Christians rightly engage must not be thought to determine the relationship of ecclesial communions, or allowed to become decisive in the setting of their respective agendas." [Return to Text]
4 On this point, we assume Horton/Packer are referring to Christ's prayer recorded in John 17:23 -- that they may be made perfect in one [complete unity]; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Yet in so doing, they neglect Jesus' words in John 17:11, 21, 22, that unity is to be the same kind of unity as Jesus has with the Father -- so that they may be one as we [are]; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they may be one, even as we are one: It is obvious that Jesus and the Father are one in perfect love, but are they not also one in perfect doctrine? Certainly Jesus in not asking in this prayer that God's children be united in love regardless of doctrine! Without sound doctrine there can be no Christian unity. And without sound doctrine there can be no true Christian love either. Horton and Packer have trashed the true Gospel of Christ in order to forge a false unity for social activism. [Return to Text]
* Portions of this report were excerpted and/or adapted from an article in the May-June 1997 Earnestly Contending for the Faith, used by permission of Dwight Oswald, editor (125 South 23rd Street, Council Bluffs, IA 51501).