I Heard a Horton

Yeah, Michael Horton came to this town.

Michael Horton spoke about his book, Christless Christianitychristless at a local bookstore (the publisher’s store) and took questions from the audience.

I was there. So was Zrim. We sat together. No, neither of us asked him a question.

I entered a drawing and won second prize: a copy of Christless Christianity. I knew I had it in me. Zrim was jealous and tried to steal it from me.

Then I hung around to quickly say hi to the Hort. Here’s what happened: I shook his hand and then proceeded to say about a hundred different things. I spoke a mile a minute. I don’t even remember everything, it was mostly just me name-dropping and blabbering like: “hey I know this person you know so lets talk about how cool I am for knowing them and how much we have in common because we’re in the same denomination and how long I’ve been listening to you and reading you and that thing you said at that one conference was so spot-on and my favorite book of yours is…blah blah blah blah blah!”

I said a hundred things, he said a couple of things. I walked away immediately thinking, “what on earth did I just do?”

But Michael Horton is a class act and he was very gracious. Maybe he didn’t even noticed how ratcheted up I was.

I know you folks who go to church with him or study under him think that this story is rather silly and that I had no reason to get flustered. You’re probably right. In fact, I know you’re right. But Michael Horton is truly a theological giant and I get nervous around giants the first time I meet them.

My grandkids are going to tell the story about how their grand-pops flubbed up his first meeting with the Michael Horton. Although, by the time the story gets to my grandkids it will probably be that I tripped him, fell on him, and accidentally stabbed him with my pencil. So be it. I have a Horton story.

Come to think of it, my grandkids will probably also tell everyone that I blogged with Steve Zrimec.

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31 Responses to I Heard a Horton

  1. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rick,

    Don’t feel bad. Students at WSCAL act the same way around him (and some of the other professors, frankly). Sometimes he goes to my church, and everyone mobs him after the service.

    He is a bit of a celebrity. It’s just how things are. No need to feel bad. You’re not weird. You’re normal.

    But hey, think of it this way. You were excited to meet a theologian precisely because he’s clear and because he’s orthodox. You think highly of him because he has helped you to understand the Word of God better.

    Meanwhile, most people you see would go ga-ga over people like Brittney Spears and George Clooney.

    Don’t be too ashamed then. Besides, he’s got a Systematic Theology coming out eventually, and when it does, he’ll make a permanent mark on theology. Campus Crusade for Christ staff members will put away their Grudem’s and be using their Hortons instead. No one will say that they were reading in Horton’s Systematic Theology, they’ll just say that they were reading their Horton, like we say with Berkhof or Turretin.

    There will be articles in Christianity Today, he’ll probably be on 60 minutes (again) and maybe even make Oprah’s reading list. He’ll probably even be invited to have an audience with the Pope, who will undoubtedly repent upon reading Horton’s Sys Theo, having been convicted of his sin by the clarity of Horton’s Systematic. And, with tears in his eyes, he’ll say, “Horton, what should I do?” And Horton will say, “Abolish the priesthood, dissolve the Roman Church, annul the papacy.” And then Babylon will fall…

    Well, maybe not.

  2. Rick says:

    Echo,
    Thanks.

    But George Clooney? What does he do anymore?

  3. Todd says:

    Rick,

    The restraining order will help 🙂

    Todd

  4. mboss says:

    So where would one rank Horton among his fellow theological giants, either presently or a generation from now? The consensus seems to be his four-part prolegomena is a major achievement.

  5. igasx says:

    I once saw the same thing when Corny P. came to Denver. A bunch of female groupies huddled around him like he was a rock star.

    I had to give a review of one of his books in front of him and that group. It was providential I got out of there alive (kidding).

  6. Rick says:

    mboss, I think Horton will go down as a Bavinck type with a little Machen tossed in. That’s my opinion.

    igasx, I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you’re talking about. Plantinga?

  7. RubeRad says:

    Corny P = Cornelis P Venema?

    My middle boy is in the same class as Horton’s triplets, so I’ve had the opportunity to chat with him briefly twice. I had the conversation-starters of (a) he knows my dad as a student, and (b) he knows about Hoagies & Stogies because the pastor to which he is assistant (OHS Mike Brown) has done a couple of them for me.

    Still, I feel a little nervous about talking to him (though he is plenty friendly), because he is an important and legitimately busy man, and I don’t want to pester him like a tween groupie at a Britney concert (i.e. like Rick). I’ve had much more interaction with his wife, who is also very gracious (and more often chauffeurs the kids).

    As for ranking Horton among fellow theological giants, how about G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson? OH arch-saint MGK? Or even Greg Bahnsen? (not to say Horton is like Bahnsen, of course, but Bahnsen undeniably left a legacy — probably bigger than MGK’s)

    I’d say Horton is pretty unique in combining the depth of those guys in some works, with the popular appeal of a Piper or C.S. Lewis in other works (although he is of course not as eloquent as Lewis).

  8. RubeRad says:

    BTW, is there some kind of requirement that Reformed theologians always use superfluous initials?

  9. igasx says:

    Sorry. Plantinga.

    I thought it would be clear with the female groupie reference although I didn’t make it clear that it happened before that other affair at CTS.

    BTW Rick, Why were you playing Dutch bingo with a Gentile? (kidding again)

  10. Rick says:

    The Hort can play dutch bingo! We had a little going… And I didn’t know the ladies loved Plantinga. Wierd.

    Kline will always be the foundation – the “wind beneath the wings” savvy folks think him chief -and soon he’ll be the new G. Vos (who just recently gained a broader appeal).

    Beale will be well appreciated a couple of generations from now – when someone takes Temple off the shelf and does a hermeneutical 180 as a result. Then it will catch on. Not that it hasn’t already.

    Carson? He doesn’t always do it for me.

    With Horton we seem to know that a giant is among us.

    Some of this has to do with our own preferences of course.

    R.J. Bierlinton

  11. John Yeazel says:

    Christopher Lasch wrote a chapter on the degradation of sport in his book The Culture of Narcissism. I thought it was one of the more insightful and prophetic chapters I have ever read. It was written in 1979 and everything he said about sports has come to pass since then.

    Let’s not degrade theology with all this groupie talk. I’m halfway kidding- but that is what I was reminded of when reading these posts. Although good theologians do become celebrities- there is no doubt about that. It seems to me that is a tough thing to handle. Luther became a celebrity when he rode his covered wagon into the town (I cant remember its name) where he uttured his “Here I Stand” words. The whole town was cheering him as he came onto the site. He was a celebrity after this event and became a marked man by his enemies. He probably would have gotten martyred if he had not died when he did. I think the same can be said of Calvin. Horton is moving into that realm it seems.

    I almost made the drive from Chicago to go see the celebrity on Thursday afternoon but my brake fluid line started leaking as I was just leaving so I had to turn around back home.

  12. RubeRad says:

    Carson? He doesn’t always do it for me.

    I’m thinking Commentary on N.T. use of O.T. which so many (Riddlebarger for one) are hailing as revolutionary (and likely to cause 180s for dispys)

    With Horton we seem to know that a giant is among us.

    Unless, of course, anybody else is standing next to him.

  13. Rick says:

    John, my post was mostly Tongue-in-cheek. I hope you understand that.

    The difference between theologians and the people we usually celebrate is that theologains are often gracious and approachable men of God who are just as interested in you as you are in them.

  14. John Yeazel says:

    Rick,

    I was being tongue-in-cheek too; that was why I said I was half-way kidding. Your last sentence is true most of the time. As Zrim already knows you have to take me with a grain of salt.

  15. Rick says:

    Sorry. I fell off the map and am trying to make a comeback (my fourth or fifth to date, but don’t call it a come back). You get this blog better than I do. 🙂

    Thanks – and I’ll bring the salt next time.

  16. John Yeazel says:

    One of you Grand Rapidians who attended the conference at the Byron Center Church is going to have to give us an update on some of the more provocative moments at the conference (Or, things heard and said post-conference at dinner or during casual conversations). I am pissed that I was not able to go (car trouble).

  17. mboss says:

    Rick,

    I arrived late for the ice cream sundaes on Friday night, but still had a chance to talk with Dr. Horton for a few minutes with my wife. I hate sounding like a groupie but getting to meet the good doctor and having him sign my copy of A Better Way was awesome. Very approachable and interactive. I felt guilty for stealing his time, as it’s obvious he’s an extremely busy man.

    Mike

  18. Rick says:

    mboss, so that was you. I was the one who spoke with him right after he signed your book. I got over his celebrity. 😉

    John, I didn’t go to the conference – a friend of mine did and said Horton was the best speaker – but was probably a little over the heads of many in attendance.

  19. mboss says:

    Rick,

    A couple of friends who came to the conference with us were also there on Friday night (and for some reason didn’t tell me they were going for ice cream too). Anyway, at lunch on Saturday they said they met these entertaining guys who run this blog called the Confessional Outhouse. They were quite eager to check it out. Weird, small world. As the pieces fall together, I do remember seeing you guys after Dr. Horton signed my copy of “Putting the Amazing Back into Grace” with the embarrassing mid-1980s cover.

    John,

    I’m biased, but I was at the conference and Rick’s assessment is spot on.

    Mike

  20. Rick says:

    mboss, cool. I dug the 80’s cover – it’s not embarrassing – it shows you’ve been in the right place for a long time. Or that you buy used books. In that case you’re adapting well to these tough economic circumstances.

    I hope I didn’t come across too strong with my opinions in conversation with some of the guys at the ice-cream thing. For some reason I think everybody shares every nuance of the faith I have. My usual pose is foot firmly planted in mouth (one of the reasons I don’t post as much as I used to).

  21. Richard says:

    I was at the ice cream social too. I was amazed that right after confessing a jumbled Dutch bingo session with this Titan the night before. Rick ordered and drank a beer right in front of the good Doctor without even offering one to him!! I sure hope the powers that be in the URC warned Dr. Horton of the dangers of joining a denomination full of hollanders.

  22. John Yeazel says:

    Richard,

    Now that certainly does qualify as a “provocative moment.” Now, if Horton ordered a beer too and then challenged Rick to a guzzle contest, like Luther used to do with his cronnies, then that would be even more provocative.

  23. John Yeazel says:

    I wonder what the Apostle Paul would think of Luther.

  24. John Yeazel says:

    Another worthwhile Luther quote: “I simply talked about, wrote about and preached God’s Word- otherwise I did nothing. And while I drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing- the Word did everything. ”

    If that is not an antidote to our narcissism and pietism I do not know what is.

  25. John Yeazel says:

    I am sorry, I am getting some epiphinies here- maybe a hangover from my old charismatic days. We know what Luther thought of the Apostle Paul by this revealing quote: “Roland Bainton in his biography of Luther describes Melanchthon in the following way “In appearance he was not prepossessing as he had an impediment of speech and a hitch in his shoulder when he walked, Luther once when asked what he envisaged the appearance of the Apostle Paul, answered with an affectionate guffaw, ‘I think he was a scrawny shrimp like Melanchthon, but when the strippling opened his mouth he was like the boy Jesus in the temple.”

  26. mboss says:

    Rick,

    I heard no complaints. They’re the outhouse types.

    My possession of a retro copy of “Putting Amazing Back into Grace” is more my preference for giving used books a new home, but that’s just because it took me longer than others to discover the good doctor.

    Mike

  27. Mark VPol says:

    Hey all –

    Earlier in the comments you were talking about the legacy that Horton will undoubtly have on the theological landscape for years to come. Personally I CANNOT wait for his Systematic to come out. His 4-vol covenant systematic is already having an influence as some of you mentioned.

    However, don’t forget about the other “saint without a blog” David VanDrunen. Watch out – he is going to be huge. When I first came to seminary a current student told me that many guys come to WSC because of Horton, and rightfully so. But he went on to say that you are going to tell your kids that you studied under Horton AND VanDrunen. Having taken his classes I wholeheartedly agree.

    Rick – glad you could meet Mike and hopefully someday you will have that opportunity again.

    Later,
    Mark VPol

  28. Rick says:

    For the record: The Hort ordered a beer before I did – I didn’t get a chance…and there were many there who could have ordered him one.

    I should have offered to pay for his soup.

  29. John Yeazel says:

    In the immortal words of reminiscence about Bobby McGee- “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” “And nothing is all that Bobby left me.”

  30. Richard says:

    I didnt notice he had a beer I just had coffee. I thought he was being sensitive to our baptist friends conscience. to bad . I coulda had a beer with Mike Horton

  31. I second Mark’s comment. DVD is coming out with some great books. He has a book on bioethics due out soon. He also has the first installment of a two volume two kingdoms book coming out soon and he told me that some time in the future he would like to write a multi-volume work on ethics. I am looking forward to all of them.

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