John Frame versus Michael Horton: What’s Christ all about?

One church service, the church congregation sings, “It’s ALL about you, Jesus” (“Heart of Worship”) another service, it sings “You thought of me above ALL” (“Above all powers”). 

Here are excerpts from the two songs


When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
I’m sorry Lord for the things I’ve made it


Above all powers above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasure of the earth
There’s no way to measure what You’re worth

Crucified laid behind a stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and THOUGHT OF ME

(See here for discussion of this second song.

So, which is it: “all about you” or “you thought of me above all?” Both are aberrations. I found some insight into these two exaggerations in the contrast between John Frame’s review of Michael Horton’s “Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church” and Eric Landry’s riposte to Frame.

First, here is an excerpt from Frame:

“Horton complains that the concept of God in the American church has become “vacuous” because the church focuses on such things as

‘Discipleship, spiritual disciplines, life transformation, culture transformation, relationships, marriage and family, stress, the spiritual gifts, financial gifts, radical experience of conversion, and end-times curiosities…’ (Horton).

“Except possibly for the last item, continues Frame,

John Frame

John Frame (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

it seems to me that everything on this list is a concern of Scripture itself and deserves to be emphasized in the church in some degree. The God who is concerned about such things is not vacuous. He is rather majestic and wonderful, because he is great enough to be concerned even with the details of human life. We can argue about the exact degree to which we should emphasize each of these, but that argument is not likely to be fruitful. These are matters that God cares about. Horton may think that to preach on them is something different from preaching Christ, but a more biblical assessment is that these are implications and applications of the work of Christ, and that we are not preaching Christ fully unless we preach on these applications. God sent his Son to die for real people, for us, and that salvation changes every aspect of our lives. So we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, not only by those that are about Christ in some relatively direct fashion.”

“Now, certainly there is a kind of selfishness that detracts from biblical discipleship. Scripture warns of this (Luke 12:21; cf. Matt. 6:19-20). The self can be an idol, something we worship in place of God.”

And a snippet from Eric Landry’s rebuttal:

Frame summarises Horton’s arguments in ten points. The first is, “Attention to ourselves necessarily detracts from attention to Christ.” Landry (on behalf of Horton) retorts:

“No, it can detract from Christ. But it does not necessarily detract from Christ. When it comes to the gospel, ‘we preach not ourselves, but Christ,’ because the gospel is not about us at all. (My italics). Confusion over this matter does detract from Christ. However, the good news about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection has implications on the way we live, and so we must give some attention to ourselves as we let the light of the gospel shine in every dark corner, which challenges us to rethink our actions, self-centeredness, etc.”

So, it’s not all about Christ, the Lord, but mainly about Him. With regard to “because the gospel is not about us at all,”  of course it is about us as well. What’s that? Eternal life, silly.

The moral of the story: be careful about that word “all” – not only in your songs, but also, and especially, in the Bible.

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