I love Michael Horton. This guy has had quite the impact on my theological thinking since I first read Putting Amazing Back into Grace back in the early 1990s. Horton has a keen mind, and he writes with such clarity about difficult issues. This book is no different. The subtitle of Ordinary is enough to make me angry: “Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World.” It’s a direct shot to David Platt’s Radical, easily one of the most impacting books on my life. I opened the first page with trepidation.
While I expected an attack on Platt’s thinking, I found something quite different. Yes, he does raise questions about these earth-shattering decisions people make in order to be “radical” in their faith, but he does it with respect and grace. He is not calling out Platt, Francis Chan, Louie Giglio, and the rest. Rather, his main point is that we forget the ordinary, everyday acts of worship for the larger mountaintop highs. This may be true in Evangelical Christianity today. We are always looking to the next big thing, whether that thing is Reformed theology, social justice, or selling everything and moving to India. It’s another form of an experience junkie. We focus on the earth shaking and eschew the simple things like serving our neighbor, being a faithful father, worshipping each Sunday. These are “boring” in comparison, but they are the ways that God shows himself to us.
“Being ‘ordinary’ means that we reject the idolatry of pursuing excellence for selfish reasons. We aren’t digging wells in Africa to prove our worth or value. We aren’t serving in the soup kitchen or engaging in spiritual disciplines because we long to be unique, radical , and different. When we do these things for selfish reasons, God becomes a tool for winning our lifetime achievement award. Our neighbors become instruments in the crafting of our sense of meaning, impact, and identity. What we do for God is really for ourselves” (38).
Horton focuses much on the working out of Luther’s quote, “God does not need our good works; our neighbor does” in order to show the importance of serving and loving freely out of the love and grace we have received. Walking across the street to help my neighbors may require more faith than moving to Burkina Faso.
Ordinary does not purpose to argue against bestselling authors or be publically critical of those men who are trying to wake Christians from the American Dream. Rather, Horton reminds us that God uses ordinary means for extraordinary purposes. Ordinary, everyday, boring bread and baptism gives us a picture of how God became a man, born in an ordinary place in an ordinary time.
This is a book that I wish we read in our old Apologia group at The Harbor. I would have benefitted from hearing what others think.