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What is "Core Christianity" & Why Should I Care? Michael Horton Explains

Categories Theology

9780310525066When we lose our job to free trade or we lose our daughter to cancer, what is our first response? As Christians it’s probably prayer—but why?

“Because,” as Michael Horton points out, “you believe…”

You believe this world didn’t just happen; it was created on purpose and with purpose.

You believe everything is sustained by a Creator who steps into our drama and acts on our behalf.

And you believe things about this Creator: God is good, all-powerful, holy, just, and loving.

That one act of praying reveals more than meets the eye: you have a specific worldview, which arises out of a particular story. It’s that worldview and story that Horton explores and illuminates in his new book Core Christianity.

Yes, his book covers what Christians believe about what matters most. But it’s more than that: it represents an idea. Core Christianity carries the conviction that there are things we believe and reasons we believe them—reasons that impact our sun-up-to-sun-down day.

Here is why you should care about it.

Why Should I Care about Core Christianity?

Just as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” Horton wisely notes, “it’s also true that the unexamined faith is not worth believing.” (16)

That’s the “Why” of Core Christianity. Without examining the essence of our faith, why pray to a God you know nothing about? Why confess to a God you don’t know you’ve offended in the first place?

“Your heart can only embrace someone you know something about.” Which is the point of doctrine: it's about “exploring the most important convictions that shape our outlook, desires, hopes, and lives.” (16) When we do, we discover how they impact how we should live.

Core Christianity, the book and idea, explains why we believe what we believe; why it matters to the everyday; and the core of our faith, the “What” that lays beneath it all.

What Is Core Christianity? The 4-D’s

Drama. Doctrine. Doxology. Discipleship.

This is the “What” of Core Christianity. Horton's 4-D map intuitively illuminates “how doctrine is generated by God’s unfolding drama and transforms our experience as well as our everyday lives.” (17)

1) Drama

As Machen said, “Christianity is an historical phenomenon.” Which means central to Core Christianity is that something has happened. “God reveals what he is like, not in ivory-tower speculation but down on the ground in real history.” (17)

One of the reasons why people don’t find the Bible all that accessible is because “they have not yet been shown how its various parts fit into an unfolding drama that runs from creation and the fall to exodus and redemption all the way to the new creation.” (17)

Horton explains this by exploring and revealing how “doctrine grows out of the biblical drama.” (17)

2) Doctrine

If Drama is the verbs of Christianity, Doctrine is the nouns; “the drama yields specific doctrines.” (17)

Take the drama and doctrine of God: “God himself teaches us that he has acted wisely, justly, mercifully, and omnisciently because he is wise, just, merciful, and all-knowing.” (17)

Doctrine also tells us what the drama means, such as why Jesus was crucified and raised: He was “delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rom 4:25)

Core Christianity maintains that what we believe arises from what has happened in the world, to which Scripture testifies.

3) Doxology

How should we respond to Core Christianity’s drama of doctrine and doctrine of drama? Horton offers God-directed and other-directed responses, beginning with Doxology.

This third “D” word means “praise.” It is our God-directed response: “the doctrines rooted in the drama fill us with thankful hearts…When God writes us into the script by interpreting what it means for us, we are not just astonished; we are overwhelmed with gratitude. ” (18)

Through our worship, the external drama and doctrines are internalized. “It is not just a great story with interesting doctrines; it grabs our heart.” (18)

4) Discipleship

Finally, we respond with love and works through Discipleship. “We are turned outside of ourselves, looking up to God in faith and out to our neighbors in love.” (18)

I love how Horton describes this progression: “Living in this drama, informed by the doctrine, and shaped by the experience of true worship, we are able to live out our part in the story wherever God has placed us.” (18)

He points to the Psalms as evidence of this progression, noting how it showcases God’s movement in history; explores who he is in light of what he’s done; praises God for both; and elicits a response.


Scot McKnight believes Core Christianity is a book “for a new generation the way [John Stott’s Basic Christianity] was for his generation.”

Discover why you might need an extra copy to give those you know who, like Scot many years ago, need an introduction to Core Christianity.

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