Stephen Nichols (SN): Welcome back to another installment of 5 Minutes in Church History. It’s my pleasure to have with us Dr. Michael Horton. Dr. Horton, welcome.
Michael Horton (MH): Steve, a pleasure.
SN: I’ve been looking forward to having you here, and I am going to give you your dream. I am going to send you away to a deserted island and just let you read. So, you owe me one.
MH: Is my wife with me?
SN: You can bring whomever you want.
MH: OK. Alright.
SN: So, on the island we are stocked. We’ve got the Reformation Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible too. We have the works of Edwards, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, of course. But, beyond that, what five essential books would you take with you to this deserted Island?
MH: Good grief, you’ve taken away all of the ones I was going to pick. Oh goodness. Alright, I guess there are some classics that I haven’t read that I should have read that I would like to get to.
SN: This is true confession time.
MH: True confession time. I think probably Horace and Augustine, City of God.
SN: I was going to ask you which of Augustine’s.
MH: And I would say, well, of course, A Time for Confidence by Steve Nichols. And R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. Although, he’s there, so . . . wow.
SN: You know, I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve heard this before. City of God should be mandatory reading right now, especially for American Christians.
MH: Man, the echoes.
SN: What do you think it is about that book that is essential for us to be thinking about?
MH: You know, when the Roman Empire fell, which is the context, as you know, of that book, Jerome said, “What is the church going to do now that Rome has fallen?” And Augustine’s response was City of God. His response was, “Well, God has brought the mission field to the missionaries.” So, here Jerome is wringing his hands, saying, “Oh, goodness! Look at the culture. Look at our empire has fallen and the barbarian hordes have taken over.” And Augustine actually saw it as a missionary moment. What was the difference? Well, one was Jerome was pinning his hopes of the kingdom of God on the Roman Empire and Augustine was pinning his hopes on Christ’s victory as Golgotha and the resurrection. And we’re at a similar time today, aren’t we?
SN: We sure are.
MH: Whose victory, whose triumph are you going to really put your hopes in? And I think that a lot of the things that Augustine addresses there about the two cities, about penultimate justice; a kind of reasonable justice but not a final justice being found anywhere in the world. What we’re waiting for and yet trying patiently to be good servants of God alongside our neighbors. Really a lot of wisdom there for us today.
SN: There is, and I think that, as you look at it, as you said it, what is the difference? Of course, Jerome, it’s not that he wasn’t a Christian, it’s that he had just sort of lost perspective and thought that somehow Christianity’s success would rise or fall with the fortunes of Rome. And Augustine just recognized something far different and I think there’s a good lesson for the church in the West. We’re facing this interesting moment, as you say, and maybe Augustine can help us find the right way.
MH: Yeah, dead people might be useful after all.
SN: You do spend a lot of time with dead people, don’t you?
MH: I do. My wife points that out. It’s a strange thing.
SN: So, maybe you spend time with dead people so you can help the living.
MH: Maybe that’s what it is.
SN: So, we have Augustine, we’ve got Horace—I don’t think anyone else has recommended Horace, so I love that, and you’ll be great with your rhetoric after reading Horace.
MH: I would love for that to be an outcome.
SN: And we’ve got R.C.’s Holiness of God. One last book?
MH: Oh, got to dig down here. Well, maybe the Alexander Hamilton biography.
SN: Oh, we’re moving a little closer to history.
MH: Well, you mentioned George Washington a little while ago in your interview so you kind of brought me to the period.
SN: We’ll let you have Alexander Hamilton.
MH: Would you?
SN: We will. And we’re going to leave you in peace now and let you enjoy your island.
MH: Just let me read. Thank you.
SN: Thank you, Dr. Horton.