Rocking Horse Christianity


Just over three years ago the American people were introduced to the idea of  “alternative facts” by a press secretary who had the scary ability to answer questions that were never asked as though they were asked. When this happens, the frustration of trying to defend what is clearly true is disempowering for the person telling the truth. Progress is difficult enough but when “alternative facts” (which are not facts at all) are introduced it becomes almost impossible. What you might say, does this have to do with Christianity and the answer is that such verbal sleight of hand is used to avoid addressing issues from a Christian worldview. Where the view of one person or many are considered as “alternative facts” when they are nothing more than poor theology or not theological at all.

Seek the blessing

Such “alternative facts” which exist in the sphere of Christianity on the whole and in many local churches, provide the necessary confusion which allows people to carry on as they were because the assumption is that no one can demonstrate what is true. what follows, is that many Christians can believe that what they do for God will be accompanied with an automatic blessing and since we need the blessing of God this is a subject and confusion that needs to be addressed.

Specifics and Equity

A helpful way of thinking through many of the issues found in the New Testament and Christianity today is by thinking about the nature of true Christianity. There is not a new way to live the Christian life than the way described in the word of God and one of the ways we can arrive at making clear statements on issues not specifically addressed in scripture is to understand how they are addressed when we see the distinction between the specifics of God’s word and the equity. For example, why can we be so certain that women should never fight a war on the front line, why women should not go running into battle, guns blazing. It is because of the equity found in the word of God from this passage “…you shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Deut 14:21). The equity and principle of this verse is clear, that what God has designed for life (mother’s milk) should not be used as an instrument of death. Therefore, women who are used by God for giving life and not to be used for killing. This is just one example of how we can arrive at specifics and principles from the biblical text.

Useful and Useless

When Rowland Hill addressed the state of the Christian life, he said that many Christians remind him of a rocking horse, plenty of movement and activity but no progress. The wilderness wandering comes to mind as a biblical example of this modern-day reality. The only difference is that it is harder to see and point out if the Christians being addressed are not sure what Christian progress looks like. Many Christians back in the day had a much better understanding of progress than what we do today, which can be seen in the hospitals, schools and orphanages they built and staffed. The reason it doesn’t happen now on the same scale is that the many Christians no longer live with a Christian worldview and act upon it.

Christians should know that their time is ordered by God and divided between work and rest, and we do both to the glory of God. However, the moment a Christian begins to see the division in their time as a division between useful time and useless time, they will arrive at what Rowland Hill identified, a Christianity that resembles the movement of a rocking horse, plenty of movement but no progress.

The difficult road of Progress

Once we have identified why progress is not being made we will know how to address the issues, but too often even this falls flat due to the inherent problem of disunity. Those who seek change and progress within the church recognise that such change and progress will create disunity even though that is not its aim. If they do nothing they are left with what Roland Hill calls a “Rocking Horse Christianity”.

The way forward is by having a Christian worldview resulting from an accurate understanding of  God’s word. The hindrance is what everyone else thinks should happen because it needs doing. While it will always be important to do those things which need doing, it is equally important to do those things which are not being accomplished and the reason for doing so is self-evident. However, those who address this subject can feel the frustration of trying to do what is clearly biblical whilst also feeling the disempowerment which comes from others who don’t.

God sanctifies His church in the truth and His word truth. Therefore, progress really does come down to the word of God and the Holy Spirit and all else can easily become a distraction. Our time should be spent being people of the word and we should not assume that we have reached our limit of what we can do as Christians in this world.


By Daniel Ralph

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