Thursday, July 15, 2021 Church 227
The Church in Three Dimensions Rich Lusk These are lecture notes from a talk I gave at the Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference in 2006, but I believe they are more relevant now than when I first delivered them. I argue that when we consider the church's relationship with culture, we must remember it is a dynamic and fluid, not fixed and static, relationship. How the church relates to the culture depends largely on the shape that culture is in, how idolatrous it is, and how discipled it is. My point is that we can look at the church in three dimensions -- and at any given time one of these dimensions may need to feature more prominently than the others. The audio for this talk can be found here ; the rest of my talks from that conference can be found on this page .
Thursday, July 15, 2021 Church 171
Notes on Roman Catholicism (2009-2012) Rich Lusk ---- Below are various emails I have exchanged over the years with Reformed church members who were drawn to Roman Catholicism or who had already converted to Romanism. Most of these discussions took place 2009-2012. Obviously only one side of the conversation is presented, but I trust they will still be helpful. My hope is to eventually work these notes into a book entitled “Peter, Paul, and Mary – Or, Why I Am Not a Roman Catholic.” The proposed book title encapsulates why I could never become a Roman Catholic. The Roman church gets Peter wrong (he was not the first Pope, nor does claiming he was solve any great hermeneutical or epistemological problem), Paul wrong (especially his crucial teaching on forensic justification and the nature faith), and Mary wrong (as their distinctive Marian dogmas and devotional practices are abominable and unbiblical). This is not to say that I have no respect or appreciation for the Roman Catholic Church – obviously the body that can claim Tolkien and Chesterton as its own does not have everything wrong. I believe the Roman Catholic Church is part of the visible, historical church despite massive doctrinal, liturgical, and practical corruptions. I am happy to stand with faithful Roman Catholics in many of the cultural battles afflicting our world today. But none of that changes this fundamental fact: The sixteenth century Reformation was a work of God to deliver the church from great error, and many of the errors that necessitated the Reformation are still present in the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, Rome has even doubled down on many of those errors, and added many new errors along the way in the last 500+ years. This is not say Reformational Protestants (or Reformed Catholics in my preferred terminology) do not have many problems of our own. We do. But the best way forward for the church at this juncture is the Reformed catholic faith. When the Reformed catholic church is at its best, it integrates biblical theology, tradition, liturgy, and mission in the most mature form yet attained by the people of God in history. We need a new reformation, to be sure, but any new reformation will have to incorporate the best fruits of the Reformation that took place 500 years ago. I have talked with a lot of converts who moved in each direction - Rome to Protestant and Protestant to Rome. And I have wrestled with all these issues in my own life - but every time I have done so I have become more firmly convinced of the basic rightness of the Reformation. The issues that can draw a Protestant towards Rome can vary widely, so it is best to deal with each person’s questions on their own terms. The emails below were specific answers to specific questions. They may not scratch everyone’s itch, and they are certainly not comprehensive. But I do trust they will be helpful to some.
Sunday, July 04, 2021 Culture 117
Let me preface this post by offering a couple caveats that will frame all that follows. First, any and all sin can be forgiven through Jesus' death on the cross. There is no sin that is "too big" to be covered by the blood of Christ. This includes all manner of sexual sin, yes, even homosexual desire and practice, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. Forgiveness does not negate all the temporal, earthly consequences of sin (indeed, some sexual sins should be crimes), but there is no question about the width and depth of God's saving mercy. Second, God's forgiving mercies can never be separated from the power of his transforming grace at work in our lives. If we trust God for forgiveness in Christ, we will also experience his life-changing Spirit reorienting our lives so that we more and more mature into those who obey God's law from the heart. In the current debate among Reformed Christians over Revoice and same-sex attraction, these truths must be the bedrock of the discussion. While I do not think those who advocate the theology of Revoice should serve as ordained pastors, and while I would argue that those who identify with their sin (the "gay Christian" movement) are in serious error, I wish them no ill will. I believe Greg Johnson should be defrocked from the office of pastor in the PCA because he has set an example that should not be imitated and thus is not above reproach and because he is spreading confusion on matters that should be taught clearly, and thus especially injuring those most vulnerable to fall into similar errors. But I also believe those who struggle with same-sex attraction should be loved and cared for by the church. One way we can do that is by speaking the truth to people who are being swayed by the culture's sexual confusion. That's what I seek to do here. There is a difference between dealing with individuals who engage in sexual sin, or struggle with same-sex attraction, and dealing with a political and/or ecclesiastical movement that seeks to legitimize certain behaviors in the culture and transform various institutions. Individuals, whatever their worldview or lifestyle, should be treated with love and respect because they are image bearers. Movements that are contrary to God's Word should be critiqued and rejected. But my larger point in this post is a bit different. I am concerned with ways many ostensibly evangelical and Reformed churches are pandering to the wider culture. Why is it that so many churches are letting the world shape the way they view sins today? What can we learn from the way so many churches are addressing sexual sin, particularly homosexuality, compared to say, how those same churches address racism? Why is that so many in the church are advocating that the church "whisper" about and go easy on the very sins the world is celebrating, while simultaneously singling out the sins the world most viciously condemns in order to "shout" about them? Isn't this a clear case of the church letting the world set the agenda and determine its talking points? Is this not a clear case of the church being influenced by the world more than the Word?
Friday, July 02, 2021 Culture 292
On Facebook, Michael Foster asked, "Why are so many grown children are going woke even though they came from healthy Christian homes?" I thought I'd try my hand at an answer. Below is a slightly edited version of what I put in the Facebooks comments section:
Wednesday, June 30, 2021 Blog 234
With the 4th of July coming up, we are sure to hear a lot of America bashing, especially from progressives who see America as the root of all (or most all) evil. Christians in our nation are critical of America too, but in a different way. We are critical of our homeland because we love her and want to see her prosper, which can ultimately only happen if she finds favor with God, and that can only happen if she conforms to God’s will and design for human life, revealed in Scripture and embedded in creation itself. As Christians, we have hope for America. We are patriotic. We seek to be faithful citizens, even if it sometimes means being the loyal opposition. Our love for America is not blind to her many faults, past and present, but it is certainly real and deep. We want to see America bow before Jesus because he is King of kings, Lord of lords, and Savior of sinners. We will celebrate those things in America’s history and present condition worthy of celebration, and we will seek to correct the rest, calling our nation, its people, and its institutions to love, trust, and obey Jesus. Today’s progressives seem to think they can signal their virtue by rejecting all manifestations of patriotism. Burn the flag, kneel or turn your back during the anthem, and tear down statues of the men who built this country. The loss of patriotism, especially among the younger generation, is a cause for concern. People do not defend what they do not love; thus, an unloved nation is ultimately vulnerable to attacks, both from within and from without. Further, love for the fatherland is normally an extension of love for fathers and family. Hatred of nation reveals a hatred for all father figures, human and divine. In her essay, “The Fury of the Fatherless,” Mary Eberstadt brilliants but disturbingly connects loss of patriotism to loss of faith and family. It’s long, but well worth reading if you want to understand what is happening in America today. This 4th of July, we should acknowledge that a renewed patriotism will not heal or transform our nation; our problems are much deeper than that. But our nation can only be healed by those who are patriotic, and whose patriotism grows out of a love for God and family.
Wednesday, June 02, 2021 Bible 206
Over the last couple weeks, as I've preached on Acts 2 and James 5, I've had opportunity to talk about the judgment Jesus brought on unbelieving Judaism in 70 AD when the city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Roman armies. This event is of great redemptive-historical significance, and while the entire New Testament had been completed before 70 AD, prophecies of and allusions to this great conflagration are all over the writings of the New Testament. Again and again, New Testament figures warn of a judgment that is near at hand and about to fall upon "this generation" of Jews who were then alive.
Friday, May 07, 2021 Culture 395
This essay was originally published in 2018 . It is republished on the blog, slightly edited. Re-Thinking “Revoice”: A Biblical Analysis of Same-Sex Attraction Scripture is clear that engaging in homosexual activity is contrary to God's created design and God's will for humanity. But what about same-sex attraction? Is sexual desire for someone of the same sex sinful, even if it is not acted upon? What if these desires seem to come without a person consciously choosing for them to be there? And if these desires persist over a long period of time, should a professing Christian label himself as a "gay Christian"?