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.

 

Notes on Roman Catholicism (2009-2012)

 

Rich Lusk

 

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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.

 

AIMING AT SHALOM:

THE CHURCH’S MISSION OF

JUSTICE AND MERCY

 

BY RICH LUSK

 

(This is an older article, originally published at Theologia.org in 2004.)

 

Charles Spurgeon once quipped, “If you give a man the gospel, wrap it in a sandwich.  And if you give a man a sandwich, wrap it in the gospel.”  With those words, the great Baptist preacher captured the essence of the church’s mission in the world.

 

Discipleship and the Visible Church

 

By Rich Lusk

 

This is an old article article, being republished for the blog.

 

Discipleship is a vital dimension of the church’s life.  The church’s motherly, nurturing role as discipler is indispensable.  Indeed the church is the school of discipleship.  We are enrolled in her school in baptism, educated in the word by her pastors and teachers, and fed at her table in the weekly covenant renewal service.  Consider Calvin’s wisdom:

 

From Public Church to Private Christian

 

By Rich Lusk

 

This is an old article article, being republished for the blog.

 

It is critical for the church to understand the broader social trends that have undermined her existence as a public and visible community if she is going to act and react in appropriately biblical ways in our (post)modern situation.  The progressive privatizing of religion needs to be sketched out more fully than will be done here, but a few critical points may be made.