An internet colleague of mine contacted me today to ask me what I thought of a recent post of his. The topic of his post was some recent discussions he had regarding the nature, purpose, and praxis of the local church. Take a few minutes to read it over at his site and then swing on back her for a little critique and some thoughts.
Wartick and I have had our share of differences in the past. Here are a few
- He’s an egalitarian, I’m a complimentarian
- He’s a Lutheran, I’m Reformed
- He’s sympathetic of Molinism, I am opposed to Molinism
- He currently lives in the Promised Land, I moved away from Minnesota a few years ago
However, as of late, he and I have been lock step on a lot of issues. As I’ve come to know him a little better, I realize that he and I have very similar lines of thinking. Because of this we often identify similar problems, even if we resolve those problems in our own unique Lutheran or Reformed way.
On this post I have no major complaints or critiques. Here are a few minor ones though.
I find Wartick’s use of “church” confusing at times. He will use it in sentences like “the purpose of church” where he seems to be talking about the local congregation, or even specifically Sunday services. He will also use it in sentences where he seems to be referring to the Church corporate, but retains the lowercase usage. This made it difficult at times to agree (or disagree) with some of his statements, because it was hard to know exactly what he was driving at.
I take his basic point to be this: The Church exists in order to glorify God. This necessarily includes the apologetic and evangelistic enterprise, but those activities do not constitute – nor should they constitute – the whole of the Church’s activities. As such, they should not constitute the whole of a local church’s activities.
I might make that point more explicit and say that the primary purpose of the Sunday service is to proclaim the Gospel to Christians by means of the exposition of the Scripture and the administration of the Sacraments. This does not mean that there is not a place for non-Christians or seekers in the Sunday worship service, but it isn’t for them. They may benefit from it, but like the Samaritan woman begging for scraps from the master’s table, the non-Christian observing a Sunday morning worship service reaps the benefits of the overflowing blessing of God on his people.
Evangelism, and the related subordinate activity of Apologetics, strictly speaking shouldn’t be happening inside the Church. We should be going out to preach and defend the faith. Inside the Church we should be operating on the assumption that those who are there believe the faith. To put it bluntly, the Church is for Christians. This means that Sunday School apologetics courses (which are absolutely fine) should be designed to train Christians how to do apologetics outside the Church… you know… where the non-Christians are.
One concluding thought on Wartick’s post. Something ironic I find about the concept of Mere Christianity is that no one who advocates for Mere Christianity has a good way to define what Mere Christianity is. Furthermore, who gets to define Mere Christianity? Is it the consensus? Is it the Creeds? The individual? Is it different for each group? It seems to me that Mere Christianity is useful when trying to decide who we can do a service project with, or what congregations I can worship with when I’m traveling. However, when determining what to preach, or what to include on a doctrinal statement it is absolute rubbish. How can I preach the Gospel if I don’t have an expressed position on how salvation works? How can I have baptismal requirements if I don’t have an expressed statement regarding what baptism is and how it functions? It seems to me that even if we limit our Faith Statements to only so-called Mere Christianity… in order for the local church to function it requires us to go further than that in our preaching and teaching.