24 June 2012

Answering Questions #16 -Dissecting Stellman's Apostasy

In some recent comments it was mentioned that a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) pastor recently converted to Roman Catholicism. The PCA is one of the conservative Presbyterian bodies, not to be confused with the PCUSA which is the Mainline and much larger Presbyterian body which abandoned Scripture long ago. The PCA formally broke with the mainline body in 1973.

The pastor in question is Jason Stellman, a pretty strong proponent of the Reformed variety of Two Kingdom theology and certainly someone I would have recommended not long ago. I often visited his website and sometimes commented there.

Sacralist enemies of Two Kingdom theology have tried to find a connection....find a way to show that Two Kingdom theology leads to Rome. It doesn't, in fact the two systems are operating in very different universes. In the past it has actually been Theonomy and various Sacralist positions which have produced converts to Catholicism and it's always been an embarrassing point for them. I almost sense a state of glee at this man's defection.

What's even more ironic is that Stellman was just recently leading the charge against a fellow denominationalist...Peter Leithart. Leithart is associated with Federal Vision theology. For those who've read a lot of the material at this website I've talked from time to time about these folks. When it comes to Ecclesiology and a general approach to theology, I'm quite sympathetic with them.

In fact I remember being shocked to read about some of the things they were saying....many of them positions I had adopted several years before. I was also shocked at how upset people became with them. They've become pariahs within the Reformed community. The other group that's rapidly gaining that status is the Two Kingdom group. They're often see an opposite ends of the spectrum and on some issues they are. But actually I embrace elements both groups teach making my positions quite unpalatable within those circles.

Sadly the issue is rarely framed in terms of what the Bible says. In the denominational battles, it's about what the Confession says. In this case everyone is arguing over whether or not the Westminster Confession can accommodate something like Federal Vision. And of course everyone is trying to 'claim' this or that historical Reformed theologian.

That said, when it comes the overall structure of the Bible, the defining of the Kingdom and Eschatology...which is far more than just 'end times' issues....I totally disagree with them. The Federal Visionaries are generally Theonomic and Postmillennial...the antithesis of what I am.

To reiterate...this is my frustration within the Reformed sphere. There are two polarizing camps within the Reformed world and I think they're both very right on some things and very wrong on others. Both are dealing with inherent and pervasive weaknesses within the mainstream Reformed world. I think the Redemptive-Historical camp has rightly understood Biblical Structure, the Kingdom and Eschatology but are weak in other areas. The Federal Vision is sound when it comes to a theology of Means, Soteriology and Ecclesiology, but horribly wrong when it comes to the other issues.

Usually it's the Theonomists who employ the denominational bureaucracy and attempt to run out people they don't like. In this case a Redemptive-Historical Two Kingdom leader...Stellman led the charge to have Leithart a leader within the Federal Vision thrown out of the denomination.

The prosecution failed and Leithart has maintained his position within the PCA. Only a few months later...Stellman suddenly converts to Roman Catholicism. Now mind you, the opponents of Federal Vision theology often accuse the Federal Vision or promoting a Roman Catholic view of salvation with regard to faith, works, the sacraments, and assurance.

So then how does Stellman jump from going after Leithart for promoting a Roman Catholic-ish theology to converting to Rome? Quite a leap and his answer to the charge of hypocrisy is that he was operating as an officeholder dealing with a confessional issue.

A good churchman....a promoter and maintainer of institutional unity and integrity, essentially a bureaucrat.

Anyway this has generated a firestorm and there's been a scramble to determine why this happened and upon whom and what to lay blame. So far, I've found gross misunderstanding and in the case of the Theonomists...either some real ignorance or deceit. They're not above either.

I found out about this from a friend of mine. I hadn't visited Stellman's website in some time. This was all pretty shocking. Those interested in this might find our email exchanges to be of interest. I will probably write more about this later, but for now this is what I have to offer. Out of politeness I've edited out names and email addresses.

From: XYZ
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 2:13 AM
To: Proto
Subject: R.C. Stellman

I don't know who Jason Stellman is, but if you have any brief comments on his alleged conversion to RC'ism, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, brother.
Reason I'm asking is that A---B---- posted this link on Facebook this morning, and there's a fairly heavy emphasis here on ecclesiology and the so-called "2K" position:


Wow....your email blew me away.

I've been reading stuff at Stellman's blog for some time.

But, I've barely been on the Internet the last couple of months. I've been terribly busy with work and other things. Not only have I not been writing articles for my own blog, I haven't been reading others. So I totally missed what was happening with Stellman.

Really surprising. I have appreciated his 2K positions while really disagreeing with him on Ecclesiology. He's the one that lead the charge against Leithart and the Federal Vision guys. He tried to get Leithart thrown out of the PCA....what a hypocrite! His excuse....confessionalism, being a good churchman? God save us from 'good churchmen'.....I came to that position years ago. They have little concern for the church. They're bureaucrats is what they are. Good churchmen are politically astute, but really what did Ryle do for the Church of England? Packer? How many Presbyterians have compromised the truth because being a 'good Churchman' seems to be higher calling. I appreciate the disdain for individualism, but there comes a time when standing with the pack becomes compromise.

So he could prosecute Leithart...all the while he's thinking about converting and becoming a Papist? I mean the whole charge coming from guys like Stellman is that Federal Vision flirts perilously close to Romanism when it comes to ecclesiology. What a sick and twisted ethic that allows him to try and destroy a person when he himself is guilty (and more so) than the one he's going after. It reminds me of Gingrich and Clinton.

Gingrich was engaged in adultery as he was going after Clinton over the Lewinsky thing. To this day he insists the issue with Clinton was perjury...lying to Congress. Come on, we all know that's window dressing. Clinton was caught in a moral scandal and they were trying to bring him down. It was about character....something that doesn't prosecute very well....so you have to pin something on the guy. So they focused on his perjured statements. That was the vehicle to attack his character....the point they were trying to sell to the American people. Later when it was revealed that Gingrich was committing adultery at the same time....he insisted that wasn't the issue. It's like he was wiping his mouth and saying, "I've done nothing wrong." Well he knew he'd done wrong but tried to shift the issue. But everyone knows the issue was character and apparently both Gingrich and Stellman lack it severely.

We're all hypocrites and we all have our secret sins. But wow, I sure couldn't go after someone, in such a public and destructive manner when I was guilty of the same thing. How could you look at yourself in the mirror?

I strongly disagree with Leithart when it comes to Eschatology (and all that goes with it), History, Liturgy, and the Kingdom. But when it comes to issues like Covenant Theology, Sacramentology, and Soteriology.....I tend to be more in agreement with the Federal Vision crowd than the theology held by most people in Reformed circles.

I strongly resonate with the BT/RH (Vosian Biblical Theology/Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics) understanding of theology and hermeneutics rather than Grammatico-Historical/Systematics crowd. While I agree with their structure and method....I don't always agree with how they apply it. They're guilty of bad forms of systematics also....it's just geared in a different way.

The Reformed world is small enough, a conversion to Romanism is always shocking (people still talk about Hahn).....but this case is particularly strange and will be talked about a long time. Trueman seems to be trying to make a connection between 2K and these events. 2K is inherently anti-Roman. Stellman has been (in a recent years) a leading voice in the 2K world. Wow, I guess he didn't understand it! The 2K understanding of the Kingdom is rooted in a dialectic. Roman Catholicism is essentially anti-dialectical. It's enshrined Nominalism....as we might put it...anchored on the visible register. Baptistic theology is also inherently Nominalistic...anchored on the invisible. Their muddle is that we're in the visible and they have to try and make the invisible make sense in the visible while denying the visible has any substance or meaning. On this point Roman Catholicism while deadly wrong at least is coherent and makes sense. The visible IS....the thing itself. The visible is the ontological reality....there's no understanding of Eschatology (Already and Not Yet/This Age and the Age to Come)......the very core of 2K thinking. Stellman must have grasped this!

Though if you visit his blog he reveals what the real issue is.....Sola Scriptura. And that issue....Authority....is what it's all about in the end. Every time, whatever the issue.....it always comes back to this. This is THE question. And it's a Christological one. It all comes back to the gospels and the deeds and words of Christ. His validation of the OT, commission of the Apostolate and the inspiration and authority he vests in them....and his validation of it by His Person and Work....is the root of our faith. Get that wrong and you have no Word. You have to go looking elsewhere.

And anytime I entertain that....I'm left with two choices......Apostasy or Tradition. In my case Rome wouldn't be my choice. I'd go to Constantinople....but really in the end it would be Apostasy. Rome and Constantinople are dead ends with no hope....but at least Constantinople is stable and on many points represents a theology more respectful of Scripture.

As an aside, I don't think Trueman gets it quite right...but, I have to say I continue to really appreciate him. Being a Brit, his perspective on American Christianity is helpful. Frankly most Church Historians today are either hacks or hagiographers....Trueman is neither. I think he's pretty balanced. I grab up and download any audio files I find with his name on it....interviews, history lectures. I often disagree with him, but he's worth listening to.

The buzz from all this is going to be interesting....but I'm afraid this whole 2K ecclesiology...road to Rome focus.... is terribly misguided. It's discouraging at times, but on this point and many others I find that many people excel at missing the point...missing the real issue. People spend hours in discussion and write whole bookshelves worth of books on many an issue and utterly waste their time. There are so many arguments and debates that are largely worthless because neither side is able to identify the real issue. Kind of boastful thing for me to say but it's certainly one benefit of not belonging to a particular faction....it allows one to step back and see the forest through the trees. I see this happening all the time. I still read and listen to the debates...there are still things to be gleaned....but often when it comes to Theology and certainly History, Current Events, Politics etc.... I often disagree with both main schools of interpretation.

Thanks for sharing that. It will certainly be on my mind today. Generally speaking Stellman is a sharp guy. Like Hahn if he decides to labour in the Roman camp he'll be able to argue pretty persuasively against Protestantism. As we both know, it's not all that difficult. It is if you're holding to Sola Scriptura in a proper sense. But as we know, very few have really thought out the issue and consequently their formulations and certainly applications of Sola Scriptura are built on sand and subject to overwhelming attack by a skilled apologist.

K Johannes Dux

From: XYZ
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 4:50 PM
To: Proto/Dux
Subject: Re: R.C. Stellman

Yeah, I don't think Stellman's 2K'ism is what drove him away from the PCA. It's interesting how he said he hated his assigned role in the Leithart case, while making it sound like his duty before God as a confessional churchman. I guess everybody draws a line somewhere on the question of authority: I'm a biblicist, Stellman is a confessionalist.

As to the kingdom question, in my ignorance of the discussion parameters, it seems to me that 2K is compatible with Romanism if you view both kingdoms as existing in this world (unless I'm still unclear about what people mean by "2K"). As you know, I prefer talking about the nations/kingdoms of this world, and the kingdom of the world to come. Perhaps 2W (Two-World) theology would cut off the visible path to Romanism.

By the way, it seems there's a parallel between hyper-confessionalism and this-worldly 2K. Stellman's practical final authorities (Westminster, Rome, etc.) are all here in this world.

Anyway, I'm exhausted and need to get to bed. Just quickly though, I enjoyed this blog entry.
Interesting quote from Leithart: "Biblicist, liturgical, sacramental, ecumenical Protestantism is the antidote to Roman fever, not the cause."
From: Proto
I think some of what might fuel conjectured ties between 2K and a Roman tendencies is the fact that 2K tends to identify the Kingdom in This Age with The Church.
Dominionism (which is basically the orthodoxy of our day) wants to define the Kingdom in broader terms....the culture etc.... Bach and Rembrandt are part of the Kingdom in that schema.
So some in that camp view the 2kers as hyper-Church.....and in their minds they erroneously conclude....
hyper-Church= Romanist tendency.

2k is rooted in a dualistic way of understanding the Kingdom and many other issues. Romanism generally doesn't think that way....This (the present) is not just the particular....it is the Universal as well.

'This worldly 2k' is (to me) an oxymoron. I think the issue is Authority. Stellman prefers institution and let's face it if you embrace that kind of mindset....institution (which is certainly of this world)....than Rome has a much stronger case. If you want Protestantism to rest on a historical foundation...it's pretty flimsy.

Though I often really dislike Leithart....I appreciate the Biblicist angle. Biblicism is usually equated with anti-intellectualism and being a-historical. I think I can make some pretty strong arguments against that.

I wish I had time to write a book dealing with Matthison's book on Sola Scriptura. It has become the standard everyone refers to. I reject the way he frames the argument. He rejects Biblicism and ties traditionalism/confessionalism to Sola Scriptura.........the very thing which leads someone like Stellman to question the whole Protestant position. Matthison's argument is structured to counter anti-confessionalists, but his Sola Scriptura position....isn't Sola Scriptura at all....it's Clericalism.....Stellman was smart enough to work out its implications.
If I held to Matthison's version of Sola Scriptura....I sure wouldn't end up...a Presbyterian!?!?! No way.

From: ABC
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2012 11:49 PM
To: Proto
Subject: Re: R.C. Stellman

Hey just wanted to say thanks for including me in the mix. It's always refreshing to see good conversation taking place. I thought that XYZ's 2W idea was very creative. Do you think that Stellman might be interested in more money? ..... ABC

I (Proto) responded:

Yeah actually the term....Two Kingdoms isn't really all that helpful. There are several ways it can be interpreted, some quite different. Each camp...Transformationalist, Pietist, and whatever one would want to call my position (Pilgrim in the World?/Remnant?)...all can to some degree claim the label. Postmillennialists think Augustine (with his Two Cities) is theirs to claim, while many Amillennialists would claim him.

I can't think of any financial gain on his part. He certainly won't become a priest....if he wanted to do that, Eastern Orthodoxy would have been a better choice as their priests can marry. But, there are other things he can do for the Roman Entity.
As I've said many times, if I was to the point of converting to Romanism....I would probably be very close to just abandoning Christianity altogether.


In conclusion, you can see where I'm coming from on this. The issue has nothing to do with Two Kingdoms or Ecclesiology. It's about Authority....and that has implications for the Kingdom and certainly how one views the Church in general and how one views the Church in history.

God willing there will be more on this at a later time.


Cal said...

The problem in calling it 2K comes out a little in Stellman's book title "Dual Citizenship". For that implies I am by necessity a loyal citizen of some worldy kingdom and not a stranger or pilgrim.

By that I don't mean we pretend we don't belong in some national context, but loyalty conflict should never be a question. I obey the traffic laws to be a better witness, not because I have some inherent respect for the laws put down by my county,state,federal government. I serve God not man should roll off the tongue pretty easily.

However you're right that 2K can seem a bridge to Rome if we lose the dialectic. Part of the reason I'm a sympathetizer to 'soul sleep' (not how Luther described it, a bit different) is that it doesn't allow the "church triumphant" of saints in Heaven granting access to God's ear and a constant march forward. No, Christ won the victory and it is He who is directing history to its consequential end, which may not look like a sun rise into utopia.

I also appreciate confessionalist critique of biblicism because of the wacked out fundamentalism and legalism it can create. When people just say "Oh, I just believe the Bible" as noble as that sounds, it makes things a mess. Confessions, which should never restrict or be binding, allow a clearer expression of intent.

Its never pleasant when I'm slapped in the face with a "I just believe the Bible" when I try and talk about theology. Of course, the Pharisees just read believed their bibles but because they did so blindly, they missed the One it was purposed for.

I sort of wrinkled my brow when you paint with such a broad brush and say "PCUSA" has abandoned the Scripture and such and such about PCA. I think it is fair to say so institutionally, but even so with the PCUSA there is such leeway that such is not necessarily true at every congregation. Most denominational systems are worthless or crushing, you either end up in Stellman being the "good churchman" or you end up with a meaningless affiliation like SBC. I like the SBC model but I wish it wasn't so brand name-ish. My congregation, while attached to the PCA by the elders, is also connected to a network of congregations who share a commitment to orthodoxy and orthopraxy and I think that's how it ought to be done. Not loose independent congregations that turn into fundamentalist baptist preacher tyrannies but not sprawling Roman Catholic imperial dominion. Affiliation with one and mutual oversight but congregational freedom. It's a breath of fresh air.


Cal said...

An additional note: While I appreciate the critique, I'm still a biblicist at the end of the day. I've left a clutch of comments around the internet the last 2 weeks defending sola scriptura from misunderstandings that it is just blotting out Church history. They're rejecting Sola Scriptura to follow Sola Scriptura, its funny their conclusion isn't "Ok, let's wrap ourselves in the traditions of Rome or Constantinople or Canterbury or Westminster" but to just take notice of Church history.

That's the curse of Americo-fundo-gelicalism. Folks who escape start burning all the phrases they grew up with, not know the same thing they're tossing in the trash, is the very thing they're turning to. It's like an abusive friend who hangs out with you while saying how stupid and inadequate you are. I think most of it is done in ignorance though.

Protoprotestant said...

While I agree with your sentiments regarding Citizenship, I think that we live someplace, we're born someplace, as you say we can't just ignore social obligation...we do have to render unto Caesar. But that is severely limited. Sometimes I hear people say, "Christians should be the best citizens." Well, that depends what you mean. We don't break the laws, we work, pay our taxes, raise children who will do likewise, but if by citizenship they mean...support the body politic, fight in its wars, adopt its values...then no, we're not citizens at all...just law abiding peace loving pilgrims.
Soul Sleep? Normally I would totally disagree with the notion, but if you're questioning the existence of the intermediate state in its entirety...due to time/eternity considerations...which could be perhaps read by some to mean Psychopannychia.
Of course when someone says I just believe the Bible...well, what does 'I' mean? That's theological. Believe, that's theological too. Bible...that's a whole lot of theology to explain things like inspiration, canon, authority, revelation etc...
I didn't initiate the term Biblicist...that was my friend writing from overseas. However, I think the term can be used as long as it isn't divorced from historical and theological considerations...something I've laboured to do. Would I sign my name to a confession? No. Would I affirm the broader set of doctrines to whole stack of confessions...sure.
As far as the PCUSA, I know there are believers within that body...they need to leave. I don't recognize denominations, but others do and when they choose to be part of one that won't ordain you unless you believe in the ordination of women...I can say with confidence they've abandoned Scripture. As far as the PCA, no I'm not fan at all. I really and truly loathe their polity for its theological dishonesty. There are good men in the group and though I'm painting with a broad brush...I stand by what I said. The emails were private...I chose to make them public. My tone in the email is not the tone I would use when writing an essay. It is what it is. Independency when run by a dictator is odious, but the Congregational government I believe to be Biblical has no pastor at all....but Elders....or in popular parlance, Pastors. The idea of the one guy running the show (which the Presbyterians aren't immune from either) is not Biblical. The PCA has ruling elders, but as I said in a previous series often they shouldn't be in office, some are mere yes men...some are sharp. I've run into all types. But oh how they extol their polity....it's great. So's Episcopalian hierarchy....neither is Biblical.

Protoprotestant said...

Often I embrace what I call Occasional Apologetics. What I mean by that is...I see most problems dialectically. The answer usually isn't in the middle...often it's in the extremes. But the errors come when one extreme is held and not the other. So if I sit down with a Baptist...I'm going to sound Roman Catholic to them in the way I'm arguing and trying to push them. If I'm with an RC, I'm going to sound Baptist. If I'm with a Hyper-SolaFide Cheap Grace Evangelical, I'm going to sound like I'm pushing works and denying assurance. Just the other day I was talking with a Judaizing Mosaic Law Legalist...I sounded like a Lutheran to him.
Occasional in that I judge how to answer based on the specific situation, what extreme the person is holding. They've usually taken part of the truth, run with it and developed it to the point of being an error through and through.
If I'm talking with a Lone Ranger me and my Bible type...I'm going to push Church History and Historical Theology. As I did with this guy the other day....he couldn't locate anyone before 2012 who held his views. That's not the end of the argument, but it should make him pause and think. He's either really arrogant or ignorant, as you said...more often the latter. His claims are no better than Joseph Smith's.

Protoprotestant said...

Reading my comments again....

Sorry if I sounded snippy. I meant to a little...but well...nothing is being said in the a spirit of meanness.

Jim C. said...

Often I embrace what I call Occasional Apologetics. What I mean by that is...I see most problems dialectically. The answer usually isn't in the middle...often it's in the extremes. But the errors come when one extreme is held and not the other. So if I sit down with a Baptist...I'm going to sound Roman Catholic to them in the way I'm arguing and trying to push them. If I'm with an RC, I'm going to sound Baptist. If I'm with a Hyper-SolaFide Cheap Grace Evangelical, I'm going to sound like I'm pushing works and denying assurance. Just the other day I was talking with a Judaizing Mosaic Law Legalist...I sounded like a Lutheran to him.

You and your golden nuggets...I never thought of this before but this is exactly the kind of thing you see in the Bible in its totality. It is the same gospel throughout - the same message within the redemptive-historical continuum but depending on the context the particular "messages of the day" may vary and even sound contradictory on the surface. Compare Ephesians 2:8-9 with James 4:1-5. Same "universal" gospel, different audiences and situations, different "particular" messages.

On a different but somewhat related note, here you've discussed your "occasional" apologetic method and how you apply it to your discussions with fellow believers under different theological traditions. Would you also use this method when conversing with, for example, a Muslim or an atheist? If so, how would you go about it?

Jim C.

Cal said...

As for citizenship, the reason I phrased it the way I did was because of exactly what you talked about. I want to be a little bit of a shock jock with "Christians aren't American citizens, just pilgrims". Or "Holy Troublemakers" as Jacques Ellul says. The way Christians conduct their lives in the way of Jesus should be bizarre and at ends with popular civic morality. Obeying laws, paying taxes etc. but not willing to bend the knee an inch to Caesar. Respect, yes; worship, no. Most American Christians would nod their head but when they put their hand over their heart and tear up at the anthem, or go ballistic for this or that President their actions speak louder than their words. Just as a note, I use to be so patriotic that I even interrupted my friend midspeech to make a point when the National Anthem played on the local country channel. Now I won't take my hat off or put hand on heart.

The time/eternity consideration is what I think is the main point. I'm also leaning into being a physicalist, seeing much of the Platonic/Cartesian dualism many speak of the "immortal soul" imported in the Scripture. The Hebrews had no idea of this and only later did this tradtion become apart of Jewish thinking when it was adopted by Hellenizing and Persian religions. Philo is the pinnacle of this.

See the PCUSA is so flexible, I don't even know if they'd throw you out if you disagreed with ordaining women or active homosexual elders. That might be the hot button though, I'm not really involved with all the nonsense politics.

I agree that they ought to get out, but to where? Connective organizations modeling congregational polity are starting to arrive that don't wear a shiny denominational name tag. However I don't necessarily fault a pastor/elder feeling trapped that he doesn't want to isolate. The "main" elder of the congregation I'm apart of (main as in he is viewed as the primary elder by us, he's not wielding a title and he's trying to make lots of room for leadership) is getting shoved out of the PCA because he can't concede all the things they want as Scriptural. He loves them (maybe to a fault), but he won't compromise. However, we're also apart of this network so we're moving (it seems) towards something more congregational. Which is a good thing!

To be upfront, I'm not even sure its heresy to have female elders. I've read solid evidence for and against (Junia and Phoebe are the big names that are paraded). Either way, I don't see that as something to split over. I think it is pretty minor when compared to other major doctrinal points (christology being the top).

Maybe its terms. I've been accustomed to using, from Tim Keller, the 'Third Way'. It's not legalism or libertinism. It's not synthesis. It's a meta way, something over both that has tastes of both but isn't either. An example: As the Kingdom comes, it isn't just Jews, it isn't just Gentiles, it isn't Jews and Gentiles held together (sort of but not), it is In Christ. It is a new creation.

Jim C:

I think the best method is like Paul. "Muslims! I see you believe in one God. Good, but Muhammad was not his mightiest prophet, it was indeed Issa!". Meet them where they are and speak on their terms and in their language but state what is new or true or different. They may have had made some right turns but they have no map

Cal said...

Also, I didn't think you sounded snippy. I think you had a fine tone.

Protoprotestant said...

"Most American Christians would nod their head but when they put their hand over their heart and tear up at the anthem, or go ballistic for this or that President their actions speak louder than their words."
Very True. And I likewise used to be a fanatic and likewise I no longer will stand for the anthem or any of it.
As far as being a physicalist.... I'm well aware of the trend especially in certain circles to argue that a lot of historical Christian metaphysics are Hellenistic rather than Biblical. While I'm not sure how helpful the terminologies employed by the Ecumenical councils were, nevertheless the New Testament was written in Greek...and Jesus seemed to frown pretty heavily on Sadducees who could be termed physicalists as well. Do you know angels and demons? Are they Zoroastrian imports from the Exile? Jesus seemed to imply that the Sadducees were wrong...saying that He is not the God of the dead but of the living. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were reckoned alive then...wouldn't that imply a soul?
I don't think embracing belief in soul means that one must head down the Pythagorean or Stoic roads as per Philo. That's a bit of a leap I think.
Obviously you're an annihilationist...or well, I guess you couldn't even really be that? There's nothing to annihilate.
I was talking about the notion that Christ has finished everything. The Last Judgment is also Already- Not Yet. In that sense it has happened, is happening for those who die right now, and in terms of chronology is yet to happen. I lean toward saying, though I'm not dogmatic...that when we die we're at the Last Judgment and we go on to heaven or hell from there. Those places exist already but are also not yet. Eventually at the eschaton time and eternity will be reconciled and all will be resolved. So on the one hand a dead believer is in heaven but their body is in the ground awaiting the resurrection to enter heaven. But in heaven since the Judgment has already happened (eschatologically) they already have their resurrected bodies.
Is eternity endless time or timelessness? Is eternity an incommunicable attribute or is a state of being without reference to time... or a state of being that only God can inhabit...in other words if eternity is a state of being without reference to time...does eternity by necessity encompass past present and future? These are tangled questions that I don't believe we can answer.
The PCUSA is flexible because the culture more than Scripture informs their understanding of theology. They're not a church. Where should the people go? I don't know, but going to an apostate church is much worse than not going to one at all.

Protoprotestant said...

While I think there may be Christians in congregations that have female elders... and while I agree Christology is more important...a church that has female elders will soon enough have problems with Christology. They're allowing culture, custom, and the way these things inform their reason and morality to trump Scripture and they're rapidly driving toward the edge of a cliff.
Junia being of note among the apostles doesn't mean she was an Apostle. Phoebe may have been a deaconness as Romans 16 can certainly be translated that way...but a deacon is not an office that has authority. 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, and Titus make it abundantly clear that women cannot hold office. As one PCUSA priestess told a friend of mine..."I know Paul's arguments, I argued with him and I won!"
That pretty much sums up the posture the PCUSA has with regard to Scripture.
Not a fan of Tim Keller. Not everything is says is wrong, but I think he's on the wrong track. I'm sure he's a good Christian man and probably doing more for the Kingdom than I am...but, I wouldn't have any interest in attending his church.

Protoprotestant said...

I have to admit you've stumped me a bit on that one. I guess when it comes to Muslims or atheists I'd be looking for common ground. With an atheist, an admission there are universal laws regarding morality is a good place to start. If they admit there's a right and wrong they have to account for it...and you can build from there. Of course you have to get then to the point of admitting there's a God before you can press forward.
A Muslim knows there's a God, they just believe in a false one. It's interesting how they pick up on the arguments used by theological liberals to suggest that Paul sort of 'ruined' Christianity, or rather created it and perverted Christ's message.
So at that point I would push the Christological elements of the Old Testament and bring them to the NT and explain the importance of the Apostolic office..and of course the fact that the Paraclete wasn't Mohammed but the Holy Spirit.
But I think what sometimes hits people is the gracious aspect of the gospel, something foreign to Islam. While sadly all too often it has grown banal with us...for others it is breathtaking.
I'll have keep thinking on that. I think off the top of my head the occasional apologetic is really jumping back and forth between two dialectical poles. But the dialectic only works when you have an agreed foundation...Scripture. I don't think it works the same way when dealing with thought-systems outside the foundation. Interestingly it doesn't really work with Charismatics either.
On the other hand you could look to say the Rich Young Ruler or the Samaritan Woman and see how Christ kind of adjusted his presentation based on striking at the heart issue....but the problem is we don't have Christ's insight...at least not the same way you know?
I'm not sure if that helps any.

Cal said...

Don't get me mixed in with the Sadducees! Jesus' argument against the Sadducees wasn't a question of "Is there some immortal part of man that goes on?" They denied that too, and so did many of the Pharisees. The main issue was thus: Will the dead live again? Jesus answers with the affirmative, "Yes, they shall". There's actually a good portion of a debate between Tyndale and More over questions of the afterlife. More gave the Catholic doctrine and Tyndale responded with this:

"And when he [More] proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, “If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;” there he stealeth away Christ’s argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that their souls were in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. And with that doctrine he taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ’s argument of none effect."

Angels and Demons (which are odd terms for what the words mean) were in Scripture before the New Testament so I don't see the point. There were messengers of God (the root of Aggelos) and Unclean Spirits (which becomes Demon).

In fact, while this world will be purged by fire it will be remade as the Heavenly City descends. Earth was made for Man. I think when we abstract into talking about some eternity we take away from the very Jewishness of Resurrection, why it was so offensive to Greeks and Romans. It implied that the dead rise, bodily. The Stoics and Epicureans scoffed because dead men don't rise. Souls, Ghosts and Spirits: yes, the pagans could accept that. Not walking out of a tomb, alive. So what does the Resurrection look like, a glorified body? The Apostles see the walking and talking glorified Christ Jesus and they can't say anything about Him. They don't even try, its too much and its something that can't be explained in mere words.

Another thing, that doesn't mean I disbelieve in the soul. It is the human element in man that makes man a man. I just don't see it as a Cartesian separatable substance that is contained within the skeleton of man. A lot of Christianity has become utterly Platonic. The "You have an immortal soul, choose where to spend it" attitude is alien (besides the pelagian element) to Scripture.

Also, my "annihilationism" isn't rooted in any anthropology of physicalism but based more in line of what judgment entails. The New Jerusalem will have no more tears and no more suffering and the Kingdom of God will encompass everything. But, while I may be heterodox (though in some good company like Justin Martyr and John Stott) I'm agnostic. I know the Grace and Love of God is victorious and all the creation will rejoice in the judgments of the Lord.

I don't understand your comment about Junia but not every woman elder is laughing at the Scripture as some used up dust rag, that humanity has come of age. There are plenty of those (men and women!) but not by necessity. Some I've read actually turn to the Scripture and argue directly from there. Now don't get me wrong, I always feel odd if there is a woman pastor/elder. I'm on heightened alert mode, but giving it a slippery slope model is fallacious.

I don't know if I would handwave a PCUSA congregation, though I certainly would be wary to enter their doors. Just because of their "churchmanship" could lead them to go after those being faithful to Christ, it doesn't necessarily mean so. Though then we're not talking about labels but groups of people and its sort of a hollow argument, no? We live in an age of namebrand, even though neither of us accept this as true. But we use such a tool provided anyway I suppose. I see a UCC sign and I keep on going. It may be a real living community but, so could my neighbors house. I guess I'm checking your broad-brushed statements.


Protoprotestant said...

Yes I'm speaking with a broad-brush. I know there are some good people hanging on in the PCUSA, but I can't fathom why.

As a congregationalist I treat congregations...but when congregations have deliberately allied themselves with a larger group you have to take that into account.

When the larger body has apostatized and embraced sin... I have to really take that into account.

Andronicus and Junia... they were of note among the apostles....all the apostles knew of this couple (assuming they're a couple), valued and respected them. That's how I've always read it.

While I know of Christians who attend congregations that will sometimes have women elders/pastors etc.... when I see it, I leave.

Point taken about treating the soul as an essential part of the body. Glad to hear you're not an adherent of Trichotomy.

I'm not an annihilationist, but I don't get as upset about it as some do. It's an error...not a heresy. I know you don't agree, but perhaps you can appreciate the distinction?

Very interesting quote from Tyndale, but I don't know that it proves what you're saying either.

As far as the New Heavens and New Earth being physical...we having new bodies and living on the new earth etc... I've always thought that to be obvious.

But you're right at least in the sense that a lot of Evangelicals think of heaven as ethereal and some even freak out when you talk about an actual earth...they think you're Watchtower or something. That idea didn't originate with them. They don't have everything wrong.

Blind squirrels get acorns every once in awhile.

They're better on the patriotism stuff than most Evangelicals...that's for sure.

Jim C. said...

Hey Proto,

In light of what you've said what is your opinion of James White (assuming you've heard of him)? I listen to him regularly and albeit he is a polarizing and sometimes controversial speaker, I've found his approach to dealing with Muslims to be fair-handed, intellectually honest and effective. To a lesser extent I feel the same way about his approach to atheism but he sometimes falls back on sacralist rhetoric about how certain sins (and not others) will surely damn the United States to oblivion unless there's some kind of amorphous "national repentance", which is ironic considering that he's a Baptist.

Jim C.

Cal said...

The bit from Tyndale was to say that by being physicalistic, I'm not advocating a Sadducee position or anything like it. Jesus' answer is given to proving the resurrection, not whether men have immaterial souls that go somewhere.

I just wanted to be explicit talking about the New Jerusalem. I had a girl I knew (Baptist) ask, "How do you think we will see in Heaven since we don't have eyes?". That's Platonism, I just wanted to nail that argument without leaving anything unspoken.

Like I said, I have a sense of being wary when I see a woman elder/pastor. I'm not entirely sure what Scripture says regarding this matter, that I'll keep searching. However, the sad thing is that the idea of Eldership in the New Testament is not practiced (in spirit, not merely in name) by most American congregations that call themselves "church". That concerns me more than their sex.

I get your point on Annihilationism and I do appreciate the distinction. Liberty and Charity on unessentials. I feel the same way about the "traditional" view (I would call it Eternal Conscious Torture (ECT), but I don't like using that. It sounds too polemical).

Protoprotestant said...

Okay I get what you're saying. Yes the non-physical notion of heaven is completely misguided.

The flesh/spirit dichotomy at some point was misunderstood and many Evangelicals have adopted a neo-Platonic concept of matter...flesh becoming your skin and bones, not the sinful fallen nature the Scripture speaks of.

A lot of people attack the Trichotomous view of man and insist it's a entry point for gnostic and neo-platonic ideas. It's a tough issue because at times the NT rhetorically divides soul and spirit and yet Trichotomy often runs with it or employs it to venture into some bad areas.

It's all a mess because then you'll also find that in terms of historical orthodox Trinitarianism most Evangelicals are in fact Apolinarians, holding that Christ has a human body but that his soul is divine. The orthodox position insists that be human you must have a body and soul....so Christ's body and soul are human (his human nature) but in addition to that he also has a divine nature...two natures in one person.

Of course as you know the problem is...what's a person? What's a nature? These are questions not so easy to define and frankly defy exegesis and force one into the realm of philosophical speculation and induction.

Protoprotestant said...

I think White is pretty good when it comes to dealing with Muslims, issues along those lines.
He is a Sacralist. I remember being fairly appalled when listening to him the day after Obama was elected in 2008. Oh it was so terrible!....but Bush was okay? Of course to me Obama hasn't proven to be all that different than Bush. But anyway, when it comes to Christian v. Non-Christian he seems decent.
Sacralism is a problem. He's a Baptist, which for me means an entirely different method of approaching theology and Biblical structure. And as you pointed out a really inconsistent baptist....Sacralism doesn't fit a baptist paradigm very well. I find the same kind of stuff with Al Mohler... 1/2 Baptist ½ Sacralist. Of course I say this as a paedo-sacramentalist.
And I know one time I got very irritated listening to him on Church Membership. It was the same old arguments without addressing the issue.
I also remember watching his YouTube video on Obama and noticing he had some nice oxford style shirt with the Alpha-Omega Ministries logo embroidered on it. Big deal right? It's the whole 'ministry' brand-name, money machine thing that puts me off. Here you're taking donations etc... and you're spending the money on marketing junk? Fancy shirts?
At times I've wanted to be like Arthur Pink, or some others who live very simply, study and write....and basically live off small donations made by the people who read your stuff. It takes tremendous frugality and responsibility. But even then I still struggle with this idea of living on donations and having to promote myself in order to make it happen.
But then I see these 'ministry' machines and it just puts me off. Sproul for all the good he's done put a horrible taste into my mouth. The guy has gotten rich off of what he does. Ligonier and his Church salary...he lives quite well. I don't like that.

Protoprotestant said...

Of course this has nothing to do with White's merits as an apologist... but he's one of the faces that pops up when I think along these lines.
I also wrestle with the whole notion of apologetics ministries...I'm not sure how good or necessary it is to run around debating Mormons and Catholics. Maybe it's fine. I wonder if at some point it ends up supplanting the foolishness of the preached word. It ends up being all about the argument and takes away from the proclamation. Nevertheless I suppose some benefit from the interactions.
I always think of the debate between Bahnsen and the atheist Gordon Stein. It's quite instructive and everyone pretty much admits that Bahnsen mopped up the floor with him. But it was a clear example that personalities played a bigger part than the actual arguments. Stein was a bad debater, couldn't think on his feet, a poor communicator. Bahnsen was like a Gatling gun and he dismantled him. Very entertaining, but in terms of the actual debate...I'm not sure how helpful it was. It was more about Bahnsen and Stein instead of the issues.
That said, there is a need for someone to answer the claims of rival systems. How that's done is up for debate. I guess when it comes to that he's as decent as any.
Oh one last thing I just remembered. While not a KJV-onlyist by any means, I do not favour the Critical Text. White, like DA Carson slam the KJV onlyists but I don't appreciate their positions on the text either. Carson's is especially bad.
So, no I'm not a big fan, but I do listen to him on occasion and I'm sure he's a good Christian man.

Jim C. said...

I guess when it comes to debating Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. you have to pick your battles. The passage in Proverbs about not answering a fool according to his folly lest you be like unto him but answering him according to his folly lest he be wise in his own conceit comes to mind. Sometimes what he does is absolutely necessary given that heresy thrives off of ignorance. Under different circumstances it's best to simply wipe the dirt from your sandals and move on. Concerning the latter, Kinism comes to mind.

In the conclusion of your last post you said that you disagreed with White's position on the critical text. I find this curious since I believe that James White shines when he deals with KJV-onlyists, exposing the superficiality of their thinking and destroying their arguments in moderated debate. In your opinion, where does he go wrong?


Protoprotestant said...

That verse in Proverbs is a great example of the dialectical principle. Good thinking.

And yes, Kinism...forget it. Those people are almost beyond help.

White does do well when dealing with the Ruckmanites and all the other KJV onlies.

I just happen to disagree with him on the textual issue. He seems to embrace the Critical Text which I find theologically and historically untenable.

One I'm not sure Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are actually older. But even if they are, they weren't preserved and therefore shouldn't trump the existing canon.

I'm sure White doesn't embrace the W&H nonsense about the Lucian recension,

I will admit the Textus Receptus has some problems...especially Erasmus' filling in the gaps by translating some Vulgate passages into Greek.

It's astonishing but we actually could use an English language formal equivalence translation based on the Byzantine Majority Text. We don't have it. The TR family of translations are the closest. I use the NKJV (I wish they'd ditch any reference to James I/VI)

There are so many King James Bible positions. I'm glad that he's able to distinguish and not lump say the Trinitarian Bible Society in with the KJV only folks.

Though we'd disagree he wouldn't lump me in with them...I personally think they're a cult. I've had more than my share of dealings with them.

But I would still embrace some form or variation of the Byzantine Text. It's not the autograph, but that textual family is the historical and ecclesiastical text.

Not the English King James
Not the Vulgate
Not the Critical Text nor an Eclectic Text.

Without Providential preservation, A Word based, Word centered authority is pretty much shattered.

I will admit the textual differences aren't significant enough to affect major doctrinal heads. But it's more than just the end of Mark or John 7.53-8.11...it's the principle of the thing. Do we have the Bible or not?

Jim C. said...

You're obviously more well-read on this subject than I am and I don't pretend to be an authority on this subject. However, I did embrace KJV-onlyism in the past but it had more to do with a sense of elitism that came with being a part of a subculture that was in diametric opposition to the world around me and thought of itself as superior thereto. There was a pride that came with being able to read a book written in antiquated English and understand it as opposed to my deprived separated brethren with their woefully inadequate NIVs. I'm so thankful that I'm no longer a part of that.

I note in your response that you have problems with the TR, the Vaticanus, the Sinaiticus and the Critical Text but not the Byzantine. Maybe I don't fully understand your argument but this seems arbitrary. What makes the Byzantine text better than the rest of them?

Also, regarding your statement about providential preservation, why does this necessitate only one transmitted text without any variants whatsoever? Again, please let me know if I've misconstrued you but as I see it, having textual variants actually strengthens the position of providential preservation. Something like a critical text shows us exactly where these variants are and helps us discern what is genuinely inspired from what is a scribal error.

Jim C.

Protoprotestant said...

Perhaps I should have been a bit more precise in what I was saying. Erasmus’ translating the Vulgate into Greek occurred in his early work….the early days of the formation of the TR. Later, Stephanus and Beza helped to produce a wider ranging more textually supported Text….the basis for what came to be called the TR. I’m not anti-TR. I’m for the TR. The TR is representative of the Byzantine Text. And so for me the KJV, NKJV, Geneva etc… are the Bibles I would be interested in.
Hodges worked on a Byzantine Majority Text. If that’s ever translated into an English Bible, I’d have a look at that. I guess there’s an EOB (Eastern Orthodox Bible) New Testament based on this. I might pick up one of those at some point. Unfortunately the OT is based on the LXX.
Yes to clarify, I do have a problem with the Critical Text which would include Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
There are variants and then there are variants. The vast majority of them are trivial things like word order, spelling, a missing letter stuff like that. Higher Critics will try and awe you with the tens of thousands of variants and thus show that Biblical Inerrancy is ridiculous. Actually the variants of consequence are few and far between.
But then all of the sudden in the late 19th century we have these new mss. which have significant differences, many words and phrases and whole sections of Scripture. But they’re favoured because the critics determine they’re older. Also some bad historical arguments helped them to gain credibility…arguments now discounted.
For those who have delved into science a bit and quickly realize how many massive arguments are built on conjecture and wobbly theories….Textual Criticism is no different. You end up rolling your eyes a lot and soon find yourself pretty sceptical of any of their arguments.
The BText is to be preferred because it is the text that was being used by the whole Church at an early time. I know the mss we have are not as early. There are probably reasons for this. But this was The Text. I’m making a broad sweep and certainly simplifying here…but I do believe the Church had a general text being used.

Protoprotestant said...

Yes there are variants, but like I said they’re pretty insignificant. So the Church has The Text (speaking broadly) for century upon century… the West of course was using a bad translation of the Text, ie the Vulgate, but that doesn’t affect the issue…..and then suddenly in the 19th century we decide….Oh, this wasn’t the text? We have these new mss that we’re now going to say are the text?
Again this is a simplification, but from a historical perspective…in terms of a doctrine of the Bible…a huge problem. For those who don’t care about inspiration or inerrancy…no big deal. For those of us who do….the acceptance of the Critical Text is a theological mess.
It’s interesting by John Owen writing in the 17th century picked up on this and (I’m paraphrasing and can’t find the quote right now) basically suggested that if someone were to find a future text and accept it would be akin to atheism. It would be a denial that God has preserved his Word.
So variants yes. I think the Critical Text goes far beyond the idea of variants and that’s why I’m not comfortable with it. Am I going to leave a church using the ESV or the NASB? No. But I think when you sit down to exegete a passage…it’s nice to feel like you know what the text is.
So at this point I would say the TR is the way to go but I wouldn’t be opposed to a new translation coming out based on a Byzantine based Majority Text. It would probably be about 99% match.
KJV onlyism makes the 1611 (which actually none of them are using) the New Autograph. That’s actually a WORSE position than the adoption of the Critical Text. It’s cultish.
That’s interesting that you have some experience with them. I used to tear my heart talking to those folks. The reasoning is just a big circle that isn’t remotely coherent.
There are a lot of Baptists and Evangelicals who aren’t KJVonly, but think along similar lines. Recently someone we know who wouldn’t believe the KJV is the autograph still argued that ‘you can tell’ the NIV is no good by placing the two translations together side by side. You can ‘tell’ the KJV is the right one. Argh!!!!
The KJV is indeed better than the NIV (Bad text, bad translation method)…but the KJV has its share of problems as well and though better than the NIV is not the autograph either.
Hope that helps some….at least as far as clarifying my position a bit. I realize not very many people are going to agree, which is fine. I don’t like the Critical Text but to be quite honest it’s not something I’m going to beat someone over the head with. If I have a friend who’s reading the Today’s English Version or something like that I might try to nudge them into something better. But the issue there is translation as much as anything else.