Let it be known that I take no joy in this post. I do not know Jason Stellman, nor have I read his defense of Two-Kingdom theology. I have interacted with him from time to time on his blog, and I have seen some of his work as the prosecutor of Peter Leithart. On the whole, I have both appreciated and disagreed with what I have read from Jason Stellman. That, however, is nothing unique. What is fairly unique is that Jason Stellman, a PCA minister, has defected from the Gospel. You can read his letter to the clerk of the PCA’s NW Presbytery on his blog. My point here is not to engage with Stellman’s reasons for rejecting the very heart of the Reformation (sola scriptura et sola fide). I read his reasons and scratched my head. I’m no heavy-weight scholar, but these reasons he offered for denying the final authority of the Bible and for rejecting the doctrine of justification by faith alone seem pretty trivial. I know that everything is complicated when one takes the time to examine it closely. The Solas of the Reformation are no exception. However, the truths that he’s rejecting are fundamental, and the reasons he offers for rejecting them are pretty lame. All in all, this is a sad situation.
Two things come to mind. First, let us more and more learn humility. Let us humbly trust Christ our Savior. In the final analysis, we have nothing but Christ. He is our righteousness. He is our life. He is our Savior. We continue in the kindness of God by his grace. Let us not be proud, but fear. The Root supports us; let us, in humble faith, cling to that Root.
Second thing is a plea for fair play. When the Federal Vision controversy broke in 2002, I was in seminary. I was so deeply disgusted with the way Reformed brothers in Christ treated each other, that I decided not to seek to enter the full-time, ordained ministry. (Full disclosure: there were other factors that played into that decision, but the FV fiasco was a major one.) I saw tremendous amounts of pride and precious little love on both sides of the controversy. This is probably still the case, and it is a travesty.
As for the plea for fair play, think about Pastor Stellman and what he represents. He’s one of the anti-FV poster-boys in the PCA. He’s a Westminster-trained, two-kingdom guru. He’s the prosecutor against Peter Leithart, who’s been tried over issues related to the FV. (See Pastor Leithart’s response to Stellman’s defection at his blog.) Stellman’s one of the men on the ecclesiastical front lines against the FV, which is accused of greasing the slides for the return to Rome. That irony is pretty rich.
**UPDATE** I have been admonished that I have misrepresented Pastor Stellman, this maybe better: “To be fair to Stellman, he has not made the slide to Rome charge against Leithart, or other FV’ers. Specifically, the charge of Stellman’s prosecution was that Leithart’s position was Lutheran, not WCF” (Thanks to Reed – see the comments). My point was not so much that Stellman himself accused Leithart or FVers of heading toward Rome, but that such an accusation is VERY common.
Now, consider: What do you suppose would happen if a high-profile FV leader denied two of the Solas of the Reformation? I suspect that, for starters, the “TR” pundits would be falling all over themselves to show how the FV is really just Romanism for beginners. But Stellmans is one of their boys, and not just one of them; he’s one of their point men.
I hope that Pastor Stellman’s decision to defect from the Gospel will have a salutary effect upon the Reformed churches. Hopefully, it will be the cause of humility for all. Maybe theological opponents will take extra care actually to listen to each other and spend less time talking past one another. Maybe tactics like guilt by association and name calling will diminish. In short, maybe this will inspire more fair play in theological debate. I pray that it will.