Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jason Stellman and the questions he asks

I posted this comment over at his site, on his most recent blog post.

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Of course, Jason, how you frame the questions determines the answers you will receive, as Steve Hays has demonstrated in these posts with the theme of “trick questions”. Choosing to frame your questions in terms of “who is the authority” instead of “what’s true”, you walked yourself right into an “answer” that was more of your own making than anything else.

Do you agree that “how you frame the questions” in large part determines the answers you will get? And that it was you, of your own volition, who asked questions in such a manner that the response was not really going to be in question?

Look at your phrase ”Protestantism seemed no more true ...”

Your working definition here is based on a mischaracterization. Protestantism does not claim to be “true”. “Protestantism” does not claim to speak with one voice. So you are already not being honest with the facts. You are already asking questions in a way that you can justify the responses to yourself.

At the time of the Reformation, “Protestantism” was a gathering of people who found themselves in a position of needing to respond to an ecclesiastical situation that was horrific, overbearing, and unbearable. “Protestantism” didn't claim to be true. “Protestantism” is simply the collective term for the collective outcry of those people who were (a) looking at the existing system and judging it as no longer tenable, and (b) re-articulating the Gospel message from the New Testament.

Ask yourself, “was the Protestant response a proper response given the circumstances?” If not a proper response, then was it a “good” or “well-motivated” or even “understandable under the circumstances”? That's the right way to look at this.

I'm sure it was all of those things. It was good, it was well-motivated, it was understandable under the circumstances. Then ask, how would you characterize Rome's response?

The reason I ask this is because it is clear that “apostolic succession” and the episcopal monarchy were second century “developments”, articulated as an apologetic response to the Gnostic religions that were popping up. Even Joseph Ratzinger admitted this some time ago. With that thought in mind, ask, “was Rome's response to the challenge from truth-seeking Protestants an appropriate one?” I'm sure you've read the council of Trent. Did they reason about the truth? Or did they simply assert their authority? But then, your questions are asked in a way that they are seeking not “truth”, but “authority”.

But do you want to make your decision that an authority structure that was developed and proclaimed in the second century is something that Christ intended “for all time”? I'm not. It was the Reformers who were seeking honesty. It was Rome which was trying to defend its own authority. I'll go with honesty every time.

Don't ask yourself “is Protestantism true”? That's a false question. Ask yourself, “is Roman Catholicism really what it says it is”? Yes or no? Is it “the Church that Christ founded”? Or is it an evolution off of the New Testament church that Christ founded?

Was the bitterly corrupt papal/episcopal church government of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries the thing, or the type of thing, that the Christ you know would say he would always protect? Or rather, was the Protestant response, the re-articulation of the Gospel, itself a sign that the “gates of hell” would not prevail? I'm betting my life, the lives of my family, the eternal life of all of us, on the latter, in the face of Rome’s authority-asserting anathemas.

You and the scoffers who think I'm “mean” won't believe this, but I am, and have been, praying for you too. But doesn't it seem boastful even to say that? “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

So I don't often say “nice” stuff like “I'm praying for you”. I would rather say true and honest things dealing with factual events.

How many people here have trumpeted that they are praying for you? Where's the outcry about that kind of, in the words of Jesus, “hypocrisy”.

One more thing. I have not called you “a liar”. I made the statement “I saw all this coming three years ago”, and I asked the question, “Have you been wringing your hands this whole time?” For this I am called a jerk by an unknown commenter.

Where is everyone's sense of proportion? Who has got the tone problem?


  1. “Protestantism” didn't claim to be true. “Protestantism” is simply the collective term for the collective outcry of those people who were (a) looking at the existing system and judging it as no longer tenable, and (b) re-articulating the Gospel message from the New Testament."

    Wow, John! That is the most concise description on Protestantism that I've heard. And is a great response when Roman Catholics treat it as a similar religion to theirs.

  2. It's an interesting exchange. I must ask though: what "unorthodox" beliefs/ideas about God must one hold to necessarily imply one does not have a "saving faith"? Is it the number of them or degree in which they veer from orthodoxy (however you define it)?

    I'm sure you're not suggesting anyone has ever had the capacity to be perfectly orthodox at all times. If not, you must have some idea of the line between "probably saved" and "by all evidence unsaved". What is it?

  3. James, I'm not in the business of trying to figure out if anyone has "saving faith", and at what point they do or they don't. Nor am I suggesting even that there is a thing like "perfect orthodoxy". Nor will I ever (I hope) want to underestimate God's mercy.

    But I do regard Roman Catholicism as having done great harm, over the centuries, and still today, to "the one true church", and I think, with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up, it the next few years can be a "teaching moment" for the church as a whole.

  4. In confirmation of the above 'business'

    2Tim 2:19 (ESV)
    But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”