Thursday, June 07, 2012

Stellman who?

Green Baggins and its comment threads have been a tedious bore for a while now.  They are highly predictable with the same factions asserting the same points over the same issues, with Called to Communion vultures circling to pick at the carnage.

I do not understand the public attention Stellman is getting.  The Church is so much larger than one man, whatever his status.  Is there really nothing else for us to discuss or analyze?  Are we really this provincial?  Maybe I just do not spend enough time in the Reformed blogosphere, but of what import is this man, his "conversion" or whatever it is he represents?

34 comments:

  1. Luke 15:7
    7 I say to you that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that does penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.

    It is understandable to me that Mr. Stellman receives so much attention because many of the Reformed knew him and are deeply troubled by what they perceive to be his apostasy. As a Catholic I disagree that is apostasy, but there is a certain necessary tenderness to be had with the lost and the sinful. Certainly our good Lord has greater joy and attention, in some ways, for the repentant and humble man than the totally upright one (yet who is upright of their own will except by the grace of God?).

    Just some thoughts. God bless.

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  2. Matthew Schultz: "Maybe I just do not spend enough time in the Reformed blogosphere, but of what import is this man, his "conversion" or whatever it is he represents?"

    Jason Stellman: "When it became clear to me that my own private study and limited dialogue partners were not sufficiently helping me, I approached my session and divulged to them my questions, whereupon they granted me a sabbatical to seek answers from theologians who may be able to help (I initially approached my session last December, and my sabbatical began this past March). I spent the greater part of the last three months flying around the country and spending many hours with men like Mike Horton, Ligon Duncan, and James White."

    Important enough that men like Mike Horton, Ligon Duncan, and James White spent many hours with Jason Stellman.

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  3. It's too bad that he apostasized. But that's what we call a wolf leaving God's church. It's sad that he's a wolf but it's great that he's leaving if he is a wolf. I just hope that he hasn't caused anyone else to stumble on his way out.

    That said, I had no idea that Jason Stellman existed before he apostasized and will likely forget that he ever existed soon after the hype has died down. I'm with Matthew wondering why this is getting so much press.

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    1. "That said, I had no idea that Jason Stellman existed before he apostasized..."

      Well, David, it takes a while for news in the lower 48 to make its way up to your neck of the woods by dog sled. Those Huskies and Malamutes can only cover so much ground per day :-)

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  4. First of all Matthew, thank you for a breath of fresh air. People convert to this or that all the time, yet only a few folks get attention.

    -Begin rant-

    Here would be my 2 cents as to why I think Rev. Stellman is getting attention.

    For some reason, there's a collective agreement that well-educated people, particularly educated Reformed people, should be smart enough not to leave a Reformed paradigm, particularly for Romanism (if that in fact is where Rev. Stellman is headed). Here's where I think my Reformed brothers sometimes lose focus. De-conversions to ________ (fill in the blank) from a Reformed paradigm, often don't have anything to do with knowledge, because... people reason to decisions like this from the heart. The very best theologian, who knows all theological systems very well, is not Reformed: it's Satan himself. The classical Reformed understanding is that one can have all the facts of the Christian faith correct, and still not savingly believe them. That is, one needs more than to assent to the truth, one needs to savingly believe the truth. If Rev. Stellman has rejected sola scriptura and sola fide, he's either in a deep period of rebellion, in which case he'll be disciplined and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, or he was not a Christian to begin with. We can't look into the heart, so who knows? We'll have to wait and see.

    It does not not surprise me when "smart" people convert to... whatever. Salvation isn't simply a matter of smarts. I like how the Hedielberg Catechism puts it: True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his word is true, it is a deep-rooted conviction created in me by the Holy Spirit, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation. As a Reformed person, I understand that the Holy Spirit saves sinners. So, really smart people with good theology, if they lack the regeneration of the Spirit, will "convert" to all sorts of things.

    My own sinful self understands human nature well enough to know most of us, whether we'll admit it or not, crave attention. When someone announces this or that conversion or de-conversion, it's all about getting attention. Then there's folks who want to get attention by reporting on the conversion or de-conversion... then there's people like me who try to get attention by commenting on the people who want to get attention, and so on. We're all ego-maniacs.

    I mentioned this already somewhere- (perhaps it was a private e-mail, I don't recall), I don't think any of us took the time to contacts Rev. Stellman's church to find out what they would like us to say or not about all of this. No, it's the Internet... the modern-day wild west, anything goes. I include myself in this criticism.

    -end rant, slink off into cyber-space-

    JS

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  5. Matthew and David -- I understand why you would not care to follow this, but I had some history with him a while back, and I even dragged Steve into it, and so I am very familiar with the issues. They are recent memories, and so it just seemed like a natural thing to run with it when I did. I had no idea that practically the whole Reformed blogosphere would try to chime in on it. Some of the other folks seem more concerned with the Leithart/FV issues, and I just didn't have too much of an interest in that.

    James -- I just see Jason Stellman as having the potential to become a particularly "productive" member of the "Roman Catholic apologetic community". So far, he's not saying anything the CTC guys aren't already saying, but knowing him, he'll try to say something new and brilliant. And that will probably get him into trouble.

    One thing that I do see as an issue is the emphasis on Roman ecclesiology. "Church as sacrament of salvation". That is new as of Vatican II, and not a lot of Protestants understand that, and I do think it's the "attractive" kind of "bright, shiny object" that can (and did) capture the attention of the ego-motivated ["particularly educated"] Protestants.

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  6. Stellman will probably find his niche as another stuffed head on the wall of CTC.

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  7. On the other hand, I really like his brand of mayonnaise.

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    1. Pass the Grey Poupon.

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    2. I thought we weren't allowed to say "skubala" here any more.

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  8. I too am grieved over Jason Stellman's road to Rome, or wherever he is headed. I have had him on ReformedCast in 2010 and greatly admired (and do admire) his intellect and passion. He's certainly been a heavy-weight in the Reformed blog-world. Whenever this kind of thing happens, people talk. This speaks to the issue of celebrity as much or more than it does to de-conversions. We get enamoured with one or another, and then are shocked and disappointed when they fall. If it hadn't been for the web, no one would know of this except the church and local presbytery in WA. But the Internet has changed everything. Is it good for this to happen out in the open with more opportunity for pleading and critique? Hard to tell. But one lesson: never be too surprised when it comes to falling away. The Scriptures warn us in Hebrews for a reason. Whether he actually has fallen we don't know, but we should all draw near to the Gospel - in Godly fear.

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  9. I see the problem as twofold,

    (1) There is no such thing as an intelligent and informed conversion from Catholicism to Protetantism. This simply hasn't been happening. That's why there is a sort of celebrity status associated here.

    (2) The problem of Assurance is totally debunked. People here and elsewhere are using terms like "apostasy" without thinking twice that there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism. Either the person was saved in the first place or they never were. Now with Jason, the question the Reformed are too uneasy to ask is "Was Jason saved in the first place?" If "yes," then no apostasy happened, he's just on a interdenominational sabbatical living in sin for an indefinite time. If "No," then you must conclude he was either deluded or malicious this entire time, and accusing him of either of those will not preserve your credibility.

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  10. (1) There is no such thing as an intelligent and informed conversion from Catholicism to Protetantism.

    It happens all the time. In terms of converts, people are leaving Rome in droves. More than 30 million people now in the US define themselves as ex roman catholics. It's a law of supply and demand. The supply is so great, no Protestants really care any more But you Roman Catholics are so eager to find good news, you'll salivate over any convert. (By comparison, despite all the fuss over Anglicanorum Coelecanth, barely more than a thousand people converted into Rome).

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    1. John,

      "Leaving Rome in droves" says nothing about one's reasons for leaving. The supermajority of those people are ignorant and leave for the wrong reasons. There is nothing akin to Jason working his way up the ladder to becoming pastor, then doing his own research and needing a sabbatical to talk to big names and then make his decision. And that's precisely where the miracle is and why it doesn't sit well with all you people, because you can see a qualitative difference in the conversion type.

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    2. Nick, the Called to Communion site is, among other things, a very slickly-produced marketing campaign that's designed to attract and pick-off stray Reformed people. There are PhD's on staff, who make very winsome [though deadly] arguments.

      Imagine if there were a Protestant website devoted to picking off dissatisfied priests. Don't you imagine there might be one or two here or there. Couldn't we crow about that once in while?

      As it is, your comment here is as derisive (if not moreso) of the workaday Roman Catholics who do leave because, lacking theological sophistication, they just find the glory of the Gospel, and are happy to remain anonymous and serve the Lord in good faith. The Pew poll said that about half the people who leave Rome leave for that type of reason.

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    3. John,

      Truth and the Gospel are more important than 'winning' arguments. If Rome is really a satanic institution, then there should be CTC equivalent focused on saving Catholics. But there isn't, and that's because the right Catholic arguments can run circles around Protestantism. One example: the word Logizomai. Protestants fear it. I'm still waiting for a Protestant to come give me a knock-out blow by turning my Logizomai case against me. But I know it's kryptonite to you guys, so my confidence remains unshaken. There's no Protestant equivalent to that kind of apologetic. So the "glory of the Gospel" that these ex-Protestants are finding is surely not one based on personal study.

      Even Protestant seminaries are no match for the sophistication and wisdom of any well read Catholic layman. Case in point, the Ecumenical Councils are so plainly anti-Protestant that the Protestant Seminaries have to teach abbreviated versions. It becomes nothing but a slippery slope into anti-intellectualism.

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    4. Nick -- Rome has neither Truth nor Gospel. They have clever arguments, plus that old rule "when I see a contradiction it's my eyesight that must be wrong, because Rome is right".

      You certainly live in a world of your own imagining. I'm too busy to be fearing your Logizomai thing because I'm too busy quaking in my boots, waiting for James White to convert, because then I know that if he does, I'll have to go "back home" too, and I'm too much of a rebel to do anything like that without kicking and screaming.

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    5. White will convert when he confronts Logizomai, which is simply the Bible on its own terms. His two books defending Protestantism from Catholicism gloss over Logizomai in a totally embarrassing fashion, implicitly conceding the Catholic case. The proof of what I'm saying is in the pudding, as you fill not find any Protestant apologists or scholars addressing Logizomai. This kind of stuff really energizes me as a Catholic, because I see the plain truth with arguments like Logizomai and how Protestants rush to hide from it.

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  11. Nick6/08/2012 1:03 PM

    "(1) There is no such thing as an intelligent and informed conversion from Catholicism to Protetantism."

    That's just a tendentious expression of your Catholic chauvinism.

    "That's why there is a sort of celebrity status associated here."

    The papacy is the ultimate cult of celebrity.

    "...there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism. Either the person was saved in the first place or they never were."

    Which is precisely what Calvinists say about apostates–they were never saved in the first place. Calvinism distinguishes between regenerate believers and nominal believers. It also differentiates backsliders from apostates.

    BTW, I'm not commenting on Stellman's spiritual condition, just responding to Nick on his own terms.

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    1. Steve,

      It certainly does come off as Catholic chauvinism, and the only reason why it isn't is because the Catholic side has the fullness of truth. It's the same reason why most pagans today consider Jesus and Christianity chauvinist.

      I fully understand Calvinism distinguishes regenerate backslider from (nonelect) unregenerate. The problem is that's a purely subjective judgment call and thus why it amounts to no assurance at the end of the day.

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  12. "The problem of Assurance is totally debunked. People here and elsewhere are using terms like "apostasy" without thinking twice that there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism. Either the person was saved in the first place or they never were. Now with Jason, the question the Reformed are too uneasy to ask is "Was Jason saved in the first place?" If "yes," then no apostasy happened, he's just on a interdenominational sabbatical living in sin for an indefinite time. If "No," then you must conclude he was either deluded or malicious this entire time, and accusing him of either of those will not preserve your credibility."

    Hi Nick,

    I don't have any problem with either the paradigm that Rev. Stellman has left the visible church by his denial of sola fide and sola scriptura, or that he is in a period of rebellion but has true faith nonetheless. The simple fact of the matter is that none of us has the ability to look into his heart. If his church excommunicated him (I have not followed the specifics of his case), while I don't know their procedure, I would assume it would be similar to the church I belong to (see articles 51-66 of the URCNA Church Order). There are actually guidelines for such situations. This of course would require you to actually do a little research before tapping away a comment over here. More often than not, your comments demonstrate an unfamiliarity with the subject matter you're commenting on.

    I don't see at all how such damages Reformed credibility.

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    1. I'm speaking on the subject of Assurance itself, not some man-made procedures that carry no authority or bearing outside a small umbrella of Protestants. I'm talking about evaluating Assurance on its own terms and seeing it's purely subjective. This holds whether you're speaking of Jason or yourself.

      Where things get even more convoluted is when it comes to appointing pastors in Reformed churches, because since you cannot read their heart you cannot know if they're regenerate. If they're not regenerate, then they cannot be a true pastor.

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    2. Nick

      "It certainly does come off as Catholic chauvinism, and the only reason why it isn't is because the Catholic side has the fullness of truth."

      You prop up one tendentious assertion with another tendentious assertion. At least you're consistently irrational.

      "I fully understand Calvinism distinguishes regenerate backslider from (nonelect) unregenerate. The problem is that's a purely subjective judgment call and thus why it amounts to no assurance at the end of the day."

      i) You're shifting gears. You originally said: "...there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism. Either the person was saved in the first place or they never were."

      Since that claim went down in flames, you're substituting a different objection.

      ii) Your new objection is confused on its own grounds. Since assurance, like faith, is a psychological state, it's naturally "subjective." So what? Mental states can correspond to objective realities.

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    3. Steve,

      My claim that there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism never went down in flames. In Calvinism, one cannot be apostate in the soteric sense.

      On the issue of Assurance, I contend that there isn't a single "objective reality" a Calvinist can appeal to. (Hat tip to John Calvin for teaching us about Evanescent Grace.)

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    4. Nick

      "My claim that there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism never went down in flames. In Calvinism, one cannot be apostate in the soteric sense."

      You're just defining apostasy in Catholic terms. Not only does that beg the question, but it's beside the point. You originally said "...there is no such thing as apostasy in Calvinism."

      But that involves defining apostasy in Calvinist terms. Yet apostasy, as Calvinism defines it, is entirely consonant with Calvinism. In Calvinism, a believer can lose his faith, but not his salvation. If he dies in unbelief, then he was never elect, redeemed, or regenerate in the first place. He was just a nominal believer all along. That's not internally inconsistent with Calvinism. That would only be inconsistent as Catholicism defines apostasy. All you've done is to illustrate the fact that Calvinism isn't Catholicism.

      "On the issue of Assurance, I contend that there isn't a single "objective reality" a Calvinist can appeal to. (Hat tip to John Calvin for teaching us about Evanescent Grace.)"

      i) Sure there is. Election, regeneration, and regeneration are three objective realities. God will save all, and only those, who are elect, redeemed, and regenerate.

      ii) Catholicism has "evanescent grace." Sacramental grace is evanescent grace. Sacramental grace is resistible grace. Sacramental grace can be lost. You're burning your fingers on your own matches.

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    5. I'm defining apostasy in a logical fashion, according to its etymology, meaning to abandon the faith. If one never had faith to begin with, they cannot abandon it. The Calvinist version of apostasy is akin to getting excommunicated from a denomination one was never actually a member of. As for you saying in Calvinism "a believer can lose his faith," that's simply false; it's outside the power of the believer to do that, and would render the absurdity of a "saved unbeliever". Don't tell me I understand Calvinism better than you.

      On the issue of Assurance: (a) there's no objective or tangible criteria to tell YOURSELF if you are elect or regenerate, that's the point I've asserted this entire time; (b) Evanescent grace is not Sacramental nor resistible grace, rather it is 'delusional grace' that God gives to make a non-elect THINK they are elect.

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    6. Nick

      "I'm defining apostasy in a logical fashion, according to its etymology, meaning to abandon the faith."

      That's a classic semantic fallacy. Theological terms are often technical terms, with a specialized meaning. That's not something you can deduce from etymology.

      And you don't even grasp the nature of language. Meaning is assigned to words. Theological terms mean whatever a theologian or religious community assigns to the word.

      "If one never had faith to begin with, they cannot abandon it."

      You keep illustrating your chronic inability to follow even the simplest argument. Did I say the apostate never had "faith"? No. So your denial is irrelevant to what I said.

      Rather, I said he was a nominal believer. Try to master elementary concepts.

      "As for you saying in Calvinism 'a believer can lose his faith,' that's simply false; it's outside the power of the believer to do that."

      Well that's a lovely non sequitur. Even if faith or the loss thereof is "outside the power" of the nominal believer, that hardly entails that he can't lose it. Rather, that means keeping or losing it lies outside his power.

      People can lose many things that lies outside their power to keep. Indeed, that's frequently why they lose things. If it lay within their power to keep something, they would.

      You're incapable of the most rudimentary logic.

      "...and would render the absurdity of a "saved unbeliever". Don't tell me I understand Calvinism better than you."

      Another hopelessly obtuse statement of yours. What did I say? I said "If he dies in unbelief, then he was never elect, redeemed, or regenerate in the first place."

      So I explicitly excluded the possibility of a saved unbeliever. Why are you so dense?

      "On the issue of Assurance: (a) there's no objective or tangible criteria to tell YOURSELF if you are elect or regenerate, that's the point I've asserted this entire time."

      Saving grace is objective. It has a divine source. Outside the Christian. The effect can be "subjective," but the cause is objective.

      "Evanescent grace is not Sacramental nor resistible grace, rather it is 'delusional grace' that God gives to make a non-elect THINK they are elect."

      Even in Catholic theology, Catholics can labor under the illusion that they are in a state of grace, when–in fact–they are in a state of mortal sin.

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    7. Nick the brick said:

      "I'm defining apostasy in a logical fashion, according to its etymology, meaning to abandon the faith. If one never had faith to begin with, they cannot abandon it."

      1. Etymological definitions aren't necessarily the same as biblical ones. To begin with, the English word apostasy doesn't perfectly capture the meaning of koine Greek terms like aphistemi or apostosia.

      2. That's a tendentious definition. For example, Catholics might consider apostasy as falling away from the Roman church itself, Arminians as falling away from genuine salvation, Calvinists as falling away from an external adherence to Christianity, and Jews as failing to keep a religious covenant. Each position has its supporting argumentation, which in turn depend in part on other varied theological structures like one's soteriology, the debate over predestination, etc.

      "The Calvinist version of apostasy is akin to getting excommunicated from a denomination one was never actually a member of"

      By the way, Calvinism isn't isolated to a single denomination. There are Presbyterians, Baptists, Southern Baptists, Anglicans, CRCs, and many others who would consider themselves Calvinists.

      "As for you saying in Calvinism 'a believer can lose his faith,' that's simply false; it's outside the power of the believer to do that, and would render the absurdity of a 'saved unbeliever'."

      This might be in accordance with your own perception of Reformed theology, but it isn't consonant with actual Reformed theology. For example, why don't you check out how a Reformed scholar would exegete 2 Timothy 2 including verse 13 ("if we are faithless, he remains faithful")?

      "Don't tell me I understand Calvinism better than you."

      1. Okay, I won't. You certainly don't understand Calvinism better than Steve. All the evidence is available for people to read in this very thread to see you don't understand Calvinism better than Steve. I can simply point to your comments in this thread and people can see you don't understand Calvinism better than Steve. Show, and they can tell you don't understand Calvinism better than Steve.

      2. What's more, I'd argue based on your performance in this thread (not to mention other past posts on Triablogue) that you don't understand Catholicism better than Steve either. But that's another topic for another day.

      "there's no objective or tangible criteria to tell YOURSELF if you are elect or regenerate"

      So you say, but you don't show. Why don't you interact with something like this for starters rather than making unsubstantiated assertions?

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  13. "He's certainly been a heavy-weight in the Reformed blog-world." << On what planet?

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  14. "On the issue of Assurance: (a) there's no objective or tangible criteria to tell YOURSELF if you are elect or regenerate, that's the point I've asserted this entire time; (b) Evanescent grace is not Sacramental nor resistible grace, rather it is 'delusional grace' that God gives to make a non-elect THINK they are elect."

    Now this is an irony: A Roman Catholic is trying to help out a bunch of befuddled Calvinists on assurance of salvation. Let's pretend for a moment that Nick has a clue about Reformed theology. Let's also pretend that Nick's insight into "assurance" for Calvinism is correct. Nick would therefore be criticizing his own Romanism as well:

    Ludwig Ott: “The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for achieving justification.”

    Yes, let's all swim over to Romanism, where "assurance" is wonderfully given. Thanks Nick, but I'll pass.

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  15. Let's pretend for a moment that Nick has a clue about Reformed theology. Let's also pretend that Nick's insight into "assurance" for Calvinism is correct.

    James, this is a tall order. To do this, we would need an imagination and an ego that are just as big as Nick's. No one but Nick himself seems to be able to pull that off.

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