Now, on to our subject for today: Jason Stellman’s abandonment of justification sola fide, and the doctrine of sola scriptura.
For those of you not of the Reformed and Presbyterian stripe, this is the latest “controversy” to rock our little corner of the broader Christian swimming pool. Pastor Stellman was the pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church, is the author of Dual Citizens, and prosecuted Dr. Peter Leithart for holding views of baptism that were beyond the pale of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Several weeks ago, he posted his “Farewell Letter” over at his blog Creed Code Cult, and the blog’s combox has exploded with comments, most of which coming from the Reformed side of things fall into the “decidedly nasty and unhelpful” category. Most of the comments from the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox side of things tend to be gloating. Neither reaction is terribly helpful.
Our response to this should be heartbreak and honesty. Heartbreak for Jason, his family, and the members of Exile Presbyterian Church. Jason has taken an absolute flogging on the blogs for his decision to leave the Presbyterian Church in America, and apparently all of Protestantism generally considered, for something else entirely. It remains to be seen whether that will be the Church of Rome, or one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. I can only imagine the sense of “unrealness” that Jason’s family has to be experiencing, along with their own heartbreak at the responses, many of which are just plain cruel, that Jason is getting to his decision. Then there’s his church, Exile, which is, by all accounts, weathering this storm pretty well, but still experiencing confusion at the loss of their pastor.
But in all of this we must be honest.
I cannot and do not agree with Jason’s statement that there is “a much more biblical paradigm for understanding the gospel” than justification by faith alone. From the perspective of any honest Protestant, this is an abandonment of the gospel. I cannot, and will not, be dishonest with my readers on this point, or on the following one: I stand by the form of the Westminster Confession of Faith prior to it’s revision in 1903 that declares the pope to be Antichrist (and we don’t mean this in the nutty, Left Behind sort of way). I believe and confess that with the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Roman Catholicism fell into apostasy, and cannot be considered, on the whole, a true church.
This is not to say that there are not Christians within Rome’s pale; I believe there are. It is to say that I believe these Christians have not attached themselves to a true church, in the sense that the term is used in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession of Faith. Jason’s case, however, is quite different, because he is leaving behind the true church for one that is apostate, and is consciously abandoning justification by faith alone, and in doing so, he is embracing “another gospel”. In my mind, this places the state of Jason’s soul in a precarious position, at best.
I will be honest in another regard, as well. I admire Jason as a man of integrity. Like all elders in the PCA, when Jason was ordained, he vowed before God that he
sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,
and moreover, that
if at any time I find myself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine I will, on my own initiative, make known to my Presbytery the change which has taken place in my views since the assumption of this ordination vow.
Jason saw clearly, after examining his own changing beliefs and talking with respected mentors, that his own views had passed beyond the boundaries of the Confession of Faith adopted by his church, and that his views were now out of accord with the fundamentals of that system. He notified his Presbytery and stepped down.
It was the right thing to do.
So to Jason, should he ever read this, I say this: I am praying for you and for your family, and thank you for keeping your word. I can’t imagine what your going through at the moment, but your ministerial integrity in regard to your ordination vows, are truly a beautiful thing to behold.
- Stellman, Leithart, and Wilson (greenbaggins.wordpress.com)
- Stellman and Hahn (livingtext.wordpress.com)
- Jason Stellman Resigns from the Presbyterian Church in America (apologus.wordpress.com)