On the Upside

James White takes an I-told-you-so pose in the face of Jason Stellman’s post about how difficult life as a Roman Catholic convert has been. On the one hand, Jason seems to have no sense for how he comes across. First, he was surprised that his Chamber of Commerce posts on behalf of his new religious hometown would strike those in his old Protestant neighborhood as infuriating. Why not simply follow your conscience and shut up about it? Now he also provides his former co-religionists with an excuse for grandstanding. (Hey, wait a minute. Maybe Jason was playing the tempter. Pretty clever.)

On the other hand, White does not refuse the temptation but decides to gloat:

Rome never satisfies. It can’t. All the pomp and circumstance, all the liturgical fanfare, can never truly answer to the true needs of man. Since Rome has abandoned the gospel of grace and replaced it with a synergistic man-centered sacramentalism, she will never be able to offer to men anything but distractions, never true answers, to his real need. . . .

When it comes to Jason Stellman, I know one thing: I warned him, clearly, passionately, without question.

Actually, Mr. White, if you read Jason’s post, how can you say that Roman Catholicism doesn’t satisfy when Jason affirms explicitly that it does? And how can you, Mr. White, make it seem as if adversity for religious convictions is somehow a vindication of sola gratia? After all, didn’t our Lord say:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 10:34-39)

But there is a silver lining here for Protestants who don’t spiritualize everything and turn a blind eye to human suffering. It is that Jason must have been a heck of a Presbyterian pastor:

. . . I am denied entrance into the church I planted (where my family still attends on Sundays) — I wasn’t even allowed to attend the Christmas Eve service last year and just sit and sing the hymns. To most of my old Calvinistic friends I am simply a traitor to the gospel.

That sounds pretty rough and Jason’s original cheerleading for Rome likely accounts for some of this roughness, though I am only speculating. But that sort of resolve on the part of Jason’s family and former congregation, as painful as it is for him, is likely a tribute to his ability to minister the word and cultivate in both his family and congregants a commitment to what the Bible teaches. Is it any consolation to Jason that he was seemingly a successful Protestant pastor?

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122 thoughts on “On the Upside

  1. Maybe the message is that the presbyterian system (book of church order & confessional documents) works when adhered to — even in sometimes-loose PCA fashion. Maybe even average churches and members can get it and benefit from it. Too bad White’s “Reformed” baptist brethren lack the full benefits of biblical church government.

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  2. “Catholicism is true, even though I don’t like it. Catholicism is true, even if embracing it has been an unmitigated disaster.”

    “Humanly speaking,” it’s too bad that Jason has forgotten the about comfort of the Gospel.

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  3. But the more it hurts, the better it is.

    Flagellants ftw.

    Snark aside, while I sympathize with Jason’s pain at a human level, at a theological level I’m glad some protestants are able to say, “We do not agree, and that is a problem.” Rome in recent decades (post Vatican II) generally lacks the stomach for this sort of thing.

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  4. Probably most tragically, many converts to RCism (although it seems more prominent among converts to EO) experience just how deep-set the tribalism really is.

    Apparently being a convert is all you will be known for – even two years later, in Jason’s case.

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  5. You have to wonder about the practical advice Jason was given by the crew that encouraged him in his conversion. Did he get stars in his eyes and think he was going to be the next Scott Hahn?

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  6. I have to say that not allowing Jason in worship (if true) reeks of the Baylys banning any commenter who disagrees with them in the name of protecting the flock. If the flock is that easily taken in by “X” what are you going to do, ask the flock to move in with you so you can protect them 24/7/365?

    If what we believe is true we should feel free to take on all-comers, any time, any place. This is what sets us apart from the JW’s, the Baylys, the Callers, all of the theological knuckleheads out there.

    Sitting in the pews with his family is not preaching from the pulpit.

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  7. I’m pretty sure I would rather spend the night alone In a Hotel Six with Jason than Reformed Baptist Elder White.

    I know I would rather hang out in the hotel bar with Jason.

    If we set aside the allegedly sinister motives this is a disagreement about authority. We can be adult about it.

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  8. A very sad and painful situation indeed. But Dr. White is correct that Mr. Stellman is a traitor to the biblical gospel, and he is right in pointing out to Mr. Stellman that apostasy from the gospel has serious consequences (Gal. 1:8-9 comes to mind). Jason seems focused on his temporal losses (which are indeed real and sad), but he should be even more concerned about the spiritual and eternal loss of which he is in danger.

    May God in sovereign mercy see fit to bring Mr. Stellman to repentance for his scandalous sin and a recantation of the Romish error he has embraced, and may Mr. Stellman once again come to embrace the forgiveness and comfort found in the true gospel of sola fide.

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  9. @Erik But doesn’t Paul give pretty stern instructions about not associating with an unrepentant sinner who claims to be a Christian (have nothing to do with them). Is rejecting the reformed faith and going to mass sinful? It does seem a bit harsh to ban him from corporate worship, but I see where they are coming from (your pastor tells you that everything you believe is hooey and then wants to come back and enjoy the singing?).

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  10. Stellman’s post struck me as one long humblebrag…Look how spiritual I am, I have impoverished my family and have been to 150 masses all by myself (sniff, sniff) – all for the sake of the truth.

    Curious that he had this to say a few posts back about protestant excommunication,

    This is why we don’t really hear of Protestants being “excommunicated” from their denominations these days, nor do we ever hear that their salvation is in jeopardy. Instead, it’s more likely that we hear an excommunicated individual simply shrugged off his old leaders and went off and either joined another denomination or started up his own, while the old leaders stand by, powerless to stop him.

    This seems to be obviously untrue in his case, no? Perhaps he can flip his acumen for burning strawmen into a paying gig?

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  11. Doo-doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo
    (repeat twice)
    Doo-doo-doo-doo doooooo

    Hart and White’s just alright with me
    Hart and White’s just alright oh yeah
    Hart and White’s just alright with me
    Hart and White’s just allllllight

    I don’t care what Curt may say
    I don’t care what Dave may do
    I don’t care what Bryan whines
    Hart and White’s just alright

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  12. As Presbyterian & Reformed Churches do we have a new policy of not allowing Roman Catholics in our worship services that I didn’t know about? If the issue is that Jason could talk to someone about Catholicism when he was there, could he not also call them, e-mail them, Facebook them, etc.? And if he did try to proselytize at a Presbyterian church (not likely), could the person not politely say they don’t want to talk about it? It seems like an overreaction and makes us look mean.

    Ask yourself this, do we accept Roman Catholic baptisms?

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  13. Erik,

    In cases like this there is usually more to the story than is being expressed by one party. Wise to trust the local session at this point.

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  14. A congregation’s former pastor who has (rather noisily) renounced the faith of that congregation would create an instant and unavoidable spectacle. The church session clearly has the prerogative to keep him away and he should absolutely understand that. Even former pastors who have a left a congregation on good terms should be wise and judicious about their attendance at their old congregation. People are people and sheep are sheep — easily distracted and confused. Any decent session would take the same action.

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  15. sdb,

    I’ll read the excommunication article later. My goal with Jason would get to the place we can dialogue. Unlike the Callers, he’ll admit that there are a lot of things within Catholicism that are all wet. Once things settle down he might honestly reconsider what he’s done. If Presbyterian & Reformed people treat him like crap, that becomes less likely. I do still think that there’s a good chance that he ends up in atheism/agnosticism, however, like Christian, since I think he became Catholic for the wrong reason.

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  16. And Jason’s Xmas Eve Nightmare just proves that Xmas is a family — not a church — holiday, and is best celebrated privately. No need for special church services on the non-holy day.

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  17. Erik, I think you’re theoretically right about being open to all (especially one who could only benefit from exposure to the gospel). On the other concrete hand, this was no ordinary member and one who should have enough sense to understand that his presence could only be a distraction. Plus what Todd says.

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  18. sdb, having said that, it’s true what Paul says, but isn’t it possible to maintain a sober warning and decent treatment of a disobedient son? Or do the Anabaptists get Paul more right with informal shunning than the Reformed do with formal discipline?

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  19. Erik, I’ve see no evidence that any P&R people have treated Jason badly. From what I hear dozens of professors and elders spent hundreds of hours counseling, meeting with, and listening to him.

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  20. Todd,

    You (and Chortles) may be right about there being additional circumstances. If so, Jason needs to be honest about that when he tells that story if he is aware of what they are.

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  21. One thing I sense Jason is struggling with is the sense that he is an “outsider” in Catholicism and will remain an outsider — culturally and certainly vocationally. He talks in a way as if no one from the Church is listening, and it’s true. His shepherds probably have little idea who he is and certainly are not keeping tabs on him in his day-to-day life. It’s numerically impossible for them to do so. Catholicism is certainly a faith in which it’s easy to go through the motions, anonymously (similar to megachurch evangelicalism). Not very satisfying, though.

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  22. DGH it’s 21 years without the playoffs here, fully deserved.

    And no end in sight.

    Worst drought in MLB now…

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  23. @z No idea. I’m not sure how anabaptists work or how a reformed church should deal with a “notorious and unrepentant sinner” who wants to hang out with the fam at church. A special case I guess. But that question is way above my pay grade… fortunately for all concerned!

    @EC You make really good points. Whether JS’s church made the right call, you are right about how he should be treated.

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  24. Chortles,

    No kidding. Good things these guys have an infallible interpreter to sort all this out for them after he gets done posing for pictures and playing to the media.

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  25. D.G. Hart: “Geoff, I wonder if Jason and the Callers think that way about us Protestants. I wonder if their bishops do.”

    I’m sure some of them probably do, though as you have often demonstrated, post-Vat. II Roman theologians and thinkers can be rather squishy postmodernist types. They’re much more ecumenical and tolerant and willing to smoke the interfaith peace-pipe with Prots. than were their Tridentine forebears (who, when in power, were much more prone to “smoke” their Prot. counterparts in a very different way — on the stake). Nonetheless, so what if they feel the same way about us? If our Confession of Faith and understanding of the gospel be biblical, they’re wrong and we’re right. What matters is not what we think is true or what the Callers think is true, but what is, in fact, true (biblically speaking).

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  26. I understand leaving/abandoning protestant fundamentalism for an earthier piety in RC. I would. I don’t understand leaving for the CIP of the formerly Prot-fundies turned RC- fundies. The whole point was to leave fundy-world, not double down with the great OZ behind the curtain, who is barely aware of your very existence and is pretty convinced, if you do exist, that you and yours(rad-trad RC’s) are part of the problem.

    My new boss is a lapsed cradle RC and he and I could live, breath and have our being among practicing RC’s a lot more readily than Cross and lemmings. Vat II really did happen. I know Jason , Bryan and crew missed all of it and wish it would go away, but, it ain’t happening. BTW, for you American RC converts, the pope and cabal in Rome never have thought much of the American RC’s, outside of being a cash cow, get ready for a lot of their backside and remaining your newly miserable self in the pew for the ordinary form. You’re welcome. Us Vat II cradles, had a hand in your new practice. If the internet weren’t a thing, would Prot-RC’s be a ‘thing’ ? I doubt it. Sister Angelica never was big on ‘dialogue’.

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  27. DGH: Why not simply follow your conscience and shut up about it?

    BL: I think this is really the key. The family situation is tragic, and we should weep and pray for our departed brother. But Jason knows that his inability to lead his family in a common confession of the faith disqualifies him from holding a position of teaching or authority in the church. Yet he propped himself up as a poster-boy convert who was conscience-convicted to take the pope at his word. My hope and prayer for him post-conversion was that he would learn wisdom and go dark and tend to his family’s faith, and get that straight before he unburden himself for all the digital world to see.

    For those of you swayed by Jason’s conversion story — surely you’re not reading this blog, but if you are — how credible is his conversion if he was unable to lead his family to the same conclusion? These words sound harsh as I write them, but they have to be said. They may end up with him in the Roman communion, which may give them more temporal happiness. But until they do, why should this man’s words compel those half a world a way when they can’t compel those who know him best? (And so much for the family values of the Romanists who promote his divided family on their blog).

    This seems like the biggest blind spot. It doesn’t add up. It’s not too late. Unplug from Facebook, live your life. You get it all sorted out, come back and tell us the story. I’ll listen. But until then Jason’s credibility should be zero.

    [And as DGH so aptly points out, he should know better than to weep tears because his former church is following through on the convictions he instilled in them. It seems absolutely prudent and faithful to protect the flock from a former shepherd who has been revealed as a wolf.]

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  28. A few in my life became RC, have gone to the cilice or other hair shirt, live in a cell after they come home from work and are deadly serious about their piety.

    They didn’t believe they were superstar material two seconds after announcing their conversion. The last thing they would do is waste time on the internet whining in a very unmanly exhibitionist portrait of their struggles

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  29. Personally-speaking I can understand the pull of Rome, at least at some level. Having grown up in a fairly conservative Episcopal parish, converted to Christ in high school through reading an evangelical book with a simple gospel presentation, going through a brief baptistic-charismatic phase in late high school & college, and finally settling into the Reformed Faith via the OPC, there is one thing I still miss from my Episcopal upbringing: weekly communion (and the rich, Scripture-based liturgy of the sacrament as found in the Book of Common Prayer).

    Of course, I am settled in my Reformed convictions and understand (and embrace!) the importance of the regulative principle. But if professedly Reformed and Presbyterian churches like the OPC and PCA want to stop losing some of their members and even ministers to Rome, maybe we should stop trying to worship like nondenoms, baptists and even charismatics. Methinks that if we consistently offered our people a serious-minded, Scripture-saturated liturgy, complete with well-thought-out, edifying written prayers, regular corporate confession of faith in the creeds, plenty of public Scripture reading, and weekly communion, we might just find fewer Scott Hahns and Jason Stellmans leaving our liturgically-impoverished evangelicalish-reformed churches for the liturgical perversions of Rome. The journey from Wheaton to Rome comes much easier for the liturgically-malnourished than the journey from Geneva to Rome (and many who think they are in Geneva are, in reality, still stuck in the Wheaton-land of eeevangelicalism, liturgically-speaking).

    Regarding weekly communion: Calvin believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the holy supper (though obviously not in a corporal or carnal sense), and advocated for weekly communion. Why would we Calvinists not want to follow Calvin’s example? Why do we try to “out-Zwingli” Zwingli himself when it comes to the sacraments? Why would we not want to sup with Christ on every Lord’s Day? And why do we think that doing so will somehow make communion less special (we don’t think the weekly sermon makes the preaching of the Word any less special, do we)? Why do our churches deny this vital means of grace to the sheep of Christ on a regular basis? Why do we insist on spiritually and liturgically malnourishing Christ’s flock by withholding the soul food of the sacramental word?

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  30. Yikes – the comments on Jason’s slave-narrative really got out of control. Once terms like “crypto-freemason” start getting thrown around, it’s time to shut ‘er down.

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  31. @Erik Charter

    “I have to say that not allowing Jason in worship (if true) reeks of the Baylys banning any commenter who disagrees with them in the name of protecting the flock.”

    You have drawn a false analogy. The Baylys ban those who disagree with them for lots of reasons, but mostly because they lack sufficient intelligence to defend their oftentimes ignorant positions.

    Without knowing the exact details of Stellman’s ban from Exile, I can safely say that he has marked himself as a wolf — not in sheep’s clothing — but a wolf plain & simple. He is a wolf in the sense that he is a false teacher; he is a wolf in the sense that he is a flaming hypocrite; and he is a wolf in the sense that he has become a serial liar who can’t keep his story straight from one day to the next — and as such the elders have an affirmative responsibility to protect their flock from him. Moreover, his reckless & irresponsible actions, which demonstrate frightening mental & emotional instability, have brought untold harm on those he once pastored, and that’s another reason to quarantine him from the flock because no one can possibly know what attention-grabbing act he’ll do next in order to inflict more pain on the sheep.

    Make no mistake: Even though JS regularly modifies his narrative to strangely and coincidently always paint himself as the lone heroic martyr — God’s last witness who boldly stands for truth (as you can see in his most recent post — in fact, I weep as I think about his courage; can someone please hand me a Kleenex), he is a textbook case of a man whom the Lord Jesus called “twice the son of hell” (Matt. 23:15), and the elders of the church he once served would be guilty of profound dereliction of duty if they did not ban him from the premises. Until, that is, he brings forth fruit worthy of repentance.

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  32. Zrim: Geoff, mostly ding ding, though I doubt your prescription would have much affect on a Stellman who was already practicing those things. Sometimes it’s just more mysterious than rational.

    GW: Good point, Zrim. What I proposed was not a magical prescription that would work in each and every case. Obviously as Calvinists we know it is ultimately only God’s sovereign grace that preserves His elect in the truth of the gospel, not our liturgical practice, no matter how biblically, historically and confessionally faithful. No doubt some are attracted to Rome for non-rational reasons, such as the aesthetic appeal (see “Evangelical Is Not Enough” by Thomas Howard, the brother of Elizabeth Elliot who converted to Romanism) and the sense of mystery it offers. (Idolatry can produce some great art and architecture, humanly-speaking!) For others there are more personal and subjective reasons that influence their decision (for example, sometimes those who grew up in suffocating fundamentalist or sectarian homes and/or churches want to get as far away as possible from anything that even remotely resembles their religious upbringing, and you can’t get much further from fundamentalism than Roman Catholicism). But at the same time, I think if there were more confessional consistency and liturgical depth and uniformity within our confessional Presbyterian and Reformed communions, as well as more regular access to the holy supper, perhaps we would see fewer souls making shipwreck of their souls.

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  33. If Stellman had been a JW pastor and converted to the OPC/PCA and made a similar blog post with similar circumstances – would the following be said:

    “he is a wolf in the sense that he is a flaming hypocrite; and he is a wolf in the sense that he has become a serial liar who can’t keep his story straight from one day to the next”

    “Moreover, his reckless & irresponsible actions, which demonstrate frightening mental & emotional instability…no one can possibly know what attention-grabbing act he’ll do next in order to inflict more pain on the sheep.”

    “The last thing they would do is waste time on the internet whining in a very unmanly exhibitionist portrait of their struggles”

    “how credible is his conversion if he was unable to lead his family to the same conclusion? ”

    “in fact, I weep as I think about his courage; can someone please hand me a Kleenex),”

    “Stellman’s post struck me as one long humblebrag…Look how spiritual I am, I have impoverished my family and have been to 150 masses all by myself (sniff, sniff) – all for the sake of the truth. ”

    “Tell that to Stellman with his “O how I the mighty have fallen” spiel, JASitek.”

    But at least there’s no gloating like White – huzzah. (Good post btw Darryl – you and some of the solid regulars commenting here aren’t foaming at the mouth like others)

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  34. One more follow-up thought on weekly communion: If the Lord’s Supper is viewed as a vital means of grace whereby the believer really does commune with the Body and Blood of Christ (not corporally and carnally, but Spiritually – through the Holy Spirit and by faith) and thus have his/her union and communion with Christ strengthened and soul fed, instead of viewing it as a mere memorial which serves only to bring Christ’s death for our sins to mental remembrance; and if the Lord’s Supper were observed on a weekly basis; then perhaps the threat of “excommunication” (by which an unrepentant, sinning church member is denied access to the privilege of the holy supper) and church discipline would be taken more seriously.

    Perhaps the reason why many seem not to take excommunication seriously is because we in the church don’t seem to take communion all that seriously.

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  35. I keep seeing “weep” above. And it’s common: “we should weep for…,” “I weep when…,” and “let us weep.” Has the spirit of Jeremiah descended upon us? Are you people really crying or is it just an expression to show you’re earnest? Cuz I say you should either really cry or retire the word.

    Friday grump Friday for the Mudster.

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  36. Geoff, believe it or not, we worship just that way in Hillsdale. More Scripture than I’ve yet encountered in a service. And we get the supper to boot (with some read prayers on the side). And yet for all that we have lost a member or two to Rome.

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  37. Geoff, agreed (though some might say Rome is just high church Fundamentalism). On communion, ding again, which is why it was odd for Alexander to suggest that weekly betrays some form of memorialism. Leave it to a token loving semi-revivalist.

    CvD, there would be a lot of remarks by Calvinists that resemble the Catholic ones on Stellman’s blog. And it would be just as annoying.

    Muddy, get out from behind my dry eyes.

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  38. Is it a common view amongst OPC/PCA that the congregation are all these helpless sheep? I mean, if I was in Stellman’s congregation and people kept saying we must keep him away from sitting near me because he “inflicts pain on the sheep” and I am “easily distracted and confused” and so we must be “quarantined” from him, I’d be a little resentful at being coddled like a toddler.

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  39. In joining my Reformed church I went thru over 40 hours of discussion and instruction and then made vows before the membership before welcome into membership

    This was after another 500 hours of reading of theology and instruction in the Reformed faith before finding a suitable church

    Most leave due to lack if interest in continuing. They couldn’t care less by the time they are excommunicated

    I have not seen one leave and fire off extremely prejudicial comments against the church like JS did

    Nonetheless I would shake his hand and sit with him if he came to my church. He just can’t participate in the sacraments without a little bit of soul baring before the elders behind closed doors.

    When they give the thumbs up he is back.

    So where are we going wrong…

    Taking vows before God seriously?

    Imposing discipline on members who where fully informed of the consequences of poor behaviour?

    Making sure the sacraments are guarded, with the rules fully stated, that are taken very seriously?

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  40. Chunk – ” The Baylys ban those who disagree with them for lots of reasons, but mostly because they lack sufficient intelligence to defend their oftentimes ignorant positions.”

    Hard to argue with that…

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  41. The more I reflect on the Baylys, the more similarities I see between them and Hollis & Selma Green in “Big Love”.

    Still the best show ever made on the sociology of religion.

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  42. CvD, you have a point, it’s sounds this side of over wrought. But oh the irony in the complaint from one under an authoritarian church that gives her members family planning orders.

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  43. Darryl,

    “foxy lady, does that point work the same way with pederast priests?”

    So different doctrinal beliefs is equivalent in kind to child abuse or other criminal behavior. Got it. A known militant atheist sitting next to me in church for whatever reason is not going “confuse and distract” my poor helpless mind like I’m some intellectual and emotional infant. Aren’t most of you guys anti-big government and nanny state? 2k indeed.

    “Also, why do you assume the congregation doesn’t support the ban?”

    Sure could be – but what if they didn’t? Would the elders be right to impose their views because the poor confused sheep obviously don’t know what’s best for them?

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  44. I was genuinely “pit in the stomach” sad at Jason’s announcement and for some time thereafter.

    So was I. For several years I had visited his blog as much as this one.

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  45. foxy lady, you mean that RC’s are just fine with pederast priests in their parishes except that they’ve broken the law? Or is it that the bishops really should protect the faithful from known violators no matter what the district attorney says?

    Why do you RC’s always make it doctrinal (as if)?

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  46. Jeff & David,

    I too was pit in the stomach sick. I was wrestling through these issues and a prof at WSCAL told me in 2012 (the year I graduated) to contact Jason because he’d gone through the some sorts of things I was going through. We had brief exchanges in the early spring of 2012 and to hear that he was stepping down in June of 2012 floored me.

    On the one hand I respect him because I think it is incredibly difficult to make a decision like this. I know he did what he believes is right. On the other hand, I’m disappointed because I really don’t think Jason asked the right questions and assumed a boat-load in order for him to be swayed.

    It’s a sad situation no matter how you slice it, and I think that people like James White would do better to pray for Jason’s repentance than to gloat about it on a blog. White undoubtedly wouldn’t see his actions as gloating–I’m just protecting the sheep!– but I concur with Dr. Hart that it appears to be grandstanding. At the very least, I pray for Jason’s family’s sake that he finds gainful employment.

    To the point about him not being able to attend services at Exile, well, I don’t think that is all that inappropriate. It would have been a major distraction in the worship service and even if I was in Jason’s shoes I wouldn’t publicly lament that I couldn’t go with my family to church. I can certainly empathize with Jason about not being able to worship with his family on Christmas Eve, but I think that Jason should consider the emotional and spiritual distress his decision put on the congregation. It was merely a year and a half after the fact, and Jason had taken publicly to his blog and at conferences discussing his conversion.

    Jason did not do anything necessarily wrong in these things (though I personally believe the speed at which it was done was imprudent), but I’m sure these things factored into the elders asking Jason not to attend. And on this point I’m speculating, but my guess is that the elders asked Jason not to come and it was not a situation where he was escorted out of the door when he appeared. I would assume that if Jason cam unannounced the elders would not bar him from entering the church, but they may not have been pleased.

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  47. Darryl,

    Be good to Cletus/James. He doesn’t yet realize that Rome has rejected tradition in favor of theological liberalism.

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  48. Brandon,

    That’s a good analysis.

    I’m at the point in life that not much floors me. To go all Bryan Crossity, nothing that Jason did does not fit into our paradigm (and that’s not putting Jason down). We affirm the doctrine of election, we affirm the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, we understand that those who are elect will persevere to the end, and we understand that many who appeared at one point to be elect will end up not persevering.

    We hear professions of faith and we take them at faith value, but we understand that whether or not those professions endure is out of our hands. Indeed, they are even out of the hands of those who make them.

    Jason could indeed come back before the end of his life. This is why we remain hopeful in spite of appearances.

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  49. Stellman, Dual Citizens–“In the evangelical mindset, the threshold through which a sinner-turned-saint passes is conversion, and this conversion is usually a cataclysmic and powerful experience. To believers from the Reformation tradition, on the other hand, this is not necessarily the case. While adults coming out of pagan backgrounds may indeed experience a seismic shift in loyalties, this is the exception rather than the rule. The Christian faith, normally speaking, is passed on from parents to children by means of infant baptism…” (p 79)

    mcmark–and after infancy, it’s nothing much but re-arranging the furniture. Which is why I tell other five point baptists that it’s better to hang out with Lutherans than with puritans or the pca or the denomination of Richard Gaffin….
    Tullian and Horton in their preaching have no more effective atonement for the elect than the Lutherans do….

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  50. Geoff–How credible is his conversion if he was unable to lead his family to the same conclusion….so much for the family values of the Romanists who promote his divided family on their blog

    Mark 10:29-30 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

    mcmark—Of course there would never be any conflict between family values and Christ, if all families were watered as infants. Water is thicker than blood if you give the water soon enough. But here this Jason guy became Reformed while still claiming to have already been a Christian before his family was covenantally watered. And why ask an evangelical questions when you don’t ask a person watered as a Roman Catholic infant and now seeking to become Reformed if one of his parents was Christian at the time?

    If only we could get back to the Abrahamic circumcision covenant and to Genesis 17, where family values come first and there is no division created between Ishmael and Isaac, and all Israel is still Israel…..And there is no individualism, no search for one believing parent because circumcision is required of all, or by law infants will be banished and cut off from the covenant. And faith in the gospel is also a good second step….

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  51. Mark raises a good point. Managing a family well is a biblical requirement for an overseer, doctrinal agreement may not be. If anything, demanding doctrinal agreement may encourage Reformed men to make sure everything looks neat & tidy vs. really seeking to have a warm, healthy relationship with his wife & kids regardless of where they are at spiritually at the moment.

    Beware of whitewashing, in other words.

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  52. And how long do we require doctrinal agreement by the wife & kids? Until age 18? Until they move out? Until they marry?

    Do we bar a man from serving because his 40-year-old daughter becomes a Penteocostal or a Roman Catholic? Is it his fault?

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  53. Stellman’s former session know their flock and they know Stellman. Their primary horizontal obligation is to their members. To second guess them from afar based on a cursory lamentation of Stellman’s is – and sorry for this brutal description – Twitterish.

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  54. Circumcision was not a sign of Ishmael’s faith. For Ishmael, circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant righteousness. Circumcision was a sign that Ishmael was commanded to believe the gospel. if Ishmael had not been circumcised, Ishmael would not have had any obligation to obey the law by faith. or to have believe in the gospel with works commanded by the law..

    In circumcision, God takes the initiative with Ishmael. God speaks favor to Ishmael in circumcision and Ishmael “could and should have” responded in faith to God’s wooing. If Ishmael had not been a covenant child , if Ishmael had not been circumcised, then Ishmael would have had to be banished from the household as one cut off from the covenant. But because Ishmael was circumcised, Abraham was able to be a faithful parent to Ishmael.

    Did Ishmael, possess any advantages by receiving the sign of circumcision? Was God’s goodness to Abraham heightened because of God’s grace also to Abraham’s son Ishmael? Does our “so great a salvation” terminate only upon atomistic individuals, or does our salvation include a promise of eternal life (or alternatively greater covenant curse than common condemnation) to our infants? .

    Is God less good to our children in this new administration than God was to Ishmael? If Ishmael was better off for receiving circumcision even if Ishmael ultimately perished, are our children (even if non-elect in the decree) better off for being watered? Was the sign given to help covenant children or hinder them? Denying our children water denies them a blessing from God. If you disagree that water is a blessing, then your problem with God commanding infants and Ishmael to be circumcised because you must agree that this circumcision was grace to Ishmael, even if circumcision did not result in Ishmael’s justification before God. That was not God’s fault but Ishmael’s fault, because circumcision was God’s grace and we know that.

    Because really the distinction between law and grace is not very useful, except when it comes to saying that circumcision was grace and not law. At that point the distinction is useful. And also when it comes to saying that Ishmael sinned against grace and not only against law. Ishmael was blessed with circumcision even if that did not work out for him having lasting life in the age to come.

    So the distinction between law and grace is not that useful, except maybe for talking about those born outside the covenant. As Mark Jones has explained, those not in the covenant cannot be commanded to believe the gospel. And those not in the covenant cannot be commanded to obey the law. Because obeying the law is finally not so very different from believing the gospel. And that’s why we must raised our infants under the gospel and not under the law.

    Because if we tell our infants that they are forgiven, then they are forgiven. And if we tell our infants that their works are good and acceptable to God, then indeed their works are good and acceptable to God. And if we don’t tell our children that they were born under grace then we would have to tell them they were born under the law, and in practical real life the distinction between under law and under grace is not that useful in parenting.

    So we tell our infants that they are born under grace and loved by God. and at least that way they are sinning against grace, and if they are not under grace there is nothing to tell them, because there can be no law if there is no grace. and when you think about it, law is grace and grace is law, at least for those in the covenant. Abraham was able to raise Ishmael in the covenant, and that is good because outside the covenant there is no such thing as law or sin.

    Galatians 4: 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”

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  55. Apologising in advance for commenting on the lives of people I don’t know, but truly feel sad for, is it not possible for Jason’s wife and family to go to another Protestant church that doesn’t have this complicated history with her husband? It’s hard enough being married when going through disagreement, public criticism, raising kids, finance troubles etc. without voluntarily spending a few hours a week hanging out with people who are deeply hostile to your spouse. I know it’s ‘their’ church, the kids would have friends there, they’re completely entitled to go there, but surely it’s not the only outpost of the kingdom of God in Seattle.
    Forgive me, Stellmans, it’s your business alone and no-one else’s.

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  56. Hmmm. How is it ‘just’ the Stellman’s business when he continues to promote it for public consumption? I’ve never understood the whole trajectory, ‘I’m wounded by the hateful arrows of those who are critical of my public pronouncements, decisions, polemic, apologetic and promotion’. I’m gonna help though, we need to push past the grief to some anger so we don’t languish in depression. Here’s some Johnny to pour fuel on the fire.

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  57. O.K., so if it’s true that Jason is banned from being in a worship service at his old church it’s because:

    (A) He’s a physical danger to someone

    (B) He’s a spiritual danger to someone

    (C) It would cause an uncomfortable situation

    Most likely the answer is (B) or (C). Who else are we allowed to ban from our worship services for those reasons? I’m talking attendance, not teaching.

    (1) Other Roman Catholics?

    (2) Members of Non-Christian religions?

    (3) Other former members who have left for non-NAPARC churches?

    (4) Other former pastors who have left for non-NAPARC churches?

    What would Jason have to do to be allowed back short of renouncing his conversion to Catholicism?

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  58. The thing I don’t buy is that “his conversion was upsetting to a lot of people”. No doubt, but lots of things are going to be upsetting to us as Christians. Other people are going to fall away, our spouses are going to die, our kids may die, we are going to die.

    To what degree do we take these things on full speed ahead and to what degree to we cower in fear against them?

    This is why I say we take on all comers. If our theology is right, it’s right and we win. If it’s not right, we have a reason to cower because eventually we’re going to be exposed as frauds.

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  59. I was never angered by the changing of sides. I was put off by the duplicitous behavior of grieving over leaving the PCA and the crisis it created within his church and family while simultaneously kickstarting an RC apologetic career, all the while polemicizing his former communion and positioning himself as part of the vanguard of all things rad-trad RC and CIP. I’ve forgotten more about his current communion than he’ll know in the next decade(like, ummm, Vat II happened and nothing will ever be the same) and his ‘gentile christian’ from Rom 2 (a big part of his supposed exegetical conviction for leaving protville) never, and I mean never, gets off the ground. It took about 10 minutes to work through the given reasons, which leaves us where it should’ve been from jump: sometimes people just do things apart from rational reasons and fueled by compulsions and impulses beyond even their own understanding. The most ‘true’ thing I heard him say was that he could believe in ‘magic’ again. Great. That at least fits the situation.

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  60. mark mcculley: “Geoff–How credible is his conversion if he was unable to lead his family to the same conclusion….so much for the family values of the Romanists who promote his divided family on their blog”

    GW: ?? Not sure why you ask me this question. But to offer an attempted reply: I can’t read Stellman’s soul (“the secret things belong to the LORD” and all that), but I will admit that even before his “conversion” to Rome his writing style struck me as somewhat odd. I just got the sense from reading his book and his blog that here was someone who was clearly very intelligent, but lacking in spiritual maturity and emotional stability, someone who seemed to be narcissistic and craving for attention. I knew it was wrong to judge motives harshly without good cause and so in my own mind I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and suppress such negative thoughts about him. (Plus, when you start psychoanalyzing someone’s motives the “it takes one to know one” objection can always be raised.) But now that he has gone over to Rome (after a rather sudden and rather public “conversion”) I tend to think my initial sense about him might have been quite accurate. Only God knows, and the Judge of all the earth will do right; but it would not surprise me if Stellman turns out to be exposed as a narcissitic opportunist who had hoped his dramatic “conversion” to Rome would elevate him to Catholic fame and career advancement (as it did in the case of Scott Hahn), but who now regrets that his plan didn’t turn out to get him the accolades for which he had hoped. In any case, to answer your question: Yes, I do question the credibility of his conversion, for the reasons mentioned above.

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  61. I’ll say this after “getting to know him better” through his podcasts — I’m a bit mystified as to why he wanted to be a Presbyterian minister, and I don’t mean that as a put down. He seems way more cut out to be a writer, maybe a professor, definitely a provocateur, but a pastor in a “conservative” Reformed denomination — I don’t see it. To be honest I don’t see it in myself either, although I do care about a lot of the things that pastors should care about.

    When looking at the PCA and how they appear to want to be cutting edge in a lot of ways — Transforming the City, leading the Gospel Coalition, Getting after every square inch — It might give them pause to see that there is a potential downside to ordaining mavericks like Stellman & Leithart in pursuit of those goals. In other words, be careful what you wish for.

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  62. For starters, any pastor that spends a lot of time blogging, commenting on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter, and probably even writing books (unless he’s in an academic position) probably needs to re-evaluate his priorities. He’s called to be a shepherd to the actual physical human beings in his church and to make at least some attempt to reach the unchurched in his immediate area. He frankly doesn’t have time for all of these other things that us working stiffs use as a diversion.

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  63. Speaking of the Baylys, I ran across a book by their dad, Joseph Bayly, today:

    “What About Horoscopes” by Joseph Bayly, 1970, David C. Cook Publishing Co., PB, 95 pages.

    Chapter titles include “Mediums Are In”, “Can Stars Foretell the Future?”, “Satanism”, “Thirteen Witches Make a Coven”, and “When Hell Broke Loose in Salem”.

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  64. Erik Charter: “For starters, any pastor that spends a lot of time blogging, commenting on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter, and probably even writing books (unless he’s in an academic position) probably needs to re-evaluate his priorities. He’s called to be a shepherd to the actual physical human beings in his church and to make at least some attempt to reach the unchurched in his immediate area. He frankly doesn’t have time for all of these other things that us working stiffs use as a diversion.”

    Good points Erik. Many of us who are Reformed pastors love our books, love our study, and love to write. All good things in themselves, and vital to effective ministry. But for bookish and introverted pastors (such as those of us OPCers tend to be) the temptation is to spend way too much time in the study, and too much time on internet discussions. Balance is the key, as is keeping our priorities straight; and if we love our books and our blogs more than Christ’s sheep, then you are right that we need to seriously re-evaluate our priorities.

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  65. Geoff,

    Generally the problems that are being solved online & the problems that are being solved in pastoral ministry are 180 degrees apart.

    Not a bad thing for laymen to keep in mind, too.

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  66. But unlike in my Calvinist days, the absolute last thing I think about doing when people criticize me on their websites is roll up my sleeves and offer a point-by-point response. Instead I just roll my eyes and worship Mary.

    See? They do worship Mary.

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  67. I like how it’s everyone else’s fault when he re-stokes the fire and is surprised that it’s still hot. “I was just minding my own, playing with the coals and throwing a little lighter fluid on it, and kaboom! What’s up with that? I’m just here trying to smoke my hookah and butter my perfectly round head and everyone else is an a-hole.” Recess was also good for those boys who thought they were clever and would try some ill-fated attempt at reverse-psychology or I’m jus’ sayin’.

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  68. For those with the good sense not to listen — latest Jasoncast has him agreeing with his co-host that we “hate” him and scorned presbyterians are second on the evil chart only to ISIS, and barely second at that. And that’s after only one drink.

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  69. This post is all about not gloating and not taking the I told you so argument. However, it is still my contention that those who find their security in how internally righteous they are (by the appropriated power of the infused Spirit by faith) can get subtly swayed into an evasive type of narcissism that is difficult to pin down and deal with and therefore gets dealt with by a mere slap of the hand. A good dose of sleeping in tents and on top of parking garages near shelters and among the homeless may do those types wonders. Maybe more teaching about the Gospel and less about their understanding of sanctification might help too. Blast away at me if you want- I got nothing more to lose. This may be my still inherent narcissist speaking, and I certainly may be wrong.

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  70. I’m just sayin, not blamin. I’m all for equal opportunity in regards to discipline and punishment. When I see the subtly self-righteous getting the same type of discipline as the obvious sinner than I’ll shut up. It ain’t gunna happen though. Not in this life anyways.

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  71. And for the second time claims he made six figures as a church plant pastor in the PCA. OPC pastors everywhere just choked on their yogurt.

    I find that really hard to believe. Just how big was Exile when he was a pastor anyway? I know Seattle has a higher cost of living than many areas, but it isn’t THAT much higher to produce that kind of salary unless, of course, Exile had hundreds of members, all of whom were well-paid Apple or Microsoft execs.

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  72. When I visited Exile it looked to be about 50-70 people and they rent a room in a strip mall type building, i.e. small potatoes (not that that’s bad).

    I’d rather spend the night in a Hotel 6 with Elder White and the ghost of Harold Camping than Eric Charter and Jason Stellman.

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  73. cw, has Jason really forgotten so soon, hate the sin, love the sinner? We hated his gloating, weren’t wild about his politics, and generally agreed with him on U2. But the man himself? Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

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  74. DG, that was just in the first 21 minutes of the latest podcast which runs 106 minutes. After several more drinks he might have gotten more or less lovey. Like many people being interviewed or working with a co-host friend he seems to agree almost reflexively with whatever is said.

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  75. CW – And for the second time claims he made six figures as a church plant pastor in the PCA

    How did they get so many Southern frat boys to move up to the Pacific Northwest?

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  76. John – “A good dose of sleeping in tents and on top of parking garages near shelters and among the homeless may do those types wonders.”

    What ever happened to vans by rivers?

    Not sure the shelter is working as intended when one is merely “near” it.

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  77. Erik,

    It is an improvement to live in a tent and on top of parking garages than in the shelters I have had to live at. You have more freedom if you can overcome the problems you encounter with changing weather. You don’t have to deal with the staff that runs the shelters- dig it?

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  78. In sports news, Dordt College, which has struggled mightily in the rugged GPAC Conference, picked up their annual win over Trinity Bible College on Saturday, 37-20. This is proof that when the Christian Reformed worldview proves inadequate to defeat RCA, Lutheran, Methodist, and secular colleges, there is always the lowly Bible College to take one’s frustrations out on.

    Does not apply to Baylor University.

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  79. To tell you the truth, Mr. Charter, I pretty much agree with everything you say and you say a lot. You have plenty of solid rips on JS but that you’d rather hang with him than James White, well I just had to say somepin. English much? meh

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  80. Come on. What’s the big idea? Why a post and comments that only add to fuel to the fire and stoke Jase’s insufferable suffer fest? The ‘woe is me of little riches, innernet adulation and much persecution for the truth’ paradigm/syndrome? The ‘pore baby’ narcissist/prima donna routine? (Yeah, we heard and duly noted the “attention whore” volunteered from the back of the room.)

    Nah, it can’t be because pilin’ on is fun.
    Maybe the egregious self righteousness has something to do with it, ya think? Not that it’s not endemic to the Roman POV which infallibly informs us based on the lost apostolic oracles that it is The church, unreformable and w.o. nary a hint of sin.

    After all here’s the guy for whom the rich young ruler trumps all when it comes to justifying the faith and works paradigm of Rome. That, when he’s not taking the exceptions and hypotheticals for the rule as in Rom. 2 or the law of faith of Rom. 3:27 (‘See, what did I tell you, salvation is of the law.’)
    Of the objections and answers to his arguments, the latter of which are on par with the depth of a flat screen tv – whether from Luther, Calvin, Perkins, the Dutch States General Bible or Cartwright on the Douay Rheims, Mr. Stellman is either ignorant or wilfully ignorant, neither one endearing positions for someone who aspires to shepherding sheep and leading them into all the truth as it is in Jesus.

    And while we might have thought an excommunicated person was allowed to attend a public worship, what business a presbyterian church has celebrating Christmas Eve certainly skews the matter. If they’re willing to celebrate uncommanded holydays, they already in principle you know whats, so maybe they wisely decided not to push their luck.

    As for JWhite, whatever. Jason certainly didn’t want to go talk to DT King. He knew better. White is ok, but he doesn’t want to talk about the sufficiency of Scripture WCF 1:2,6,8 when dealing with the Mormons and his book on KJOnlyism avoids the real issue of WCF1:8 and providential preservation, never mind interacting with Burgon, Scrivener and Robinson, the latter a contemporary fellow baptist who champions the Majority/Traditional/Byzantine text.

    In short, Vat. 2 notwithstanding, implicit faith is the swill to drink for those who hate to think critical thoughts about their beloved idolatrous paradigm. The more Jason worships that little piece of bread, the more his polemics – if that is what they are – resemble Pudge, the Pillsbury Doughboy.

    Yeah, it’s sad to watch a guy wilfully crash and burn, never mind his family, but he’s still the responsible actor. A hiatus is not an option for the head strong and hell bound.

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  81. Rubin,

    I only accept pomposity from those who can be pompous with a certain je ne sais quoi.

    Jason can pull this off, but so many in our movement (The Baylys, The Obedience Boys, all Neocalvinists except for Terry Gray) can not. So many in Jason’s movement (Bryan Cross and almost all those who sit at his feet) can not.

    I disagree with him on theology, but I just don’t think he’s a bad guy. He would be more fun to hang out with than all of the above. I stand by that.

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  82. Eric, me : Steely Dan
    Jason: The Decemberists
    J. White: John Denver

    Stellman’s an apostate which makes him a bad guy but whatever.

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  83. BobS said ” ya and the more Jason worships that piece of bread” Exactly, that idol will do funny things to a man. Cant anyone see that he is suffering inside because he isn’t comfortable with his decision and doesn’t know what to do. As long as he keeps adoring the bread t will only get worse. His apathy now is only the step to one’s knees. Unless it isn’t. Catholics give him encouragement because they are the people on halloween inviting you into the castle of dead people to have fun.

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