Friday, November 16, 2012

Response to Jason Stellman

On this week's program, I reviewed an interview with Jason Stellman. He is a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, and a former minister in the PCA. Listen to the program here.

You can go to Called to Communion to listen to the full interview.

Also, I have added a donate button to the contact page of my website. I am looking for some contributions to pay for a copyeditor for my upcoming wipf & stock book.


J. Dean said...

His answer regarding Romans 8 proceeds from a false assumption about the law. He seems to be assuming that the law has a salvific effect, when in truth it does not.

Anonymous said...


I did a post on him to a few months ago when he first announced this:

By the way, really appreciate your blog. I've found myself using a bunch of your insights and materials.


inga said...

Jordan, WOW ... what a coincidence ... just finished the Law & Love section of the Augsburg Apology ... and hearing Jason talk about law just like the scholastics before and during Luther's time.

Also, equally important. You mention that you believe Theosis (Eastern Orthodox) understanding is compatible with Sanctification (lutheran understanding). Just read the Epitome to the Formula of Concord, first chapter on SIN (first time reading), and it seemed to me NOT to be very compatible with EO understanind of sin. Sin to EO is like something that needs to be polished off, whereas for lutherans (I believe) it is intertwined with our nature (fully corrupted by sin). Am I oversimplifying things here ? (P.S. I also find the Church Fathers, apostolic, ante-, post-Nicene fascinating, and have some EO heritage in my family). Blessings. Gabriel

Jordan Cooper said...

Gabriel- that is a good observation. The comments that Stellman makes were pretty well refuted in the 16th century.

Regarding the issue of theosis, I realized after I said that in the program that I probably shouldn't have, due to the amount of explanation that sort of statement deserves.

You are right that an EO view of sin is not consistent with the Lutheran approach to sin's radical nature. However, I do think that there is a Lutheran form of theosis which can be gathered from the writings of Luther, the Confessions, and especially the Patristic tradition which is consistent with sola fide and the bondage of the will. Furthermore, I think Paul utilizes this concept. This doesn't completely follow the EO perspective on the issue (especially the emphasis on "cooperation within the Eastern tradition). More needs to be said than I can write here.

I plan on writing a lengthy article on Lutheran theosis sometime soon, and will be sure to let my readers know when it is available.

inga said...

Cool. Thanks for your response Jordan. I am sure you heard about the Finish school on New Luther (or what title they used) on their reading of Luther and theosis in his writings. I am not surprised, considering that BOTH Lutheran church and EO in Finalnd are equally influential in the public square.

I do understand the biblical verses the EO use to substantiate theosis ("partakers of the divine nature" Heb 1:4). What I appreciate the most in the EO is apophatic thinking (and also black theology).

About "cooperation" I believe even us Lutherans believe in our sanctification there is some kind of cooperation. God is the hand and we are the glove. We are the vessels of the Holy Spirit, we answer the door that Jesus knocks on to come in and dine with us (Rev. 3:20 verse abused by Evangelicals and used only during Revival meetings/conversion semons).

Speaking of "partakers" and "dine with us" why can't all Christians take the most direct and simple explanation (as Lutherans confess)... The Eucharist ? Why make it so complicated (as the EO do) or yank it out of its context (as Evangelicals/neoProtestants do)?

Nathaniel said...

Hello Jordan,
I found your comparison of the relative theological agreement among confessional protestants, vs. the diversity among Catholics, interesting but clearly skewed. You appear to be stacking the deck, by making the comparison between confessional protestants that still hold to their confessions and any Catholics, however kooky and far their views from the professed Catholic faith. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to compare those who faithfully hold to their confessions against those who faithfully hold to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example?

God bless and keep you,

p.s. the blog post tag "Romanism" is a typically derogatory term -- gets a visiting Catholic off on the wrong foot on your blog. Does Byzantine Catholicism count as Romanism?

Jordan Cooper said...


Thanks for taking the time to listen to my podcast. I appreciate your input. The primary point I was making when discussing the unity among Confessional churches (I don't prefer using the term Protestant for Lutheranism) verses the unity of faith within the Roman Catholic church is that Confessions of faith within churches that believe in sola scriptura prove to be more unifying than does an external magisterium. It's very often that I hear people defend the unity of the Roman Church based primarily upon its heierarchy. This in and of itself does not necessitate a unity of faith.

The difference in Confessional churches and the Roman Church regarding holding to confessions, is that the Roman Church has a professed divinely appointed heierarchy to guard the faith, while many official teachers in that church body disagree with their dogmatic beliefs. This would not happen in Confessional Lutheran or Reformed church bodies.

The label "Romanism" is not meant to be offensive. As a Lutheran I consider myself to be an evangelical catholic, and am thus not willing to give up the term "Catholic" to what I believe to be one body within the church catholic.

Jordan Cooper said...

Nathaniel, I have changed the "Romanism" label on posts to "Roman Catholicism" to avoid offense. Thanks.

Nathaniel said...

Thank you for the tag wording change; very gentlemanly of you.


Nathaniel said...

Jordan, you did not address my earlier concern, that your comparison wasn't fair or appropriate for making your point. As I understand, for Confessional Lutherans as well as for most Sola Scriptura-professing protestants, the ultimate court of appeal for resolving doctrinal disputes is the words of Scripture. On the other hand, for Catholics, the ultimate court of appeal is the authoritative proclamations of the Magisterium. If we want to compare how successful each approach is for keeping doctrinal unity, shouldn't we ask all those who uphold each particular court of appeal, and then check which group is in fact more doctrinally unified? I still think you've selected a doctrinally unified group up front on the basis of doctrine -- since it's on the basis of adherence to one or another of several related doctrinal statements -- and compared it to a group with some other link; then you check which is more doctrinally unified. That's what I saw as "stacking the deck".

Thank you for your discussion of the value of Confessions; it's helpful for someone like me who doesn't come from a confessional background. I am having a hard time understanding which of the things you listed gives authority to the Confessions. You noted that they were:
- written by multiple people
- studied throughout the ages
- accepted… by people studying scripture.
Also, they are the "interpretation of Christians over time who have studied the scriptures."

Are documents written about scripture, by multiple people, studied throughout the ages, and accepted by others also studying scripture, thereby worthy of our assent?

Perhaps a more direct question to help address my confusion is this:
did you initially submit yourself to the Lutheran Confessions (a) because you didn't know what to believe, but you knew the documents themselves to be authoritative regardless of your agreement with them; or (b) you found them to be a faithful summary of what you already believed, and on that basis you determined them to be worthy of assent. (b) would be what Jason refers to as "painting the target" around the arrow already in the wall; if (a), then my question becomes, "on what basis did you determine that the documents (or their authors) carry the God-given authority that demands human assent?

Thank you! I really do want to understand your position better, as I think I'm prone to paint the confessional approach the way Jason does, which I think you view as a caricature. I would like to be better able to articulate your view the way you do, so I don't criticize it unfairly.

Happy Advent,

Jordan Cooper said...


Addressing your final question which you ask,

I submitted myself to the Lutheran Confessions, not because I was born as a Lutheran, but because, as a Presbyterian, I studied both Scripture and early church history. As I examined Scripture I began to question some of my previously held beliefs about the sacraments, and many other issues. I read through the Confessional documents, Martin Chemnitz' Examination of the Council of Trent, and many Patristic works. Lutheranism was the only real option for me because it aligned clearly with Scripture, and it was consistent with the tradition of the church.

I view church tradition and Patristic theology as an important hermeneutical guide, but not an infallible one. Yes, Scripture alone is the infallible source of authority for Christian truth, but this is not to be read in isolation, but with a view to how the church has historically understood these things.

My primary area of study is Patristics, and the more I have read, the more that Roman Catholicism becomes untenable. Trent frequently references the "unanimous consent of the fathers" on various issues which I cannot accept by honest historical investigation. The entire argument for the Papacy in the middle ages was based on forged documents. These present real problems.

Ultimately, we are both left to our own interpretations of what we deem to be authoritative. I read Scripture, and may come to different conclusions than others who believe in sola Scriptura. In the same way, you read magisterial documents and come to different conclusions than others who have extensively studied these same issues. I know of many Roman Catholic scholars and priests who deny the historicity of almost the entire Old Testament, reinterpret the resurrection to be something other than an actual physical resurrection, promote homosexuality, utilize Buddhist meditation techniques, and are essentially universalists. On the other hand, I know many who have a high view of Scripture and a high view of Christ. To me, the magisterium doesn't really solve the issue; it just adds an extra layer of documents which need to be interpreted and studied.

Seth C. Holler said...

I've written a response to this podcast: