Wednesday, August 6, 2008

De Regnis Duobos

I recommend the blog of PCA pastor Jason J. Stellman, De Regnis Duobos: Concerning the Two Kingdoms. My first few encounters there have led me to believe that Pastor Stellman is charitable and like-minded in matters of ecuminicity. We would be a stronger Body of Christ if we could have sincere and charitable discussions about the matters that divide more often (me thinks)!

He has been taking up some themes that are common on this blog, like the canonicity of Scripture, and the authority of creeds, and he promises to take up others soon, like the visisble/invisible church. God speed!


Tim A. Troutman said...

I responded to his argument on his latest post here.

He is articulate but he's making the same basic PCA arguments following Calvin who has been refuted repeatedly.

"We believe in church authority too"

What is church?

"whatever agrees with the bible"

Who determines the bible?


I don't anticipate much interaction between myself and him. Circular arguments are not my idea of ecumenism even if they are irenic and articulate.

Circular reasoning by competent men is deceitful.

Thos said...


You and I go way back (in blog terms). So I know you can handle it if I say that I think calling someone deceitful (even implicitly) on here is pushing things. I believe Pastor Stellman would be just as opposed to circular reasoning as we are, but he does not see his as circular. I believe he is defending, or at least feeling out for some *via media between Catholicism and Individualism*. I have longed to find this middle way myself for some time. I do not think you can fairly pronounce, "there is no middle way, so those claiming to be in the middle are going in circles" to one who believes that there IS a middle way. Accusations of circularity can't be the ecumenical discussion point, but rather whether this middle way exists must be our discussion.

So I think it would be best if he could have time and place to consider whether the via media position of authority is sensible. I know I have needed that too. If it is false, explain the ways in which that is manifest. I know that I don't come to accept things as false that I have previously held as true just because I'm shown once that it seems false. I am a doubter -- so I need to be shown again and again, and over time it sinks in. I trust that, if Catholicism is true, over time I will realize that the via media of ecclesial authority is false.

Actually, now that I think of it, I would like to see a Reformed thinker put more direct effort into articulating the via media, to see if it holds up to scrutiny. As I think Oso noted on your most recent post, terms like "church" can be hard to define agreeably, so an articulation of the via media of church authority would be an excellent chance to see where we all disagree.

Peace in Christ,

Tim A. Troutman said...

You know me by now, I tend to overuse shock words like "deceitful" but I'm using them to deliver a message which I think is potent.

He may not be squinting his eyes and rubbing his hands together as he belts out an evil chuckle in a dungeon somewhere "soon I will deceive all the papists!" but I think he's fooling someone.. It's just that he's fooling himself - and all in the interest of defending a novel departure from historic Christianity.

I'm not really sure where he's coming from and maybe I should have just stayed out of the whole thing since I wasn't around from the beginning.

The only thing I can accept as true ecumenism is separated Christians finding their way back to communion with Rome - not us meeting in the middle. Such a thing cannot happen and we all know it can't. So to pretend that it can should be called false-ecumenism from the outset.

For Rome to "meet in the middle" would be for Rome to invalidate herself. Protestants can meet Rome and even join Rome without invalidating their religion. They just have to drop some errors. (Their religion allows them to have errors - they don't believe in an infallible magisterium but we do).

True ecumenism therefore can only be "Rome is the whore of Babylon, so you Catholics need to become Protestant" or "Rome is my destination and the only key to eventual unity among Christians".

Thos said...


Despite the beefy name of my blog, I think I would be hard pressed to define "true ecumenism". I did not mean to say, however, that true ecumenism means Christians finding a via media. I meant that I believe Pastor Stellman is trying to articulate or defend a *middle way* between the individualism of modern American evangelicalism, and the authoritarianism of an ecclesial system that demands submission to its authorities (i.e., Catholicism). It seems that true ecumenism would allow for him to articulate his position on authority (which I take to be some type of authority that involves BOTH an individual's critique of any truth-claim AND a submission to the truth-claim of some larger group of people, if this is even possible), and would allow you to articulate your position on authority (which I take to be that Christ gave authority to the apostles, and they to their successors, and also has given instructions from the Holy Spirit that we must submit to these authorities), and then would invite each of you to identify where you use terms differently, and how the other's position is false.

So there you have it: I guess I see "true ecumenism" as a process of seeking truth, and that process must involve humility, charity, patience, love, etc., for without Christian virtue, we cannot overcome the sin that divides us. This is why I feel sad when I hear professing Christians using sarcasm to insult each other (you're not doing that, but I've seen others doing that on the discussions on the recent De Regnis Duobos posts).

I agree wholeheartedly, as I hope you know of me, that Catholicism cannot claim to be less than it is for the sake of some false unity. I doubt Stellman would expect that of her either.

Anyway, I hope that Stellman (with me an eager onlooker) can explore whether this middle position on authority, with its seeming contradictions, can stand. A big part of me hopes that it can, so I can return to my life as a Protestant. But I am presently more persuaded by Bryan Cross's (Catholic) position that Protestantism necessarily devolves into individualism. It's in our DNA, one might say.

Peace in Christ,

Tim A. Troutman said...

I take back everything I said. I'm having a good time over there!