2D Hermeneutics

Many people like to use their vacation mornings to catch up on sleep deprivation. I just love to use those hours for “me time.” While everyone else was quietly resting, I would work on my Bible study, go for a jog, or drink lots of coffee and think. But while I was trying to relish all this great me-time, something was nagging my thoughts like a fly that just won’t be swatted away. I usually don’t talk about issues like this on my blog, but I think some of the concerns behind it are worthy of the gospel interrupting the ordinary. I don’t even know how many of my readers are following this story. I’m talking about PCA pastor and writer, Jason Stellman, resigning from his ordination and joining the Roman Catholic church. You can read his statement here.

When I first heard about this, I think I had the Ralphie-face from the movie A Christmas Story. You know the one—when he finally gets to decode his first message from Orphan Annie, locked in his bathroom while his little brother is pounding on the door, and finds out it’s a crummy commercial…

I’ve never followed Stellman’s blog or anything close like that, but I did read and enjoy his book, Dual Citizens. And I am a member of a PCA church. So I couldn’t help but wonder, “What the heck?”

Do you remember the popular craze of pictures in the 90’s called Autostereograms (yeah, I had to look that one up for the name)? They were popularly distributed as Magic Eye 3D pictures. At first glance they just appear to be colorful jibber-jabber, until you completely change your focus. The picture is actually made up of numerous two-dimensional images with repeated patterns. You must be able to stop looking at all the little pixel-like details and take in the piece as a whole. Your focus must penetrate behind the 2D images. Suddenly, a three-dimensional picture pops right out at you.

This is what I think about when I discover someone has left their true confession of faith for another. Someone like Stellman, who seemed to champion the Reformation faith, has now stepped down from his ordination in the PCA, left his church to struggle with his completely different theological convictions, and joined hands with the Roman Catholics. How does that happen?

Maybe this is just an extension of what Carl Trueman has already said, but I think that all along Stellman was only looking at the two-dimensional images. He was holding up “key verses” and fighting causes with this ammunition; but he never could have clearly seen the whole, three-dimensional picture of covenant theology in Scripture. There is just no way he could have.

When you are looking at these pictures and you don’t “see it,” you think you make out some parts of the whole. Maybe you see an ear to the right, so that must be the nose in the middle. The thing is, you’re not looking at a face at all; you’re looking at a city landscape. Your brain wants to hone in on the smaller, 2D pictures that are repeated on the canvas. But you must “look past” the smaller images to reveal the 3D picture that is hidden. As your eyes work together to penetrate the image, stereopsis does it’s work so that you can plunge your vision experience into greater depth perception. It’s really pretty amazing.

It is tempting to look to our “fighten’” verses of Scripture to defend our favorite doctrines. As we all have a proclivity for our pet causes, we can become champions of the 2D images without ever seeing the 3D image they are there to reveal. You might have some of the important pieces nailed down, but you start connecting the dots on your own. I feel like Stellman was like this, and as he continued making his picture, he realized that he does not see Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura as he always confessed. Here is a quote from Stellman that I took from another website, because his original post on the Called to Communion blog was removed:

Having realized that I was using a few select (and hermeneutically debatable) passages from Romans and Galatians as the filter through which I understood everything else the New Testament had to say about salvation, I began to conclude that such an approach was as arbitrary as it was irresponsible. I then sought to identify a paradigm, or simple statement of the gospel, that provided more explanatory value than Sola Fide did. 

2D hermeneutics?

The 3D picture of Scripture shows us a covenant treaty to God’s people, based on God's promise. God himself is the Divine Speaker who reveals to us the One who perfectly fulfilled this covenant on behalf of his beloved. And lo and behold, God’s people are written into this divine drama! We are being made like Christ! How amazing is the grace that rescues filthy sinners from the sting of death and the bondage of sin into eternal communion with our holy God?!

I wholly confirm that every word in its original documents is God’s Word to us. That is why it is authoritative. And through the illocutionary effect of the his Word, I see Christ, my one and only mediator. Through faith alone, in Christ alone, by God's grace alone, I see! To God alone be the glory!

 

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5 Comments

Persons go over to Rome in

Persons go over to Rome in various ways. Some go physically, whilst others doctrinally, whilst others remain in Protestant pulpits, their doctrine no different than Rome, whilst they ocassionaly like to visit their mother Rome. When persons go over to Rome, or reflect Rome in their doctrine, it is because they are spiritually children of mother Rome. We should not be surprised when some of the staunchest critics of Rome end up in Rome, or associating with it, for they are her children, initially having fallen out with their mother, only to be reconciled in later life. Hence we have Charles Pascal Chiniquy falling our, in this case, later on in life, with his mother church, having been ejected by her, which he then turns round to favour himself, claiming he left. And so he set out, like a spoiled brat, to get back at his mother, embarked upon a slanderous campaign against the one who had spiritually given birth to him. The antichrist has her children, and no surprise when they come to uncloak themselves.

Eric: Maybe we're bloggers as

Eric: Maybe we're bloggers as a result of drinking too much coffee and thinking...

Staci: Love the solitaire analogy! And hopefully my tone didn't exclude those not in the PCA. I think stating our confessions gives us a good platform for discussion with all denominations.

Tim: "Interesting; choose an ecclesia to pursue an ecclesiology rather than choose an ecclesia because that is where God is." --Very interesting.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments guys.

A few years back I read a

A few years back I read a handful of articles about pastors and theologians who moved from protestantism to Eastern Orthodox. I never heard the subjects of the articles give theological reasons for doing so, but rather an ecclesiastical one. That seems to be what Trueman was saying probably happened in this case too.

Interesting; choose an ecclesia to pursue an ecclesiology rather than choose an ecclesia because that is where God is.

Tim

Not PCA, but

Not PCA, but non-denominational (think reformed-leaning baptist), so I hope that doesn't disqualify me from commenting. :)

I grew up in church, hearing about the things of God and feeling like they were nothing more than a do and don't list, and that I just had to muscle through until living the Christian life got easier.

When I finally saw the depth of my sin, and the depth of God's love (to the extent that the human mind can understand such things), I remember thinking that it was like the last move on a computer game of solitaire. You move the final card, and all the rest of the cards go flying into their proper slots. That sounds similar to your 3-D picture analogy.

"or drink lots of coffee and

"or drink lots of coffee and think". I usually get myself in trouble when I do that! Ha, ha.

I spent a lot of time over the past 3-4 days reading the back and forth between Reformed men and formerly Reformed (now Roman Catholic) men at oldlife.org. Quite interesting (and at times frustrating). I have no idea why some exchange the clear gospel of the Reformation with the muddled message of the Roman Catholic Church.