Reaction to "Conversion" and Debating Roman Catholics

Discussion in 'Cults & World Religions' started by greenbaggins, Jul 31, 2012.

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  1. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I was just reading the thread that Ben Glaser started on Jason Stellman (lots of good things there). I have seen a lot of blog posts about Jason Stellman's conversion to Rome (most of them not so good). There is a general feeling of betrayal. I wonder how much weeping has been done, however? Shouldn't our reaction to such news be one of weeping and sorrow? Recent comments of Jason's on my blog have been a bit defensive, because people are blasting him to smithereens.:hunter: I keep wanting to tell these people: do you attract flies with honey or vinegar? :gpl:

    Debating Romanists, I admit, is a trying experience. For one thing, they have a very different paradigm than we do. All too often, we don't address the paradigmatic differences, but only the "obvious" differences. Secondly, Romanists have an easy answer for everything. Since tradition has so much weight, you can thrust your knife in at one point, and the cheese of tradition will always squelch in around the knife point and close up the gap, leaving you wondering whether, in order to make one point, you have to make all the points. We should stick to the paradigmatic points: Scripture/authority, and justification. Everything else stems from one or the other of these two cardinal points. I'm trying to bone up on my reading in this area (primarily because of Jason, which shook me up big-time, though not in a way that should make anyone nervous! It just showed me that none of us are immune).
  2. John Bunyan

    John Bunyan Puritan Board Freshman

    Other topic would be canonicity.
  3. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    It is virtually impossible to argue theology with someone who doesn't hold to sola scriptura. All of your arguments will be based on Scripture, but if Scripture is not held to be the ultimate authority, then the argument holds no weight.
  4. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Friends in the Church of Rome feel the same tension. Some have explicitly said, "you are operating out of a whole different paradigm." One Roman Catholic asked me for an explanation of the expressly circular reasoning of a mutual friend who is VanTillian.

    Besides the questions related to the nature and extent of Biblical authority and justification by faith alone, allow me to suggest a third area of conversation we must have with our Romish friends; original sin and the sovereignty of God. I always point them to the decrees of the Second Council of Orange in this regard.
  5. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Weep indeed. I've been reading John Fesko's book on Justification, and it seems that the adversary strikes right at the very heart of our faith. To quote Mr. Stellman's letter of resignation:

    I thank God for the men who faithfully continue to teach justification by faith alone, and I pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to illuminate the scripture's precious truth in this matter both for those who preach and for those of us who listen.
  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    That is enveloped in the Scripture / Authority issue Pastor Keister addressed. Either way at least Jason has the honesty to be what he is. I admire him for that. That isn't true for everyone. He still deserves our response that is born by the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit is listed

    And how we should respond is also prescribed.....

    Now I know that some people are offended by my including verse 26. But I wouldn't be true to the Lord, His Word, nor myself if I didn't include it. Some people think this might be true of me that I have been taken in by the snare of the Devil and purported some serious errors. I would hope that friends remain friends and still love each other as we are called to even love our enemies and those who persecute and despise us. We owe Jason that kind of love because of Christ. At least that is how we should be in my estimation. In friendship I am sure he isn't an enemy. Doctrinally we would think so according to Galatians and the whole of Scripture. I have many friends who I love who have done this and it hasn't shaken me. It might someday as I know that my mind is an Idolatry factory and a feeble thing. I am only kept by the Grace of God. An accident, infection, or some disease might take my mind and heart. We all are but vapors. Let us not boast but heed Paul's admonition....

  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Lane, knowing that you and Mr. Stellman were friends I can certainly understand your feelings. But other comments don't necessarily just arise from bile.

    1. A departure to Rome is a betrayal - it is a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, and the sufficiency of Christ. It's no surprise people feel betrayed when their cause was betrayed. The fact that Mr. Stellman did so with more honesty and propriety of manner than others is good; but it is the good of less aggravated guilt, not of blamelessness. It was morally wrong for him to allow himself to be seduced by the harlot of Babylon.
    2. The concern of some is (very properly) going to be primarily Mr. Stellman himself; the concern of others (no less properly) is going to be others who might be wavering, or induced by Mr. Stellman's example to follow the same course. While I think one should try to be kind and gracious in doing so, the primary thing is sometimes to set out a bright line clearly showing the differences: and I think it is quite legitimate to join Calvin and the other Reformers in attacking far more widely than simply on Scripture and justification. Perhaps in dialoguing with a Roman Catholic your approach is best, though I would certainly add assurance to the list of paradigmatic errors. Yet it depends on the individual: it may be that in some cases a demonstration of the contrast between Roman and Biblical ecclesiology is the opening that gets the Romanist to begin to reconsider his views; in another case it might be purgatory, or the sacraments.
    Certainly in warning others about the dangers of Rome, idolatry and other codified doctrinal and practical failings are also fair game. It is not like the difference between Roman Catholicism and Christianity is dependent on wire-drawn distinctions and discussions so detailed and precise they require specialists to follow. Rome obtrudes other mediators in the place of Christ; Rome has charity purging sin; Rome places a mortal, sinful, erroneous man in a position that can be occupied only by Christ; Rome blasphemes Christ daily with their mass, and clearly with their doctrine.

    I know what you mean that we are all vulnerable: none of us should be high minded, but rather fear. At the same time we must bear in mind that the elect, as William Sclater put it, are out of gunshot of seducement by antichrist. The Lord is able to keep us (even us!) from falling.
  8. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    I agree wholeheartedly, Ruben.

    Lane, it is quite hurtful to have a student, one you've not only taught in the classroom but mentored, do this. And yes, there is betrayal, not ultimately of me, by any means, but of the Christ about whom I teach and in whom I trust.

    I love my former student and his family. And I always will. As I wrote the other day, Reformed ministers who go to Rome are either unconverted or misguided. Whichever it is, they need to turn or return to Christ. When one turns as have these men, Reformed ministers, they turn to Rome from Christ and His Word. The Church replaces Christ. I am deeply grieved and I recognize that this is part of a quest for assurance but there is no infallible assurance outside of Christ, His Spirit and Word.

    I was reminded of this again this past Lord's Day, hearing our intern exhort in morning worship. He is an excellent expositor of the Word. And that's where the power lies. In the preaching of the Word and the other means that accompany the ministry of the Word. The life that is ours in Christ is found in the Word. When I go on Called to Communion, I find no such life-giving ministry of the Word there. It's profoundly sad.

    I pray for the recovery of these men--very much so. I do not see sadness and grief and a sense of betrayal and even righteous anger as opposed to each other here. Personal attacks to hurt the person--no. I care for these men, my former student particularly. But I am sorely vexed, not only saddened, that he who was a shepherd of souls in my own communion, has left our only true comfort for the idolatrous dainties of Rome.

  9. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I concur. This sort of apostasy may take us by surprise, but it probably was simmering for a while. Apostasy never happens in a vacuum. I am ignorant of the Mr. Stellman case, but I wonder if those closest to him would be willing to say that they that knew something was amiss.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  10. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    Stellman didn't just go to Rome; he has immediately become an active apologist for Rome, attempting to lure others away from the faith. He could have gone off privately to start a new life in his new-found religion. Instead he chose to become a false teacher, using those old friendships and his previous standing in the Reformed church to convince others to apostatize along with him. This kind of thing requires the harshest rebuke. Randy, your citations are not apt here. A more relevant passage would be 2 Peter 2. I'm astounded that people would want to be gentle about this. If your previous relationship with the guy compromises your ability to deal with him appropriately, then you should probably withdraw from the conversation altogether. There is way too much niceness and tolerance toward the Called to Communion crowd as it is, which may contribute to why people like Stellman go over in the first place.
  11. johnbugay

    johnbugay Puritan Board Freshman

    Jason Stellman had posted this here in late 2009:

    I had been a regular reader of his De Regnis Duobus blog beginning in early 2008; Bryan Cross and others who later formed the "Called to Communion" site began posting there probably late summer. In personal correspondence with him, Jason admitted to me that he had been quite surprised by the force of their arguments.

    You will see my name featured prominently in the comments sections of that blog. Jason's blog posts frequently were of a nature comparing a Roman Catholic doctrine with a Reformed doctrine, noting a point of comparison, and then stepping out of the way and letting others argue the point. The "others" early on included his friend Mike Brown (a WSC grad) or Scott Clark, and sometimes DGH (and always Zrim). But really, it seemed like very few people just simply had the intellectual goods (in those discussions) to deal with these new-fangled arguments from Bryan Cross, Tom Brown, Devin Rose, Taylor Marshall, and some of the others who were regulars on Jason's site (and later, the founding members of Called to Communion).

    Jason always accommodated these folks. I protested mightily to him via email (he publicly accused me of being "insulting", and while I felt I was challenging him, I never believed I was insulting him). In answer to your question, I certainly believed something was amiss as early as September 2008.

    There are many people -- our friends and families -- who continue to be "cultural" Roman Catholics -- they are born and baptized Roman Catholics, they grow up making their first confession, their first communion, their confirmation. They are married "in the Church". One "Roman Catholic" friend of mine is a strong supporter of "gay marriage" -- he does so in spite of Rome's characterization of homosexuality as "gravely disordered". Folks like this are not strongly committed to Roman Catholicism as a faith. It's just an ornament in their lives that makes them feel good.

    On the other hand, folks from this "Called to Communion" site are aggressive, they have thought-through some very detailed arguments in favor of all kinds of aspects of Roman Catholicism. I believe Jason became enamored not with Roman Catholicism per se, but simply with the earthly philosophical brilliance of these fellows. They dazzled him with their thickly-reasoned arguments, and he became infatuated with them. He never, ever seemed to challenge them. He would always say, "well our side holds this ..." or "Reformed writers say that ..." It seemed to me that he was converted to Rome very early on, and the rest was simply a "catechetical" exercise from the Roman Catholic point of view.

    The recent thread at Green Baggins on the early papacy was highly instructive, and highly successful for the Reformed folks who were in that discussion. I believe that Lane Keister has been very helpful in bringing these topics to light, in enabling Reformed people to see what these "Called to Communion" arguments are like, and enabling us all to deal with them. (Though I think, Lane, that you grant the Roman Catholics too much leeway and you still don't challenge them strongly enough). I know, it's the honey-or-vinegar thing.

    But such things have not ever been settled for some 500 years now. Though wars have been fought over the centuries, I believe we now have, from the comfort of our homes, the ability to re-do the Reformation over the Internet, and I believe that the historical evidence, the further we go along, is more and more on the side of the Reformation. (Especially as the story of the nonexistent early papacy comes to light).

    This thread at Green Baggins, however, shows the sharp lines of the argument. The folks there were able to get to "where the rubber meets the road", and ultimately, when challenged on both Sola Scriptura as the sole Rule of Faith, and essentially the "non-existence" of the early papacy, the Roman Catholics had to leave very dissatisfied.
  12. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  13. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  14. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    I used to frequent a political site that had a large Roman Catholic readership. I was a new believer at the time and politics was still a driving force in my life. No longer, but I digress. I'd always note the ferocity by which the RCs would always defend their church. When Christianity as a whole would come under assault they would be nowhere to be found. When atheist posts about Jesus' lost tomb would come up it was the few Protestants on that site who would defend the resurrection. When Islamic apologists would challenge the Crucifixion, it was the Protestants who would speak up. Either the RCs were not educated enough to make a defense (in that, they spent no time considering such things), or they simply didn't care.

    But if a post about some priestly scandal came up or if someone questioned the papacy, or Mary as co-redemptrix, or praying to the Saints - THEN the knives would come out - and oh, how sharp those knives were! Even then, as a new believer I made a remark to someone else on the board, "Why do they defend their church, but not God and Christ?"

    Now, I can clearly see (though I had an inkling back then) - that the Roman Catholic apologist is a gross idolator. Their church, their institutions, their traditions are far more value to them than Christ and His Word. If they are honest with themselves, they would have to admit it. Unfortunately, they have been blinded to it and cannot see. God has handed these apologists over to the spiritual darkness that is Rome.

    It is one thing to be in the pews, and not grasp the enormity of the blasphemies that Rome commits - but these apologists? Particularly those apologists who know the great doctrines of our religion, who know their Scripture (well!), who know the great emphasis that Jesus and the Apostles place on Scripture as the Word of God, and their disdain for traditions of men? These men who know all these things? The only thing that makes sense is that God has indeed turned them over to this great evil. Yes, we should pray that God will be merciful - but in the words of Paul, "their condemnation is just".

    As far as I'm concerned Mr. Stellman has excommunicated himself from Christ's Church. Many fine protestant theologians and friends have apparently ministered to him concerning this turn to Rome. He has clearly hardened his heart against the purity of the gospel. There is nothing more to be done but pray for him.

    I have a recent ex-RC that I've been ministering to that told me a couple of weeks ago that, "I had never once cracked open the Bible as an RC, I had no idea how beautiful the Word of God is". This is the bondage, slavery and yoke that the RC system has placed upon people. And this is a system that Mr. Stellman is trying to enable. The implications - to me, are profound.
  15. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    This dovetails with Alan's comment that Mr. Stellman may have been unconverted. The Apostle's words can be heard in a haunting tone:

    This happened to one of our elders a few years back. We saw the warning signs; more of a slow leak at first. Praise God that we had the courage to confront him early. Within a few months of that confrontation he did the backstroke across the Tiber.

    Lane is right about grieving over such a one. Not knowing Mr. Stellman, I'm not sure whether he had spiritual authority in a church setting. If he did then I grieve for those under his charge and pray that godly men will stand in the gap.

    I hope this serves as a reminder to keep two watchful eyes on our flocks, and on one another. We are our brother's keeper.
  16. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Wow, did you not read what I wrote Louis? I was not tolerant of doctrinal waywardness. I said what it was. I do not have a relationship with Jason besides communicating with him very few times. I do care a lot for him and his family. I do grieve for his situation and for the situation that this might be bringing upon his family and those in his concentric circles.

    In all due respect for your love of truth and godliness Louis I have to say that I believe your reference concerning 2 Peter 2 describes the false teacher's poor estate and how the Lord will deal with them. I do not believe the passage tells us how to respond to them explicitly as the passages I post do.

    I would admonish you to go back and reread what I wrote Louis. I do not sugar coat his situation. He is our enemy doctrinally. I stated that. He is in the snare of the Devil. I stated that in reference to verse 26.

    This is the Prescription for our working this out.

    Thank you for the Galatians reference also Louis. I believe it is what is prescribed by God for this situation. Especially in light of the Galatians circumstance which has a lot of similarities to this situation.

  17. Rufus

    Rufus Puritan Board Junior

    If your going to debate Roman Catholics it's good to actual understand what Roman Catholicism teaches, so arguing against what their Confession actually says (a long with the score of other needed books) is important.
  18. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, I read what you wrote. Your citations are not apt here. There is a difference between a brother who has fallen into a fault or an unbeliever who may oppose the gospel out of ignorance, and an apostate who is now actively attempting to turn others from the faith. If you're not able to discern that difference, then I suppose we'll just have to disagree, rather than go back and forth with scripture quotes. As far as restoring people like Stellman, my bible doesn't hold out much hope for it (Heb. 6:6), but a harsh response isn't necessarily ineffective. In the meantime, we would do well to worry less about poor Jason and more about those poor souls who would be led astray by him.
  19. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I hope if I ever get led astray I'm not surrounded by Christians with your attitude. I want someone like Randy who will reach out to me with God's word and help me back into God's protection.
  20. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    The Apostle Paul reacted correctly to False Teachers in the way he spoke of Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Tim 1 and 2 Tim 4. The Apostle Peter likewise in 2 Peter 2.

    There is a large difference between a sheep going astray and a Shepherd of Christ's flock apostatizing.
  21. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    I have heard that more RC's become Protestants than vice versa. I bing'ed a little to find some stats. Perhaps you will find this heartening.

    "The number of people who have left the Catholic church is huge.

    We all have heard stories about why people leave. Parents share stories about their children. Academics talk about their students. Everyone has a friend who has left.

    While personal experience can be helpful, social science research forces us to look beyond our circle of acquaintances to see what is going on in the whole church.

    The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has put hard numbers on the anecdotal evidence: One out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic. If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic.

    Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why. But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus. Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening."

    (from the National Catholic Register)
    The hidden exodus: Catholics becoming Protestants | National Catholic Reporter
  22. John Bunyan

    John Bunyan Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't know about the U.S., but in Latin American there are almost no Protestants becoming Catholics, and a lot of Catholics becoming protestants.
  23. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Not sure about that Ben or Louis. As I noted on 2 Peter 2 it is not prescriptive on what to do. Reread my last post Ben. I would like to see specific references Ben on why a harsh impatient rendering is called for in this situation. Where is the specific reference and prescription from scripture to do this? Make sure you do your homework. I am not seeing it in the chapters or references you are referring to.

    I also agree that there is more judgment for the false teacher and a harsher judgment from God for those who claim to be teachers but fall away. But that doesn't change the prescription that I have noted. We are called to react in a prescribed way. Even the deliverance of one to Satan is one thing that doesn't require harshness. I see no problem with Precatory Prayers but that is relying upon God for judgment and protection, just as Vengeance belongs to God. We can pray for it but we are not the deliverers of it. God has his means for that. The State being one.
  24. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Even Church leaders have failed of the Grace of God and were Returned. That is the Context that Paul is writing Galatians 6:1 from. Sure, St. Paul wished that those who cause trouble in the Church would be cut off. We all do. But the way to deal with self justifying bad teaching that others start to promote, by redefining the grace of God into something that is another Gospel which Paul calls no Gospel at all, is still the same as I noted above.

    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
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