Jason Stellman recently left the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative, Reformed denomination that is the home to the likes of Tim Keller, R.C. Sproul, Tullian Tchividjian. Stellman was an ordained clergyman in the denomination who, from the looks of his resignation letter, took his ordination vows very seriously.
He left, he writes, because of two growing and gnawing doubts. The first:
I have begun to doubt whether the Bible alone can be said to be our only infallible authority for faith and practice, and despite my efforts (and those of others) to dispel these doubts, they have only become more pronounced. In my own reading of the New Testament, the believer is never instructed to consult Scripture alone in order to adjudicate disputes or determine matters of doctrine (one obvious reason for this is that the early church existed at a time when the 27-book New Testament had either not been begun, completed, or recognized as canonical).
And the second:
I have become convinced that the teaching that sinners are justified by a once-for-all declaration of acquittal on God’s part, based upon the imputation of Christ’s righteousness received by faith alone, is not reflective of the teaching of the New Testament as a whole. I have come to believe that a much more biblical paradigm for understanding the gospel—and one that has much greater explanatory value for understanding Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John—is one that sets forth the New Covenant work of the Spirit, procured through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, as internally inscribing God’s law and enabling believers to exhibit love of God and neighbor, thereby fulfilling the law in order to gain their eternal inheritance
A little internet digging shows Jason to be a supremely conservative fellow, having preached sermon series on the “9 Declarations of the PCA” and on Reformed theology. So I don’t expect him to get a nose ring and start and Emergent cohort. In other words I’m not posting this as a “victory” post. This is not about the PCA losing a pastor.
This is about theological development in the life of the pastor. Jason was in a very strict system — one that you might say is almost hermetically sealed. Yet he continued his theological exploration, reading the Bible, studying books, praying, and conversing. As a result, he made an honest and professionally costly realization: he no longer fits in the PCA.
Reading the comments on his blog, it’s obvious that many of his coreligionists don’t appreciate his theological changes, and that’s too bad, because it was just that kind of theological exploration and conscience and courage that led John Calvin to break from the Catholic church.
In other words, Jason is actually living in the spirit of Calvin much more than many of those who remain the PCA and are criticizing him.