Carl Trueman had an interesting response to Jason Stellman’s recent revelation that he can no longer in good conscience hold to Sola Fide or Sola Scriptura as spelled out in our reformed confessions. Overall, it’s a solid piece, but where I think that he stumbles is his failure to properly delineate between public discourse and the office of Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Further, I would lay the claim that he is suffering from a myopic taxonomy that leads to his misunderstanding of what blogging and the blogging community, specifically the reformed variety, is…it is not ministry. Here’s a little of what he had to say.
If high ecclesiology is important, then one might also say that Two Kingdoms theology too has some importance: it is a healthy means of avoiding the excesses of Christian America, Theonomy, and the various social gospels – left and right – out there. Moreover, it guards against the kind of elitist view of the Christian mind and calling that generates pastors of the performing arts but really offers nothing special to street sweepers and toilet cleaners.
Having said this, however, there is a breed of Christian out there for whom the doctrine of the church and 2K are all they ever seem to talk about. They are, it appears, the number one priorities for Christians. Such advocates often seem, at least on the surface, to disdain the basic elements of Christian discipleship – fellowship, loving one’s neighbor, protecting and honoring the poor and weak – and spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about their pet ecclesiological and 2K projects.
The first part that I have sampled is very mediating, measured, as Dr. Trueman predictably is, but when we get to the second part is where I think that he goes off the rails. He speaks of a certain “breed of Christian” for whom their doctrine of Two Kingdoms swallows up both the Gospel and the “basic elements of Christian discipleship” and that would indeed be a travesty, if it was from the pulpit or among the congregation. Unfortunately for Dr. Trueman, neither are true.
Fundamentally, blogging is a means of dialogue whereby the post functions as the point of contact and that which provides the basic vocabulary wherein commenters can coherently fulfill the role of participants along with the author in the ensuing conversation. Blogging is a dialogical and communally pedagogical device, it is not nor was it ever intended to be an extension of the ministerial vocation.
My point isn’t to defend either Jason Stellman or west coast Two Kingdoms thinking, to which I do hold, but rather to point out that Dr. Trueman has unfairly caricatured an entire community and venue of theological conversation and discovery. When an individual sits down before his or her computer and determines to write a blog, they have very specific ideas and points of interests they want to explore, so it is an unfair charge to level at them that they are unbalanced in their emphasis because of their focus. People will write what they want and should be able to to do so without fear of recrimination, though that doesn’t insulate them from challenge or argument.
All that being said, the use of caricature is not justified by the validity of a point. While its true that the displacement of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide with Sola Ecclesia renders the Christian life one of unverifiable certitude and undue effort, I don’t see how a commitment to protect the Gospel from subordination to cultural/civil endeavors is talking over the Gospel. It is instead the attempt to affirm and defend the coherence and an undiluted presentation of the Gospel and the spirituality of the Church.