Many of us are deeply saddened by Jason Stellman's recent denial of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura and his apparent departure to Rome or Eastern orthodoxy. I graduated with Jason at WSCAL, and I always appreciated our friendship. I have lost lots of sleep over his recent departure, and while I'm thankful for his honesty in stating his position forthrightly, I grieve over the confusion he has caused for so many. What troubles me the most in reading through Jason's reasons for his departure is the underlining assumption that he has come to some kind of dead-end that Protestants have never figured out before. Jason writes,
...unless the church’s interpretation of Scripture is divinely protected from error at least under certain conditions, then what we call the “orthodox” understanding of doctrines like the Trinity or the hypostatic union is reduced to mere fallible human opinion. I have searched long and hard, but have found no solution within the Sola Scriptura paradigm to this devastating conclusion.
I stand a bit aghast at such a statement because it assumes that Protestants have never answered this so-called devasting conclusion. Jason is asserting that unless "the Church" (assuming the Church of Rome and supposed succession from Peter) is given full power to be protected from error, one can never really be sure his doctrine is true, it's reduced to mere subjective opinion. Said another way,the church must have all supremacy of power and judgment on earth for us to have any kind of certainty of truth from the human opinions of men in their private readings of Scripture.
One of the greatest Protestant apologists, William Perkins, addressed these issues in the Reformed Catholik. In Point XVIII on Supremacy, Perkins observes that everything Christ does in his mediatorial work is something that originates from the two natures, human and divine, concurring in the same actions. This kind of mediatorial power cannot pass to any created nature. Perkins writes,
- In Hebrews 7:24 Christ is said to have a priesthood which cannot pass from his person to any other, whence it follows that neither his kingly, nor his prophetical office can pass from him to any creature, either in whole or in part because the three office of mediation in this regard be equal. Nay, it is a needless thing for Christ to have a deputy [vicar] to put in execution any part of his mediatorship, considering a deputy only serves to supply the absence of the principle, whereas Christ is always present with his Church by His Word and Spirit for where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst among them...
Additionally, the giving of this infinite power, if possible, would only be needed in the absence of Christ's mediation. But the Scriptures plainly teach that Christ's mediation is something that Christ always lives to accomplish for his church. Christ supplies ministers only as instruments in a representative manner, but Christ himself retains the principle of this mediation. The idea that Christ has passed on this prophetical power to a pope attributes to him the same infinite power that belongs to the person of Christ. The proposition is impossible, not to mention blasphemous if taken to its logical concusion, for then Christ himself has ceased his mediatorial work on our behalf.
Further support for Sola Scriptura can be addressed by looking at the fruit that has resulted from Rome's position on the authority of the church. Perkins outlines seven sins of the Roman church:
- Atheism in making the merit of the works of men to concur with the grace of God thereby overthrowing the grace of God.
- Idolatry in the worship of saints and images.
- Adultery in the toleration of uncleanness among men and women.
- Sorcery through a breaden-God in exocisms over holy bread, holy water, and salt and casting out devils by the sign of the cross, holy water, ringing bells, by relics, etc.,
- Perjury as a papist may answer dishonestly against the direct intention of the examiner.
- Reversal of God's commandments.
- Lying to justify their doctrine.
The question here is obvious: if Christ passed on his mediatorial work to the Church of Rome to have full supremacy in being protected from all error, how do you explain the gross doctrinal sins and errors that have resulted, especially noted in the head of the church of Rome? I find no solution in the Roman paradigm to this devastating conclusion.
Let me summarize the issue plainly. The real issue here is the mediation of Christ and the authority of the Word. What Perkins is saying is no fallible human being is able to exercise this mediatorial function as Rome claims. This kind of authority belongs to Christ alone as the head of his church. God's Word created the church, is found in the church, and preached by the church, but the mediatorial function of Christ's prophetical office is not passed to a mere man, it is a work of the Holy Spirit who is given to keep the elect in all truth. In this way Christ remains the head of his church as he governs her by his Word and Spirit.
Jason's conclusions are tragic not only because they ignore God's serious warning against putting our trust in men, all of whom are called liars-Rom. 3:4 (a warning which is validated by a long history of popes and councils which contradict each other), but because such a view robs Christ of his glory as the supreme head of his church.
"What is truth", asked Pilate. Never did Christ confirm the truth by any doctrine of tradition. Christ plainly responded that his Word is truth, and whoever welcomes Christ's Word not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, is promised by Christ himself that he has already passed from death into life. Whoever turns away from a love of that truth has believed the lie.
p.s. I have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to defections to Rome. The strange thing is that William Perkins Workes remain buried in the seventeenth century. They have never been reprinted. This is just negligence. Perkins was a chief Protestant apologist against the errors of Rome. A cry to the publishers: Please get William Perkins Workes published!