From Calvinist Prosecutor to Papist Apologist | David Deavel | Catholic World Report
Convert Jason Stellman's new old-fashioned apologetic explains that we are “hard-wired for heaven”
Sunday, June 21, marked the 90th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial decision. The questions surrounding evolution—meaning, in particular, the origins of humans—still raise large and important questions for how we understand human nature and the doctrine of original sin. But Jason Stellman thinks that the obsession with our physical origins, though understandable, is perhaps theologically off-kilter. Where we've come from biologically is not as important as where we're heading. It's not the beginning of the journey, man—it's the destination. Stellman's The Destiny of the Species (Wipf and Stock, 2013) is a brief, rollicking, and readable apologetic, notable not just for turning the question of origins on its head, but also for pioneering a slightly different route from the path taken by many Catholic converts in their first books.
From Prosecutor to PapistStellman's own personal story is compelling. Born and raised in Orange County, California, Stellman came to serious faith in the context of the Evangelicalism of the California preacher Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel ministries. He served as a Protestant missionary in both Hungary and Uganda before turning to a more theologically rigorous form of Protestantism: Calvinism. Stellman attended Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California and began ministering in the Presbyterian Church in America, the largest conservative Presbyterian denomination in the U.S., planting Exile Presbyterian Church in Woodinville, WA in 2004. Stellman's name came into the limelight when he was chosen to serve as the chief prosecutor in the 2011 heresy trial of fellow Presbyterian minister Peter Leithart, a Calvinist writer and scholar known to readers of journals including First Things and Touchstone. Leithart's views were accused of being in line with a school of Presbyterian thought known as the “Federal Vision,” and he was tried for, among other charges, allegedly failing to distinguish justification and sanctification, divine law and divine grace, and teaching that baptism confers grace and divine adoption. In short, Leithart was on trial for being too Catholic.
Although Stellman's work as prosecutor was acknowledged as solid at the time, Leithart was acquitted by the Northwest Presbytery. In the time after this trial, however, Stellman himself began to question certain historic Protestant beliefs like sola scriptura and sola fide.