Book Review: Dual Citizens by Jason J. Stellman

Many thanks to Reformation Trust for the opportunity to review Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet by Jason J. Stellman.  The book is divided into two parts: 1. Christian Worship for Dual Citizens.  2.  Christian Life for Dual Citizens.

In developing his thesis, Mr. Stellman argues for both theocratic and non-theocratic contexts and how both relate to God’s people through redemptive history: “when God’s people are a holy theocracy (and only then), they are commanded to withdraw from pagan religion and pagan culture, but when they are exiles and pilgrims, they are called to separate themselves only religiously, not culturally” (p. xxiv).  So a theocratic context would be Eden or the Promised Land, and a non-theocratic would be exile in Babylon—therefore a Jeremiah 29:4-7 should read with this distinction in mind (p. xxiii).

But things are framed somewhat differently for the New Covenant church: “We are, like the patriarchs, religiously particular but culturally indistinct. For the new covenant church, cult is distinct from culture, church is distinct from world, and the sacred is distinct from the secular” (p. xxvi).  So why should believers pay their taxes?  “The answer is that in a non-theocratic context such as our own, culture has its own legitimacy apart from cult” (Ibid).

But it is Mr. Stellman’s insistence to regard Sunday as the New Sabbath that I find most objectionable: “There was a time in the American church when most people not only discussed, but also observed, the Christian Sabbath. Those days are long passed” (p. 51).  Mr. Stellman then turns to the Presbyterian Church’s 1819 General Assembly resolution and the Old Testament to buttress his argument for observance of the Fourth Commandment under the New Covenant, in the life of the church.

In Part Two of Dual Citizens, Mr. Stellman reminds us that The War Is Over!  though we continue to encounter conflicts of different kinds.  He then goes on to prove his thesis of the victory that is already ours by a consideration of Revelation 12:1-6, where he identifies the Woman as “true Israel in her pre-Messiah agony of expectation”, the Dragon as Satan, and the Male Child as Jesus Christ.  Dependent on Robert H. Mounce’s commentary on Revelation, the 1260 days represent the church’s ongoing experience of suffering and safety (pp. 91-100).

In a chapter titled “Bridging the Gap: The Cross, the Spirit, and the Glory to Come,” Mr. Stellman objects to Martin Luther’s famous “Theology of the Cross vs. Theology of Glory.”

Stellman argues:

To insist that the cross and glory are antithetical is, from the perspective of the New Testament, difficult to maintain.  If Christ’s statement in John 12:23–24 about His glorification resulting from His death has any bearing on this theme, it must be admitted that there is an organic connection between suffering and exaltation to which those who press Luther’s paradigm too far have failed to do justice. In fact, the cross and glory are not enemies at all, but friends; the latter is the natural outgrowth of the former. (pp. 138-39, emphasis added)

For those who are interested in a Reformed perspective on Worship and Life Between the Already and Not Yet, Mr. Stellman’s Dual Citizen’s remains a good choice.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Martin Luther, Miscellanies, Worship and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: Dual Citizens by Jason J. Stellman

  1. D Crawford says:

    “But it is Mr. Stellman’s insistence to regard Sunday as the New Sabbath that I find most objectionable”

    Could you elaborate on this? What do you find objectionable? Is it the keeping of the Sabbath in general, or doing so on Sunday that bothers you? After all, most Christians don’t seem to consider the other nine commandments abrogated, so why that one? Certainly, it would still beneficial to keep one day of our seven holy to the Lord?

  2. T.C. R says:

    D Crawford,

    Jesus is our eschatological Sabbath, in the Already-and-Not-Yet-drama. The New Covenant nowhere applies the requirements of OT Sabbatarinism to NT believers.

    1. Is it the keeping of the Sabbath in general? Per Paul, if a person wants to consider one day as special, then so be it, but don’t enforce such on others (Rom. 14:5).

    2. Or doing so on Sunday that bothers you? Partly, because the New Covenant doesn’t portrays Sunday as the New Sabbath.

    3. Well, nine of the ten are different in nature. Notice that the Fourth is quite ceremonial in nature.

    But yes, a day of rest is always good (Rom. 14:5-6).

  3. Pingback: From Geneva to Rome: Jason Stellman’s Journey from Presbyterianism to Roman Catholicism | New Leaven

  4. Simon says:

    TC, Stellman is actually out of step with his own Tradition here. The Lord’s day was never considered the “Christian Sabbath”. That is why in just about every European language, Saturday is literally called “Sabbath” and Sunday is literally “the Lord’s day”. So, for instance, in Spanish, Saturday is “Sabado” and Sunday is “Domingo”. This is also why, traditionally, both Saturday and Sunday are days where no work is performed. Both were considered to have religious significance for Christians.

    In Christian theology, the day of the resurrection is the eschatological eighth day – as taught by the Fathers. It has eschatological significance because Christ was raised on that day and has become the “first fruit” of the general resurrection. The eschaton has broken into the present. The Sabbath remains as such, and the Lord’s day was never seen as a replacement for this day. But this thinking seemed to have crept into the Church. And the Presbyterians, for instance, tried to make the transfer for Sabbath to Lord’s day a dogma – mainly because they couldn’t reconcile it with the 4th commandment.

    For the Orthodox, Sabbath remains Saturday. The Lord’s day is Sunday. They are separate and distinct days, both with profound religious significance, but not in competition with one another and certainly not to be confused with one another as Stellman seems to have done. We even have Ethiopian Orthodox today (part of the Oriental Orthodox communion), who still keep Saturday as the Sabbath much in the manner the Jews would. Additionally, the Divine Liturgy is also celebrated on the Lord’s Day and greater emphasis is placed on this day. During Holy Week, the day when Jesus was in the tomb is known as the Great Sabbath, because God rested in the grave. Sunday, the day of the resurrection is a new day, a new beginning, the new world has broken into the old. Stellman seems to have confused these days. I think this must have been a carry over from when he was Reformed.

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