Jason Stellman was a man with a high ecclesiology; and high ecclesiology is important… If high ecclesiology is important, then one might also say that Two Kingdoms theology too has some importance. … 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.
Now, Paul certainly thought ecclesiology was important: …but he did spend rather a lot of time talking about Christ. Indeed, his primary focus was always on the gospel and — crucially — he never conflated the gospel with the doctrine of the church or with opinions about the Christians relationship to secular society. Ecclesiology is necessary to Paul in this end-time tribulation for the preservation and transmission of the gospel. For Paul, an understanding of believers as sojourners and pilgrims arises out of a correct understanding of what the gospel means; but neither of these are to be identified in itself with the gospel or to occupy more discussion space than the gospel.
The danger for high churchmen (and I consider myself to be a reasonably high churchman) is that we can forget that. We can end up thinking that the doctrine of the church is more important than the gospel or, worse still, that the doctrine of the church is the gospel. The tendency to make our issues — of which ecclesiology and 2K are just two examples — into the gospel is always a danger. Case in point, when you go to the Rev. Stellman’s sermon page on his church’s website,( http://exilepres.org/our-preaching/ Accessed May 28, 2012) the sermons are not listed by date or alphabetcally, but by topic. Significantly, the first one is an old series on “Amillennialism and Two Kingdoms.” Worthy topics, no doubt; but what does it say when these are top of the list of things you want visitors to your website to learn about? When we identify the church with the gospel, it would seem to me that Rome is the natural outcome, since, for Rome, the church is, in effect, the gospel.
I think all of us Sitters here in the Outhouse would agree that “the doctrine of the church and 2K are all [we] ever seem to talk about” — and that JJS was a compatriot and even a champion of ours in that discussion. Now the Outhouse is not a church — nor are any of us Sitters ordained — so I think we get a little bit of a pass in terms of not making the gospel specifically the highest priority of discussion; the “business” we are doing here is not specifically “church business” (aka “kingdom work”). We’re just dudes on the internets, talking about what we like to talk about.
But surely in light of yesterday’s unhappy surprise, we can all stand a reminder of what is the highest priority, and a friendly warning about the consequences of misaligned priorities.