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on October 9, 2009
Should the church change with the whims of culture in an attempt to be relevant? Or, should believers withdraw from and shun the world with all that it has to offer? Jason Stellman says no to both.

In Dual Citizens, Rev. Stellman argues for a pilgrim mindset. Christians live in the context of a "semi-realized eschatology," or between the "already and not yet." They are citizens of the earth and of heaven, and each of these citizenships should be manifested in its proper place.

Dual Citizens has two parts. In part one, "Christian Worship for Dual Citizens," the author says that it is when the followers of Christ come together to worship, rather than in the living of their daily lives, that they should appear the most different. "If ever there were a time for the saints to placard their counter-culturalism and absolute refusal to be identified with the tastes and trends of this passing and evil age, their `coming to Him' on the Lord's Day would be the time...As the saints leave their houses each and every Lord's Day morning and assemble with the rest of God's people...they are making a much louder statement to the world than a fish emblem on their bumper ever will."

Corporate worship belongs entirely to the heavenly kingdom. It is not meant to be the agent of political or cultural change. Likewise, the purpose of the Sabbath is not to strengthen a nation or bring it back to its "golden years." "Our heavenly citizenship transcends even the most powerful worldly allegiances to which we hold." Therefore, church worship should not be influenced by the community, culture, or world.

In part two, "The Christian Life for Dual Citizens," the author argues that outside of worship, Christians are free to take part in and enjoy the culture in which they live. "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." Stellman makes it clear that the United States is not a "holy theocracy," nor does it (or any other nation) carry any "redemptive significance." Therefore, believers are free to enjoy God's earthly gifts. "Given our dual citizenship, we must not allow our desire to eat from the heavenly Tree of Life to prevent us from stopping to smell the roses of earth every now and then."

I appreciated Stellman's positions, especially concerning the church's call to be separate from the culture. When corporate worship is no different than a U2 concert, the biblical description of believers as pilgrims and sojourners becomes absurd. At the same time, Christians are permitted to enjoy the world that God created. He made the earth, roses, red wine, music, and art for our benefit. We don't glorify Him by spurning His gifts.

As a whole, Dual Citizens is edifying and enjoyable. Some of Stellman's arguments, however, are complex and hard to follow. And I failed to see a strong connection between some of the chapters--particularly the one titled "The Bragging Calvinist"--and the broader context of the book.

Believers with reformed leanings and an interest in theology will enjoy Dual Citizens most, while believers in the coffee shop of a mega church need it most. It is not your average book on Christian living, and it won't help you live "your best life now." But it is encouraging for pilgrims who are waiting for a better country, and for that reason I recommend it.

Jason Stellman is the pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Washington State, and is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California. Dual Citizens is his first book.
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VINE VOICEon July 30, 2010
As believers today, we are both citizens of the world and of heaven. This duality creates a tension in our lives as we celebrate what God has already done but expectantly hopes for what He has promised. He captures that dichotomy well on page 175: "In this very Abba-confession, the rock of the `already' meets the hard place of the `not yet,' for it is due to the present awareness of our sonship that we can call God `Father,' but it is because this adoption has yet to be consummated that this bold affirmation comes in the form of a fervent cry." This book isn't a quick read, as it is dense with biblical passages and theological discussions, but it's a worthwhile one. He quotes liberally from Scripture and from those who have gone before him in church history, and there are definitely sections I'll be revisiting for a second (and third and...) read before I can fully digest them.

In the first part, the author discusses how our worship should reflect an otherworldliness as we live as resident aliens in the new covenant church (chapters 2-3); how we live as underdogs because our victory is largely in the future (chapter 4); how we regard the Sabbath, particularly as American Christians (chapter 5); how our national citizenship now does (and doesn't) have redemptive significance (chapter 6); and how the church shapes her members (chapter 7). In the second, he discusses how we consider our lives through the macrocosm of God's divine drama (chapter 8); how our heavenly citizenship renders earth "unworthy of our ultimate affection" (chapter 9); how we are shaped by an innate longing for eternity (chapter 10); how we can enjoy earth's temporal blessings in their proper context (chapter 11); how the Holy Spirit draws the future into the present to help us today (chapter 12); how we grow by giving up our rights and entitlements (chapter 13); and how our dual citizenship "causes us to groan for glory, a groaning that is both soothed and intensified by the indwelling Spirit, who functions as an engagement ring assuring us of the future consummation of our union with our glorified Bridegroom (chapter 14)" (p. xv).

There was only one part that I wasn't nodding my head with or being sharply convicted by: I'm not so sure about the author's division between part one (Christian Worship for the Dual Citizen) and part two (Christian Life for the Dual Citizen). I recently spent a lot of time meditating on Romans 12:1-2 as part of a unit we taught the 9th graders at our church, and it clearly lays out that making ourselves living sacrifices is our spiritual act of worship; in other words, it doesn't separate life from worship. Spellman expects this critique and begins building his case for the distinction in the preface, but I'm still a skeptic. I think he was really trying to have a section for how to live in the world (part two, what he called "Christian life") while not be of this world (part one, what he called "Christian worship"). His separation of worship and life and his explanation for doing so seemed to muddy the waters unnecessarily.

That said, he solidly uses Scripture, tradition, and the writings of other godly folks to explain the importance of the church. His writing challenged my thinking about ministry and personal life (particularly, with respect to the personal, my lack of reverence for or even consideration of the fourth commandment, either in terms of a defined Sabbath day or just times of intentional rest). His writing speaks both to the community of believers as a whole and to the heart of a believer as an individual. For example, on page 18 he calls out the church for being more like "grits than salt--changing in response to her environment rather than having the boldness and courage to stand out and be different." His best one-liner by far comes as he critiques the consumerist approach to church that demands a program for every potential need: "And do you have anything for my green-eyed, left-handed pre-teen daughter who loves ferrets and plays the oboe?" (p. 5).

Meanwhile, on an individual level, he challenges readers with this on pages 121-122: "Let us answer the question with a question: who is more likely to quit smoking during pregnancy, the mother who plans for an abortion or the one who plans to give birth? The answer should be obvious. Roads that actually lead somewhere are usually better maintained than dead-end ones, and likewise, when we see our earthly sojourn as just that--a sojourn on the way to our heavenly home--it is reasonable to assume that we will take this pilgrimage with great seriousness and care."

I consider this a valuable work, and I intend to re-read it again in a few months because I feel like it needs a few readings before I can truly digest it. In lieu of reciting a laundry list of things that make this a book I respect and appreciate, I've made a list below of nuggets from the text. I have no reservations about saying that this is a meaningful book worth being in your library, but you can judge whether or not that's true as you read the author's words below:

* "Stepping back from the trees and beholding the forest, or looking at our own lives as parts of God's story (rather than the other way around), enables us to gain a perspective on our trials and triumphs that is truly theo- rather than egocentric, God-centered instead of me-centered." (p. xiii)
* "Donald Grey Barnhouse, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, once mused about what a city would look like if Satan took it over. His conclusion was much different than many might assume. He didn't envision rampant violence and deviant sexual perversion, with Christians being tortured or thrown into prison. Rather, Barnhouse surmised that if the Devil were in charge of a city, the bars and pool halls would close, the streets and neighborhoods would be cleaned up, children would say "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am," and every Sunday men and women would flock to churches where Christ was not preached." (italics in the original text, p. 65)
* "The real distinction that the Beatitudes illustrate, then, is not between the internal and the external or the physical and the spiritual, but between this age and the age to come, the `already' and the `not yet.' To employ the biblical typology, the Beatitudes set earth against heaven and the old Babylon against the New Jerusalem." (p. 69)
* "But as long as we misdiagnose our Adamic disease as a mere case of the spiritual doldrums, we not only will misconstrue the gospel as therapy and Jesus as part Cheerleader and part Coach, we will never break the vicious cycle of looking within to solve the problem that looking within caused in the first place." (p. 77)
* "...we simply cannot have Jesus without His church, we cannot have the personal without the corporate, and we cannot sever the Head from the body. After all, if physical decapitation is lethal, then it would follow that its spiritual equivalent is infinitely more deadly." (p. 83-84)
* "Since the dawn of Puritanism (at least), we have heard that in order to prescribe a cure for man's spiritual ills, we must first diagnose his disease. `Rubbish,' says Catholic author G. K. Chesterton. In his little book What's Wrong with the World, Chesterton decries what he calls the `medical mistake': `The first great blunder of sociology . . . is stating the disease before we find the cure. But it is the whole definition and dignity of man that in social matters we must actually find the cure before we find the disease.' Chesterton's point is that man can be understood only from the vantage point of the future, after running on ahead, as it were, and then looking back." (p. 113-114)
* "To strike the proper balance between the already of the kingdom's coming and the not yet of its visible fulfillment is to live our lives exactly where God wants them to be." (p. 149)
* "It is not uncommon for pastors to hear from their people in the pews that they need more 'application' from the pulpit. 'Hearing about the cross and resurrection of Christ week in and week out is all well and good,' they say. 'But give us something we can use in the real world. Tell us how to live.' This request is often tantamount to a desire for law instead of gospel, a hunger to be told what we can do for God rather than resting in what He has done for us." (p. 160)

(In keeping with the FTC, I must disclose that I wrote this review in exchange for a free book. However, Reformation Trust (an imprint of Ligonier Ministries) did not request a positive review, only a "serious, substantive, and fair" one. While I like free books, my opinion can't be bought.)
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on November 16, 2009
"Human beings are supposed to feel restless and unfulfilled because we were not created to continue living a mere earthly and Adamic existence." (pg. 116)

Have you ever noticed just how many Christian fiction books there are out on the market about the Amish? It seems every Christian fiction author has to have a trilogy depicting the life of the Amish. People buy these books too. The reason why is because of how differently the Amish live from the rest of the world. This kind of life style especially draws the evangelical Christian crowd. There are a few reasons why this could be the case, we in general appreciate poor fiction, or we are enthralled by people who are just like us who are living in a very different fashion.
Often times during a reading of one of those Amish type books a Christian may find themselves saying "That is great that they live that way, but how should a Christian live? We have the truth shouldn't our lives be as radical as some of these Amish guys?"
Jason Stellman seeks to address this question in his book Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet.
Stellman's chief concern in the book is to alert Christians of their precarious living situation. Currently we are living in the old world but in reality we are of a completely different nature.

Relevance of Christians attending church

"As the saints leave their houses each and every Lord's Day morning and assemble with the rest of God's people, both on earth and in heaven, they are making a much louder statement to the world than a fish emblem on their bumpers ever will (even one that is swallowing the Darwin fish with legs)." (27)

Enemies on the outside and the inside

"I would humbly suggest that when we paint our nation's domestic and foreign
policies with such a biblical brush, we are confusing our rhetoric as well as
our kingdoms. "The nations" who "trample the holy city" are not Saudis who
fly planes into our skyscrapers but the very aspects of our society (yes, ours) that
turn our churches into strip malls, our worshipers into consumers, and our God
into a commodity beholden to the ebb and flow of the market. (67)

Problems with the text

Stellman's font was difficult to read. If there is a next edition of the book it would be nice to have it in a larger font.
A stylistic error that I had problems with was that he wrote this in the same trendy way that a youth pastor would speak to his teens. The text is full of cultural connections. For example writing about "X-box" "first person shooter." Some might find them to be helpful and engaging I found them to be distracting.
Also some of his arguments were hard to follow. A lot of that can be excused due to this being his first book. We should not expect the same writing ability from him as we would from Poythress or Sproul.

Stellman does a great job of addressing issues that American churches need to answer. Idolatry is definitely infiltrating our churches and we are accepting it with open arms because our residential community is becoming content with having us around. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.
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on October 27, 2009
This book on applied eschatology is clear and reflective. Stellman, as a Reformed author, gently contends for a view that proceeds from the scriptural covenants and promises. He advocates a different position than my own, yet he tries to be fair to the sundry orthodox views. His style is reader-friendly as explains the hope that Christians already have and what they will ultimately attain. It is a thoughtful and engaging book that will challenge old-style dispensationalists, but will not convince them to abandon their doctrine. For those who hold to the already/not yet approach, this effort will help build your confidence. 193 pages, released in 2009.
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on December 3, 2009
It is not at all profound to suggest that ours is a perplexing period in history. All generations are fond of saying as much. But it is unique to consider that ours is a post-Christian world. The implications of such a consideration go in myriad directions, and there are plenty of writers who would that hope for a Christian civilization be tenaciously maintained. There are scarce those, however, who seem to understand the difficulties involved. Still fewer are those who understand and can articulate the natures of the ecclesiastical and civil realms and how they relate to each other.

Presbyterian pastor Rev. Jason Stellman is one who, as a result of careful study and even more gifted insight, has a masterful grasp on these matters. And with Dual Citizens he offers a readable snapshot of what a truer biblical pilgrim way looks like. The book is appropriately parted in two ways between worship and life. This seems to be a deliberate, if subtle way to point the reader to the fact that the Christian life is one set between this age and the age to come. Like the amillenial eschatology on which it is based, this is a simultaneously simple and profound way to conceive of pilgrimage. If the fulcrum lies between this age and the one to come, it would seem to follow that the way believers distinguish themselves is not so much in how they plod out their ordinary life but in how they worship God. After all, the unbeliever and believer have equal access to what it means to be good citizens of the earth, but only the believer is privy to how God demands he be worshipped.

Coming from a staunch Old School Presbyterian perspective yet drawing from a variety of Christian traditions--from Hauerwas to Willimon to Chesterton to Hart and Horton, as well as all manner of worldly goods--the author may have just invented the category of ecumenical worldling. To be sure, there are two-kingdom theologians who are doing the good work of recovering an older Reformed outlook. But what makes Stellman's work stand out from the rest is his uniquely robust doctrine of creation. Over against those who hold out for the notion of redeeming culture, the writer suggests that participation is always better than transformation. One gets the sense from the broader Christian community that "very good" means "pretty good but intrinsically suspect." Instead of a Gnostic suspicion of creation per se, Stellman wants us to suspect our natural inclination to place an eternal hope in temporal things. It is hard to imagine a better formulated Calvinism, to suspect internal human impulse instead of that which God has made and declared very good. Moreover, the tendency in broader Reformed circles is to push the believer toward the higher end of the this-worldly spectrum (a sort of temporal Gnosticism). The popularity of books like Do Hard Things seems to suggest as much. But Stellman wants to make room for plenty of temporal trafficking between the trivial and enduring. In a small provocative section he writes:

"If it true that marker-driven societies value hard work more than leisure, then perhaps it is also true that we Americans would be more aptly labeled homo faber ["man the worker"] than homo ludens ["man the player"]--workers rather than players. But if we are to do justice to our true humanity...we must admit that while life after the fall must include toiling for daily bread, man shall not live by toiling for bread alone. Work is a part of life, but if we want to avoid exhibiting a warped kind of worldliness, we must not let this one aspect of earthly life swallow all the rest. If divine image-bearing consists of more than being an efficient tool of production...then perhaps training (or even forcing) ourselves to slow down a bit is the most `world-affirming' thing we can do."

Indeed, the book is pocked with small provocative points like this. Another I found particularly poignant was from page 162. It is common to think that American polity and Christian piety are on friendly terms, the former nurturing the latter. But is freedom really as healthy for true faith as the typical Memorial Day prayer of thanksgiving suggests? Instances of Christians being told by civil authorities to sit down and shut up can light up even Reformed blogs with ham-fisted calls to retain attorneys and bone up on rights. That's fine as far as it goes perhaps. But Stellman suggests another take on rights, one that may not go down smoothly amongst those nurtured on the idea that America dropped from the clear blue in a neat package that they might grow unfettered in the fear and knowledge of the LORD, complete with Starbucks in hand. It could be that voluntarily relinquishing rights (instead of clamoring for them like any other interest group) is in better service of boast worthy suffering for citizens of the New Covenant:

"Here is a trickier example: if your legal right to practice your faith is in danger of being compromised, what should you do? If you Google the phrase `law firms protecting Christians' rights,' you'll get myriad matches, and there's no rule that prohibits you from taking to court anyone who infringes your right to pray or read Scripture wherever you want (within reason, of course). There is something inconsistent, however, about Christians fighting for their faith by means of the sword of the U.S. justice system. Would it not be far more Christ-like to patiently endure when we are wronged, as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear?
"But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward" (10:32-35).

I don't think it is overstatement to say that Stellman has taken up here in Dual Citizens what is arguably one of the most important discussions of our time. Written in a highly readable and pastoral hand, his contribution deserves serious consideration by those who want to know what it means to inhabit that precarious space between the already and not yet. The Christian life is one of constant and mystifying tension. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Every Christian tradition has ways to explain that tension, but Stellman represents the one tradition that knows how to fit the pieces together and give some semblance of order to it while also taking care not to try and explain what is meant to remain a mystery. In other words, he is offering the best of that old time religion which is not to be confused with the worst.
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on April 5, 2011
I was impressed with Stellman's first book Dual Citizens and his ability to articulate himself so clearly through his writing. One of his main articulations he makes in this book is the great reminder that our citizenship is in heaven and not this world. And although we often seek for comfort in our current home, we should stray from this type of thinking and stay focused on the world that is yet to come.

In this book Stellman does an excellent job to remind followers of Christ that we are aliens or strangers in a foreign land on a road to our heavenly home. He suggests some great ideas, and writes with such conviction, especially on the topic of living in a temporary home, but not finding our citizenship here. He communicates the responsibility we have as believers to not blend in with our temporary home, yet still being effective while we're here. While we should engage with the culture that surrounds us, we ought to be cautious not to become so immersed that we begin to lose our Kingdom identity.

The author does an excellent job of encouraging the reader to walk through trials, tribulations, and life with a eternal perspective, and in doing so they'll be able to better understand and value God's bigger picture. He also addresses the responsibility of the church to be relevant, but not to the point of becoming like the culture. The church will be effective in culture if it forever roots its identity in God's word. To stray away from this, or to over contextualize the message in an attempt to be more relevant is not a wise move.

There is no doubting Stellman is well read and well studied, so I mean him no insult in this next comment, but in a nutshell I walked away from this book with this conviction; be in this world, don't become of this world, maximize your time in this world while focusing on the one to come.

If you enjoy well written articulated thought, although sometimes heavy, I would strongly recommend this book.

"I received this book for free from Ref Trust Publishing for this review"
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on December 28, 2010
Jason Stellman is a former missionary and currently the pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church. He is the author of many articles and this is his first book. It is 14 chapters, with index and Scripture references and footnotes following each chapter. Pastor Stellman uses modern and ancient references to illustrate his points and his writing is not informal but not technical. Each chapter is well-developed with an introduction and purpose, discussion, and conclusion. Pastor Stellman's purpose is to define how New Covenant believers are to live and worship in the tension between the "now and not yet" of Christ's first and second comings. "Both worship and life, our activities in the sacred and secular realms, should reflect the sense of homesickness and longing that all sojourners feel," and Pastor Stellman explores the ramifications in areas such as eschatology, biblical theology and daily / weekly practices, both as individuals and as the corporate body. The book addresses difficult questions, such as, "Why do we try to recapture the former glory of America when we belong to something much bigger and more grand? What redemptive significance does being an American citizen have? As citizens of heaven, what should be worthy of our affection - how do we balance the tension of temporal blessings and eternal glory? How do we worship as a church and as individuals?" Some major themes that run through Pastor Stellman's book are for us to distinguish a difference or separation between what is sacred worship on Sundays vs. secular life Monday through Saturday, and the emphasis on a Presbyterian and Reformed viewpoint (covenant language, word and sacrament, Westminster Catechism, Presbyterian General Assemblies) With this in mind, Dual Citizens remains a good book for anyone wanting to examine these difficult issues.

This book was given to me at no charge by Reformation Trust for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review.
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on July 8, 2010
The most positive points to the book are in the introduction & first major section. Stellman does a good job of helping the reader think about being a "pilgrim" in the time between the Already and Not Yet. However, after this first section things do not continue well at all. His ability to lead the reader in a coherent fashion through his new ideas of eschatology show his lack of theological depth. Overall C-
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on January 28, 2012
I've often heard about "Dual Citizenship" and this book, by Jason J. Stellman, clearly explained what that looks like in today's world (by using scripture throughout the book to clarify). I do understand that Christ's kingdom is still to come and this book helped me to understand how to live right here and right now while keeping in tune with and looking forward to the most important kingdom that is yet to come.

One of my favorite quotes from the book comes very early - on page 14, and says, "In a culture obsessed with success (which is usually determined by counting nickels and noses), the ministry of a faithful pastor to his little flock often appears weak and paltry when compared with the glossy professionalism of the megachurch down the street. But when we filter our ideas about success through the lens of the cross ......." The author further states that the church should not respond to the environment by changing but be brave enough to be different.

So, throughout this book I was busy underlining "little gems" - an example is the thought that the two kingdoms intersect because we are simultaneously justified and sinful. However, we must remember that "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God". We are to keep living by the grace of God between this age and the age to come (the already and not yet).

The one part of the book that I had difficulty with was the part about baptizing infants and accepting them into the "covenant" family. I was not baptized as an infant and did not accept Christ until I understood that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. How can an infant understand that he/she is born with a sin nature? Otherwise, the book is an excellent valuable tool and I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to read it.

I received this book from Reformation Trust (Ligonier Ministries) in exchange for a fair review.
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on February 2, 2012
Jason Stellman's book Dual Citizens makes a positive contribution to discussions in the evangelical world about ministry methodology and the Christian's relation to the world.

The book is divided into two parts and fourteen chapters and comes in at 178 pages, excluding indexes. The notes for each chapter are given at the end of that chapter and not at the end of the book. The first part of the book lays out the practice of worship for Dual Citizens (Christians living in the world but belonging to the Kingdom of God). The second half of the book highlights the Christian life for Dual Citizens, focusing on how the believer rightly interacts with culture.

Dual Citizens is filled with great quotations, both from the author himself and from those he cites. I filled my copy with lots of notes and brackets and underlines.So I think on that score it is a resource to which I will return when thinking about Christian living in the world. I did not think the last half of the book flowed well. It seemed more a disconnected collection of essays than a discussion with real order. Nevertheless, Dual Citizens is a worthwhile read. I think the section on worship would be especially worthwhile for those from denominational backgrounds or movements where the centrality of corporate worship to the Christian life has been diminished in its importance.
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