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Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet Hardcover – August 31, 2009
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I do not know of a book quite like this one. It is a devotional theology of the Christian life that is far richer than the standard fare. . . . Yet it is also a down-to-earth account of how the gospel and its public ministry of Word and sacrament provide the right coordinates for our pilgrimage. --Michael S. Horton
About the Author
Jason J. Stellman is a native of Orange County, California, and became a believer through the ministry of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa in 1989. After coming to understand and embrace Reformed theology, Pastor Stellman received his M.Div. degree from Westminster Seminary California, where he studied under such scholars as Dr. Michael Horton, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, and Dr. D. G. Hart. After graduation, he was ordained by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America and called to plant Exile Presbyterian Church in the Seattle area. Rev. Stellman has written articles for Modern Reformation and Tabletalk magazines.
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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.
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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Author: Jason Stellman
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