Skip to comments.Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists to Mark 10th Anniversary of Justification Declaration
Posted on 10/31/2009 8:38:45 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
Several commemorative events will be held in Augsburg, Germany, over the next two days to celebrate the signing of a landmark ecumenical agreement ten years ago between representatives of the the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church.
It was on Oct. 31, 1999, that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), considered one of the most significant agreements since the Reformation, was signed by church officials from the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation, which claims to represent 66.7 million of the world's 70.2 million Lutherans.
Members of the World Methodist Council later adopted the document by unanimous vote as well, in 2006, and will be present for this weekend's commemorative events.
"For hundreds of years, the issue of justification by faith divided Catholics and Protestants," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of The United Methodist Churchs Council of Bishops, in a released statement. "This agreement celebrates consensus on the basic truths of the doctrine of justification."
As the LDDJ states, "justification was the crux of all the disputes" between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran tradition, which broke from the former church body and gave rise to the Protestant Reformation. Thus, the two faith groups believed that a common understanding of justification was "fundamental and indispensable" to overcoming the division.
Justification, according to the document, is the forgiveness of sins, liberation the dominating power of sin and death, and from the curse of the law, and it is acceptance into communion with God all of which is from God alone, for Christ's sake, by grace, through faith in the gospel of God's Son.
In their common understanding, members of the Lutheran church body and the Roman Catholic Church together confess: "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works."
Though the joint declaration does not cover everything that either church teaches about justification, it encompasses a consensus on basic truths of the Christian doctrine.
Still, differences remain over language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification with regard to such matters as good works but the Lutheran and Catholic churches say those differences do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.
The JDDJ was not signed without objections. Some in the Lutheran tradition were shocked to see their leaders make what they described as a compromising move.
Nevertheless, the joint declaration is often cited as a significant achievement in religious history.
The highlight of the upcoming commemorative celebrations will be a ceremony Friday evening in the Golden Hall of the Augsburg Rathaus.
On Saturday, presentations related to the JDDJ will continue with speakers including the long-serving bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany, Dr. Walter Klaiber of Tübingen, and the former president of the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), Cardinal Walter Kasper, and the general secretary of LWF, the Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, will give the closing remarks.
The festivities will conclude with an ecumenical worship service in the Augsburg Cathedral and a reception.
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I’m not sure if I totally agree with this statement made by Beeson Divinity School founding dean Timothy George :
“The gaping divide between evangelicals and Catholics is ecclesiology and authority, not justification and salvation, as important as that debate remains. There is enough commonality that evangelicals and Catholics with a living faith can recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with a common Lord and common grace that brought them together. The hard issues are questions related to the church, such as the Petrine office [the papacy] and the Eucharist. Those discussions will occupy us for the next 100 years.”
See here :
This is interesting timing. I am having a discussion in this discussion group about the very nature of the Gospel. There is a total confusion between law and gospel. According to this Roman Catholic poster, the Gospel is the “Good works that WE must do for God.” If that is the Roman Catholic understanding of the Gospel, then there is no agreement between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. This document is not worth the paper on which is is written.
Here is how I see the difference is.
Notation —> means “results in”.
Roman Catholic view : Faith + Good Works —> Salvation.
Lutheran and Protestant view : Faith —> Salvation —> Good Works.
The schema is really rather simple: grace, produces faith, which results in acceptance of more grace, which produce works, which strengthen grace, etc.
The Catholic Church is completely clear on this. I'm sorry that all Catholics are not.
The principal soteriological disagreement between Protestants and Catholics is over the nature of grace. The traditional Protestant view is that grace is a strictly extrinsic re-reckoning by God of his position toward us.
The Catholic view is that grace is principally adoption, and God's sharing of his own nature with us. In this view, grace is something which God places within the believer's soul, which causes a real, ontological change.
One view is that God changes how he sees us. The other view is that God changes us. God wants to get us into heaven, but he also wants to get heaven into us.
My only concern is that faith in this scheme could be understood as a work rather than as an instrument. I prefer something along the lines as: a sinner is justified (declared righteous) by the grace of God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, through faith. There are also Protestants that believe that someone is saved by faith + obedience.
In general though, your equation is correct. But like most things, it can always be misinterpreted.
"The foundation of the Christian faith" is something that is denied in the New Testament?
"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." -- Gal 5:6
What have you read on the subject that was actually written by (theologically competent) Catholics?
CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.
CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
(Canons 18 and 20 of the II Council of Orange; the Canons of II Orange are de fide dogma of the Catholic Church. That's part of the Roman view of justification. Did you know that?)
See Canon 20 of II Orange, above.
the imputed righteousness of Christ
That's the nature of grace issue.
and instantaneous justification
Sorry, I don't know what this means, or more accurately, I don't know why you think we have any difficulty with it.
Let’s look at what the Council of Trent said in response to the Reformation. If we look at their Canons, it seems that Roman Catholic doctrine denies justification by faith alone and says:
* “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).
* “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.” (Canon 14).
Anathema, according to Catholic theology means excommunication, “the exclusion of a sinner from the society of the faithful.” The Greek word anathema is also translated as “accursed” (Rom. 9:3; Gal. 1:8-9, NASB & KJV), “eternally condemned” (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV), and “cursed” (Rom. 9:3, NIV),. We can see that Roman Catholic theology pronounces a curse of excommunication, of being outside the camp of Christ if you believe that you are saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus.
Does the Roman Catholic Church specifically state that we are “saved by grace and works”? Not that I am aware of and neither do the above Catholic Canons state such a thing.
But, when the Roman Catholic Church negates justification by faith alone, it NECESSARILY IMPLIES that we must do something for justification, for IF it is not by faith alone, then it must be by faith and something ( what then is that something ?).
At this point many Catholics (including priests that I have spoken to) appeal to James 2:24 which says, “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.”
Protestants understand the context of James is speaking of DEAD FAITH as opposed to LIVING, SAVING faith.
Protestant understand this passage to mean that James states that if you “say” you have faith but have no works (James 2:14), that faith cannot save you because it is a dead faith (v. 17). In other words, mere intellectual acknowledgement of Christ is a dead faith that produces no regeneration and no change in a person’s life. This faith does not justify. Rather, it is only that real and believing faith in Christ that results in justification. When someone is truly justified, he is truly saved and regenerate. Therefore, we see the results of true saving faith as they are manifested in the changed life of the one justified by faith alone. Real faith produces good works but it isn’t these works that save you. Good works are the effect of salvation, not the cause of it in any way and they certainly do not help anyone keep their salvation.
The Catholic Church certainly denies that salvation is "by faith alone" as Luther meant it.
What do you mean by "justification by faith alone"?
If you mean that you are justified by firmly believing that Christ died for sinners, and that you are a sinner Christ for whom he died, and that therefore you are saved ... sorry. That amounts to believing your salvation into existence, and no, we don't agree with that.
If you mean by "faith" a filial adherence to and love for God and all his attributes and all his precepts, then we're getting closer.
Salvation is by grace, and only by grace. Faith flows from grace, and works (if they have any merit) also flow from grace through faith. This is the consistent teaching of both Scripture and the church fathers.
Real faith produces good works but it isn't these works that save you.
No, because ultimately it's God, and him alone who saves you.
Good works are the effect of salvation, not the cause of it in any way
But note that Paul writes in Romans 2 that God rewards those who do good.
and they certainly do not help anyone keep their salvation.
"Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins" -- 1 Peter 4:8
Doesn't sound like Scripture agrees with you.
RE: What do you mean by “justification by faith alone”?
The Bible says “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). Furthermore, the Bible says:
* “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,” (Rom. 3:20).
* “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” (Rom. 3:24).
* “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” (Rom. 3:28).
* “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” (Rom. 4:3).
* “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,” (Rom. 4:5).
* “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith,” (Rom. 4:13).
* “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 5:1).
* “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him,” (Rom. 5:9).
* “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved,” (Rom. 10:9).
* “so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Gal. 3:14).
* “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” (Eph. 2:8).
I am bewildered when I read Catholic theology that denies justification by faith alone and requires human effort in addition to God’s grace to be saved. Of course, Catholicism denies that it is works that save us — and rightly so. But, it seems to contradict itself when it teaches that certain things must be done by people in order to be justified and to keep that justification.
Whether or not Catholicism calls these works acts of faith or not is immaterial. The label doesn’t change the substance. We are either saved by grace through faith alone or we are not.
Of the acts to be performed by Catholics for justification, baptism is the first requirement Please consider these quotes:
* “. . Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that ‘we too might walk in newness of life,’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 977).
* “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy,” (CCC, par. 2020).
I do not see the Bible saying anywhere that we are justified by baptism. Yes, there are verses that can be interpreted that way, but if they were then they would contradict the clear teaching of Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:3; 5:1; Eph. 2:8 which says salvation by grace through faith, not grace through faith and baptism.
However, according to Roman Catholicism even faith and baptism aren’t sufficient in themselves for you to be saved. It says that baptism is only the first sacrament of forgiveness. Good works, according to Roman Catholicism, are also required and are rewarded with going to heaven:
“We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ,” (CCC, par. 1821).
The above quote clearly states that heaven is the “eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ.”
Catholic theology asserts that works are a predecessor to justification in direct contradiction to God’s word which states “. . .that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” (Rom. 3:28). What are the deeds of the Law? Anything we do in hopes of getting or maintaining our righteousness before God.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), par. 2010 it says,
“Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification.”
How does anyone merit for himself the underserved kindness of God’s grace? Grace is by definition unmerited favor. To me this is a teaching that you can EARN grace from God through works or rituals. So how does the Catholic church get around this apparent dilemma that grace is unmerited but it is obtained through our merits? It states that...
“Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it” (CCC, par. 2023).
This is the crux of the problem for me. Roman Catholic theology asserts that God’s grace is granted through baptism and infused into a person by the Holy Spirit. This then enables him or her to do good works which then are rewarded with heaven.
Basically, this is no different than maintaining that justification is by grace through faith and your works whether it be baptism, going to the true church, keeping certain laws, receiving the sacraments, or anything else you are required to do.
Suffice it to say that based on this, I don’t see how we can reconcile what the Roman Catholic Church teaches regarding justification with the Lutheran (in particular) and Protestant (in general) view.
Which simply means that the disagreement still exists and I don’t see how this can be a basis for unity unless one side agrees with the other.