Saturday, November 10, 2007

Works that Justify


Discussions with online Catholics around justification can get confusing, especially Catholics who are former Protestants. The confusion comes when certain Catholics try to minimize the works portion of their justification and emphasize the faith only portion of justification ("initial justification"). The intent seems to be to convince others that Protestants and Catholics are actually not that different with regards to their doctrines on justification (the Reformation was apparently a big misunderstanding).

I was, however, able to find other online Catholics who are more upfront about their works in justification:

“The Catholic Church teaches that although faith is critically important, it only begins the process of justification, a process which also has a middle and an end. Justification is not a single event of faith alone, nor are works merely the fruit of such faith, but a process whereby the individual grows in justification by his faith and good works, a growth which can be retarded, or even terminated, by faithlessness and bad works, ending in damnation.

… If Paul lifts the doing of works for obtaining eternal life to such a height as he does in Rom. 2:6-10, what, then, can we conclude about Paul’s understanding of works in relation to justification? The conclusion must be that works are necessary for justification, and, in fact, are one of the principle determining factors in whether or not one obtains salvation. We say this with the proviso that Paul outrightly condemns works done from boasting with a view toward obligating God to pay the worker with salvation (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5).” Robert Sungenis


“In any event, if one wishes to use the language the Bible uses, one would say that one is justified by faith apart from "works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28), but not by "faith alone," apart from works (Jas. 2:24).” James Akin


“But we Catholics insist that James 2:14–26 shows that works are more than mere evidence of faith. Works actually justify. James is speaking about works growing out of faith. If works of faith are not a part of our justification, then it is hard to understand why James would say, as he does, that "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?" (Jas. 2:21). You may remember how Paul said that Abraham was not justified by works but by faith. Paul means that Abraham was not justified by keeping the Old Testament law, while James means that Abraham was justified by doing a work that grew out of his faith in God.” Catholic.com

55 comments:

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

Works done according to one's own natural powers absent God's enabling grace CANNOT justify period.

Works God Himself by His Grace does in you & threw you. works He has has prepared for you DO justify you.

Why is that so hard to comprehend?

You Prots have this kneejerk belief ALL WORKS are of the same status as mere natural good works done appart from Grace.

My wife a former ex-Catholic discusses this here:
http://home.earthlink.net/~mysticalrose/grace2.html

Faith Alone is another gospel (James 2:24).

Pontificator said...

There must be a way to be able to say "we are justified by works" because this is the language of Scripture (James 2:24, Rom 2:5-10, Matt 25:31-46, etc). Any formulation of justification that cannot find a way to meaningfully say "works justify" is not being faithful to the whole of Scripture.

Exegesis can take us part of the way. The contemporary exegesis of St Paul, for example, has taught us that it is anachronistic to import the Pelagian controversy back into the writings of the Apostle. St Paul's doctrine of justification is directly concerned to justify the inclusion of the Gentiles into the community of the new Israel. When Paul says that we are not justified by "works," he always means "works of Torah" (see the commentaries on Romans by N. T. Wright and James Dunn and the commentary on Galatians by Richard Hays). Hence it becomes easier to harmonize Paul and James.

The question thus becomes, precisely in what sense do works/deeds justify?

The Catholic tradition, following Augustine, has identified justifying works as those works performed by the regenerate, i.e., the baptized, i.e., the justified. Works do not bring bring about the state of justification--God does this gratuitously in the sacrament of baptism--but they do contribute to our growth in justification. Please note that in the traditional Latin usage, "justification" comprehends initial justification, growth in justification (sanctification), and final justification. Hence it is meaningful for Catholics to speak of works as justifying--not in the sense that they earn God's favor, not in the sense that they effect the transition from a state of sin to a state of righteousness, but in the sense that they contribute to our growth in holiness and sanctity and thus deepen our communion with the Holy Trinity.

As the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration puts it:

"We confess together that good works - a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love - follow justification and are its fruits. When the justified live in Christ and act in the grace they receive, they bring forth, in biblical terms, good fruit. Since Christians struggle against sin their entire lives, this consequence of justification is also for them an obligation they must fulfill. Thus both Jesus and the apostolic Scriptures admonish Christians to bring forth the works of love.

"According to Catholic understanding, good works, made possible by grace and the working of the Holy Spirit, contribute to growth in grace, so that the righteousness that comes from God is preserved and communion with Christ is deepened. When Catholics affirm the "meritorious" character of good works, they wish to say that, according to the biblical witness, a reward in heaven is promised to these works. Their intention is to emphasize the responsibility of persons for their actions, not to contest the character of those works as gifts, or far less to deny that justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace."

One of the boons of the ecumenical dialogue of the past fifty years has been the clearing away of misunderstandings between Catholics and Reformation Protestants and the recognition that the different models of salvation that have been employed can be seen as complementary, rather than contradictory. It is also true, I believe, to say that Catholic theologians have moved away from a reactionary, one-sided stance over against the Reformation and have appropriated many of its positive concerns. And the same can be said of many Protestant theologians. A real convergence has occurred. There is no good reason to stay stuck in the polemics of the 16th century on the issue of justification.

In addition to the relevant ecumenical documents, I also commend "A Lutheran's Case for Roman Catholicism" by philosopher Robert Koons.

anon said...

"There must be a way to be able to say "we are justified by works" because this is the language of Scripture (James 2:24, Rom 2:5-10, Matt 25:31-46, etc)."

Not only that, there must be a way to say that we are NOT justified by faith alone--for the same reasons.

For some folks, "sola scriptura" actually means "only the Scripture I like."

Saint and Sinner said...

A response to Robert Koon's essay is found here:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/05/calvinist-case-against-lutherans-case.html

Saint and Sinner said...

"Exegesis can take us part of the way. The contemporary exegesis of St Paul, for example, has taught us that it is anachronistic to import the Pelagian controversy back into the writings of the Apostle. St Paul's doctrine of justification is directly concerned to justify the inclusion of the Gentiles into the community of the new Israel."

You're taking the "New Perspective" as if it were the final word on the matter. In reality there are a whole host of problems with their interpretation of God's "Righteousness". Numerous scholars have pointed this out:

http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Alone-Answering-Challenges-Justification/dp/1581348401/ref=sr_1_1/103-9945172-2093417?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194739656&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Blood-Righteousness-Theology-Imputation/dp/1581347545/ref=pd_sim_b_title_2/103-9945172-2093417

http://www.amazon.com/Covenant-Salvation-Michael-Scott-Horton/dp/0664231632/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-9945172-2093417?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194739791&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Future-Justification-Response-N-Wright/dp/1581349645/ref=sr_1_4/103-9945172-2093417?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194739836&sr=1-4

...just to name a few.

Admittedly, sola fide can be a fairly imprecise term. The real issue is not whether works are necessary in some sense (as defined by Scripture); but rather, it is whether a believer's works can result in the expiation of his own sin.

The answer given by Paul is, "Absolutely NOT!"

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

Pontificator My Brother,
The phrase "Works of the Law" isn't found in Rabbinic Literature BUT the phrase is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It seems to refer to the standards established for the Essene Community for the interpretation and application of the Torah by its leaders. Jerome understood this phrase to refer to the Ceremonial Laws of the Torah which have been abrogated with the coming of the Messiah & of course Augustine believed it refered to all observences of God's Law done with one's own natural powers appart from Grace. Either interpretation is acceptible for us to believe as Catholics because either way a Trinitine Bible believing Catholic MUST confess that HE CAN'T be justified by "works of the Law".
But anti-Catholic Prots are useless since they kneejerk read Pelagianism into the Catholic view of Justification like the strident anti-Christian Muslim or Jew reads "Three Gods in One God" into any common definition of the Trinity.
Maybe the Prots here will suprise us. We shall see.

Son of Mary be with you.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) said...

>The real issue is not whether works are necessary in some sense (as defined by Scripture); but rather, it is whether a believer's works can result in the expiation of his own sin.

See what I mean. What kind of "works" is being done by this believer? Salutary Acts or Natural good works?

Because if a beleiver starts by having nothing but contempt for his own abilities & trusts only in the Grace of God to move him then he is proforming a salutary act which is NOT his own work. His "good work"(i.e. the Salutary act) is inspired by the Holy Spirit who works in the believer to will & to do God's good pleasure. If the believer sins after intial justification then the "good work" (i.e.Salutary Act) of repentence & perfect contrition CAN "result in the expiation of his own sin" because the "good work" has the Grace Christ won for us on the Cross behind it.

OTOH if you are talking about natural good works then obviously that is useless to the expiation of sin. As the Desert Fathers say "If you see a young Monk trying to assend the latter to Heaven by his own works grab him by the foot & hurl him to the ground. For what he is doing is not good for his soul."

Ronnie said...


There must be a way to be able to say "we are justified by works" because this is the language of Scripture (James 2:24, Rom 2:5-10, Matt 25:31-46, etc)."

Not only that, there must be a way to say that we are NOT justified by faith alone--for the same reasons.


Of course, we can say “we are justified by works”, in the same sense and context which James says it. Our claim is that Catholics use the verse in the wrong sense and give it the wrong meanings. That has always been the issue so it is a red herring to make it seem like we are arguing that you can’t ever use this phrase.


For some folks, "sola scriptura" actually means "only the Scripture I like."

You know this kind of argument can be used against Catholics also in reference to history and tradition. You know the Scripture that speaks of “all sin and fall short of the glory of God”, but somehow you would exclude this verse applies to Mary. Or the lack of Papal Infallibility support in the majority of the early church tradition. Therefore, your sword here is double-edged and cuts you even deeper.

Carrie said...

One of the boons of the ecumenical dialogue of the past fifty years has been the clearing away of misunderstandings between Catholics and Reformation Protestants and the recognition that the different models of salvation that have been employed can be seen as complementary, rather than contradictory.

You can't be serious.

1. I am justified by faith alone, are you?

2. I am not justified by baptism, are you?

3. Works are a fruit of my justification, they do not contribute or increase my justification - how about you?

4. After justification I stand righteous before God because of Christ's righteousness which is imputed to me - you also?

5. I cannot lose my justification by mortal sin, can you?

6. My sins were all nailed to the cross of Christ, there will be no further punishment after I die for sins I commit after justification, true for you also?

Pontificator said...

You're taking the "New Perspective" as if it were the final word on the matter.

S&S, you are right to point out that the exegesis of Paul is controverted. It will be interesting to see how Pauline studies shake out in the next decade or two, but the trend is definitely against the old Protestant confessional exegesis of Paul. And what is interesting is that the "revolution" is occurring precisely within Protestant scholarship, driven by historical not confessional concerns. And the revolution isn't restricted to the New Perspective folks. See, e.g., Douglas Campbell's The Quest for Paul's Gospel. There are lots of scholarly opinions out there about what the Apostle Paul meant by "justification by faith" and its significance within Paul's theology.

The real issue is not whether works are necessary in some sense (as defined by Scripture); but rather, it is whether a believer's works can result in the expiation of his own sin.

If this is the real issue, then it is a non-issue, at least between Protestants and Catholics. The Catholic Church is absolutely clear in its public teaching about the sufficiency of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world, and this clarity has been confirmed in the ecumenical dialogues during the past forty years. The sufficiency of Christ's atonement is simply not an ecumenical dispute. Indeed, this sufficiency is proclaimed every day in the Church's eucharistic re-presentation to the Father of the sacrifice of Christ.

howard said...

"Paul means that Abraham was not justified by keeping the Old Testament law, while James means that Abraham was justified by doing a work that grew out of his faith in God.”"

This is the heart of the problem. RCs believe that the works Paul is refering to are the works of the OT Law. James is not. The Reformers dealt with this objection over and over again. Modern conservative scholars have demonstrated the same. You simply can't divorce Paul's understanding of works to simply mean some OT Law.

Whether it is by Baptism or circumcision, it is still a work that one must do to merit the righteousness of Christ. The Blessed Man of Paul and David in Romans 4 have nothing in common.

Pontificator said...

You can't be serious.

Carrie, I am deadly serious. I have been consuming the theological literature on justification for the past thirty years. The theological convergences that have occurred on justification between Catholics and Protestants (particularly between Catholics and Lutherans and Catholics and Anglicans) remarkable and significant. If you haven't immersed yourself in the literature--as you clearly have not--then you really should maintain a discrete silence and begin some serious reading and reflection. With all respect, the ignorance being displayed on this blog is astounding. Folks make the most outrageous polemical statements based on little acquaintance with serious biblical and theological scholarship. Not only are they clueless about Catholic reflection on justification, but they are equally clueless about Lutheran, Anglican, and Wesleyan reflection.


1. I am justified by faith alone, are you?

I am justified by Christ and in Christ. I am justified by his assumption and healing of human nature in the incarnation. I am justified by his atoning death on the cross. I am justified by his victorious resurrection. This work of justification is freely given to me, apart from all merit and works, received in faith.

2. I am not justified by baptism, are you?

Absolutely! It is baptism that guarantees salvation as gift. I do not justify myself through my act of faith. It is Christ who justifies, and he does this through the sacrament of holy baptism. Baptism prevents "faith" from ever becoming a work. This is why Martin Luther, when he found himself attacked by Satan in his anfechtung would cry out, "I am baptized!" Faith cleaves to the justifying word enacted in baptism.

3. Works are a fruit of my justification, they do not contribute or increase my justification - how about you?

Works are a fruit of my justification. Works may also be said to contribute to and increase my justification, if "justification" is defined as comprehending both initial justification and the process of sanctification. If "justification" is definitionally restricted to initial justification, then my works do not contribute to my justification one whit.

4. After justification I stand righteous before God because of Christ's righteousness which is imputed to me - you also?

Not only is the righteousness of Christ imputed to me, but through the divine act of imputation, I have been made righteous through union with Christ and reborn in his Holy Spirit. Christ and his righteousness does not remain external to me. He has grasped me in love, filled me with his Holy Spirit, and made me a new creation. I am an adopted son of God, and I share in the divine life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

5. I cannot lose my justification by mortal sin, can you?

Alas, I can lose my justification by mortal sin, and so can you, whether you admit it or not. No amount of rationalization and pseudo-theologizing can take away your freedom, given to you through rebirth in the Spirit, to turn away from the love of Christ. The warnings given throughout Scripture are real, not hypothetical. God wants lovers, not automatons. Do not deceive yourself into believing that you cannot reject God. God has given you true freedom in the gospel, and he will respect your freedom, even if you ultimately choose eternal damnation. So the Church has always believed, and so the Church has always prayed: "Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil."

6. My sins were all nailed to the cross of Christ, there will be no further punishment after I die for sins I commit after justification, true for you also?

Yes, all my sins are nailed to the cross of Christ. I live in Christ, in whom there is no condemnation.

Wake up, folks. You're living in 16th century polemical hell. Outside of your narrow Reformed ghetto, Christians are finding that the recent ecumenical discussions on salvation are deep and substantive, thus generating new and fresh theological formulations. And these formulations are themselves now finding support from a new breed of New Testament scholars, who no longer wish to interpret Scripture through a narrow and distorting Reformed lens. Sit up and pay attention. The Church is bigger, so so much bigger, than the Reformed world.

Between 2003-2007 I wrestled at great length with the question, does justification by faith justify continued separation from Rome. My pontifications may be of interest to you.

All it takes is a willingness to look at the matter from different angles, with charity and flexibility. You will be surprised, I think.

Carrie said...

If you haven't immersed yourself in the literature--as you clearly have not--then you really should maintain a discrete silence and begin some serious reading and reflection. With all respect, the ignorance being displayed on this blog is astounding.

Your “theological scholarship” is wrong.

As far as your answers to my questions:

1. I’ll take that as a “no”.
2. I think you missed the word “NOT” in my question.
3. I’ll take that as a “no”.
4. I think you are being dishonest in your use of “imputation”. See Trent.
5. Thank you for answering honestly.
6. Nice dodge. Don’t forget purgatory

Listen, I am not trying to just be polemic, I think you are in serious error. Your less than straightforward answers to my questions make me believe you are more interested in your ecumenical agenda that being open and honest about the serious differences in our faiths.

If you think your Protestant “scholars” represent the correct Protestants position then you are fooling yourself.

Rhology said...

Pontificator,

Do the public statements of such men as Tim Staples, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, and Mark Shea count as far as "more recent convergence" go?
If not, to whom would have to listen to find the pulse of that to which you refer?
If so, I see no reason to believe that much convergence has taken place at all, and I don't see where we here have misrepresented their views in any way.
Seems to me the answer could very well be that you, like many in your church, are teetering into the errors of weak-kneed ecumenism.

Peace,
Rhology

Pontificator said...

1. I’ll take that as a “no”.

Actually, you should not take that as a no. You never defined "faith alone," and I was not about to subscribe to a formula with which I might or might not agree. I think I have perfect biblical warrant for avoiding the formula, given that the only biblical writer who invokes it does so only to reject it: "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).

Concern about the meaning of the sola fide is not just a Catholic concern. The great Reformed theologian, Thomas F. Torrance, for example, rightly notes that the formula has been often misinterpreted by Protestants to say that we are justified by our act of believing. This construal turns faith into a work and contradicts the deepest intentions of the reformers. Better, rather, to say that we are justified by the faith of Christ. Similarly, the Lutheran theologian George Lindbeck proposes that the sola fide should be understood as a hermeneutical rule: so proclaim the gospel as to to build up faith, rather than works-righteousness. It is the gospel preached in "the performative mode of promise." If this is what the sola fide means, no Catholic could object.

So it seems to me far better to stress the solus Christus: we are justified by Christ alone! And we are justified not just by his atoning death but by his entire redeeming work, beginning with his virginal conception and concluding with his glorification. In him both the objective and subjective conditions of justification are fulfilled. Where did I learn this? From two Reformed theologians, Thomas Torrance and Karl Barth!

But if pushed, I will also note that there is a perfectly acceptable Catholic way to construe the sola fide: we are justified by faith informed by love. Or as Paul writes in Galatians: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love" (Gal 5:6). Why must faith by formed by love? Because love is life in the Holy Trinity, and the Holy Trinity is what salvation is all about. If we do not love, then we do not share in the divine life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and therefore we are not justified.

2. I think you missed the word “NOT” in my question.

No, I did not miss the word not. You seem to believe that justification by Christ and justification by baptism are mutually exclusive. They are not mutually exclusive in Scripture; they are not mutually exclusive in the Church Fathers; and they are not mutually exclusive in Lutheranism and Anglicanism. That Christ justifies us in baptism is absolutely necessary to any biblical doctrine of justification. As Luther wrote, "faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life." Nor is this completely foreign to Reformed reflection. See the brief discussion by Peter Leithart.

3. I’ll take that as a “no”.

Take it as you wish, but my answer was clear: if "justification" is restricted to initial justification, then human works do not contribute one whit. But Catholic and Protestant usage differs here, which is why there is often so much confusion. As Peter Kreeft writes:

"When terms are ambiguous, the two sides may really disagree when they seem to agree because they agree only on the word, not the concept. Or the two sides may really agree when they seem to disagree because they agree on the concept but not the word. The latter holds true here. When Luther taught that we are saved by faith alone, he meant by salvation only the initial step, justification, being put right with God. But when Trent said we are saved by good works as well as faith, they meant by salvation the whole process by which God brings us to our eternal destiny and that process includes repentance, faith, hope, and charity, the works of love."

4. I think you are being dishonest in your use of “imputation”. See Trent.

No, I am not being dishonest. I have actually read the Tridentine Decree many times with the intention of understanding it. Catholics have no problem speaking about God's declarative, forensic word of justification. They only insist that this is a performative and creative word. As Cardinal Bellarmine wrote: "When God justifies the sinner by declaring him just He also makes him just, for God’s judgment is according to truth." Nor is this simply a Catholic way of looking imputation. Again I reference Torrance:

"Forgiveness is not just a word of pardon but a word translated into our existence by crucifixion and resurrection, by judgment and recreation. ... Justification is not only a declaratory act, but an actualization of what is declared. ... The resurrection tells us that when God declares a man just, that man is just. Resurrection means that the Word which God sent on his mission does not return to God void but accomplishes that for which he was sent" (Space, Time and Resurrection, p. 61-63).

This understanding of imputation as both forensic and performative grounded the Anglican-Catholic agreement on salvation:

"Justification and sanctification are two aspects of the same divine act (1 Cor 6:11). This does not mean that justification is a reward for faith or works: rather, when God promises the removal of our condemnation and gives us a new standing before him, this justification is indissolubly linked with his sanctifying recreation of us in grace. This transformation is being worked out in the course of our pilgrimage, despite the imperfections and ambiguities of our lives. God’s grace effects what he declares: his creative word imparts what it imputes. By pronouncing us righteous, God also makes us righteous. He imparts a righteousness which is his and becomes ours."

But of course, if you wish to insist, against Scripture, that God's declarative word leaves the sinner untouched and unchanged, if you wish to insist that justifying righteousness is exclusively extrinsic and legal, then of course we disagree.

5. Thank you for answering honestly.

You are welcome.

6. Nice dodge. Don’t forget purgatory

No dodge. Purgatory has absolutely nothing to do with justification. Those who experience that post-mortem purification signified by the word "purgatory" are, according to Catholic doctrine, irrevocably saved and justified. Whatever the "punishments" of purgatory might be, they are completely different from the punishments endured by the damned.

Immerse yourself, Carrie, in the ecumenical documents on justification and in the scholarship that undergirds them. You will be amazed by the convergences that have occurred. Until you have done this, you can only speak out of ignorance. I say this as charitably as I can.

Yes, there are important differences between Catholicism and Reformed Christianity, just as there are important differences between Lutheranism and Reformed Christianity. But do not minimize the fundamental truths the communions share. But you have to look beyond the polemics, historically-conditioned formulae, and mutual misunderstandings.

Carrie said...

Immerse yourself, Carrie, in the ecumenical documents on justification and in the scholarship that undergirds them. You will be amazed by the convergences that have occurred. Until you have done this, you can only speak out of ignorance. I say this as charitably as I can.

And I would repond that you are either quite ignorant of Reformed theology, severely disillusioned, or just terribly dishonest.

First, we've been through #1 before and I think you know you are doing some fancy footwork to try and agree. On #2 you have now redefined the term baptism to mean justification - is this honest? Your re-response to #3 & #4 includes both fancy footwork and redefinition of terms. And #6 is a strawman.

If you would truly like to interact with Reformed theology I suggest you look to the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession. Anglicans and NT Wright are not helping your case.

But do not minimize the fundamental truths the communions share.

Sorry, I don't think the gospel is as elastic as you seem to think it is.

Ronnie said...


No, I did not miss the word not. You seem to believe that justification by Christ and justification by baptism are mutually exclusive. They are not mutually exclusive in Scripture; they are not mutually exclusive in the Church Fathers; and they are not mutually exclusive in Lutheranism and Anglicanism.


No, we do not believe they are mutually exclusive, but neither do we believe baptism is the means of our justification, that role belongs to faith from the inception of the fall. Faith was the means of justification for Adam, Abraham, Issaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and all the others. But saying justification and baptism are not mutually exclusive does not mean baptism is the means of justification. One can having saving faith at the point of their baptism and they would be justified at that point.


That Christ justifies us in baptism is absolutely necessary to any biblical doctrine of justification.


This statement is categorically false. Paul argues for Abraham’s justification as the model in Romans 4 and baptism never comes into the discussion!


As Luther wrote, "faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life."


Luther was clear that faith alone is the means of justification. He believed in baptismal regeneration, however he believed the means of justification was faith.


Nor is this completely foreign to Reformed reflection. See the brief discussion by Peter Leithart.


Peter Leithart does not speak for the Reformed world as a matter of fact Dr Leithart and his cohorts teaching have been declared as out of bounds with just about every conservative Reformed body and many seminaries.

Pontificator said...

Do the public statements of such men as Tim Staples, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, and Mark Shea count as far as "more recent convergence" go? If not, to whom would have to listen to find the pulse of that to which you refer?

I am not acquainted with the writings of most of these individuals on justification and therefore do not know how reliable they are. I suggest you begin with the following:

(1) Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification.

(2) Justification by Faith, ed Anderson, Murphy & Burgess.

(3) Hans Kung, Justification.

(4) The Condemnations of the Reformation Era: Do They Still Divide?, ed. Lehmann and Pannenberg.

(5) George Lindbeck, "Article IV and the Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue," in The Church in a Post-Liberal Age.

(6) Robert W. Jenson, Unbaptized God (chap 1).

(7) Robert Gleason, Grace.

(8) Piet Fransen, The New Life of Grace.

(9) John Henry Newman, Lectures on Justification.

(10) John Reumann, Righteousness in the New Testament.

(11) Joseph Fitzmyer, Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

These works will provide a good foundation. Unfortunately, most of the recent European scholarship on justification has not been translated into English.

Pontificator said...

Ronnie, your reading of St Paul is flawed. You read Rom 3-5 as if they stood all by themselves. They must be read with 6-8. Justification and baptism must be thought together if one would read Paul rightly. The controlling thought here is being "in Christ."

Paul most definitely does not say that the unbaptized are justified. That is not a question that he had to address; but given that justification occurs "in Christ" and given that baptism is sacramental incorporation into Christ (Gal 3:25-27), I contend that the interrelationship of justification and baptism is clear in Paul and is widely recognized by non-Reformed exegetes. It comes to explicit expression in Titus 3:4-7. And I would think that the word of our Lord would settle the matter for us: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

As far as your reading of Martin Luther, you are reading him through your Reformed spectacles and therefore mis-reading him. For Luther, we are justified by the gospel-promise spoken to us, which is why it is "by faith." And this is why baptism is justifying, as Luther explains in his Large Catechism. Faith cleaves to the promise sealed to the believer in baptism. And here, as Phillip Cary notes, is a critical difference between Lutheran and Reformed understandings of justification and faith.

Ronnie said...


Ronnie, your reading of St Paul is flawed. You read Rom 3-5 as if they stood all by themselves. They must be read with 6-8. Justification and baptism must be thought together if one would read Paul rightly. The controlling thought here is being "in Christ."


Actually I read Romans 3-5 in its place in the entire epistle, not just with chapters 6-8. However, isn’t it obvious if Paul is using Abraham’s justification by faith as the paradigmatic model then it can’t be by the means of baptism, because Abraham didn’t practice baptism in the context of justification!! The sole means that is consistent with the justification of both Jew and Gentile is faith, which is why the Apostle could say:

Romans 4:16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.


Paul most definitely does not say that the unbaptized are justified.


He doesn’t say those exact words, but he teaches it nonetheless. Was Abraham justified without baptism? Yes. Are we justified in the same way as Abraham? Yes. What way was that? By grace through faith alone. Abraham’s justification as ours is the justification of the ungodly who is not working, but believing( Romans 4:5 ).


That is not a question that he had to address; but given that justification occurs "in Christ" and given that baptism is sacramental incorporation into Christ (Gal 3:25-27), I contend that the interrelationship of justification and baptism is clear in Paul and is widely recognized by non-Reformed exegetes. It comes to explicit expression in Titus 3:4-7. And I would think that the word of our Lord would settle the matter for us: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).


Logically, justification takes place before our being “in Christ”, as it is the legal ground for our being “in Christ”! Baptism is the sign and seal of our ingrafted in Christ, and therefore this language by the Apostle is standard sacramental language under both Old and New Covenant alike. Concerning your comment about our Lord’s word settling the matter, it does, but not in your mis-reading of the one verse. In Mark 16:16 the verse ends with “whoever does not believe will be condemned”, notice it doesn’t say “whoever does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned”, nor does it say, “whoever is not baptized will be condemned”. Right away this tells us something about the necessity of believing over baptism. The picture gets even clearer when we examine other things our Lord says. There are a number of times our Lord declared people as justified when they believe, but baptism is nowhere in the picture(e.g. John 5:24; Luke 18:9-15; Luke 7:50 ). Logically these things taken into consideration with what Mark 16:16 says makes it obvious what alone is required for justification instead of condemnation, that is faith.


As far as your reading of Martin Luther, you are reading him through your Reformed spectacles and therefore mis-reading him. For Luther, we are justified by the gospel-promise spoken to us, which is why it is "by faith." And this is why baptism is justifying, as Luther explains in his Large Catechism. Faith cleaves to the promise sealed to the believer in baptism. And here, as Phillip Cary notes, is a critical difference between Lutheran and Reformed understandings of justification and faith.


“Faith cleaves to the promise sealed to the believer in baptism” is a very Reformed sacramental statement and I have no problem with it. “We are justified by the gospel-promise spoken to us” is also a very Reformed statement that I have no problem with. The Reformed have always believed that baptism was a sign and seal of the Gospel promises, but yet, the spoken Gospel was always to accompany it, therefore it is quite apt for one to be justified at baptism by believing the promises signified and spoken at this event. However, the crucial point is that Luther believed one was justified through faith alone, and not through baptism even if he believed this justification ordinarily took place during baptism.

anon said...

"The real issue is not whether works are necessary in some sense (as defined by Scripture); but rather, it is whether a believer's works can result in the expiation of his own sin. "


A believer's works alone cannot result in the expiation of his own sin.

Now the question is whether a believer's faith alone can result in the expiation of his own sin. The answer given by James is, "Absolutely NOT!"

Sola fide is not the Gospel.

L P Cruz said...

Pontificator,

Your quoting the Joint Declaration JDDJ is no evidence that the Lutherans and Roman Catholics are already in agreement.

If Lutherans/Anglicans sign a joint document on Indulgences with their RC counterparts , I will believe what divides is no longer there.

JDDJ is an agreement for the Lutherans to say they believe X and for the Roman Caths to say they belive Y. I too can sign a document that says you believe what I do not believe - JDDJ is that. The confessing Lutheran bodies never signed that document.


There is one thing we do agree -- I am justified by Jesus Christ at the Cross - he merited forgiveness for me at the Cross from the Father.

I believe though that Jesus justified me once and for all at the Cross. I wonder if you would agree with that with consistency?

You do understand being a learned man that Lutherans do not deny works, what they do deny is that they contribute to our justification and by that you do also know what they mean by that, i.e. it is not the same as sanctification, it is a declaration (proclaim righteous) rather than a transformation (make righteous).

I take note Philip Cary's article but he is not Lutheran and in fact in that talk he had some things he misunderstood. Confessionally on justification as an article the Reformed and Lutheran do agree where we differ are on the nature of faith, on assurance and on the Sacraments, the major of which is in the Lord's Supper. The thing is that most "Reformed" are cafeteria subscribers of their confession that is why it will do well for them to know well first their confessions as a starting point.

Also quoting the works of say Fr. Kung or Fitzmeyer will not help either because we know the Magisterium do not consider them as spokes men for them.

Lastly you know for sure what we mean by faith for it is defined here...but condemned by the RCC...
If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema. (Trent Session VI, Canon XII)


LPC

anon said...

Given what was on the table at the time of Trent, to say that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified is to contradict scripture.

With the clarifications that have come from Lutheran thologans regarding the distinction they make between justification and sanctification as seperate things, one can see how the Trent statement can be tempered, though not tossed out, since in the Catholic thological view, sanctification and justification are tied together in consumating salvation. One is not ultimately given his heavenl;y reward until both justification and sanctification are accomplished. These views may be looked at as great gaps or subtle differneces in perception of the same thing, depending on the observer's predisposition. Most modern Protestants and Catholics take the second view.

Carrie said...

Thanks LPC for clarifying the Lutheran side.

Pontificator said...

JDDJ is an agreement for the Lutherans to say they believe X and for the Roman Caths to say they belive Y. I too can sign a document that says you believe what I do not believe - JDDJ is that.

I disagree. The JDDJ is far more than you have stated. It does not purport to have achieved total agreement, but it does identify significant points of consensus and states that the remaining differences should not be judged as church-dividing. The fact that a minority of Lutherans--the "true" Lutherans, no doubt--did not sign off on it is neither here nor there. The fact remains that the majority of Lutheran bodies belonging to the Lutheran World Federation did subscribe to it. The JDDJ witnesses to a remarkable convergence between Lutherans and Catholics on the doctrine of justification. And now the Methodist World Council has also embraced the Joint Declaration.

Do Lutherans and Reformed really agree on justification? No doubt there is agreement on a verbal level; but when the very differences you identify (the nature of faith and assurance, the efficacy of sacraments, predestination, perseverance) are taken into account, then one must question the depth of agreement between Lutherans and Reformed on justification.

Like Phillip Cary, I know Lutheranism only as an outsider; but having studied for several years at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, I do have some acquaintance with Lutheran theology and practice, and from what I can tell, he is spot-on in his analysis.

L P Cruz said...

Dear Fr. Pontificator,

But would you not agree -- the real test of agreement is when the RCC and the Lutherans agree on a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Indulgences?

So I do wonder if the Lutherans would have signed the JDDJ if there were a subtopic in it that spoke on indulgences.

I agree on the scholarly level there might be agreement as the writings of Fr. Fitzmeyer might show etc, but you do know that he is called a liberal by orthodox RC believers, right? So..?

Peace to you,

LPC

Pontificator said...

Pastor Cruz,

I'd really hate to take this thread into the area of indulgences and post-mortem purification (purgatory). No doubt we would soon be debating the 95 Theses all over again. :-)

But consider why it was felt by the JDDJ participants that agreement on purgatory and indulgences was not necessary for agreement on justification: because neither affects our eschatological acceptance by God. According to Catholic teaching, those who are given to experience purgatorial purification have already been judged and forgiven by God. Their salvation is irrevocably established. All that remains for them is the perfection of their sanctification that they might fully enjoy the vision of the Most Holy Trinity. As now understood and practiced by the Catholic Church, indulgences are an ecclesial invocation of the communion of saints to assist in this process of final sanctification. Or as Cardinal Ratzinger explains:

"Indulgence then means that we enter into the resources of the communion of saints, where there is an exchange of spiritual goods, in which we make a gift of our own and receive what others have to offer."

Of course, if there be no such thing as purgatorial purification, then the question of indulgences is moot. But regardless, Catholic belief and practice at this point does not affect the doctrine of justification as identified in the JDDJ.

Peace.

Rhology said...

Doesn't the JDDJ NEGLECT to mention the word "alone" in the "justified by faith" statement?

And those men I mentioned are prominent Roman Catholic apologists, most of them professionals at the time. Do you really not know who they are? If they are professionals and public figures, saying that kind of thing in public, why would I believe sthg different from a private citizen, a blogger?

Peace,
Rhology

Pontificator said...

And those men I mentioned are prominent Roman Catholic apologists, most of them professionals at the time. Do you really not know who they are? If they are professionals and public figures, saying that kind of thing in public, why would I believe sthg different from a private citizen, a blogger?

Rhology, it's your choice. You can either choose to acquaint yourself with the theological literature and learn Catholic theology from Catholic theologians, or you can rely on what you read on the internet. I have given you a good beginning reading list. It's now up to you.

L P Cruz said...

Fr. Pontificator,

I do agree and I also do not want to carry the discussion towards indulgences.

The summary of my point is that in the practice of indulgences one will see if the Lutherans and RCCs understood justification the same way. Lex Orandi Lex Credendi right?
Be it eschatological or whatever, in the here and now, we are living out our doctrine of justification, whatever the mechanics of that doctrine happens to be.

The minority who did not sign the JDDJ is quite instructive because the minority have the reputation of being confessionally faithful and has more in common with the RCC on traditional issues eg they will not ordain women to the ministry, they oppose abortion, oppose euthanasia etc.


LPC

Ronnie said...

Rhology, it's your choice. You can either choose to acquaint yourself with the theological literature and learn Catholic theology from Catholic theologians, or you can rely on what you read on the internet. I have given you a good beginning reading list. It's now up to you.


Pontificator, obviously you know it is not the simple. As is also often said, Catholic theologians do not speak for the magisterium. Furthermore, Catholic theologians do not speak with one voice. Some will sound very Protestant, but on the other hand some will sound nothing like a Protestant. Some Catholics will recommend the Protestant sounding theologians in their ecumenical moments. Some Catholics will condemn the same theologians in their apologetic moments. Why should we believe your list of Catholic theologians over the next Catholics that gives us a completely different list?

Pontificator said...

Ronnie, I have proposed a list (a very good list) that will acquaint you with Catholic (and Lutheran) reflection on justification. Read it. It won't hurt you.

The JDDJ is absolutely essential, as is the volume edited by Anderson et al. This later volume includes essays written expressly for the American Catholic-Lutheran dialogue. George Lindbeck is one of the foremost Lutheran ecumenical theologians in the world Robert Jenson is a top Lutheran systematic theologian who also was involved in the ecumenical dialogues, both at the American and international levels. Fr Joseph Fitzmyer is one of the world's foremost biblical scholars and was involved for years in the American Catholic-Lutheran dialogue. John Reumann is a fine Lutheran exegete who was also involved in the same dialogue.

Should you trust my list? Does it help if I tell you that I am a Catholic priest? Does it help if I tell you that my theological writings have been published in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Scottish Journal of Theology, Interpretation, Anglican Theological Review, the Sewanee Theological Review, and Faith and Philosophy?

But if for whatever reasons you don't trust my list, then ask a couple of Catholic theologians to recommend some books and articles.

The real question is whether you, Rhology, Carrie, and others truly desire to understand Catholic reflection on justification and grace. Do you?

anon said...

"Rhology, it's your choice. You can either choose to acquaint yourself with the theological literature and learn Catholic theology from Catholic theologians, or you can rely on what you read on the internet. I have given you a good beginning reading list. It's now up to you.


Ronnie:
Pontificator, obviously you know it is not the simple. As is also often said, Catholic theologians do not speak for the magisterium. Furthermore, Catholic theologians do not speak with one voice. Some will sound very Protestant, but on the other hand some will sound nothing like a Protestant..."

Oh brother. So (in spite of the fact that there are sanctioned sources of actual Catrholic teaching) the alternative is for you to get your "Catholic teaching" from netwits who will just as likely tell you propoganda, lies and nonsense in order to villify the Papists as anything approaching the truth? but if it;s on the net--and not written by a Catholic--it MUST be true--or at least it's good enough for you. gotcha

Your total lack of intellectual honesty would be appaling, except it's become so common that it's expected. You judge a set of beliefs by the testimony of those who do not believe it. Yeah. This makes perfect sense.

Rhology said...

if it;s on the net--and not written by a Catholic--it MUST be true--or at least it's good enough for you. gotcha

I thought Roman Catholics were all in unity, though, so why wouldn't I expect the same msg from all of them?

Anonymous said...

St. Jerome translated the Vulgate Bible from copies of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts in the late fourth century. It was one of the most important accomplishments in his lifetime. This was not the first Latin translation of Scripture but it quickly became the accepted version used by the Church and all of Christendom. Before his translation there were many versions of the Old Latin or Vetus Latina manuscripts floating around, (approximately 27) and a more readable accessible version was needed.

So, St. Jerome translated the Bible (both New and OT) into the common Latin, the vulgate, the language of the people of the ancient world.

As he neared completion of this monumental task, he came to the second chapter of the book of James and read this in the original Greek manuscript he was translating from:

"Ye see then how that by works a man is not justified, and by faith only." (Jam 2:24)

He was troubled by this verse because it didn’t express what he felt was James true intention of the spirit of the chapter. Perhaps he thought, the original Greek manuscript had an error! St. Jerome, being a theologian knew what the Catholic Church stance was regarding faith and works. He knew that the Catholic Church believed that faith alone was not part of their doctrine. He knew that Catholic soteriology expressed that good works done in this life were an important aspect of final salvation. So he pondered, prayed and researched. He was beside himself because this manuscript was stating the opposite of what he knew to be true Catholic doctrine.

His first thought was to just declare this book "un-inspired" and place it in the same category of the deuterocanonicals he struggled with (thereby relegating it to an apocryphal status.). Finally, he decided that it would be in the "spirit of St. James" to add the word “not” before we are justified by faith alone. He merely had to take the not (ouk) from in front of justified (dikaiontai) and place it in front of the word faith.
He knew what James was trying to express here and that he could make it clearer.

When he finished his translation of the Greek NT into the Vulgate Latin the "translated" verse read like this:

"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

This small alteration of the text would be more in keeping with the Catholic view of faith and works.

As a matter of fact, the Vulgate translation of St. Jerome was recognized as the "official" Bible translation of the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. It had been used and accepted by the Church since the fourth century and three other councils had already approved it but this was stated at Trent in response to the reformer's attempts to discredit the canon of the Catholic bible. Most importantly it contained that pivotal verse in James that the Catholic theologians so often use to defend their soteriology against the sola fide of the reformer.

anon said...

"I thought Roman Catholics were all in unity, though, so why wouldn't I expect the same msg from all of them?"

Ouch! touche! (No kidding)

Pontificator said...

Great story about Jerome! Anonymous, you had me going there for a moment.

But just in case any one else is wondering about it, the story is a tongue-in-cheek concoction of the blogger over at Crossed the Tiber.

Anonymous said...

Pontificator! You let the cat out of the bag way too soon. :-)

Ronnie said...


Oh brother. So (in spite of the fact that there are sanctioned sources of actual Catrholic teaching) the alternative is for you to get your "Catholic teaching" from netwits who will just as likely tell you propoganda, lies and nonsense in order to villify the Papists as anything approaching the truth? but if it;s on the net--and not written by a Catholic--it MUST be true--or at least it's good enough for you. Gotcha

Anon you need to slow down and make sure you understand what is going on before you start flying off the handle. I’m talking about Catholic teachings that have received Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from Catholic Bishops(i.e. Magisterium ). My point is that the same authors on the internet have published works where they say the same thing. For example, Robert Sungenis in his book “Not By Faith Alone”, which not only has the two aforementioned designation, but endorsements by a list of Who’s Who of Catholic Bishops, Priests, Theologians, and Apologists. However, in this book Robert Sungenis takes extreme exception with a number of the books the Pontification has on his list. So who do we believe is teaching the true Catholic position? That is why I said, it wasn’t as easy as reading a list from one Catholic when another Catholic could provide another list when leads to different conclusion.


Your total lack of intellectual honesty would be appaling, except it's become so common that it's expected. You judge a set of beliefs by the testimony of those who do not believe it. Yeah. This makes perfect sense.

You have totally missed the boat. You swinging at the wind my friend.

Ronnie said...


Ronnie, I have proposed a list (a very good list) that will acquaint you with Catholic (and Lutheran) reflection on justification. Read it. It won't hurt you.

I’m not doubting your list is good, but my point is another Catholic could equally provide me with a good list that comes to different conclusion than your list. And actually, I have read some of a few of those your list. For example, I have read some of Fitzmyer’s commentary on Romans and Fitzmyer comes under harsh criticism from other Catholic theologians.


Should you trust my list? Does it help if I tell you that I am a Catholic priest? Does it help if I tell you that my theological writings have been published in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Scottish Journal of Theology, Interpretation, Anglican Theological Review, the Sewanee Theological Review, and Faith and Philosophy?

Pontificator, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust your list. As I said I’m familiar with a couple of the works on the list and I have reads parts of them in library. Actually, I know who you are. I’ve read your blog on occasion. My point is simple. I could find other Catholics that have equally impressive credentials that would disagree with some of the author’s conclusions that you provided.


The real question is whether you, Rhology, Carrie, and others truly desire to understand Catholic reflection on justification and grace. Do you?

Yes, I do and I think I have a decent understanding of it. I’m sure there is a lot more I can learn, but as you notice I have attempted to speak on the Catholic position. My only point here was that different Catholics give different specifics when speaking on the Catholic position.

Pontificator said...

Regarding Sungenis, see my comment over at Internet Monk.

Sungenis is one Catholic voice. He is most certainly not in the mainstream. His book Not by Faith Alone is definitely worth reading and considering; but Sungenis really isn't part of the Catholic conversation on justification and grace. I have never seen him quoted or even footnoted by any serious Catholic theologian. But I do think his book has real value. For one thing, it poses a real challenge to any confessional Protestant who thinks he simply knows what Scripture teaches on justification. But Sungenis just isn't part of the Catholic theological conversation.

And that's what the Catholic Church is, folks: a theological and spiritual conversation, bounded by irreformable dogma and rooted in Holy Eucharist. The Catholic Church is not a confessional sect. She is the Church, composed of many diverse voices over a 2,000 year span. Her theological understanding and formulation of the apostolic deposit of faith grows and develops. The JDDJ is a good example of this. The JDDJ is not the Catholic Church's last word on justification, but it most certainly represents mainstream contemporary Catholic reflection on the topic, and it enjoys the formal approval of the Vatican. A Catholic case can therefore be made, therefore, as Fr Edward Oakes writes, that "Trent must henceforth be seen through the lens of that Joint Statement." The Catholic Church is not trapped in the polemics and historically-conditioned formulations of the 16th century. Hence the burning question of evangelical scholar Mark Noll: Is the Reformation Over?

So read the Joint Declaration and then read the non-official evangelical-Catholic statement "The Gift of Salvation." And please don't tell me that the Catholic signatories are fringe liberals. They are not. They include a theologian who is now a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Avery Cardinal Dulles, and a theologian who is now the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr J. A. DiNoia.

If you want to understand the Catholic Church, you have to listen-in to her conversations and debates. I have given you a good beginning reading list on justification and grace. It could easily be expanded. It's now up to you to decide whether you want to properly understand the beliefs of the Catholic Church or not.

Rhology said...

When you say "the RCC is not a confessional sect", is the emphasis on sect or on confessional?

I ask b/c one would think the Catechism of the Catholic Church would qualify as a confession, right?

Also, this clashes with the normal definition of "unity" in the church that we usually see.

Ronnie said...

Sungenis is one Catholic voice. He is most certainly not in the mainstream. His book Not by Faith Alone is definitely worth reading and considering; but Sungenis really isn't part of the Catholic conversation on justification and grace.

Have you seen the list of endorsements on Sungenis book? Now, I know he has turned a lot of Catholics off of lately with his other kookiness (e.g. Geocentrism, attacking the beloved Scott Hahn ), but at the time of this book he was applauded by many Bishops, Priests, and Theologians. I counted 17 endorsements, and this book includes a critique of a number of the scholars in your list.


I have never seen him quoted or even footnoted by any serious Catholic theologian. But I do think his book has real value. For one thing, it poses a real challenge to any confessional Protestant who thinks he simply knows what Scripture teaches on justification. But Sungenis just isn't part of the Catholic theological conversation.

Well, out of all the works you provided 95% of them were published before Sungenis wrote his book so one would not expect to find him footnoted.


And that's what the Catholic Church is, folks: a theological and spiritual conversation, bounded by irreformable dogma and rooted in Holy Eucharist. The Catholic Church is not a confessional sect. She is the Church, composed of many diverse voices over a 2,000 year span. Her theological understanding and formulation of the apostolic deposit of faith grows and develops. The JDDJ is a good example of this. The JDDJ is not the Catholic Church's last word on justification, but it most certainly represents mainstream contemporary Catholic reflection on the topic, and it enjoys the formal approval of the Vatican. A Catholic case can therefore be made, therefore, as Fr Edward Oakes writes, that "Trent must henceforth be seen through the lens of that Joint Statement." The Catholic Church is not trapped in the polemics and historically-conditioned formulations of the 16th century. Hence the burning question of evangelical scholar Mark Noll: Is the Reformation Over?

So read the Joint Declaration and then read the non-official evangelical-Catholic statement "The Gift of Salvation." And please don't tell me that the Catholic signatories are fringe liberals. They are not. They include a theologian who is now a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Avery Cardinal Dulles, and a theologian who is now the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr J. A. DiNoia.

If you want to understand the Catholic Church, you have to listen-in to her conversations and debates. I have given you a good beginning reading list on justification and grace. It could easily be expanded. It's now up to you to decide whether you want to properly understand the beliefs of the Catholic Church or not.

Here is the problem. You are one voice of many. How do we know you are telling us the true position of the true way to understand the church? Typically I hear if you want to know what the Catholic Church believe then read here Confessions and Councils. I thought the purpose of Rome was to alleviate the confusion brought about by private interpretation.

anon said...

"Here is the problem. You are one voice of many.

This is just sad. He is indeed one voice of many. You are one voice of one. What makes your understanding better? If you changed your mind tomorrow, the "truth" would change, just as it did when you embraced Calvinism or whatever flavor you happen to like. Just out of curiosity, what is your belief? In reality, the church of the protestant is the very soul of relativism, where each person is his own church. Each person makes scripture say whatever he wants it to say.

Any one of you could start a new protestant church this afternoon and most of you wouldn't blink.

Pontificator said...

Ronnie, as I said, Sungenis is but one Catholic voice among many Catholic voices. The fact that his book has several endorsements only witnesses to he fact he has written a book that deserves a reading. I have already said as such. Bu the fact remains that Sungenis stands outside the mainstream of Catholic reflection.

So by all means read and inwardly digest his book. I think he has raised significant objections to typical Protestant construals of justification and the sola fide. His objections deserve a substantive response from Protestants.

But Sungenis's positive interpretation of justification simply does not do justice to contemporary Catholic scholarship and reflection on justification. Sungenis treats Trent as if it has spoken the final word on the subject. Catholic scholars simply do not treat Trent so woodenly. Trent has laid out some important, and irreformable, boundary markers, boundary markers that norm subsequent reflection; but Catholic theology is not frozen in time. It is a dynamic reality that seeks to state and re-state the wholeness of the Catholic faith. This is why most Catholic theologians no longer feel bound to the scholastic categories of the Middle Ages. Catholic theology has assimilated the biblical and patristic scholarship of the past century. It has also learnt much from the Reformation and has sought to incorporate the authentic insights of the Reformers, particularly of Luther. It is also much more aware of the historical conditionedness of theological formulation. It recognizes that simply repeating formulations that were appropriate for a specific time and culture may in fact result in a deformation of the gospel in a different time and culture.

Doctrinal pluralism has always been part of the Catholic Church: Irenaeus, Gregory Nyssen, Augustine, and Maximus the Confessor; Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure; Bellarmine and Scheeben; Rahner, Balthasar, and Ratzinger--all are part of the symphony of Catholic reflection, with all of their differences and even disagreements. As Richard Neuhaus has written, Catholic theology "lives forward."

You apparently believe that such diversity argues against the Catholic Church. Perhaps from a confessional Protestant perspective it does. But from a Catholic perspective, this diversity witnesses to the glory of Catholicism. The unity of the Catholic Church transcends the disagreements between theologians. Her unity is grounded in the Holy Eucharist and her infallible grasp of the truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If someone becomes Catholic because they think that the Magisterium has an eternal question for every theological question ... well, that person will be quickly disappointed. Perhaps this is why some evangelicals, like Jerry Metatics and Robert Sungenis, seem to move in a rad-trad direction after their conversion to Catholicism. They are looking for a finality of doctrinal expression that simply does not obtain. They have misunderstood the Catholic critique of Protestant private judgment and have misunderstood what the infallibility of the Church means.

Ronnie said...

This is just sad. He is indeed one voice of many. You are one voice of one. What makes your understanding better? If you changed your mind tomorrow, the "truth" would change, just as it did when you embraced Calvinism or whatever flavor you happen to like. Just out of curiosity, what is your belief? In reality, the church of the protestant is the very soul of relativism, where each person is his own church. Each person makes scripture say whatever he wants it to say.


Anon, you really don’t have any idea what is being argued. You are just repeating nonsense you have heard elsewhere.

Pontificator said...

Correction: "If someone becomes Catholic because they think that the Magisterium has an eternal question for every theological question ..." should read: "If someone becomes Catholic because they think that the Magisterium has an eternal answer for every theological question ..."

Ronnie said...

Pontificator,
First, I’m not impressed with Sungenis work at all. It is more volume than true substance. Sungenis loves to pose as expert on Protestantism, but as was easily shown on the WHI broadcast he doesn’t know as much as he thinks. He constantly overstates his case, uses a wooden literal approach, and reads a lot into Scripture to gobble together events in OT that he has no knowledge of.

Second, I understand you believe Sungenis is outside the mainstream. I understand you believe Trent has not said the last word on justification. But my point is who made you Pope? Why are we to accept your conclusion about what is the Catholic position over the infallible pronouncements of councils? Where are the infallible pronouncements that teach current mainstream Catholic reflection speak for the church and how do you determine who is in that mainstream?

Finally, I don’t believe diversity is necessarily a problem. But diversity on something as central as justification is not a virtue. The Apostles went to war on getting that right. Also I don’t expect the magisterium to infallibly answer every question, but at least the central ones. We are often told we need an infallible magisterium to prevent our disagreements on issues by many Catholics and that is the virtue of Catholicism. However, now you are telling us the diversity on the same things we are condemned for is a virtue. The problem is this. Who are we to believe? You are a Father in the Catholic church and you seem like a very reasonable man, but there are many like you that will give us a different story. What are we to do? It seems to me, the only safe way to proceed is to accept the infallible councils and official teachings until there is an infallible teaching that says otherwise.

L P Cruz said...

Fr. Pontificator,

From the Lutheran side, justification is not something that is just confessed , it is something that affects one's approach to Christian life. When we say it is the article of a standing or falling church, we do not mean it only in word, but also in deed. Hence, Lutherans will find it a contradiction to the article if there are practices that denies it e.g. sacrifice of the mass, purgatorial indulgences etc.

Again re:JDDJ, let us be fair, we know on both conservative sides of the divide that the formulators are considered by both camps as 'liberal'.

I will believe that there is a start of convergence when the RCC signs the Augsburg Confession (all articles because it shows also in practice how we understand justification).

Doctrinal pluralism has always been part of the Catholic Church

As an ex-RC, I can attest to that because the RCC will allow you to be Protestant and still be in the RCC. You can be crypto-anything in the RCC and it will be allowed.

You used the term 'mainstream' Catholic theology - but that is begging the question, what is the mainstream(except in my book those who subscribe to the RCCatechism)?

For those interested on the JDDJ from a Confessional Lutheran perspective see here
http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/justclp.pdf#xml=http://www.lcms.org/ca/search/dtsearch.asp?cmd=pdfhits&DocId=869&Index=F%3a%5cinetpub%5cwwwroot%5clcmsorg%5cdb%5csearch%5clcms&HitCount=77&hits=2+3+4+5+6+7+8+13+14+15+16+17+18+19+25+26+27+28+29+2a+2b+a9+aa+ab+ac+ad+ae+af+b9+ba+bb+bc+bd+be+bf+749+74a+74b+74c+74d+74e+74f+765+766+767+768+769+76a+76b+20cc+20cd+20ce+20cf+20d0+20d1+20d2+2817+2818+2819+281a+281b+281c+281d+3457+3458+3459+345a+345b+345c+345d+47b9+47ba+47bb+47bc+47bd+47be+47bf+&hc=301&req=joint+declaration+on+the+doctrine+of+justification

LPC

Pontificator said...

Dear Ronnie,

On one thing we are agreed: I am not Pope! :-)

You write:

"What are we to do? It seems to me, the only safe way to proceed is to accept the infallible councils and official teachings until there is an infallible teaching that says otherwise."

May I point out that the JDDJ has been officially approved by the Vatican. The precise magisterial status of the document may be debatable, but at the very least it may be said that the views expressed as "Catholic" enjoys the approval of the Catholic Church. As Cardinal Cassidy stated in his presentation of the document:

"On the Catholic side, the Official Common Statement and the Annex have been approved by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. His Holiness Pope John Paul II has been informed accordingly and has given his blessing for the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, together with the Official Common Statement with its attached Annex on the date and in the place to be decided by the two partners."

So why are we even wondering whether Sungenis more faithfully represents the teaching of the Catholic faith than the JDDJ?

The JDDG may not enjoy infallible status--Catholic theologians and apologists may responsibly critique it--but it most certainly enjoys an official status. Until the Magisterium says otherwise, the Joint Declaration faithfully states the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Jeff said...

Pontificator,

On what basis can you affirm 1 John’s statement that you can KNOW you have eternal life?

In the Roman scheme, you cannot truly affirm this. Your justification and peace with God are nonexistent (unless you are presently fulfilling the sum of the law to love the Lord your God with all your heart and neighbor as yourself). Have you and are you fulfilling this perfectly? In your heart, you know the answer is no. So, in your scheme, you have lost your justification before it began (unless you would wish to hold the untenable position that negligence of these commands is not mortal sin).

Presuming you can keep your justification by works is the same as saying you are ultimately saved by some addition of works, your works being a basis or determining factor.

So I really ask you. Do you know you have eternal life? Do you have peace with God? Or is it just a cease-fire until your mortal sin initiates the enmity once again? You can never KNOW you have eternal life in the Roman scheme.

As the reformers (I believe Luther) had stated, it is not with works we contend, but with trust in works. From the statements you made about losing your justification because of your works (mortal sin), you are clearly trusting in works.

Paul stated, “they have a zeal for God but not in accordance with knowledge.” Have you truly submitted yourself to the righteousness of God? With due respect, one can know quite a lot and still miss the mark.

Ronnie said...

Pontificator,

We are making progress. You are not the Pope! So now you must explain to me why we must grant priority to your view and the view of JDDJ, which as you admit is not infallible, contra Sungenis view which is referencing the position of an infallible council? So the choices seem to be: Fallible Pontificator position on fallible JDDJ vs Fallible Sungenis position on infallible Trent?

Rhology said...

Pontificator,

You might get a better view on why we are surprised and taken aback by your view on Roman "unity" given the comboxes here and here.

Mike Burgess said...

Ronnie et alia,
It could be because you're not required to take Fr. Pontificator's word for it since he points out that the Pope at the time it was signed and two Congregations have approved it.

Lvka said...

How about: "God at work!" ? Huh? Isn't our soul his construction-site, after all? Ephesians 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Guess not!