Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification William J. Cork
Background 16th Century Reformation Divisions Mutual Condemnations 20th Century Factors Previous Agreements
Background 16th Century Reformation Division –Diversity of Theological Perspectives (Luther Calvin Zwingli Anabaptists) 1999 agreement only with Lutherans –Spiritual aspects –Political aspects Mutual Condemnations –Council of Trent (1547) –Formula of Concord (1577)
Background 20th Century Factors –Renewal in Biblical Studies, especially since Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). –Renewal in Theological Studies, moving beyond scholasticism. –Renewal in Liturgy, and study ad fontes. –Vatican II. –Ecumenical Dialogues since.
Background Previous Agreements –1983 US Lutheran-Catholic dialogue “Our entire hope of justification and salvation rests on Christ Jesus and on the gospel whereby the good news of God’s merciful action in Christ is made known; we do not place our ultimate trust in anything other than God’s promise and saving work in Christ.”
The Parties The Vatican –including Cardinals Cassidy and Ratzinger. The Lutheran World Federation –includes 57+ of the 61 million Lutherans in the world; main exceptions being LC-MS & WELS.
The Documents Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification - 1997 Common Statement - 1999 Annex - 1999
The Common Understanding “Together we 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.” JD 15
Explications We confess together… Catholics say… Lutherans say...
Human Powerlessness & Sin All depend completely on God’s grace for salvation. As sinners, we cannot turn to God or attain salvation on our own. Catholics Persons consent to God’s justifying action (called “cooperating”), but this is itself an effect of grace (contra Nominalists and Pelagians). JD 20 Lutherans Justification effected by Word, and people cannot contribute to it, but believers are fully involved personally and can reject the working of grace (contra Calvin). JD 21
Forgiveness and Making Righteous God forgives sin by grace and at the same time frees us from its power and imparts new life in Christ. Catholics God’s forgiving grace always brings the gift of new life, which in the Holy Spirit becomes effective in active love. JD 24 Lutherans Only in union with Christ is one’s life renewed. JD 23
By Faith Through Grace We trust in God’s promise by a faith which works through hope & love. But works are not the basis of justification nor do they merit it. Catholics Faith, hope and love united and are gift. Justifying grace never a human possession in opposition to God. Justification is forgiveness and making righteous. JD 27 Lutherans God effects faith. “Faith alone” makes a distinction, but not separation, between justification and renewal of life. These are joined in Christ, who is present in faith. JD 26
Justified Person as Sinner In Baptism we are united with Christ and renewed through the Spirit; but we must always struggle & ask God daily for forgiveness. Catholics Concupiscence remains in baptized (not sin in proper sense, but inclination); when they sin, must receive Reconciliation through word of forgiveness. JD 30 Lutherans Simul iustus et peccator. Sin still lives in baptized as an opposition to God; this is truly sin. Does not rule, but is ruled. JD 29
Law and Gospel Justification is “apart from works of the Law.” Law not a way of salvation, but remains a standard of conduct for the justified. Catholics Christ not a lawgiver like Moses; law not a way to salvation. Righteous must keep God’s commands, but eternal life rooted in God’s merciful promise. JD 33 Lutherans Law/Gospel dialectic applied to preaching. Law is demand and accusation; Gospel alone provides justification. JD 32
Assurance of Salvation The faithful can rely on the mercy and promises of God. We can build on the promise of God’s grace and be sure of it. Catholics Faith grounded in objective reality of God’s promise. Faith is to entrust oneself totally to God. Recognize one’s own weakness, but be certain of God’s intent. JD 36 Lutherans In face of temptation, look not to self but solely to Christ and trust in him. JD 35
Good Works of the Justified Good works follow justification and are its fruits. Catholics Good works contribute to growth in grace; justification is preserved and communion with Christ deepened. Bible promises reward. JD 38 Lutherans Justification as acceptance by God and sharing in Christ’s righteousness is always complete. Yet there can be growth in its effects in Christian living. JD 39
Conclusions There is fundamental consensus, Remaining differences in language, theological elaboration, and emphasis are acceptable, Lutheran teachings presented here don’t fall under Trent’s condemnations; Catholic teachings presented here don’t fall under Luther condemnations. JD 40-41
What of the Condemnations? “They remain for us ‘salutary warnings’ to which we must attend in our teaching and practice.” JD 42
Questions needing clarification Relationship between Word of God and Church doctrine, Ecclesiology / authority / ministry, Sacraments, Relationship between justification and social ethics. JD 43
Just when you thought it safe to go into the water... June 25, 1998 The Vatican issues an “Official Catholic Response” to the Joint Declaration. “It is rightly stated that there is ‘a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification.’” However...
Clarifications “Major difficulties … arise in Paragraph 4.4, ‘The justified as Sinner.’” “…From a Catholic point of view the title is already a cause of perplexity.” “‘At the same time righteous and sinner,’ as it is explained at the beginning of No. 29 … is not acceptable.”
Clarification “…This statement does not, in fact, seem compatible with the renewal and sanctification of the interior man of which the Council of Trent speaks.” “…It remains difficult to see how in the current state of the presentation given in the joint declaration, we can say that this doctrine is not touched by the anathemas of” Trent.
Clarifications “Another difficulty arises in No. 18,” on justification as a criterion. For Catholics, this “has to be organically integrated into the fundamental criterion of the regula fidei, that is, the confession of the one God in three persons, Christologically centered and rooted in the living church and its sacramental life.”
Clarifications “…The good works of the justified are always the fruit of grace. But at the same time, and without in any way diminishing the totally divine initiative, they are also the fruit of man, justified and interiorly transformed. We can therefore say that eternal life is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits.”
Clarifications “The level of agreement is high, but it does not yet allow us to affirm that all the differences separating Catholics and Lutherans in the doctrine of justification are simply a question of emphasis or language.” Divergence must be overcome before we can flatly say the condemnations no longer apply, esp. in regard to simul iustus et peccator.
Common Statement & Annex Signed together with JD on October 31, 1999. A summary and careful restatement of the consensus, after a year of questions, accusations, and seemingly “cold feet.” “By this act of signing The Catholic Church and The Lutheran World Federation confirm the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in its entirety.” CS 3
Annex 1. The following elucidations underline the consensus reached in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JD) regarding basic truths of justification; thus it becomes clear that the mutual condemnations of former times do not apply to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of justification as they are presented in the Joint Declaration.
Annex 2. "Together we 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" (JD 15).
Annex A) "We confess together that God forgives sin by grace and at the same time frees human beings from sin's enslaving power (...)" (JD 22). … Yet we would be wrong were we to say that we are without sin (1 Jn 1:8-10, cf. JD 28).
Annex C) Justification takes place "by grace alone" (JD 15 and 16), by faith alone, the person is justified "apart from works" (Rom 3:28, cf. JD 25). "Grace creates faith not only when faith begins in a person but as long as faith lasts" (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th II/II 4, 4 ad 3). The working of God's grace does not exclude human action: God effects everything, the willing and the achievement, therefore, we are called to strive (cf. Phil 2:12 ff.). "As soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit..." (The Formula of Concord, FC SD II,64f; BSLK 897,37ff).
Annex 3. The doctrine of justification is measure or touchstone for the Christian faith. No teaching may contradict this criterion. In this sense, the doctrine of justification is an "indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ" (JD 18). As such, it has its truth and specific meaning within the overall context of the Church's fundamental Trinitarian confession of faith. We "share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5-6) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts" (JD 18).
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