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Joint Declaration on Justification,
or Smoking a Joint of Modernism-ification?

Two girls with marijuana garlands, members of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, enjoying a joint disconnection from harsh doctrinal reality.
Two girls with marijuana garlands,
members of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians,
enjoying a joint disconnection from harsh doctrinal reality.

1) Introduction

Rejoice! This article begins with a lengthy analysis of a bland document, about a highly technical subject, written by obscure Vatican bureaucrats! Seriously, no reason to rejoice. On the other hand, the document analyzed has become oddly important nowadays, because Leftists use it to justify the "Protestantization" of the Catholic Church. So you have two good reasons to make this reading effort: to immunize yourself against this poison, and to accumulate a few doses of antidote to rescue other Catholics around you.

On Sunday, October 31, 1999 (the date that Lutherans annually observe as Reformation Day), Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, signed for the Catholic Church a document called "Joint Declaration On The Doctrine Of Justification", while a number of officials signed for the Lutheran World Federation.

Because I'm trying to defend Catholicism, and despite my old age, short attention span, and tiny budget, I banged my head on this Joint Declaration, hoping to answer a few questions. Here is the result of my efforts.

2) Joint Declaration On The Doctrine Of Justification

Original text on the Vatican website, with my usual commenting style.


1. The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the "first and chief article"[1] and at the same time the "ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines."[2] The doctrine of justification was particularly asserted and defended in its Reformation shape and special valuation over against the Roman Catholic Church and theology of that time, which in turn asserted and defended a doctrine of justification of a different character. From the Reformation perspective, justification was the crux of all the disputes. Doctrinal condemnations were put forward both in the Lutheran Confessions[3] and by the Roman Catholic Church's Council of Trent. These condemnations are still valid today and thus have a church-dividing effect.

They are still valid and still have a church-dividing effect? Is it normal for the preamble of a document to contradict its conclusion?

2. For the Lutheran tradition, the doctrine of justification has retained its special status. Consequently it has also from the beginning occupied an important place in the official Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue.

3. Special attention should be drawn to the following reports: "The Gospel and the Church" (1972)[4] and "Church and Justification" (1994)[5] by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission, "Justification by Faith" (1983)[6] of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the USA and "The Condemnations of the Reformation Era - Do They Still Divide?" (1986)[7] by the Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic theologians in Germany. Some of these dialogue reports have been officially received by the churches. An important example of such reception is the binding response of the United Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Germany to the "Condemnations" study, made in 1994 at the highest possible level of ecclesiastical recognition together with the other churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany.[8]

4. In their discussion of the doctrine of justification, all the dialogue reports as well as the responses show a high degree of agreement in their approaches and conclusions. The time has therefore come to take stock and to summarize the results of the dialogues on justification so that our churches may be informed about the overall results of this dialogue with the necessary accuracy and brevity,

...OK, I'm reading...

and thereby be enabled to make binding decisions.

So, binding decisions have not been made. That is never what I hear when people refer to this document. They always claim this document is a proof that those those binding decisions have already been made.

5. The present Joint Declaration has this intention: namely, to show that on the basis of their dialogue

the subscribing Lutheran churches

Why "Lutheran churches" plural? Because they can't even agree amongst themselves? And it's not even just "Lutheran churches", it's "subscribing Lutheran churches", i.e. not all of them agree? Does the Left Hand of Lutherianism know what the Right Hand of Lutherianism is doing, or believing? How could we come to one agreement with a disorganized heap of churches?

A sharp reader also notes that just around nine months after the Joint Declaration was signed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Ratzinger said:

the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense
[Dominus Iesus, #17, my emphasis]

and the Roman Catholic Church [9] are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Christ. It does not cover all that either church teaches about justification; it does encompass a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification and shows that

the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.

We'll come back to this later on.

6. Our Declaration is not a new, independent presentation alongside the dialogue reports and documents to date, let alone a replacement of them. Rather, as the appendix of sources shows, it makes repeated reference to them and their arguments.

That's another bizarre aspect of this Declaration: not only is it not binding on the Catholic Church or the heap of Lutheran churches (that might or might not even be in full communion with each other), but this Declaration is a document based on other documents (the dialogue reports) based on other documents (the actual official teachings of the Catholic Church, and those of the Lutheran heap of churches). So it's a document about documents about documents! All hail the unholy trinity of Bureaucracy! (Seriously, no. We should cut out the middleman.)

7. Like the dialogues themselves, this Joint Declaration rests on the conviction that in overcoming the earlier controversial questions and doctrinal condemnations, the churches neither take the condemnations lightly nor do they disavow their own past. On the contrary, this Declaration is shaped by the conviction that in their respective histories our churches have come to new insights. Developments have taken place which not only make possible, but also require the churches to examine the divisive questions and condemnations and see them in a new light.

Wow! This really sounds like Catholish! So the past really happened, and the condemnations were true, and we don't disavow those condemnations, but those condemnations are not true anymore? Because the Catholic Faith has changed? Because the Lutheran faith has changed? I'm a bit lost here.

1. Biblical Message of Justification

8. Our common way of listening to the word of God in Scripture has led to such new insights. Together we hear the gospel that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). This good news is set forth in Holy Scripture in various ways. In the Old Testament we listen to God's word about human sinfulness (Ps 51:1-5; Dan 9:5f; Eccl/Qo 8:9f; Ezra 9:6f) and human disobedience (Gen 3:1-19; Neh 9:16f,26) as well as of God's "righteousness" (Isa 46:13; 51:5-8; 56:1 [cf. 53:11]; Jer 9:24) and "judgment" (Eccl/Qo 12:14; Ps 9:5f; 76:7-9).

9. In the New Testament diverse treatments of "righteousness" and "justification" are found in the writings of Matthew (5:10; 6:33; 21:32), John (16:8-11), Hebrews (5:3; 10:37f), and James (2:14-26).[10] In Paul's letters also, the gift of salvation is described in various ways, among others: "for freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal 5:1-13; cf. Rom 6:7), "reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:18-21; cf. Rom 5:11), "peace with God" (Rom 5:1), "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17), "alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11,23), or "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 1:30; 2 Cor 1:1). Chief among these is the "justification" of sinful human beings by God's grace through faith (Rom 3:23-25), which came into particular prominence in the Reformation period.

10. Paul sets forth the gospel as the power of God for salvation of the person who has fallen under the power of sin, as the message that proclaims that "the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith" (Rom 1:16f) and that grants "justification" (Rom 3:21-31). He proclaims Christ as "our righteousness" (1 Cor 1:30), applying to the risen Lord what Jeremiah proclaimed about God himself (Jer 23:6). In Christ's death and resurrection all dimensions of his saving work have their roots for he is "our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom 4:25). All human beings are in need of God's righteousness, "since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23; cf. Rom 1:18-3:20; 11:32; Gal 3:22). In Galatians (3:6) and Romans (4:3-9), Paul understands Abraham's faith (Gen 15:6) as faith in the God who justifies the sinner (Rom 4:5) and calls upon the testimony of the Old Testament to undergird his gospel that this righteousness will be reckoned to all who, like Abraham, trust in God's promise. "For the righteous will live by faith (Hab 2:4; cf. Gal 3:11; Rom 1:17). In Paul's letters, God's righteousness is also God's power for those who have faith (Rom 1:16f; 2 Cor 5:21). In Christ he makes it our righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Justification becomes ours through Christ Jesus "whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith" (Rom 3:25; see 3:21-28). "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works" (Eph 2:8f).

11. Justification is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Rom 3:23-25; Acts 13:39; Lk 18:14), liberation from the dominating power of sin and death (Rom 5:12-21) and from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10-14). It is acceptance into communion with God: already now, but then fully in God's coming kingdom (Rom 5:1f). It unites with Christ and with his death and resurrection (Rom 6:5). It occurs in the reception of the Holy Spirit in baptism and incorporation into the one body (Rom 8:1f, 9f; I Cor 12:12f). All this is from God alone, for Christ's sake, by grace, through faith in "the gospel of God's Son" (Rom 1:1-3).

12. The justified live by faith that comes from the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17) and is active through love (Gal 5:6), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22f). But since the justified are assailed from within and without by powers and desires (Rom 8:35-39; Gal 5:16-21) and fall into sin (1 Jn 1:8,10), they must constantly hear God's promises anew, confess their sins (1 Jn 1:9), participate in Christ's body and blood, and be exhorted to live righteously in accord with the will of God. That is why the Apostle says to the justified: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil 2:12f). But the good news remains: "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1), and in whom Christ lives (Gal 2:20). Christ's "act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all" (Rom 5:18).

Nice biblical quotes.

2. The Doctrine of Justification as Ecumenical Problem

13. Opposing interpretations and applications of the biblical message of justification were in the sixteenth century a principal cause of the division of the Western church and led as well to doctrinal condemnations. A common understanding of justification is therefore fundamental and indispensable to overcoming that division.

By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today's partner.

OK, so the condemnations are no longer valid, because Catholics were stupid and ignorant back then, but we are now much smarter because we are Modern and Enlightened? But didn't we just say here above that the condemnations were still valid?

We'll come back to this later on.

3. The Common Understanding of Justification

14. The Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church have together listened to the good news proclaimed in Holy Scripture. This common listening, together with the theological conversations of recent years, has led to a shared understanding of justification. This encompasses a consensus in the basic truths; the differing explications in particular statements are compatible with it.

Same comment as here above.

15. In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father.

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.[11]

Really? What precisely does the Catholic Church teach about Justification? As far as I know, if we want to find out what Catholics confess about such a topic, we need to at least consider two sources on top of the Bible:

- The Council of Trent (which, let's not forget, was convened specifically to deal with Luther and his buddies), at least Session VI on Justification with the subsequent Canons;

- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on Justification, Grace and Merit, paragraphs 1987 to 2011 (at the very least).

Trent is very clear that it intends to describe this mysterious "together we confess":

The Sixth Session: DECREE ON JUSTIFICATION [...]
After having expounded this Catholic doctrine on Justification, which whoso receiveth not faithfully and firmly cannot be justified, it hath seemed good to the holy Synod to subjoin these canons, that all may know not only what they ought to hold and follow, but also what to avoid and shun.

[Here you have Canons I to XXXII, and finally:]

CANON XXXIII. -If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.

Clearly, nobody can claim that "together we confess" anything about Justification, if it doesn't align with those Canons.

16. All people are called by God to salvation in Christ.

Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith.

Because this statement is so brief and vague, both Catholics and Lutherans can read it, each interpreting those words differently, based on their own different doctrines. So you can create the illusion that Catholics and Lutherans agree on it, as long as you don't analyse what is being agreed to. In other words, it's a textbook example of throwing an Escher.

Faith is itself God's gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.

17. We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God's saving action in Christ:

it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.

Same comment as here above.

18. Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be seen as internally related to each other.

It is an indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ.

There is only one Church of Christ, not many churches. So if this criterion "oriented" so well, we wouldn't have any disagreements, right?

When Lutherans emphasize the unique significance of this criterion, they do not deny the interrelation and significance of all truths of faith. When Catholics see themselves as bound by several criteria, they do not deny the special function of the message of justification.

So, everybody is right and nobody is wrong, despite the fact they assert irreconcilable assertions?

Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts. [cf. Sources for section 3].

4. Explicating the Common Understanding of Justification

4.1 Human Powerlessness and Sin in Relation to Justification

19. We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation.

Very short and vague, so not surprising that it seems compatible with these two Canons:

CANON I. - If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON III. - If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

The freedom they possess in relation to persons and the things of this world is no freedom in relation to salvation, for as sinners they stand under God's judgment and are incapable of turning by themselves to God to seek deliverance, of meriting their justification before God, or of attaining salvation by their own abilities.

Again seems compatible with Canons I and III.

Justification takes place solely by God's grace.

In what sense "solely"? Is this Catholic?

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema. [my emphasis]

Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent
[CCC, 1993, my emphasis]

Because Catholics and Lutherans confess this together, it is true to say:

20. When Catholics say that persons "cooperate" in preparing for and accepting justification by consenting to God's justifying action, they see such personal consent as itself an effect of grace,

not as an action arising from innate human abilities.

Canon V says we really have free will:

CANON V. - If any one saith, that, since Adam's sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

"Co-operation" is impossible if there is only one will involved. We really merit:

CANON XXXII. - If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life, -- if so be, however, that he depart in grace, -- and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema. [my emphasis]

Also Canon 9, which really seems to talk about "innate human abilities":

CANON IX. - 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. [my emphasis]

21. According to Lutheran teaching, human beings are incapable of cooperating in their salvation, because as sinners they actively oppose God and his saving action. Lutherans do not deny that a person can reject the working of grace. When they emphasize that a person can only receive (mere passive) justification, they mean thereby to exclude any possibility of contributing to one's own justification, but do not deny that believers are fully involved personally in their faith, which is effected by God's Word. [cf. Sources for 4.1].

Same comment as here above.

4.2 Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous

Jorge Mario Bergoglio in front of a statue of Luther in the Vatican.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio in front of a statue of Luther in the Vatican.

22. We confess together that God forgives sin by grace and at the same time frees human beings from sin's enslaving power and imparts the gift of new life in Christ. When persons come by faith to share in Christ, God no longer imputes to them their sin and through the Holy Spirit effects in them an active love. These two aspects of God's gracious action are not to be separated, for persons are by faith united with Christ, who in his person is our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30): both the forgiveness of sin and the saving presence of God himself.

Because Catholics and Lutherans confess this together, it is true to say that:

23. When Lutherans emphasize that the righteousness of Christ is our righteousness, their intention is above all to insist that the sinner is granted righteousness before God in Christ through the declaration of forgiveness and that only in union with Christ is one's life renewed. When they stress that God's grace is forgiving love ("the favor of God"[12]), they do not thereby deny the renewal of the Christian's life. They intend rather to express that

justification remains free from human cooperation

and is not dependent on the life-renewing effects of grace in human beings.

I admit I'm not very bright, but I don't quite see how to reconcile that with Canons #4, #5 and #9, and CCC #1999, etc.

24. When Catholics emphasize the renewal of the interior person through the reception of grace imparted as a gift to the believer,[13] they wish to insist that God's forgiving grace always brings with it a gift of new life, which in the Holy Spirit becomes effective in active love.

They do not thereby deny that God's gift of grace in justification remains independent of human cooperation. [cf. Sources for section 4.2].

See comment above.

4.3 Justification by Faith and through Grace

25. We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ.

As As far as I know, Lutherans are famous for their concept of justification as "sola fide" and as "a juridical act (actus forensis) by which God declares the sinner to be justified, although he remains intrinsically unjust and sinful" (Ott, p. 250). Catholics, on the other hand, make clear claims about what justification produces:

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works.

But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.

Why be vague? Why don't they quote the relevant chapters of Trent: "CHAPTER VI. The manner of Preparation" and "CHAPTER VII. What the justification of the impious is, and what are the causes thereof"?

26. According to Lutheran understanding, God justifies sinners in faith alone (sola fide). In faith they place their trust wholly in their Creator and Redeemer and thus live in communion with him. God himself effects faith as he brings forth such trust by his creative word. Because God's act is a new creation, it affects all dimensions of the person and leads to a life in hope and love. In the doctrine of "justification by faith alone," a distinction but not a separation is made between justification itself and the renewal of one's way of life that necessarily follows from justification and without which faith does not exist. Thereby the basis is indicated from which the renewal of life proceeds, for it comes forth from the love of God imparted to the person in justification. Justification and renewal are joined in Christ, who is present in faith.

Obviously, I'm unqualified to know what Lutherans believe.

27. The Catholic understanding also sees faith as fundamental in justification. For without faith, no justification can take place. Persons are justified through baptism as hearers of the word and believers in it. The justification of sinners is forgiveness of sins and being made righteous by justifying grace, which makes us children of God. In justification the righteous receive from Christ faith, hope, and love and are thereby taken into communion with him.[14] This new personal relation to God is grounded totally on God's graciousness and remains constantly dependent on the salvific and creative working of this gracious God, who remains true to himself, so that one can rely upon him. Thus justifying grace never becomes a human possession to which one could appeal over against God. While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying grace, this renewal in faith, hope, and love is always dependent on God's unfathomable grace and contributes nothing to justification about which one could boast before God (Rom 3:27). [See Sources for section 4.3].

Yes, but why not be clear? See my comment above.

4.4 The Justified as Sinner

28. We confess together that in baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person. But the justified must all through life constantly look to God's unconditional justifying grace. They also are continuously exposed to the power of sin still pressing its attacks (cf. Rom 6:12-14) and are not exempt from a lifelong struggle against the contradiction to God within the selfish desires of the old Adam (cf. Gal 5:16; Rom 7:7-10). The justified also must ask God daily for forgiveness as in the Lord's Prayer (Mt. 6:12; 1 Jn 1:9),

are ever again called to conversion and penance,

Even the Virgin Mary? Why isn't the Immaculate mentioned here?

and are ever again granted forgiveness.

Automatically? And without a Catholic Priest and the Sacrament of Confession?

CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church -- instructed by Christ and his Apostles -- has hitherto professed, observed, and taugh; let him be anathema.

29. Lutherans understand this condition of the Christian as a being "at the same time righteous and sinner." Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament and grants the righteousness of Christ which they appropriate in faith. In Christ, they are made just before God. Looking at themselves through the law, however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners.

What? After "Word and Sacrament", they are still in a state of mortal sin?

Sin still lives in them (1 Jn 1:8; Rom 7:17,20), for they repeatedly turn to false gods and do not love God with that undivided love which God requires as their Creator (Deut 6:5; Mt 22:36-40 pr.). This contradiction to God is as such truly sin. Nevertheless, the enslaving power of sin is broken on the basis of the merit of Christ. It no longer is a sin that "rules" the Christian for it is itself "ruled" by Christ with whom the justified are bound in faith. In this life, then, Christians can in part lead a just life. Despite sin, the Christian is no longer separated from God, because in the daily return to baptism, the person who has been born anew by baptism and the Holy Spirit has this sin forgiven. Thus this sin no longer brings damnation and eternal death.[15] Thus, when Lutherans say that justified persons are also sinners and that their opposition to God is truly sin, they do not deny that, despite this sin, they are not separated from God and that this sin is a "ruled" sin.

In these affirmations, they are in agreement with Roman Catholics,

Well, if they are in agreement, why not just sign the Canons of the Council of Trent on Justification and be done with it? Also, how can you receive sanctifying grace, and still be in sin? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?

despite the difference in understanding sin in the justified.

30. Catholics hold that the grace of Jesus Christ imparted in baptism takes away all that is sin "in the proper sense" and that is "worthy of damnation" (Rom 8:1).[16] There does, however, remain in the person an inclination (concupiscence) which comes from sin and presses toward sin. Since,

according to Catholic conviction,

According "Catholic conviction", yes, but also according to Jesus Christ. You seem very eager to constantly bring down the teachings of the Catholic Church to the level of "just another opinion in the marketplace of religions".

human sins always involve a personal element and since this element is lacking in this inclination, Catholics do not see this inclination as sin in an authentic sense. They do not thereby deny that this inclination does not correspond to God's original design for humanity and that it is objectively in contradiction to God and remains one's enemy in lifelong struggle. Grateful for deliverance by Christ, they underscore that this inclination in contradiction to God does not merit the punishment of eternal death[17] and does not separate the justified person from God. But when individuals voluntarily separate themselves from God, it is not enough to return to observing the commandments, for they must receive pardon and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation through the word of forgiveness imparted to them in virtue of God's reconciling work in Christ. [See Sources for section 4.4].

OK, so..., do Lutherans agree with all that? Isn't this the purpose of this document? Why constantly say: "We believe this, they believe that", when it's supposed to be a joint declaration? Can you imagine two people trying to agree on some contract, like for buying and selling a house, or a car, etc., where the buyer has a contract for the transaction, and the seller has another contract for the same transaction? Imagine if there was an argument, and this ended up in front of a judge. Can you visualise the judge's face, when the litigants would explain to him that there are two different contracts, for the same transaction? The judge would forget all decorum and burst out laughing! Then he would have the court policeman throw both those clowns out of his courtroom!

4.5 Law and Gospel

31. We confess together that persons are justified by faith in the gospel "apart from works prescribed by the law" (Rom 3:28).

Yes, in a way, but there are still Canons #9 and #32.

Christ has fulfilled the law and by his death and resurrection has overcome it as a way to salvation. We also confess that God's commandments retain their validity for the justified and that Christ has by his teaching and example expressed God's will which is a standard for the conduct of the justified also.

32. Lutherans state that the distinction and right ordering of law and gospel is essential for the understanding of justification. In its theological use, the law is demand and accusation. Throughout their lives, all persons, Christians also, in that they are sinners, stand under this accusation which uncovers their sin so that, in faith in the gospel, they will turn unreservedly to the mercy of God in Christ,

See comment above.

which alone justifies them.

See comment above.

33. Because the law as a way to salvation has been fulfilled and overcome through the gospel, Catholics can say that Christ is not a lawgiver in the manner of Moses.

Christ is not a lawgiver?

CANON XXI. - If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.

When Catholics emphasize that the righteous are bound to observe God's commandments, they do not thereby deny that through Jesus Christ God has mercifully promised to his children the grace of eternal life.[18] [See Sources for section 4.5].

Ambiguous. Eternal Life is promised, yes, but conditionally, or unconditionally?

CANON XXIV. - If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema. [my emphasis]

4.6 Assurance of Salvation

34. We confess together that the faithful can rely on the mercy and promises of God. In spite of their own weakness and the manifold threats to their faith, on the strength of Christ's death and resurrection they can build on the effective promise of God's grace in Word and Sacrament and so be sure of this grace.

Rather vague, so hard to disagree with.

35. This was emphasized in a particular way by the Reformers: in the midst of temptation, believers should not look to themselves but look solely to Christ and trust only him. In trust in God's promise they are assured of their salvation, but are never secure looking at themselves.

Trent says some pretty clear things about this "assurance" of salvation, no?

CANON XVI. - If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, -- unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.

36. Catholics can share the concern of the Reformers to ground faith in the objective reality of Christ's promise, to look away from one's own experience, and to trust in Christ's forgiving word alone (cf. Mt 16:19; 18:18). With the Second Vatican Council, Catholics state: to have faith is to entrust oneself totally to God,[19] who liberates us from the darkness of sin and death and awakens us to eternal life.[20] In this sense, one cannot believe in God and at the same time consider the divine promise untrustworthy.

Of course. Philippians 2:12 doesn't talk about how God is faillible, it talks about how man is faillible (which explains why we fear and tremble while working out our salvation). Neither Catholics nor Lutherans claim that God is imperfect or stupid. But Catholics recognize that if we can freely accept Redemption, we can also freely lose it by committing just one mortal sin, and not just a sin against Faith:

CANON XXVII. - If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema.

CANON XXVIII. - If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Chris taught; let him be anathema.

No one may doubt God's mercy and Christ's merit. Every person, however, may be concerned about his salvation when he looks upon his own weaknesses and shortcomings. Recognizing his own failures, however, the believer may yet be certain that God intends his salvation. [See Sources for section 4.6].

Yes, "God intends his salvation", but God also intends to continue to give him free-will, so the believer can still go to Hell, unfortunately.

4.7 The Good Works of the Justified

37. 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.

38. 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.

Doesn't Canon 32 say something about "works as gifts"?

39. The concept of a preservation of grace and a growth in grace and faith is also held by Lutherans. They do emphasize that righteousness as acceptance by God and sharing in the righteousness of Christ is always complete. At the same time, they state that there can be growth in its effects in Christian living. When they view the good works of Christians as the fruits and signs of justification and not as one's own "merits", they nevertheless also understand eternal life in accord with the New Testament as unmerited "reward" in the sense of the fulfillment of God's promise to the believer. [See Sources for section 4.7].

See comment above.

5. The Significance and Scope of the Consensus Reached

40. The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics.

Dumb question: if what Trent says about Justification is still valid, and we've just discovered a consensus with the Lutherans, then why not just list the Canons on Justification and make the Lutherans sign their agreement with them?

In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.

Repeat dumb question above.

41. Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent.

Repeat dumb question above, another time.

The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration.

Repeat dumb question above, yet again.

42. Nothing is thereby taken away from the seriousness of the condemnations related to the doctrine of justification.

Some were not simply pointless.

Wow! "Catholish" at it's best! "Some were not simply pointless"! What the heck does that mean? How do you reconcile that statement with Canon 33?

They remain for us "salutary warnings" to which we must attend in our teaching and practice.[21]

So, Lutherans agree with all those Canons on Justification?

Repeat dumb question above, another bloody time.

43. Our consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification

must come to influence the life and teachings of our churches. Here it must prove itself. In this respect, there are still questions of varying importance which need further clarification. These include, among other topics, the relationship between the Word of God and church doctrine, as well as ecclesiology, ecclesial authority, church unity, ministry, the sacraments, and the relation between justification and social ethics.

You mean, that huge laundry list of disagreements will each generate more committees and reports, and then each lead to some "joint declaration" that will start by setting aside the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Summa Theologica, etc, to then pretend to "summarize" the Catholic position with a few brief and ambiguous sentences, and then TADA! a sufficiently vague "lutheran" position will become compatible with that "catholic" position?

We are convinced that the consensus we have reached offers a solid basis for this clarification.

You can't even list the Canons and agree or disagree with them! And that is a proof of your courage and clear thinking?

The Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church will continue to strive together to deepen this common understanding of justification and to make it bear fruit in the life and teaching of the churches.

44. We give thanks to the Lord for this decisive step forward on the way to overcoming the division of the church. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us further toward that visible unity which is Christ's will.

[I omitted here the appendix and footnotes, they are just a click away]

3) What is an "anathema"?

OK, I admit I'm a bit obsessed these days with: "Love the sinner, hate the sin". Nevertheless, it seems to me that many modern errors are based on an amalgamation of the sinner and the sin. Apparently, this whole Joint Declaration on Justification confuses the heretic (whom we must love), and the heresy (which we must hate).

Let's take a metaphor to better distinguish the heretic from heresy: Anathemas are very similar to signposts that are seen at the entrance of cities, such as "Montreal", "Toronto", or "Ottawa." These signposts just say where the cities are, not who lives there. Even if everyone in Ottawa decided to move to Montreal, Ottawa would still be in Ottawa. In the same way, if you make a mistake, and you believe that such a person is in Toronto, when in fact he's in Montreal, the cities will not swap places when you discover your mistake!

The Joint Declaration on Justification repeatedly says that the condemnations of Trent are still valid (here, here). In other words, to use our metaphor, this Declaration states that the signpost that says "Montreal" is indeed in Montreal, and that the signposts for Toronto and Ottawa are also in front of the right cities.

The Declaration also states that anathemas do not apply to "today's partner" (here, here). In other words, the Declaration seems to say that the Catholic Church believed that Lutherans were in Ottawa, whereas they were in Toronto, or that they're now living in Montreal. But that's a red herring. An anathema doesn't say in which city a person is. An anathema says: if and only if you are in such a city, you are heretical.

Since the Trent "signposts" are still valid, we can ask anyone, Lutherans or Muslims or Extra-Terrestrials: "Are you in such a city?" So it's back to my dumb question.

Because an anathema is a declaration that such an assertion is heretical, it doesn't go out of fashion or become false, even if we fall in love with a heretic (or if we lose the Catholic Faith).

4) Conclusion

The Saw of Modernism cutting the credibility of this Joint Declaration.
The Saw of Modernism cutting the credibility of this Joint Declaration.

Of course, I'm all in favor of total visible unity for all Christians! And even if for some reason we cannot fully agree with one group or another of Christians, I'm still in favor of minimizing disagreement by making sure we really understand each other, for the love of God.

What scares me about this Joint Declaration is not that we are discussing with Protestants. What scares me is that we are not seriously discussing among Catholics!

A serious discussion among Catholics would involve serious questions like:

- If the Council of Trent screwed up, why don't we just rescind those anathemas? (And then explain how the Magisterium can err so massively, even though God supposedly guides it.)

- If the Council of Trent did not screw up, why don't we use those anathemas to find out whether or not people agree with the teachings of Christ?

- How can we reconcile Divine premotion with human freedom?

- If the Council of Trent, like all other Councils, can never say anything definitive and stable and true, then how could this Joint Declaration not come crashing down with us, as well as the branch we are sitting on, that we've just cut off with the Saw of Modernism?

I'm sorry, but God doesn't have an unclear intelligence, and the Holy Spirit is not confused. The Being Who is able to say "Let there be light" does not wallow in darkness. And lighting a joint of marijuana does not qualify as "shedding light on a topic".

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