Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

I am studying the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and from reading it, it appears that the RCC and Lutheran churches present rescinded the condemnations of each other (paragraph 41 in particular). Does that mean that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is acceptable, or at least endurable, to the Roman Catholic Church?

Interesting question. I hope someone knowledgeable will weigh in.

You should probably read the Augsburg Confession in conjunction with the *Confutation Pontificia *(the Catholic response to the AC) and the *Apology *(or Defense) of the Augsburg Confession which was the Lutheran response to the Confutatio. That will give you some idea of the areas in which there was (and, in some cases, remain) divergences on theology and doctrine.

The JDDJ addresses only some of the issues found in the AC and subsequent documents, but you’ll see how some of the issues were first addressed between the Lutherans and the Catholics and what has or hasn’t changed.

The documents are all available online – just Google to find them.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod didn’t accept JDDJ. This is there reasons:
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Q. I would like to understand the main problem your church body has with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (signed October 31 by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church). Is it the fact that it implies that we are saved as a result of both faith and works?

A. Yes, you are on the right track here. The recently signed Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) does not signal a change in the Roman Catholic church, but rather, a willingness on the part of the Lutherans who signed it to allow Rome’s doctrine of justification to stand as a valid interpretation of what the Bible teaches us about justification. This is something that the Lutheran church has never done before, and in fact, it is a great tragedy and a profoundly sad moment in the history of Lutheranism.

Rome historically has always taught that we are saved by grace, and grace alone. They emphasize that very strongly. The 16th century Council of Trent makes this point very clear. Thus, there is nothing new on this in the Declaration on this point, even though some Lutherans have made it sound as if Rome’s words about grace signal some marvelous breakthrough.

What you probably have not heard is that the JDDJ very carefully avoid precise definitions of the words grace, faith, sin, etc. That is no accident. Careful definition of those terms would have shown how far apart our two churches actually are on the doctrine of justification.

The problem with Rome’s view of justification is that they view it as a process, whereby we cooperate with God’s grace in order to merit eternal life for ourselves, and even for others (that is a paraphrase of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches). They view grace as a sort of “substance” that God infuses into us that permits us to do those works that are necessary in order that we might earn more grace. The Bible describes grace as the loving and favorable disposition of God; in other words, grace is all about what God is doing and giving.

We distinguish between the result of justification, which is the Christian life, and the work of God to save us. Rome mixes sanctification with justification. Why is this view troublesome? Because it teaches that something other than trust in Christ is necessary for or salvation. That “something other” is what we bring to the table. And the only thing we do bring to the table is our sin, not our good works. Our works are a response that God works in us, but not a contributing cause to our justification.

The Roman Catholic Church is very careful to state that even this “something other” is made possibly only because God has given us the “initial” grace to desire more grace. But in practical reality, it is apparent that the Roman Catholic Church is finally throwing people back on relying on what they are doing, or can do, to merit eternal life. When we mix in our works in the picture of our salvation, the glory and merit of Christ always end up becoming obscured.

But the Bible is clear that it is purely by grace, not by works, or else grace would just be a “help” for us to do the works that finally are what merit God’s forgiveness. In the Roman Catholic view, justification is a process by which we participate with God in achieving our salvation. The Biblical view is that justification is God’s declaration of our complete righteousness and total forgiveness, apart from any works. This gift is received by faith alone–apart from works (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8-9).

Another point to be made is this: If, in fact, Rome does teach justification as the Bible teaches it, then there should be an immediate change in its view of indulgences, prayer to the saints and the myriad of other extra-biblical traditions that it has embraced. For if justification is the heart and center of the Bible, then these other things are incompatible with it.

I hope this helps you see that the Roman Catholic view of justification and the classical Lutheran view are definitely not complementary, but diametrically opposed to one another. The JDDJ did not change that fact. The Lutherans who signed the document did not insist on careful definition of terms so as to make absolutely clear that our salvation is by faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone.

The best short study of the historic differences between Rome and Lutheranism on the doctrine of justification is available in a book called “Justification and Rome” by Robert Preus. You may purchase a copy of this book from Concordia Publishing House (CPH) (800-325-3040).

The most complete treatment of this subject is in the 16th century Lutheran response to Trent, which still stands today as the best and most complete treatment of Trent by a Lutheran. It is “The Examination of the Council of Trent” by Martin Chemnitz, also available through CPH.

Is this sad because the Catholic understanding of the Scriptures must be rejected as false?

I think such a paraphrase is misleading. It implies that what we are rewarded (merited) comes from ourselves, rather than from God. It seems to deny the notion that it is God who is at work in us to will and to do his good pleasure.

When we cooperate with God’s grace, we work out what is at work within us. When it is said “we merit for ourselves” it comes across sounding as if it is not based in God’s grace, but in our humanity, which is not what Catholicism teaches.

I find it fascinating to read this post. I was just considering this very turn of phrase today as I was driving through the Black Range. I have had this concept brought up many times (that grace is a “sort of substance”) and have always found it puzzling. I think it is odd because it represents the mindset that if something validly exists, it must be tangible. Is there such thing as a non-tangible “substance”? Catholics believe that grace is “poured” into us.

Joel 2:28-29
And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even upon the menservants and maidservants
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Rom 5:5
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

However, there is no Catholic teaching that what is "poured’ is a concrete physical substance, any more than an angel is. The frame of reference that produces the contradiction seems to emanate from a lack of belief in the supernatural. Must something be a concrete physical “substance” to be poured? If so, then how does God “pour” into our hearts?

Maybe you can help me understand how Catholics see this, since I have never been taught what you seem to be saying we believe.

As such, can grace not be “poured”?

Titus 3:5-8
5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Catholics are taught that the "washing of regeneration " is a reference to baptism. This is a circumcision made without hands.

Maybe you could explain this also.

I think part of the problem with a statement like “Rome mixes…” is that there are 22 CAtholic Rites that are not “Roman” (Latin). The Eastern Rites have different language to describe salvation. One of those words is “Theosis” or being made into the likeness of God.

I don’t think it is so much a cse of “mixing sanctification with justificaiton” as it is the conception of salvation as containing justification, sanctification and glorification. The Catholic Church teaches that we are justified in baptism (the washing of regeneration). The Apsotles taught that baptism washes away all sins, both personal and original. That means the baptised person is completely justified, and sanctified.

I think this is a misrepresentation of the Catholic position. It would be more accurate to say that trust in Christ includes bringing ourselves completely to HIm. Because we have been justified by grace, through faith, we are to live a life that befits repentance. The good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them are not optional. Neither are they “from us”. They are ergos hagios - the works that are created in and through us by the holy spirit. The works we do are not a “contributing cause of justification”, but an outgrowth of it. The grace that produces them is the only cause if our salvation.

There are certainly far too many Catholics who do embrace this error. It is a heresy, however, defeated by the Church against Pelagius centuries ago. The Catholic Church does not “throw people back on what they can do”. Catholics who do not understand their faith do espouse (most of them unwittingly) this heresy.


Misrepresenting the beliefs of others also causes obscurity. :wink:

It is purely by grace that the good works are produced in us. By them, our faith is perfected.

You seem to be misinformed about what the Catholic Church teaches.

You definitely have a misunderstanding about these matters. Probably beyond the scope of this thread. The reason we have all these traditions, in addition to the fact that they were handed down to us by the Apostles, is that they emanate from the grace by which we are saved through faith - not of works, lest any man should boast.

Certainly your perceptions of them are. :wink:

YOu know, the NT was written completely by, for, and about Catholics. There is nothing in it that is not Catholic. The verses you quote about salvation are Catholilc verses. They are in the NT because they represent the Catholic faith.

Yes this is sad because the Lutherans who signed were so anxious to have an agreement that they said in effect let us agree to disagree. Rome didn’t give up a thing. I respect Rome for this.

This is what the Augsburg Confession states:
Our churches teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruit [Galatians 5:22–23]. It is necessary to do good works commanded by God [Ephesians 2:10], because of God’s will. We should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. 2 The forgiveness of sins and justification is received through faith.

The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent:
On the increase of Justification received.

Having, therefore, been thus justified, and made the friends and domestics of God, advancing from virtue to virtue, they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day; that is, by mortifying the members of their own flesh, and by presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification, they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”

No. The condemnations don’t apply to the Lutherans as presented in the JDDJ. However, they still apply if they accept the traditional stance of faith alone. But Cardinal Ratzinger once said that the Augsburg Confession could possibly become acceptable the Catholics if it wasn’t for faith alone.

But what the JDDJ does do is help understand each side’s view of justification better. (Like that Catholics don’t believe that salvation is from works and not from grace, and that Lutherans don’t believe that works don’t matter at all in salvation.) It helped me realize that I want to become Catholic :).

IMHO the JDDJ was a great milestone

I often wonder about joint declarations of this kind. The same goes on between Catholics and the Orthodox – they make conciliatory movements to truly embrace the other side, but then in the fine-print you find out that the Orthodox weren’t really abandoning their side at all, it was just a clever conjunction of words. Thus if the Catholic Church signed that agreement, it would essentially become Orthodox, without having realized it.

Much the same goes on here, but seemingly from the Catholic side instead; both starkly opposed sides make strong movements towards reconciliation in the middle, but in the fine-print it was discovered that the Catholic Church wasn’t really going to embrace the Justification by Faith in the first place, and those were only tactical maneuvers with language, not fact.

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