Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

I had a quick glance through LCMS’s The Joint Declarationon the Doctrine of Justification in Confessional Lutheran Perspective and it seems that LCMS have fundamental theological reservations on JDDF. ELCA and other churches, however, that signed the JDDF, however seems to see little difference in substance with the Catholic position on justification by faith.

Does this mean LCMS and ELCA, etc have different understanding of this very defining feature of Lutheran faith? If so, this will make a more serious difference than the differences in worship styles and church polity. Can they be said to have the same faith sufficient to allow inter-communion? Catholics and Orthodox have denied inter-communion for less. (Sorry if it is not my place as a non-Lutheran to ask but I am interested in how other confessions understand being in communion.)

Also, it is true that LWF is not involved in JDDF? If so, where does that leave LWF on serious ecumenical endeavors that have such ifundamental mpact on doctrines and faith. Doesn’t LWF have a role in defining what define a Lutheran?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am LCMS but oppose the synod’s rejection of the JDDJ. So, my opinions here do not reflect the synod. Don (Steido) or Benjohnson or hn160 can better give that pov.

I don’t believe it marks a difference in understanding regarding the Doctrine of Justification, either between the ELCA and LCMS, or other Lutheran synods worldwide, including the worldwide bodies LWF and the ILC.It is evidence only that the two synods have differing views regarding what the JDDJ says, and what the Catholic position actually is.
*Regarding worship styles, again I don’t think it will make a difference. The bigger concern regarding worship is fighting off “church-growth” and protestant styles of worship, which undermine the word and sacrament centrality of the Mass.
*On polity, Lutherans consider polity to be adiaphoron, meaning different synods can have differing polities (the LCMS is much more congregational than the ELCA) and it doesn’t effect doctrine or fellowship. I can’t see how the JDDJ would effect polity, other than in the future when the prospects for unity become more realistic.
*The ELCA and LCMS are already not in full altar and pulpit communion, meaning our clergy do not share altar or pulpit. This is for a number of reasons, not the least of which being women’s ordination and, more recently, our differing views on human sexuality. The LCMS practices “close” communion while the ELCA practices “open” communion, so the level of Eucharistic hospitality varies. The LCMS is in communion with a number of Lutheran synods worldwide, as is the ELCA. I do not believe, however, that the lack of official altar and pulpit communion is because of the Doctrine of Justification. The Augsburg Confession remains the signature confession of Pan-Lutheranism.

Also, it is true that LWF is not involved in JDDF? If so, where does that leave LWF on serious ecumenical endeavors that have such ifundamental mpact on doctrines and faith. Doesn’t LWF have a role in defining what define a Lutheran?

It was under the umbrella of the LWF that the JDDJ was negotiated (for lack of a better term) with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, but to answer your question, the LWF is more like a federation of synods, which is not to be confused with a Magisterium or in Lutheran speak, even a ministerium. The same can be said of the ILC (International Lutheran Council), which brings together more confessional synods.

Jon

Interesting subject…

Jon provided an excellent response, in my opinion.

I was raised in the Missouri Synod, attended her parochial schools, colleges, university and seminaries. It was where I received by “catholic roots” so to speak. My home parish from childhood is LCMS but other parishes left to join the effort that produced the ELCA. In the 1970’s there was a purge, so to speak of most of the faculty of the Concordia Seminary in St Louis, which was the largest Lutheran seminary in America. Following the processional cross, most seminarians/ professors symbolically walked out of the seminary and formed Seminary in Exile [Seminex] over disagreement with historical critical method “the world behind the text”] biblical analysis.

The Lutheran World Federation, centered in Europe, was formed in the Church of Sweden after WW2 to unite Lutherans in ecumenical efforts. The Lutheran World Federation represents over 90% of world-wide Lutherans, and was the catalysis for the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity.

I do not think that the Joint Declaration ought to be taken as an affirmation that Lutherans and Catholics agree on the doctrine of justifcation so much as that most of the rhetoric behind the issue is baseless and the issue did not justify the resulting division in the Church. This is going according to my memory and personal reading of the relevant documents. If the LWF can be said to agree witn the Catholic Church on justification, it would only be by a retreat from traditional Lutheran doctrine. For example, the Formula of Concord teaches the purely forensic model of justification and contains statements that are contrary to the Catholic faith. It is on these grounds that the LCMS rejected the Joint Declaration.

Nothing excludes the possibility of the Holy Spirit working through our communions to come to new ways of expressing the doctrine in a way that both communions could confess. That’s not an easy task, and the JDDJ did not entirely do that. As I recall, there isn’t even a mention of infused v. imputed righteousness.
My complaint with the LCMS is the apparent unwillingness to accept of the document what we believe to be true. This is what the CC did when it issued its “explanation”, and we could have done the same. I had the chance to speak with one of the LCMS dialogue team members about this very thing, and he implied that the big issue was that it wasn’t final enough to sign on to.

Jon

Yes, the 50 years of Dialogue following Vatican 2 affirms our faith in the holy catholic and apostolic church and identifies areas that we can live with together. What the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation have concluded is very scary. ** It means we believe the same.**

You know, EC, that I am very much a proponent of the JDDJ, my synod’s stand notwithstanding, but I think we can take our enthusiasm a bit too far. And that can lead to later disappointment. Even in the doctrine of Justification, we don’t entirely believe the same thing, and I suspect QN will agree with me.
Was the JDDJ a sign of significant progress, even if we are only talking about our willingness to talk? Absolutely. Is corporate unity right around the corner? Not yet.

Jon

The message from Pope Francis, a saint in our midst, is reconciliation of the world. Why hold on to what is clearly adiaphora, micro separation?

To speak of adiaphora and the doctrine of justification in the same sentence is, to me, an oxymoron.

Jon

How do you explain the “non-separating” conclusions of these Catholic and Lutheran scholars and bishops?

EC, we know first of all that it does not mean that Lutheran and Catholic doctrine are exactly the same on justfication. I do not think it means either necessarily that Lutherans and Catholics could enter into communion and just ignore these differences. My judgment is they meant that it is now clear that the justification debate did not merit dividing the Catholic Church and killin each other over it. Rome was not denying the Gospel and the Lutherans were not spreading antinomianism. It should have been discussed civilly as scholars. Now, with greater hindsight, we ought to make it an immediate priority sort out our differences and return to full unity. It is not saying that there are no differences whatsoever.

Problem is, even if Catholics and Protestants are really saying the same truth in different words, we are both deriving our doctrines from the same set of inspired Scriptures. If we are saying the same thing, at least one of is has fundamentally misinterpreted the biblical usage of the term “justification.” If justification according to the Bible properly involves the infusion of grace, then Lutheran theology is based on a fundamental misreading of Scripture. If justification is only the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness to the sinner, excluding any ontological change in the man, then Catholics have fundamentally misread the Bible. Someone will look stupid no matter what.

I don’t entirely fault the LCMS for refusing to sign on account of the overall vagueness of the Joint Declaration, but I wish we would see something similar from LCMS-Catholic dialogue.

First, I need to know where Lutheran and Catholic leaders have described our differences on justification as adiaphora. That both of our communions hold division as tragic and wounding to the Church we share and her message is true. But unity comes from agreement on doctrine, not simply by an emotional desire to be united

Jon

The Missouri Synod represents less than 10% of Lutheranism.

And?

Look, if the LWF is ready for unity, the only thing stopping them is the lack of a phone call to the Vatican. Well, that and women’s ordination, and ordination of gays in an open practicing relationship, and…
You get the point, I hope. Sign the catholic catechism and you’re on your way. And you know I will offer up prayers that you be blessed there in word and sacrament. But don’t throw demographics out there. They’re meaningless

Jon

I agree and cite Francis’s own comments on the wonderful work Pope Benedict accomphished but now the issues are “addressing fundamental questions as well as differences in the fields of anthropology and ethics”. catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=52824

Video of Francis meeting with Lutherans:
catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=52824

As always, you represent the LCMS’s position correctly, even where you wish it to guide us differently. Would that our little (and growing!) Synod -and Christendom, in general- had more people like you. :slight_smile:

I understand the desire to hold up the JDDJ as a sort of “preliminary” agreement, but for the bolded reason above, we simply can’t accept it. Agreeing to disagree is not agreement. Unionism, or the appearance of it, are harmful to real dialogue. In this case, the vagueness of the JDDJ leaves far too much linguistic wiggle room to be interpreted as the reader sees fit. It simply is not finished.

The saddest part is, in my opinion, that on Justification- modern Rome and steadfast Wittenberg are in agreement. The hang up comes, in this particular issue, in reconciling the heterodox practices (abuses? Forgive me for this sounding like polemics- I simply don’t know how else to say it… :() of Reformation-Era Rome with today’s Rome which is -dare I say- Lutheran in its practical understanding of Justification. But words have already been assigned meaning on this topic, and an “infallible” Church cannot be perceived to have “changed” its doctrine.

Thanks, JonNC, expected you to be one the few who will come out with well-considered replies. I do not see JDDF as a statement of agreement - more a statement of non-disagreement on an issue originally thought to divide the churches and a springboard to define areas of agreement.

My point on ‘different styles of worship’ and ‘church polity’ are that they are secondary differences that would not impair communion. But the question is whether the LCMS’s refusal to sign indicate a difference in understanding of the faith that may. The LCMS document on why they did not sign seems inconclusive to me. I cannot see whether the difference is due to understanding of the Catholic position or a rejection of the Catholic position. The non-resolution of the position on Mary, for instance could be interpreted as needing a broader agreement before something can be signed, which I don’t think was the intention of JDDF in the first place. Alternatively, I could interpret it (perhaps incorrectly) that LCMS see the Catholic position on Mary as informing its position on justification in a way that LCMS could not agree to, hence a rejection of Catholic position.

The LCMS practices “close” communion while the ELCA practices “open” communion, so the level of Eucharistic hospitality varies.

What are open and close communion?

It was under the umbrella of the LWF that the JDDJ was negotiated (for lack of a better term) with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, but to answer your question, the LWF is more like a federation of synods, which is not to be confused with a Magisterium or in Lutheran speak, even a ministerium. The same can be said of the ILC (International Lutheran Council), which brings together more confessional synods.

If the LWF is the umbrella body of Lutherans, it would be incumbent on LWF to have an evaluation criteria on what constitute a Lutheran, to determine qualification for entry. Wouldn’t that criteria include the faith of the applicant? If so, wouldn’t LWF need to define Lutheran faith? So, even if it is not a magisterium in the Catholic sense, it would be a custodian of the depository of faith, and so should have a formal role in the talks with other churches.

I thought that the more liberal interpretation (Leipzig Interim) is that anything outside of justification by faith is adiaphora. So as I understand it, justification by faith is never adiaphora to Lutherans.

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