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Decl. conjunta sobre la doctrina de la justificación
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All Under One Christ, Statement on the Augsburg Confession by the Roman Catholic/Lutheran Joint Commission, 1980, in: Growth in Agreement, edited by Harding Meyer and Lukas Vischer, New York/Ramsey, Geneva, 1984, 241-247.
Commentsof the Joint Committee of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany and the LWF German National Committee regarding the document "The Condemnations of the Reformation Era. Do They Still Divide?" in: Lehrverurteilungen im Gespräch, Göttingen, 1993 (hereafter: VELKD).
- "... a faith centered and forensically conceived picture of justification is of major importance for Paul and, in a sense, for the Bible as a whole, although it is by no means the only biblical or Pauline way of representing God's saving work" (USA, no. 146).
- "Catholics as well as Lutherans can acknowledge the need to test the practices, structures, and theologies of the church by the extent to which they help or hinder 'the proclamation of God's free and merciful promises in Christ Jesus which can be rightly received only through faith' (para. 28)" (USA, no. 153).Regarding the "fundamental affirmation" (USA, no. 157; cf. 4) it is said:
- "This affirmation, like the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone, serves as a criterion for judging all church practices, structures, and traditions precisely because its counterpart is 'Christ alone' (solus Christus). He alone is to be ultimately trusted as the one mediator through whom God in the Holy Spirit pours out his saving gifts. All of us in this dialogue affirm that all Christian teachings, practices, and offices should so function as to foster 'the obedience of faith' (Rom. 1:5) in God's saving action in Christ Jesus alone through the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of the faithful and the praise and honor of the heavenly Father" (USA, no. 160).
- "For that reason, the doctrine of justification - and, above all, its biblical foundation - will always retain a special function in the church. That function is continually to remind Christians that we sinners live solely from the forgiving love of God, which we merely allow to be bestowed on us, but which we in no way - in however modified a form - 'earn' or are able to tie down to any preconditions or postconditions. The doctrine of justification therefore becomes the touchstone for testing at all times whether a particular interpretation of our relationship to God can claim the name of 'Christian.' At the same time, it becomes the touchstone for the church, for testing at all times whether its proclamation and its praxis correspond to what has been given to it by its Lord" (LV:E 69).
- "An agreement on the fact that the doctrine of justification is significant not only as one doctrinal component within the whole of our church's teaching, but also as the touchstone for testing the whole doctrine and practice of our churches, is - from a Lutheran point of view - fundamental progress in the ecumenical dialogue between our churches. It cannot be welcomed enough" (VELKD 95; cf. 157).
- "For Lutherans and Catholics, the doctrine of justification has a different status in the hierarchy of truth; but both sides agree that the doctrine of justification has its specific function in the fact that it is "the touchstone for testing at all times whether a particular interpretation of our relationship to God can claim the name of ‘Christian’. At the same time it becomes the touchstone for the church, for testing at all times whether its proclamation and its praxis correspond to what has been given to it by its Lord" (LV:E 69). The criteriological significance of the doctrine of justification for sacramentology, ecclesiology and ethical teachings still deserves to be studied further" (PCPCU 96).
- "Those in whom sin reigns can do nothing to merit justification, which is the free gift of God's grace. Even the beginnings of justification, for example, repentance, prayer for grace, and desire for forgiveness, must be God's work in us" (USA, no. 156.3).
- "Both are concerned to make it clear that ... human beings cannot ... cast a sideways glance at their own endeavors ... But a response is not a 'work.' The response of faith is itself brought about through the uncoercible word of promise which comes to human beings from outside themselves. There can be 'cooperation' only in the sense that in faith the heart is involved, when the Word touches it and creates faith" (LV:E 46f).
- "Where, however, Lutheran teaching construes the relation of God to his human creatures in justification with such emphasis on the divine 'monergism' or the sole efficacy of Christ in such a way, that the person's willing acceptance of God's grace - which is itself a gift of God - has no essential role in justification, then the Tridentine canons 4, 5, 6 and 9 still constitute a notable doctrinal difference on justification" (PCPCU 22).
- "The strict emphasis on the passivity of human beings concerning their justification never meant, on the Lutheran side, to contest the full personal participation in believing; rather it meant to exclude any cooperation in the event of justification itself. Justification is the work of Christ alone, the work of grace alone" (VELKD 84,3-8).
- "By justification we are both declared and made righteous. Justification, therefore, is not a legal fiction. God, in justifying, effects what he promises; he forgives sin and makes us truly righteous" (USA, no. 156,5).
- "Protestant theology does not overlook what Catholic doctrine stresses: the creative and renewing character of God's love; nor does it maintain ... God's impotence toward a sin which is 'merely' forgiven in justification but which is not truly abolished in its power to divide the sinner from God" (LV:E 49).
- "The Lutheran doctrine has never understood the 'crediting of Christ's justification' as without effect on the life of the faithful, because Christ's word achieves what it promises. Accordingly the Lutheran doctrine understands grace as God's favor, but nevertheless as effective power ... 'for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation'" (VELKD 86,15.23).
- "Catholic doctrine does not overlook what Protestant theology stresses: the personal character of grace, and its link with the Word; nor does it maintain ... grace as an objective 'possession' (even if a conferred possession) on the part of the human being - something over which he can dispose" (LV:E 49).
- "If we translate from one language to another, then Protestant talk about justification through faith corresponds to Catholic talk about justification through grace; and on the other hand, Protestant doctrine understands substantially under the one word 'faith' what Catholic doctrine (following 1 Cor. 13:13) sums up in the triad of 'faith, hope, and love'" (LV:E 52).
- "The Reformers ..understood faith as the forgiveness and fellowship with Christ effected by the word of promise itself. This is the ground for the new being, through which the flesh is dead to sin and the new man or woman in Christ has life (sola fide per Christum). But even if this faith necessarily makes the human being new, the Christian builds his confidence, not on his own new life, but solely on God's gracious promise. Acceptance in Christ is sufficient, if 'faith' is understood as 'trust in the promise' (fides promissionis)" (LV:E 50).
- Cf. The Council of Trent, Session 6, Chap. 7: "Consequently, in the process of justification, together with the forgiveness of sins a person receives, through Jesus Christ into whom he is grafted, all these infused at the same time: faith, hope and charity" (Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 2, London/Washington DC, 1990, 673).
- "According to Protestant interpretation, the faith that clings unconditionally to God's promise in Word and Sacrament is sufficient for righteousness before God, so that the renewal of the human being, without which there can be no faith, does not in itself make any contribution to justification" (LV:E 52).
- "Catholic doctrine knows itself to be at one with the Protestant concern in emphasizing that the renewal of the human being does not 'contribute' to justification, and is certainly not a contribution to which he could make any appeal before God. Nevertheless it feels compelled to stress the renewal of the human being through justifying grace, for the sake of acknowledging God's newly creating power; although this renewal in faith, hope, and love is certainly nothing but a response to God's unfathomable grace" (LV:E 52f).
- "Insofar as the Catholic doctrine stresses that 'the personal character of grace, and its link with the Word', this renewal ..is certainly nothing but a response effected by God's word itself and that 'the renewal of the human being does not contribute to justification, and is certainly not a contribution to which a person could make any appeal before God' our objection no longer applies" (VELKD 89,12-21).
- "For however just and holy, they fall from time to time into the sins that are those of daily existence. What is more, the Spirit's action does not exempt believers from the lifelong struggle against sinful tendencies. Concupiscence and other effects of original and personal sin, according to Catholic doctrine, remain in the justified, who therefore must pray daily to God for forgiveness" (USA, no. 102).
- "The doctrines laid down at Trent and by the Reformers are at one in maintaining that original sin, and also the concupiscence that remains, are in contradiction to God ..object of the lifelong struggle against sin ... After baptism, concupiscence in the person justified no longer cuts that person off from God; in Tridentine language, it is 'no longer sin in the real sense'; in Lutheran phraseology, it is peccatum regnatum, 'controlled sin'" (LV:E 46).
- "The question is how to speak of sin with regard to the justified without limiting the reality of salvation. While Lutherans express this tension with the term 'controlled sin' (peccatum regnatum) which expresses the teaching of the Christian as 'being justified and sinner at the same time' (simul iustus et peccator), Roman Catholics think the reality of salvation can only be maintained by denying the sinful character of concupiscence. With regard to this question a considerable rapprochement is reached if LV:E calls the concupiscence that remains in the justified a 'contradiction to God' and thus qualifies it as sin" (VELKD 82,29-39).
- With reference to Canons 19f. of the Council of Trent VELKD (89,28-36) says as follows: "The ten commandments of course apply to Christians as stated in many places of the confessions. If Canon 20 stresses that a 'person ..is bound to keep the commandments of God,' this does not apply to us; if however Canon 20 affirms that faith has salvific power only on condition of keeping the commandments this applies to us. Concerning the reference of the Canon regarding the commandments of the church, there is no difference between us if these commandments are only expressions of the commandments of God; otherwise it would apply to us."
- "The foundation and the point of departure (of the Reformers)..are: the reliability and sufficiency of God's promise, and the power of Christ's death and resurrection; human weakness, and the threat to faith and salvation which that involves" (LV:E 56).
- The Council of Trent also emphasizes that "it is necessary to believe that sins are not forgiven, nor have they ever been forgiven, save freely by the divine mercy on account of Christ;" and that we must not doubt "the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the power and efficacy of the sacraments; so it is possible for anyone, while he regards himself and his own weakness and lack of dispositions, to be anxious and fearful about his own state of grace" (Council of Trent, Session 6, chapter 9, 674).
- "Luther and his followers go a step farther: They urge that the uncertainty should not merely be endured. We should avert our eyes from it and take seriously, practically, and personally the objective efficacy of the absolution pronounced in the sacrament of penance, which comes 'from outside.' ... Since Jesus said, 'Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Matt. 16:19), the believer ... would declare Christ to be a liar ..if he did not rely with a rock-like assurance on the forgiveness of God uttered in the absolution ..that this reliance can itself be subjectively uncertain - that the assurance of forgiveness is not a security of forgiveness (securitas); but this must not be turned into yet another problem, so to speak: the believer should turn his eyes away from it, and should look only to Christ's word of forgiveness" (LV:E 54f).
- "Today Catholics can appreciate the Reformer's efforts to ground faith in the objective reality of Christ's promise, 'whatsoever you loose on earth ...' and to focus believers on the specific word of absolution from sins. ... Luther's original concern to teach people to look away from their experience, and to rely on Christ alone and his word of forgiveness [is not to be condemned]" (PCPCU 24).
- A mutual condemnation regarding the understanding of the assurance of salvation "can even less provide grounds for mutual objection today - particularly if we start from the foundation of a biblically renewed concept of faith. For a person can certainly lose or renounce faith, and self-commitment to God and his word of promise. But if he believes in this sense, he cannot at the same time believe that God is unreliable in his word of promise. In this sense it is true today also that - in Luther's words - faith is the assurance of salvation" (LV:E 56).
- With reference to the concept of faith of Vatican II see Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, no. 5: "'The obedience of faith' ... must be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man entrusts his whole self freely to God, offering 'the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,' and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him".
- "The Lutheran distinction between the certitude (certitudo) of faith which looks alone to Christ and earthly security (securitas), which is based on the human being, has not been dealt with clearly enough in the LV. ... Faith never reflects on itself, but depends completely on God, whose grace is bestowed through word and sacrament, thus from outside (extra nos)" (VELKD 92,2-9).
- "But the Council excludes the possibility of earning grace - that is, justification - (can. 2; DS 1552) and bases the earning or merit of eternal life on the gift of grace itself, through membership in Christ (can. 32: DS 1582). Good works are 'merits' as a gift. Although the Reformers attack 'Godless trust' in one's own works, the Council explicitly excludes any notion of a claim or any false security (cap. 16: DS 1548f). It is evident ...that the Council wishes to establish a link with Augustine, who introduced the concept of merit, in order to express the responsibility of human beings, in spite of the 'bestowed' character of good works" (LV:E 66).
- If we understand the language of "cause" in Canon 24 in more personal terms, as it is done in chapter 16 of the Decree on Justification, where the idea of communion with Christ is emphasized, then we can describe the Catholic doctrine on merit as it is done in the first sentence of the second paragraph of 4.7: growth in grace, perseverance in righteousness received by God and a deeper communion with Christ.
- "The Lutheran confessions stress that the justified person is responsible not to lose the grace received but to live in it ... Thus the confessions can speak of a preservation of grace and a growth in it. If righteousness in Canon 24 is understood in the sense that it effects human beings, then it does not apply to us. But if 'righteousness' in Canon 24 refers to the Christian's acceptance by God, it applies to us; because this righteousness is always perfect; compared with it the works of Christians are only 'fruits' and 'signs'" (VELKD 94,2-14).
- "Concerning Canon 26 we refer to the Apology where eternal life is described as reward: '... We grant that eternal life is a reward because it is something that is owed - not because of our merits but because of the promise'" (VELKD 94,20-24).
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