f The Wittenberg Door: Justification - The Reformation v. Rome

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Justification - The Reformation v. Rome

Are there things still separating Rome from Protestants? Evangelicals will typically say “yes,” citing the obvious examples of the papacy, the worship of saints and Mary, and the mass. Although these are valid and important differences, what was really at the heart of the Reformation was the doctrine of Justification . . .

This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness

(Martin Luther)

In a day where most Protestants are unfamiliar with the term “Protestant,” and in a day when eminent Protestant scholars write, “Catholics and evangelicals now believe approximately the same thing,” it is essential for us to reacquaint (learn?) ourselves with this key difference, a difference where the very gospel itself hinges.

To this end I recommend an article penned by R.C. Sproul reposted at the Reformation Theology site. Here’s an excerpt:

Both Roman Catholic and Reformation theology are concerned with the justification of sinners. Both sides recognize that the great human dilemma is how unjust sinners can ever hope to survive a judgment before the court of an absolutely holy and absolutely just God. If we define forensic justification as a legal declaration by which God declares a person just and we leave it at that, we would have no dispute between Rome and Evangelicalism. Though Rome has an antipathy to the concept of forensic justification, this antipathy is directed against the Protestant view of it. In chapter 7 of the sixth session of the Council of Trent, Rome declared: "...not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure...." Here Rome is jealous to distinguish between being reputed just and actually being just, yet it is still true that God calls the baptismally regenerated just. That is, for Rome justification is forensic in that justification involves God's legal declaration. A person is justified when God declares that person just. The reason or the ground of that declaration differs radically between Roman Catholic and Reformed theology. But both agree that a legal declaration by God is made. Nor is it sufficient merely to say that Rome teaches that justification means "to make just," while Protestants teach that justification means "to declare just."

For Rome God both makes just and declares just. For Protestants God both makes just and declares just -- but not in the same way. For Rome the declaration of justice follows the making inwardly just of the regenerate sinner. For the Reformation the declaration of justice follows the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the regenerated sinner (Rom.4:4-8; 2 Cor. 5:21).

You can read the entire article here.

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Blogger Timothy said...

Regardless of Dr. Sproul opinions on the matter, in 1995 the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed by the Lutheran World Federation
and the Catholic Church.

Personally, it seems to me that Christ is currently reuniting His Church. If Christ is indeed behind the recent ecumenical movement, then no amount of protest and foot dragging will prevent its occurance.

God bless...


9:49 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Greetings, Timothy.

The joint declaration cleverly reinforces Rome’s teachings concerning justification. For example, Rome is clearly still teaching that saving faith comes through me partaking of the sacraments, and that justification is a process:

3.16 does say that believers are justified through Christ alone when it’s received by faith. This faith comes through word and sacrament. Furthermore it says that the Spirit leads believers “into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.”

4.3.25 declares that “By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation . . .”

4.3.27 says that “Persons are justified through baptism . . .” and that justified sinners are “being made righteous by justifying grace . . .”

Other examples could be given, but suffice it to say that Rome is still rejecting the gospel as it did at Trent:

CANON 9: "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."

Thanks for stopping by.

2:25 PM  
Blogger gonzodave said...

Dear Catechizer,

I found my way to your blog page by a Google alert on imputation that I have in place.

Historically, your articles are "on spot." Overall, the lack of patronizing (opinion polling) found in more "populist" reformed sites is refreshing.

Thank you for your well written and learned postings here in "The Wittenburg Door."


8:10 AM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Thank you for the encouraging words, Gonzodave

12:53 PM  
Anonymous John S. said...

I can't understand why you would describe those things that separate Evangelicals from the Catholic Church as "the papacy, the worship of saints and Mary, and the mass." This is incorrect on all three counts.
First, the Papacy and the Mass were instituted by Jesus Christ, so neither should pose a problem for Evangelicals who claim to worship Our Lord.
Second, Catholics do not nor have they ever worshipped either the saints or the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a myth, and myths should not separate Evangelicals from the Church of Christ.
Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints is not adoration, which is reserved for Almighty God alone.
The theological differences between latria (worship) and dulia (veneration) should put all claims of saint and Marian worship to rest.
In most cases the things that separate Evangelicals from the Church amount to a lack of understanding of the divine nature of the Catholic Church - which could easily be cleared up by educating Evangelicals on the true history of the Church from the time of Jesus Christ - and a need for a greater emphasis on the importance of accurate interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
As the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “There are not over a hundred people who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions however who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.”

5:43 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Greetings, John. First, where does the bible establish the papacy? Or the resacrificing of Christ in the mass? And regarding Rome’s worship of Mary and certain saints, let’s be honest, John: prayer is worship. As long as Rome prays to them, they, and you, are worshiping them, not merely venerating (respecting) them.

John, the things that divide us are real and important—especially Rome’s rejection of the Gospel at Trent. It doesn’t help when folks like you dismiss them by claiming that we are simply misinformed.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous John S. said...

It was interesting to read your take on Catholic doctrine because it only confirmed for me that the main problem for the Protestant view of the Catholic Church is a lack of true understanding of the essential teachings of the historic Church.
To wit, Our Lord is not "resacrificed" during the Eucharistic liturgy of the mass. This is not and has never been Catholic doctrine, from the 1st century to our own time. The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist is subtle, deep and profound. Do a little more reading on the subject and you will see what I mean. Make sure you use primary Catholic sources which are far more accurate than non-Catholic ones.
We do not pray to saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, but rather pray through them. This is called intercessory prayer and if you reject the validity of this type of prayer, you should refrain from ever asking anyone to pray for you. To do otherwise would be hypocritical.
We also pray to Our Lord, the Holy Spirit and God the Father, but at times we also recognize in our prayer that we in the Church are part of the greater invisible Church – the Communion of Saints.
I will say again, Mary and the saints have never been worshipped in the Catholic Church. This is a straw man argument that evangelicals would be wise to drop in order to move on to more valid disagreements between the Church and those outside of the Church.
Establishing the papacy through Sacred Scripture is quite easy to do, but I would recommend a book to you that would help. Please read "Upon This Rock" by Stephen K. Ray. In support of the historical papacy established by Jesus Christ by his own authority and on the faith of Peter and the apostles this book employs more scriptural and patristic references than any other work of its kind. Also, since Ray is a convert to the Catholic Church from a Baptist denomination it carries greater weight for those outside of the historic Church.
One of the many problems inherent in talking with non-Catholic Christians is that their (and I presume your) belief in private interpretation leads to disagreements of interpretation that are not resolvable by any type of appeal to a higher historical authority. If you and I differ on our interpretation of a particular verse of Scripture, we can argue until the sun sets and rises again without settling anything at all. Of course, private interpretation is a terrible and destructive heresy that has proven to be a bitter problem among and between Protestants, but it is nevertheless quite common in the Protestant world.
One last point. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is the fruit of decades of discussion between the World Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church on the doctrine of justification. It resulted from a genuine ecumenical desire on the part of the Catholic Church to reach out to our separated brethren on this crucial issue and should be given every sort of respect and careful consideration.
The desire of all of us in the Catholic Church is the same as that of Our Lord Jesus Christ - that all may be one.
Yours in Christ,
John S.

4:35 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Hello again, John. Regarding the Eucharistic, I will look into it further as you suggest.

Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now . . .

Let’s be honest, John. The prayer is addressed to her, and the request is made of her. She’s not simply a telephone as you seem to imply. Plus, next time you go to Mass, do a candle-count: I bet the candles burned in front of the Mary idol will far exceed Jesus’. When you ask your friend to pray for you, do you burn candles in front of an idol of him?

You equate making requests of living people with making requests to the dead. The problem is, the former is taught in scripture, while the later is condemned (Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3-20; 2 Chronicles 10:13, 14; Isaiah 8:19-22).

You say that establishing the papacy is easy to do. I’d just like to see the bible passages. What are they? You seem to not want to tell me for fear of a “private interpretation,” so let’s switch the focus of our conversation. If you can persuade me of what I’m going to ask, it will compel me to accept these various items we’ve been discussing.

You and I agree that the bible is an authority. You also believe that the traditions, the teaching magisterium, and the pope are, at least, equal authorities. So here’s my question to you: Why ought I accept those additional authorities?

And finally, regarding the Joint Declaration. I’ve already demonstrated above that it simply reinforces Rome’s teachings. The Lutheran Federation has capitulated and surrendered the gospel. Good day for Rome; bad day for the gospel.

11:06 AM  

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