(And before you think I’m theologically naive, make sure you read my comments that follow the quotation)
The following excerpts come from the lips of Pope Ratzinger himself, spoken Nov. 19th 2008.
On the journey we have undertaken under the guidance of St. Paul, we now wish to reflect on a topic that is at the center of the controversies of the century of the Reformation: the issue of justification.
To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.
That is why Luther’s expression “sola fide” is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).
Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love. We will see the same in next Sunday’s Gospel for the solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What I ask is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked? So justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel, we can say: love alone, charity alone. However, there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision, the one according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, being united to him we are just, and in no other way.
Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works.
Actually, in droves Catholics have come around to basically granting a doctrine of justification by faith.
If your reaction is, “Yeah … but they don’t mean by faith alone,” you probably have been too influenced by uninformed Protestant rhetoric and haven’t been following the ecumenical discussion carefully enough. If you say, “Yeah but when Catholics affirm justification by faith alone or by grace alone, they don’t mean the same thing the Reformers did,” well … The Reformers themselves didn’t mean the same thing by “justification by faith alone.”
There is no single doctrine of justification in the Reformation.
To this very day Protestants understand the doctrine differently (nothwithstanding much overlap between their views, and between their views and Catholic views). Thus, Martin Luther taught a sola fide, Calvin taught a sola fide, and Catholics also teach a sola fide, yet each are different in significant ways I do not have time to fully develop here. They all have one thing in common: they all affirm that justifying righteousness originates outside of us in God himself (extra nos) and justifies us by grace alone (sola gratia), and the faith by which we are justified is a free gift of God—-notwithstanding the fact that all language of “free gift” and “sola gratia” are going to be understood differently by Arminians and Calvinists/Augustinians. (It is the latter point of difference that caused a great deal of the tension between Luther and the Catholic Church).
If you still think I’m theologically naive, leave comments in the thread. It may be because I can’t say everything in one post.
Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification is all too often assumed to be the same doctrine that later wound up in the Reformed Orthodox creeds. This sola fide (the one of Reformed Orthodoxy) tends to be read back into the magisterial Reformers, and in this manner the nuances of the original Reformation sola fide are missed.
The excerpts below come from Martin Luther’s introduction and summary of the book of Romans. Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids: Kregel Classic, Zondervan, 1954).
Notice that Luther’s notion of justifying righteousness is faith itself because faith satisfies the law. Luther’s notion of justifying righteousness, then, was not Christ’s active and passive obedience, as in much of the Reformed versions of the doctrine of imputation. (more…)
A missionary to Muslims who goes by From the Middle East, shared in post form what he shares with Muslims to get them more interested in the gospel. His post wasn’t intended to be a gospel presentation itself, only pre-evangelism, but it didn’t take long for evangelicals in the blogosphere to pounce on him for supposedly watering down the gospel. Some objected to his use of the word “Allah” for God, even though it’s the word used to translate YHWH in Arabic Bibles, and is apparently the only word for God in that language. Although not all the comments were off base, in my opinion the comment thread is a sad example of how quick we evangelicals are to vilify their fellow brother serving in a rough place due to lack of understanding and failure to come across with a gracious tone.
An interesting look at a sectarian minister.
A preacher that can’t stop arguing. A denominational leader causing discord and division. A prolific writer who spews vitriol. He viciously attacks his opponents. He agitates at the Southern Baptist Convention. He plays politics. Apparently he thinks highly of himself and enjoys notoriety. He builds himself up, by tearing others down.
A few excerpts from N.T. Wright on his exchange with Piper from Kingdom People.
My anxiety about what has now been seen as the traditional Reformed view (though there are many traditional Reformed views!) is that it focuses all attention on ‘me and my salvation’ rather than on ‘God and God’s purposes’, which – as we see in the Gospels, and in e.g. Romans 8 – are much wider than just my salvation.
“Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is the truth.”
All quotations without a footnote link are from Thomson & Missner, On Aristotle, Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 2000.
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. and died in 322 B.C., which means he lived to be roughly 62 years old. We would say he died young, yet no single individual did more to influence the history of thought than Aristotle. “He single-handedly founded the sciences of Logic, Biology and Psychology.”¹ (more…)
The following is an interesting excerpt from Tony Jones’ post entitled, “The Orthodoxy of Down Syndrome”
Since I’m probably as philosophically as theologically bent, I’ve often struggled with the more conservative conceptions of orthodoxy because they surely tend to overestimate the ability of many human beings to articulate complex theological ideas. Jesus (“Come, follow me”) and Paul (“if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”) both had thresholds of belief to which, I assume, most developmentally challenged persons could rise.
As I was cleaning my room today I listened to a lecture by Mark Dever, who did his Ph.D. at Cambridge on the Puritan Richard Sibbes. Richard was not like the other Puritans in that he did not ultimately break with the Church of England during the time of the great Exodus of Puritan preachers. Why? Because he believed that unity in the gospel was more important than correctness in the secondary matters. I was actually surprised to hear Mark Dever approve of Sibbes’ perspective, and challenge young evangelical ministers to recover the distinction between the essential (the gospel) and the non-essential. I agree with the spirit of Dever’s understanding as expressed in this lecture, only I wouldn’t confuse the basic gospel message with the doctrine of justification the way he does (see below). I believe Eastern Orthodox Christians and Catholic Christians believe in the redemptive death, burial and resurrection and lordship of Jesus Christ regardless of what their doctrine of justification might be.
“We must be united, Sibbes taught, and we must be united around the gospel.” – Mark Dever
“In Sibbes’ hand, the centrality of preaching was a force for unity, not for dissent. … And it did so exactly because whatever other problems the church might have had, it was a church committed to the Protestant—that is to say the Biblical—gospel, the good news of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. And to leave such a church, would be tantamount to rending Christ’s body.” – Mark Dever
“Sibbes knew that the main point is the reconciliation of man to God, which is accomplished by the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, preaching is more fundamental than polity. I could be convinced of congregationalism biblically, and convinced that the gospel is more important. One of the things that we as evangelicals must do is recover that territory in between essential and unimportant. … It’s a vast tract that we must recover for faithfulness to scripture. There could be many things that are important that are not essential. There could be things that are important that are not essential. And there could be things that are kind of important that are not essential. … But simply because something is not essential does not therefore mean it is unimportant. We need to recover this in our own reflection on our lives, reflection on scripture, and in our preaching in our churches. If we do we’ll easily understand how preaching is more fundamental to polity, and yet polity is not a matter to be disregarded.” – Mark Dever
—————————————HT: Good Soldiers