ADVERTISING
 
Wednesday, August 23   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
LGBT debates in churches
Is the definition of marriage an important enough issue to split a church?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Leonardo de Chirico
 

Is the Roman Catholic Church Now Committed to “Grace Alone”?

For the Catholic Church, “by grace alone” means that grace is intrinsically, constitutionally, and necessarily linked to the sacrament, and thus to the Church that administers it.

VATICAN FILES AUTHOR Leonardo De Chirico 02 AUGUST 2017 11:20 h GMT+1

Many commentators with good intentions, even on the evangelical side, have rightly given attention to what seems to be the heart of the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) signed by the Roman Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation. No. 15 solemnly says:



By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.



If read out of context and in a theologically naïve way, this sentence could be a relevant and pointed summary of the biblical message concerning the mode of justification (by grace only and not based on merits), the means of justification (by faith alone), the grounds of justification (the saving work of Christ), and the consequences of justification (divine adoption and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the renewal of the heart and the activation of the Christian life).



However, every sound exercise in theological hermeneutics, including the reading of the documents of the ecumenical dialogue, must take into account the immediate and more general context, the meaning of the words used, and the consequences of what is being claimed.



Taken out of context, No. 15 would make much sense from an evangelical perspective. Yet it must be considered as an integral part of the JDDJ and therefore must be understood in relation to the whole document.



Sacramental Grace



Presenting the various aspects of the doctrine, the Catholic and Lutheran Churches agree on a sacramental understanding of grace. It is this sacramental framework that qualifies the reference to the expression “by grace alone” contained in No. 15.



Together, in fact, they declare that “by the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they (the sinners) are granted the gift of salvation” (No. 25), thus undermining the idea that it is only by grace that God saves sinners through faith alone.



Lutheran theology, with its theology of regenerational baptism, actually runs this risk. Later, in No. 28, the JDDJ states (always with both parties affirming this together) that “in baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person”.



It is not surprising, however, that the Catholic clarification on this point forcefully underlines that “persons are justified through baptism as hearers of the word and believers in it" (No. 27).



On the one hand, then, JDDJ wants to affirm the importance of the declaration of the righteousness of God received by faith. On the other, though, it reiterates the need for sacramental action through the mediation of the church as essential for justification and, therefore, for salvation.



The Catholic point is further reinforced through the claim that Catholics hold that the grace of Jesus Christ is “imparted” in baptism (No. 30). According to this view, grace is not received by faith alone, but is granted by God through the Church that administers it in baptism.



This statement cannot be reconciled with the view according to which salvation is by grace alone apart from works, even sacramental ones. So for all the good intentions expressed and the admirable effort in dialogue, the result is below expectations and beyond an obedient adherence to the biblical Word of God.



In contemporary Roman Catholicism we see a total consistency with respect to the traditional doctrine, that is, that justification occurs at baptism by a sacramental act.



Stretching Trent Rather than Reforming Rome



For the Catholic Church, the “by grace alone” of No. 15 means that grace is intrinsically, constitutionally, and necessarily linked to the sacrament, and thus to the Church that administers it and the works implemented by it.



In this view, salvation cannot be by grace alone, unless “by grace alone” is understood as the same grace being organically incorporated into the sacrament of the Church. We are evidently in the presence of a different concept of grace.



In JDDJ there is an attempt to re-describe this theological understanding of salvation in language that looks like the Lutheran one (which the Catholic Church appropriates through the use of such expressions as “by grace alone” of No. 15 and the recognition that works “follow justification and are its fruits” of No. 37).



However, this new description does not give the impression of changing the theology of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), according to which grace is sacramental and seen inside of a synergistic dynamic of the process of salvation.



This understanding of grace appears to be more in line with the Catholic heritage of the Council of Trent, in an updated form, than with classic Protestant theology. In this sense, JDDJ is a clear exercise in an increased “catholicity” (i.e. the ability to absorb ideas without changing the core) on the part of Rome, which has not become more evangelical in the biblical sense.



You may want to read my comments on the endorsement of the World Communion of Reformed Church to JDDJ, posted on the website of the World Reformed Fellowship.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Is the Roman Catholic Church Now Committed to “Grace Alone”?
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Israel, the UN resolution and the long conflict Israel, the UN resolution and the long conflict

Shira Sorko-Ram, pastor and journalist in Israel, shares her views and a historical and biblical context on the latest events.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Giovanni Traettino: “Pope Francis is my brother in Christ” Giovanni Traettino: “Pope Francis is my brother in Christ”

Evangelical Focus asked the well-known Pentecostal pastor about his “open” approach to Roman Catholicism. Traettino defended his position about ecumenism during the Italian Evangelical Alliance 2016 assembly (8-9 April, Rome).

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Thomas Bucher: Vision of the EEA Thomas Bucher: Vision of the EEA

Influence in society, evangelical identity and projects in Europe. An interview with Thomas Bucher, secretary general of the European Evangelical Alliance.

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch

Author and international speaker Dr Pablo Martínez discusses the main challenges in Europe nowadays and hopes Evangelical Focus will be a useful tool to help build bridges between churches and society.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
The abilities of Mefi-Boset The abilities of Mefi-Boset

Christian ministry Mefi-Boset has been working with people with intellectual disabilities in their leisure time, and supporting their families in Terrassa and Barcelona (Spain) for 20 years. 

 
Re-evangelise Europe and renew the biblical church Re-evangelise Europe and renew the biblical church

The 2017 European Leadership Forum gathered hundreds in Poland to celebrate the Reformation and connect to better share the gospel in diverse national contexts. See picture gallery.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country ‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country

Bilbao hosted the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting (assembly). Politicians, professors and evangelical representatives shared views on social reconciliation. The theme was also analysed from a theological perspective and in workshops. 

 
WPF17: A look at the world’s current issues WPF17: A look at the world’s current issues

A selection of pictures of World Press Photo 2017.

 
The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi spoke about how the biblical worldview shaped the West. 300 professionals attended annual GBG meeting on faith and work in Cullera (Spain). Photos: J.P. Serrano, S. Vera.

 
Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016 Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016

Around 1,000 young Christian leaders from 150 countries are participating in the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, to reflect on global mission.

 
“Spain, we pray for you” “Spain, we pray for you”

Hundreds of evangelical Christians from many denominations marched in Madrid (Spain) to pray for their city, the authorities and asking God to bring hope to its society. Many gathered in other cities on June, 11.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Walk Walk

A two-minute video on the meaning of Jude 24.

 
How can local churches evangelise their communities? How can local churches evangelise their communities?

Evangelist Michael Green speaks on how to mobilise the local church for effective evangelism.

 
What is scientism? What is scientism?

“Scientism is the view that Science provides knowledge, and that is the only source on knowledge”, says Rik Peels, Researcher at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

 
Living without your favourite things Living without your favourite things

A video by Open Doors UK & Ireland explains to children what it means to be a refugee. 

 
Playmobil animation on Luther’s life Playmobil animation on Luther’s life

British video platform GoChatter uses 4,000 individual photos to create stop motion video on Martin Luther's life.

 
Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi on how the Protestant Reformation underlined individualism as a means to please God, and how secular Europe corrupted it.

 
Students in Europe: “We are present” Students in Europe: “We are present”

A summary video of the IFES Europe conference which brought together 1,700 students from many countries in Aschaffenburg (Germany) to reflect on God's mission in society.

 
You-To live-How? You-To live-How?

The Roldan Camacho are a Spanish couple with deafness. They tell us how the whole family experiences everyday life through sign language. A video report by Gabriela Pérez.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.