Let the Reformation continue… yes, but let it continue in the gospel terms of Scripture alone and Faith alone.
Read part I and part II of this article.
2) How are we saved? – Justification by Faith Alone
Evangelical statements of faith have consistently taught that individuals are saved by faith alone and not by works. The Statement of Faith of the World Evangelical Alliance, an organization to which both Schirrmacher and Johnson belong, affirms, “The Salvation of lost and sinful man through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.”[i] “By faith apart from works” is a reference to justification by faith alone. Salvation can be accounted for with other biblical metaphors or models; however, justification by faith alone is essential to define what the Evangelical faith is.
This important point is also well made in the 2010 “Cape Town Confession of Faith,” where we find an affirmation of justification by faith alone in the context of a richer exposition of the biblical account of salvation:
Solely through trusting in Christ alone, we are united with Christ through the Holy Spirit and are counted righteous in Christ before God. Being justified by faith we have peace with God and no longer face condemnation. We receive the forgiveness of our sins. We are born again into a living hope by sharing Christ’s risen life. We are adopted as fellow heirs with Christ. We become citizens of God’s covenant people, members of God’s family and the place of God’s dwelling. So by trusting in Christ, we have full assurance of salvation and eternal life, for our salvation ultimately depends, not on ourselves, but on the work of Christ and the promise of God. ‘Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ How we love the gospel’s promise![ii]
Justification by faith alone lies at the core of the historic Evangelical faith. Justification by faith alone, not by works, is a clear marker of Evangelical identity.
Two leading Evangelical theologians, Calvinist J.I. Packer and Wesleyan Thomas Oden, co-authored and edited One Faith, which summarizes 50 years of Evangelical statements of faith. They bluntly confront the idea that Evangelicals don’t have a common theology:
The widespread image of evangelicals is one of people who cannot be expected to agree, either with each other or with the rest of the church on earth; people who are famous, indeed notorious, for fighting and splitting, for dissenting and separating. But in fact, evangelicals worldwide are today unified on all the basics, and their consensus is due in large part to their embrace of some of the documents that we cite.[iii]
Packer and Oden have a separate chapter of their book on justification by faith which lists a selection of Evangelical statements of faith, all of which affirm justification by faith alone as central to the Gospel of good news that Evangelicals take their very name from.[iv]
This is why over 200 Evangelical leaders and scholars signed the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement. Many of these scholars and leaders have been involved in ministering to Catholics, writing about Roman Catholicism, and participating in various Evangelical and Catholic discussions for decades. Yet, as we noted above, Schirrmacher and Johnson accuse them all of potentially violating the ninth commandment by bearing false witness. Who are these leaders who have been so accused? We will briefly mention only a few of the signatories.
David Wells, author of a series of books evaluating the theology of the Evangelical church, is one of Evangelicalism’s most influential theologians. He also wrote one of the most significant Evangelical evaluations of Vatican II and was asked by John Stott to participate in the informal Lausanne conversations between Evangelicals and Catholics in 1977, 1982, and 1984. He summarized the profound differences between the Evangelical and Catholic understanding of the Gospel that were clarified in these meetings:
The differences start with the Gospel itself. Evangelicals see Christ doing in his death what he did not do in his life. He ‘became sin’ for us (2 Cor. 5:21) and ‘a curse’ for us (Gal 3:13), thus propitiating the wrath of God by absorbing our punishment in himself and thus turning God’s wrath away from its rightful objects. Christ’s death was, in this way, substitutionary. Thus the Gospel is a message of deliverance from sin, punishment, and death. It is so because of Christ’s death and hence it is by grace alone. Believing this Gospel and entrusting ourselves to the Christ of this Gospel results in pardon, renewal, and the Spirit’s indwelling. Catholics, on the other hand, see Christ’s death as the continuation of his life in the sense that it was his final act of obedience. It was offered to the Father in love. In this sense, he did not do in his death what he had not done in his life. This thought of obedience then lays the conceptual foundation for our doing what Christ did. ‘In consequence, we can enter into the sacrifice of Christ and offer ourselves to the Father in and with him.’
When Wells agreed to sign the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement, he explained: “It represents exactly what I think and have said publicly. I would be glad to add my name to that of the other signatories.”
In the same email, Wells also wrote about his experience in the Lausanne Evangelical and Catholic dialogue:
Subsequently the outcome to the discussions was published as The Evangelical/Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission 1977-84: A Report. What is said in this report is very consistent with what is said in your statement. I think there might be value in showing that what you are saying is not a stand-alone thing.
John Woodbridge is one of the most respected Evangelical historians, having taught at Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne; Northwestern University; and trained a generation of Evangelical historians at Trinity International University. Woodbridge was also a participant in and signer of a number of “Evangelical and Catholic Together” statements. Though Woodbridge was a regular participant in the most influential informal Evangelical and Catholic discussion, he signed the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement and called it a “very significant document.”
Scott Manetsch is a Professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity Seminary and a leading historian of John Calvin, one of the most significant leaders of the Reformation. Manetsch was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to do archival research on the French Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland, and has recently published what is considered one of the best studies of Calvin’s pastoral work. He has also written one of the most substantial reviews of Noll and Nystrom’s influential book Is the Reformation Over?, in which he explains how Calvin confronted and refuted Catholic attempts to gloss over the many important differences between the Protestant and Catholic theological understandings, similar to what is happening in Catholic and Evangelical dialogue today.
Many of the leaders who signed the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement are pastors and leaders of Christian organizations from across the globe. For example, Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes is Vice President of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Tim Keller is founder of the influential New York City Redeemer Church and the global City to City church planting movement. Federico Bertuzzi is a pastor and the European Coordinator of PM Internacional in Argentina. Richard Sempala is the founder of The Africa Life Youth Foundation in Uganda. And Lindsay Brown was the long-time International Director of the Lausanne Movement, one of the two main global Evangelical bodies.
Many of the signers have been on the pastoral front lines for decades in different regions of the world, explaining to Catholics the grace-filled message of the biblical gospel that everyone can have access to salvation by grace alone through faith alone, as the Reformers in the past and Evangelicals today believe. These pastoral leaders have seen firsthand thousands of Roman Catholics repent, put their faith in Christ, and be born again. Almost 20 percent of Latin Americans who formerly were Roman Catholic have understood the biblical Gospel and put their faith in Christ alone and become Evangelicals. One wonders if this is part of the reason why Catholics are trying so hard to obscure the historic differences between Catholics and Evangelicals.
Yet we need to take Schirrmacher and Johnson at their word. They honestly believe that something important has changed. Schirrmacher argues that Pope Francis “fully supports the definition of justification that was agreed upon between the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican in 1999.”[v] Thus the 1999 Joint Declaration is central to any discussion of whether the Reformation is over. Schirrmacher underlines this issue: “my point here is simply that any discussion of whether Pope Francis believes that the Reformation is over needs to focus very directly and specifically on the content of the 1999 definition of justification.”[vi]
Schirrmacher explains that Francis has advocated justification by faith as the crucial bridge between Catholics and Evangelicals since he became Pope.
Just shortly after his election I heard for the first time from Pope Francis that the common view of justification as salvation by grace and faith alone should be the center of our shared commonalities and that on this basis further steps would have to be taken.[vii]
To understand the 1999 Joint Declaration we need a little historical context. The “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement summarizes the issues this way:
On the doctrine of salvation, many are under the impression that there is a growing convergence regarding justification by faith and that tensions between Catholics and Evangelicals have eased considerably since the sixteenth century. At the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Roman Catholic Church reacted strongly against the Protestant Reformation by declaring “anathema” (cursed) those who upheld justification by faith alone, as well as affirmed the teaching that salvation is a process of cooperating with infused grace rather than an act grounded in grace alone by faith alone.[viii]
Until recently, there has never been a serious claim that the 500-year Reformation divide has been mended. Only in recent years have some leaders from significant Christian bodies proposed that this division has been healed. As noted above, the most influential official discussion has been between the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Promoting Christianity Unity and the Lutheran World Federation. The ecumenical world was excited when these groups released their Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) in 1999. As the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement explains, “Some argue that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999 has bridged the divide.”[ix] In fact, that was the very claim of the Joint Declaration itself, which explained that the Lutherans and Catholics were “now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ.”[x]
It is here that understandings begin to differ. We will attempt to summarize both the positive and then critical evaluations of the JDDJ.
Schirrmacher and Johnson honestly believe that the JDDJ does not conflict with Evangelical convictions. In short, Pope Francis is not alone in his conviction that the JDDJ has summarized a biblical position that both sides can affirm. Schirrmacher writes that he believes the JDDJ is an accurate summary of biblical teaching: “the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation, after years of intense work, had agreed on a short definition of the doctrine of justification, which summarizes the NT view, especially Paul’s.”[xi] In a separate article Schirrmacher makes this same point is a different way, explaining, “my opinion is that that 1999 definition is a decent one and could be signed by Evangelicals”.[xii]
Schirrmacher and Johnson’s intense reaction to the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement’s critical evaluation of the JDDJ can now be understood. Schirrmacher and Johnson sincerely believe that the JDDJ has departed from the Council of Trent’s clear condemnations of historic Protestant beliefs and that the Catholic leaders who signed the JDDJ believe in salvation by faith alone. They explain,
Nothing from Trent is part of what Lutherans and Catholics agreed on. After reading the text numerous times with precisely this question in view, we believe that the JDDJ does not affirm the Council of Trent’s doctrine on justification. Perhaps not all Roman Catholic leaders affirm justification by faith alone, but it appears to us that the official Roman Catholic representatives who signed the JDDJ honestly affirmed justification by faith alone[xiii].
There are certainly parts of JDDJ, such as the paragraph 9, which use some of the biblical language of salvation including the Protestant sounding phrase, “’justification’ of sinful human beings by God’s grace through faith (Rom 3:23-25), which came into particular prominence in the Reformation period.”[xiv] This sort of language allows an ecumenically-eager reader to conclude that we have a different Roman Catholic Church that now agrees with the Protestant Reformers that we are saved by faith alone.
In sharp contrast, mainstream Evangelicals understand the Joint Declaration as an attempt by Catholics to use some biblical language but to integrate this within a Catholic framework. We quoted above a portion of paragraph 9 in the JDDJ that sounds like it affirms the Protestant / Evangelical conviction of justification by faith alone. But paragraph 11 articulates a traditional Catholic understanding of justification that provides the framework for interpreting the preceding paragraph.
Justification is the forgiveness of sins (cf Rom 3:23-25; Acts 13:39; Lk 18: 14), liberation from the dominating power of sin and death (Rom 5:12-21) and from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10-14)… It occurs in the reception of the Holy Spirit in baptism and incorporation into the one body (Rom 8:1f, 9f; I Cor 12:12f).[xv]
As Michael Reeves explains about this passage.
Quite clearly, justification is here said to include the process of inner transformation, and not include the imputation of Christ’s righteousness… Any theology that makes the believer’s inner transformation a constituent part (instead of a consequence) of justification is at odds with the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith alone).[xvi]
Reeves and other mainstream Evangelical critics all believe that the Roman Catholic and Evangelical understanding of justification cannot be integrated together. You cannot have a round square. You cannot have a married bachelor. And you cannot have justification be simultaneously both a divine declarative act and an internal process of sanctifying transformation. The biblical language in JDDJ is interpreted within the historic consistent Catholic teaching of Trent. In short, the statement conflates elements of sanctification (the process of growing in holiness) within the categories of justification and embeds all of them in a sacramental framework so that it fits within the Catholic teaching of baptismal regeneration and access to grace by means of sacraments.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod provided one of the most substantial early critiques of the JDDJ in 1999. They concluded,
Although change has taken place in the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II, JDDJ shows how very little headway has been made toward a genuine resolution of the differences between Lutherans and Roman Catholics on justification. This statement is not a “breakthrough.”
JDDJ does not settle the major disagreement between Lutheran theology and Roman Catholic theology on justification. Lutherans teach that justification is essentially a declaration of “not guilty” and “righteous” pronounced by God on a sinner because of Christ and His work. Roman Catholics teach that justification involves an internal process in which a believer is transformed and “made” more and more righteous. The non-settlement of this issue forms the chief defect of JDDJ.[xvii]
Lutheran Rev. Paul T. McCain, who participated in formulating the Missouri Synod’s critical evaluation of JDDJ, described it more bluntly this way:
Ten years after it appeared, we still continue to hear that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The media loves to perpetuate this myth. In fact, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a fraud. It was a sell-out by revisionist Lutherans to Rome.[xviii]
The title of McCain’s article “A Betrayal of the Gospel” says it all, as he describes the liberal Lutherans who signed the Declaration as “fundamentally dishonest” because they compromised on basic Lutheran convictions. McCain does not blame Catholics for this fraud. “Rome is not to be faulted in any of this. The Papacy maintained the historic position of the Roman Church, and did not change it.” He puts the blame squarely on the Lutherans whose liberal church has slowly moved away from biblical teaching throughout the 20th century: “Mainline liberal Lutherans, however, compromised the key doctrine of the Scriptures and the very heart of the Lutheran Confessions.”[xix]
Reformed theologian Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California concluded that “calling bad news [i.e. Joint Declaration] good news is destructive of the prospects for genuine long-term ecclesiastical reconciliation.”[xx] Professor Michael Reeves, President of Union School of Theology in the UK, writes, “for all attempts to find wording that fits both Roman Catholic and evangelical views of justification, there remains a material and momentous difference between them.”[xxi]
The “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement summarized why the JDDJ does not teach the historic Evangelical perspective:
While the document is at times friendly towards a more biblical understanding of justification, it explicitly affirms the Council of Trent’s view of justification. All of its condemnations of historic Protestant/Evangelical convictions still stand; they just do not apply to those who affirm the blurred position of the Joint Declaration.
As was the case with Trent, in the Joint Declaration, justification is a process enacted by a sacrament of the Church (baptism); it is not received by faith alone. It is a journey that requires contribution from the faithful and an ongoing participation in the sacramental system. There is no sense of the righteousness of God being imputed by Christ to the believer, and thus there can be no assurance of salvation.[xxii]
Where Evangelicalism (affirming Reformation convictions) views justification as a divine declarative act whereby God pronounces the sinner righteous in Christ, Rome still sees justification as an ongoing, transformative, and cooperative process.[xxiii] The JDDJ uses a more nuanced language in its attempt to accommodate the Lutheran position. The more dynamic categories of Rome can find room for some of the forensic language of the Reformation, but the reverse is not possible. The gulf is still there.
In the face of this consistent mainstream Evangelical perspective that the Joint Declaration does not teach what historic Protestants have always believed, why are Schirrmacher-Johnson so enthusiastic in their endorsement of Joint Declaration? They honestly believe and assert that the Joint Declaration “does not affirm the doctrine of the Council of Trent”.[xxiv] The problem is that they are simply wrong, and this time we should listen to the authoritative voice of the Vatican to underline their mistake.[xxv] At the time of the JDDJ’s announcement, Vatican leaders quickly clarified that the Declaration had not denied or departed from the Council of Trent, which remains binding dogma for the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christianity Unity and the individual leading Rome’s involvement in the Joint Declaration, made this point bluntly at a press conference that was held when the JDDJ was signed:
Asked whether there was anything in the official common statement contrary to the Council of Trent, Cardinal Cassidy said: ‘Absolutely not, otherwise how could we do it? We cannot do something contrary to an ecumenical council. There’s nothing there that the Council of Trent condemns. [xxvi]
So we see clearly that from the Catholic perspective, the Council of Trent’s pronouncements have not changed. What does Trent affirm?
Canon IX: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification . . . let him be anathema [condemned].
Canon XII: If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema [condemned].
Canon XIV: If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified . . . and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema [condemned].[xxvii]
Trent’s clear and unmistakable teaching is that salvation by faith alone is a heresy that should be condemned.
We also see this same clear message in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which articulates the Catholic doctrine of justification formulated at the Council of Trent. In the 18 years since the JDDJ, we have not seen a new Catholic Catechism published that updates the Catholic doctrinal position. This is because their position is still consistent with the authoritative Council of Trent: “We cannot do something contrary to an ecumenical council.” Catholics have found a way to pacify liberal Lutherans and absorb some of the biblical language into their teaching and language through the JDDJ, but their position and commitment to Trent has not changed.
We see this same affirmation of Trent in the official Vatican response to the JDDJ written by Pope Benedict before he was chosen as Pope. This official Vatican document disagrees with some of the elements of the JDDJ and argues that Trent’s condemnations still stand. As Paul T. McCain explains,
The Vatican’s response clearly affirms Rome’s historic position that justification is a process involving both God’s grace and the good works of human beings, in other words, the classic Roman position that salvation is not by grace through faith alone, but by grace plus human merit and good works.[xxviii]
Thus, the Roman Catholic system of sacramental distribution of grace through physical objects has not changed. As the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement explains,
The Roman Catholic Church’s view is revealed by its continued use of indulgences (i.e., the remission of the temporal punishment for sin allotted by the Church on special occasions). It was the theology of indulgences that triggered the Reformation, but this system has been invoked most recently by Pope Francis in the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy.
This shows that the Roman Catholic Church’s basic view of salvation, which is dependent on the mediation of the Church, the distribution of grace by means of its sacraments, the intercession of the saints, and purgatory, is still firmly in place, even after the Joint Declaration[xxix].
The tone of the Joint Declaration is certainly different than that of Trent, but the theological content of the Council of Trent has neither been superseded nor bypassed.
We see one last problem in current Catholic approach to justification. The same Pope who said at the ecumenical ceremony in Lund that “the doctrine of justification expresses the essence of human existence before God,” thus seeming to be in accord with what Evangelicals might want to say on the doctrine, wrote very different things in a more authoritative statement. In his widely acclaimed 2013 Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, the programmatic document of his pontificate, Francis writes that “Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live justified by the grace of God.”[xxx]
The same thing was argued for in an interview with the editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (September 11th, 2013). There Pope Francis spoke again of the importance of one’s own conscience:
You ask me if the God of Christians forgives one who doesn’t believe and doesn’t seek the faith … the question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s conscience. Sin, also for those who don’t have faith, exists when one goes against one’s conscience. To listen to and to obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil[xxxi].
What is the Pope saying in his Apostolic Exhortation? He is using the language of justification to speak about non-Christians and argue that if they are faithful to their consciences they can be justified.
This is totally contrary to even the minimum core definition of justification given by the Bible and historically affirmed by Evangelicals. Here we are confronted with completely different theological categories that make it possible for the Pope to use the language of “justification” when he deals with Protestants and the same language of “justification” when he speaks about non-Christians. Do Schirrmacher-Johnson not see a problem here in their vigorous endorsement of the Pope and the Joint Declaration? Isn’t their understanding of Francis a cherry-picking exercise that is not fair to what Francis is openly and publicly saying and what the Catholic Church has openly and publically taught?
One last word of caution should be given. Why have Evangelical theologians like Schirrmacher and Johnson failed to be discerning and affirmed the faulty position advocated by the Joint Declaration? We find part of the answer in Schirrmacher’s description of the impact of his relationships with Catholics on what he now believes and teaches. Schirrmacher and Johnson are deeply involved in what has been termed as “spiritual ecumenism.”[xxxii] Cardinal Walter Kaspar has described “Spiritual ecumenism” as the process by which participants in ecumenical joint-actions build closer relationships and engage in common prayer, which can result in a softening of theological evaluations. By Schirrmacher’s own account of his journey through ecumenical activity, while he began with a very critical attitude towards Roman Catholicism, he has come to a very different conclusion recently. What brought about this change? Schirrmacher honestly writes,
I was also changed through the joining of ‘spiritual experience and friendship’. Theology followed later: strange for a professor of Systematic Theology. But still it’s the truth.[xxxiii]
Schirrmacher’s change took place in the context of “spiritual ecumenism” and was only later thought through in terms of theological faithfulness and consistency.
It is worrying to have the World Evangelical Alliance Associate Secretary General for Theological Concerns saying that he changed his mind not out of theological convictions based on the Scripture, but following “spiritual experience and friendship” by being involved in ecumenical meetings and initiatives. Instead of being guided by the Bible, he allowed religious experience to take the lead.
Roman Catholic theology may use the same language as Evangelical theology, yet mean very different things. Anyone who is engaged in dialogue with Rome must be aware of this point and work hard to understand what Rome is saying in its own terms. From what we have reviewed, the divide between Evangelicals and Catholics is not solved by the 1999 Joint Declaration between World Lutheran Federation and the Vatican. The profound differences between Evangelicals and Catholics have not been removed, and the Reformation is therefore not over. In fact, because the Catholic Church has continued to affirm new official church dogma that are not grounded in Scripture (Mary’s immaculate conception, papal infallibility, and Mary’s bodily assumption), the divide between Catholics and Evangelicals has gotten wider.
The “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement is a positive affirmation of the two main tenets of the Reformation. The 500th anniversary is a welcomed opportunity to celebrate the biblical gospel by upholding these two pillars of the Christian faith: that the Bible is the authoritative source of truth and that we are justified by faith alone. The Statement reaffirms that on these two issues the Reformers were simply recovering the biblical gospel, and therefore so should we.
We encourage readers to evaluate what the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement actually says and to consider signing it. The criticism offered by Schirrmacher-Johnson, though flawed and with many inaccuracies and caricatures, can at least provide an opportunity for more people to examine what the Statement asserts. Even though hundreds of Evangelical leaders have already signed from many parts of the world, revisiting the conversation gives many more a chance to think about the ongoing relevance of the Reformation and the profound differences between Evangelical biblical convictions and Catholic dogma on fundamental issues related to the core of the gospel. Let the Reformation continue… yes, but let it continue in the gospel terms of Scripture alone and Faith alone!
Leonardo De Chirico is the pastor of Breccia di Roma and Vice Chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance. He also is the Director of the Reformanda Initiative.
Greg Pritchard is President of Forum of Christian Leaders (FOCL) and Director of the European Leadership Forum.
[i] “Who We Are.” (2001, June 27). World Evangelical Alliance. Retrieved from http://www.worldea.org/whoweare/statementoffaith.
[ii] The Cape Town Commitment. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment#p1-8. The original text also includes endnote 37 to the following: “Romans 4; Philippians 3:1-11; Romans 5:1-2; 8:1-4; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3; Galatians 3:26 – 4:7; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:12-13; Romans 8:31-39.”
[iii] Packer, J.I. and Oden, T. (2004, April 13). One Faith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
[iv] Packer and Oden (2004, April 13) One Faith, p. 82-87.
[v] Schirrmacher, Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis
[vi] Schirrmacher, Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis
[vii] Schirrmacher, Thomas. (2016, November 4). FEATURE: When a Pope Understands Luther. Zenit. Retrieved from https://zenit.org/articles/feature-when-a-pope-really-understands-luther/.
[viii] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement
[ix] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement
[x] Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. para. 5
[xi] Schirrmacher, When a Pope Understands Luther.
[xii] Schirrmacher, Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis
[xiii] Schirrmacher and Johnson, “Let the Reformation Continue!”
[xiv] Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. par. 9
[xv] Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. par. 11
[xvi] Reeves, M. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: A Curtain on the Reformation? Reformanda Initiative. Retrieved from http://reformandainitiative.org/the-joint-declaration-on-the-doctrine-of-justification-a-curtain-on-the-reformation/.
[xvii] The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. (1999). “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in Confessional Lutheran Perspective.” The Commission on Theology and Church Relations, points 13 and 4.
[xviii] McCain, Paul T. (2010, March 12). A Betrayal of the Gospel: The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. First Things. Retrieved from https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/03/a-betrayal-of-the-gospel-the-joint-declaration-on-the-doctrine-of-justification.
[xix] McCain. “A Betrayal of the Gospel.” Another Lutheran evaluation of JDDJ is Lutheran Pastor Mark D. Menecher’s “Ten Years After JDDJ The Ecumenical Pelagianism Continues.” Retrieved from http://www.ccmverax.org/documents/LOGIAXVIII-3Menacher.pdf One of the most significant criticisms of the JDDJ when it was released was more than 150 German University Professors who signed a statement to publically reject the JDDJ as inconsistent with historic Lutheranism. See brief description of the JDDJ in The Encyclopedia of Christianity 2003, Vol. 3, pp. 72-73.
[xx] World (December 25, 1999) 20.
[xxi] Reeves, “The Joint Declaration.”
[xxii] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement
[xxiii] An Evangelical evaluation of the section on justification of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (§§ 1987-2005) is given by G.A. Allison (2014) Roman Catholic Theology and Practice. An Evangelical Assessement Wheaton, IL: Crossway, pp. 431-447.
[xxiv] Schirrmacher and Johnson, Let the Reformation Continue!
[xxv] The following paragraphs closely follow Paul McCain’s well-articulated argument in “A Betrayal of the Gospel” First Things. 12 March 2010. Retrieved from https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/03/a-betrayal-of-the-gospel-the-joint-declaration-on-the-doctrine-of-justification.
[xxvi] McCain. “A Betrayal of the Gospel” who quotes the Brown, S. (1999, November 1). Lutheran-Catholic declaration a 'fine way of dialogue', says Cassidy. Ecumenical News Bulletin, Number 20, 36.
[xxvii] Schroeder, H. J. (1941). Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. London: Herder Book Co. See McCain’s different translation of the same Canons in A Betrayal of the Gospel.
[xxviii] McCain. A Betrayal of the Gospel.
[xxix] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement
[xxx] “Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World,” point 254. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html.
This section of the Exhortation deals with ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in the context of mission. According to Pope Francis, non-Catholic Christians are already united in baptism (244), Jews don’t need to convert (247), and with believing Muslims, the way is “dialogue” because “together with us they adore the one and merciful God” (252, a quotation of Lumen Gentium 16). Other non-Christians are also “justified by the grace of God” and are associated to “the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ” (254). The gospel appears not to be a message of salvation from God’s judgment but instead is a vehicle to access a fuller measure of a salvation that is already given to all mankind.
[xxxi] Pope Francisco writes to La Repubblica: ‘An open dialogue with non-believers.’ (2013, September 11). La Repubblica. Retrieved from http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/09/11/news/the_pope_s_letter-66336961/.
[xxxii] W. Kasper. (2006). A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism,.Hyde Park: New City Press.
[xxxiii] “Global Christian Forum News”, 2016 edition, p. 2. In order to cooperate on issues of common concern (e.g. religious freedom, the protection of the family) one does not need to endorse the view that Evangelicals and Catholics share a “common mission” and need to soften their theological assessments of each other for the sake of political correctness or pragmatic interest. In Francis Schaeffer’s terms, “co-belligerence” with people of all kinds of persuasion is possible and indeed necessary on single issues or areas of common concern without requiring making an “alliance” based on theological agreement. The single endnote of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement explains that the historically consistent Evangelical position has been to acknowledge that Roman Catholics and Evangelicals have different understandings of the Gospel and therefore logically cannot be united in mission together.
These fundamental convictions are expressed in official papers by the two global Evangelical organizations, the World Evangelical Fellowship and the Lausanne Movement. After addressing such topics as Mariology, authority in the church, the papacy and infallibility, justification by faith, sacraments and the Eucharist, and the mission of the church; the World Evangelical Fellowship’s summary comment was, “Cooperation in mission between Evangelicals and Catholics is seriously impeded because of "unsurmountable" obstacles.”(World Evangelical Fellowship, Evangelical Perspective on Roman Catholicism (1986) in Paul G. Schrotenboer (ed.), Roman Catholicism. A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1987) p. 93) We see this view mirrored in the 1980 “Lausanne Occasional Paper on Christian Witness to Nominal Christians among Roman Catholics” and a comment by the primary author of the Lausanne Covenant John Stott:
“We are ready to co-operate with them (Roman Catholics, Orthodox or Liberal protestants) in good works of Christian compassion and social justice. It is when we are invited to evangelise with them that we find ourselves in a painful dilemma for common witness necessitates common faith, and co-operation in evangelism depends on agreement over the content of the gospel.” (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. “Lausanne Occasional Paper 10 on Christian Witness to Nominal Christians among Roman Catholics” (Pattaya, Thailand, 1980); John Stott, Make the Truth Known. Maintaining the Evangelical Faith Today (Leicester, UK: UCCF Booklets, 1983) p. 3-4.).
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