Stirring Pastor Weedon

I found this written by our friend, Pastor Weedon, in a long, long, long string in this combox on Lito’s blog:

Just to clarify: as a Lutheran Christian I do believe that the office of the papacy is the antichrist, and as such the single greatest barrier to unity in the Church.

Is that true, Pastor Bill? From my perspective, it is the office of the papacy that has managed to preserve the Unity of the Church. Certainly there is greater unity in the Catholic Church WITH the papacy than there is in the Lutheran Church WITHOUT the papacy.

Do you really believe that the office of the Papacy is “ANTI-Christ”? Can you demonstrate to me how Pope Benedict (the current embodiment of this office) is “ANTI-Christ”? Did you pay attention when he called on you recently there in the States?

It is true, and even the previous pope acknowledged (in Ut Unum Sint), that his office was, in effect, the most contentious issue in ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church. But I don’t think he was suggesting for a moment that the Church would be MORE united if the papacy was to be abolished tomorrow.

And don’t forget that in the same Encyclical Pope John Paul II actually asked other Christians to weigh in wich suggestions for how, without denying any aspect of the essential nature of the office, the Papacy could be re-modelled to promote even greater unity among Christians.

Can you, in fact, envision a future in which there is “full, visible unity” of the Church which does not include, in some form or other, communion with the bishop of Rome?

And finally, does your Lutheranism REALLY require you to hold that the office of the papacy is “ANTI-Christ”?

Would it not be more true to say that any office of authority in the Church (including your own, I might add, dear Pastor) might be abused in such a way as to become “ANTI-Christ”, but that no authentic authority in the Church can be said to be, of itself, “ANTI-Christ”. Rather it is precisely as a “called and ordained servant of the word” that the Pope exercises his office.

Or are you asserting that his office is in some sense inferior in authority to your own?

I just ask.

In any case, tomorrow we begin the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity here downunder. And so maybe a short snippet from JPII’s great ecumenical encyclical might not be out of place:

4. This is a specific duty of the Bishop of Rome as the Successor of the Apostle Peter. I carry out this duty with the profound conviction that I am obeying the Lord, and with a clear sense of my own human frailty. Indeed, if Christ himself gave Peter this special mission in the Church and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, he also made clear to him his human weakness and his special need of conversion: “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32). It is precisely in Peter’s human weakness that it becomes fully clear that the Pope, in order to carry out this special ministry in the Church, depends totally on the Lord’s grace and prayer: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32). The conversion of Peter and that of his Successors is upheld by the very prayer of the Redeemer, and the Church constantly makes this petition her own. In our ecumenical age, marked by the Second Vatican Council, the mission of the Bishop of Rome is particularly directed to recalling the need for full communion among Christ’s disciples.

The Bishop of Rome himself must fervently make his own Christ’s prayer for that conversion which is indispensable for “Peter” to be able to serve his brethren. I earnestly invite the faithful of the Catholic Church and all Christians to share in this prayer. May all join me in praying for this conversion!

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58 Responses to Stirring Pastor Weedon

  1. Joshua says:

    “Therefore is it of faith, that according to grace the promise might be firm to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” (Rom. iv, 16)

    – I don’t quite see the relevance; how about Ecclesiasticus xvi, 15:

    “All mercy shall make a place for every man according to the merit of his works, and according to the wisdom of his sojournment.”

    Or perhaps Romans ii, 6; or, II Corinthians v, 10:

    “For we must all be manifested before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil.”

    If God render due punishment unto sin, and if likewise He render due reward unto good deeds, then are not such deeds indeed supernaturally meritorious? For – to repeat – “All mercy shall make a place for every man according to the merit of his works…”

    Of course, such good deeds can only be made truly deserving of supernatural reward if they are acts of one elevated by grace to a new and supernatural life: thus safeguarding the gratuity of the Divine bestowal – In crowning the merits of Thy Saints, Thou dost crown Thine own gifts (St Augustine).

  2. Joshua says:

    P.S. Here is the chapter and verse for my quotations from both the great Augustine and the Sacred Synod of Trent:

    “Non Dens coronat merita tua tanquam merita tua, sed tanquam dona sua” (De grat. et lib. arbitrio, xv)

    “Thus, man has not wherein to glory, but all our glorying is in Christ, in whom we live, move, and make satisfaction, bringing forth fruits worthy of penance, which from Him have their efficacy, are by Him offered to the Father, and through Him find with the Father acceptance” (Sess. XIV, cap. viii)

    And, as someone queried, all this meriting of course excludes every Pelagian fantasy of somehow meriting justification:

    “None of those things, which precede justification — whether faith or works — merit the grace itself of justification” (Sess. VI, cap. viii)

  3. Anonymous says:

    ergo, Justification by grace alone through faith alone is condemened. Ergo, faith plus works equal justification.

  4. Chris Jones says:


    I hope that my friend Fr Weedon will forgive me for replying to your comment which was addressed to him.

    You wrote I don’t quite see the relevance [of Rom 4.16]. If we draw back a bit from the verse itself, the context becomes clear. In this chapter St Paul is discussing the relationship among faith, works, and grace as they relate to justification. He assumes as a given that justification is by grace (that is, entirely as a gift). He then asks, in effect, whether justification by works can ever be said to be “by grace”.

    The key contrast is introduced in vv. 4-5: Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. If it were possible to justify ourselves by our works, we would be putting God in our debt, such that he would owe us justification as the just reward for our works. In that case it would not be a gift (not reckoned of grace). St Paul is saying that our justification may either be by works or by grace, but not both.

    It is to defend the truth that justification is by grace alone that St Paul insists that justification is by faith; for to the extent that justification is by works, it cannot be by grace. Having presented this contrast in vv. 4-5, he underscores it in verse 16: Therefore it [viz. justification] is of faith, that it might be by grace.

    Given the contrast which St Paul presents between “by grace” and “by works” I honestly think he would be puzzled by the notion that grace somehow gives our works “merit” for justification. That is not the role of good works in St Paul’s teaching on salvation. The picture given by Trent is that we cannot earn our salvation apart from grace, so God gives us grace which enables us to earn our salvation. But in the picture given us by St Paul in Romans 4, salvation is never earned, for if it earned it cannot be by grace. Grace is not given so that we may justify ourselves, it is given because we cannot justify ourselves.

  5. Chris Burgwald says:

    Isn’t Paul talking about works prior to coming to faith, i.e. (I can safely say this in this convo) prior to baptism? In fact, let’s make this concrete around that sacrament.

    Both of our communions agree that baptism is the sacrament of faith, and it is at baptism that we are initially justified. The Catholic teaching is that absolutely nothing prior to baptism is meritorious, in agreement (naturally) with what Paul says in Romans and elsewhere.

    The disagreement between our confessions is found when it comes to *growth* in justification (what is also called by some sanctification)… once we have been baptized, can can our grace-powered acts of love be termed meritorious with regard to deeper justification? Romans doesn’t address this, because Paul is talking about the initial justification that comes with baptism.

  6. William Weedon says:

    I was particularly wanting comment upon:

    “it is of faith, that it might be by grace; *to the end the promise may be sure* to all the seed.”

    That the promise may be sure to all the seed – all who share Abraham’s faith – it is of faith and by grace. He excludes human works from the promise – it comes as sheer grace and since it is received by faith it comes as certain – not the hopeful wish that our sins might be remitted but the joy of knowing that in Christ they have been.

  7. Schütz says:

    Okay, very quickly, I am convinced that Tom Wright’s work on Paul’s idea of Justification is helpful here. Wright reads Paul’s use of the term “to be justified” as to be declared by God to be a member of the Abrahamic Covenant family. Once the badge of such membership was the works of the Torah, now it is faith in Christ–therefore the promise of the Abrahamic covenant is accessibly by grace (because it is faith, not works of the Torah that mark a person as a member of the covenant), and open to all, Jew and GEntile. Wright stresses, however, that this is how one is reckoned to be a member of the Covenant, not how one becomes a Christian. One becomes a Christian through Baptism and being joined to the Covenantal community through the usual stages of Initiation (as Paul’s own writings attest).

    This explanation of justification poses no difficulty to the Catholic faith.

    This is what I mean when I say that by advancing in our understanding of what “justification” actually means we might actually realise we agree with eachother.

  8. Joshua says:

    Chris Jones,

    I think you may have misread me: note in the P.S. to my comment I said, quoting Trent –

    ‘And, as someone queried, all this meriting of course excludes every Pelagian fantasy of somehow meriting justification:

    “None of those things, which precede justification — whether faith or works — merit the grace itself of justification” (Sess. VI, cap. viii)’

    So I was certainly not speaking of merit prior to justification!

    Only in Christ – after justification (accomplished through the application of His saving Passion to us, effected via baptism) – are our works given supernatural value.

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