Dave, your comments about the JDDJ are proof positive that you never understood either Lutheranism’s or Romanism’s doctrine of justification.At no point has Rome ever taught that justification is anything other than by “grace alone.” The issue is not “grace alone” but if it received by means of faith alone.I suspect you know that, but you must ignore that point in order to reconcile your decision to abandon ship on the Biblical doctrine of justification
As always, Paul does not mince words–but I wonder if he is right? I don’t mean right about the bit about me never understanding “either Lutheranism’s or Romanism’s doctrine of justification”–personally I think I have a pretty good grip on both–but rather whether he is right when he says that the issue is “not “grace alone” but if it [grace? Christ? salvation?] is received by means of faith alone.”
Now he is indeed right that that “faith alone” has become the point of contention between Catholics and Lutherans over the centuries–BUT I wonder if “faith alone” was in fact the primary “sola” of the Reformation. That is, I wonder if the Reformers really regarded “justification by faith alone” as “the article upon which the Church stands or falls”. I understand that it was of the “doctrine of justification” as such (and not specifically that justification was “by faith alone”) that Luther said “When this article stands, the church stands, when it falls, the church falls.” (WA 40 III, 352, 3).
My thesis is that the Reformer’s primary concern was “Grace Alone”, and not “Faith Alone”. Luther emphasised “faith alone” (not a scriptural formulation) because of his agreement with St Paul that justification cannot be earned or merited by works, but rather comes BY grace, IN Christ, THROUGH faith (the exact prepositions used in Romans 3:24-25). That is, Luther wanted to emphasise our justification is by Christ’s merit and God’s unmerited grace rather than by our works. That faith was the means through which one is justified, Luther takes directly from St Paul. Yet faith is not the opposite of works–for saving faith is no less a gift of God’s grace than good works. To argue that faith saves APART FROM GRACE would simply be to make faith into a good work that merits salvation. Luther did not intend this.
Therefore the primary concern of the Reformation was not that salvation was by FAITH alone, but that salvation was by GRACE alone. Indeed it is possible to teach a doctrine of “Faith Alone” which denies “Grace Alone”–ie. when my faith is made my work by which I merit justification. To put it another way, the article upon which the Church stands or falls is NOT the doctrine of justification by “Faith Alone”, but the doctrine of justification “by Grace, in Christ, through faith”. This is the biblical doctrine of justification, and it is in total accord with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
A few weeks ago, Fraser Pearce gave me a second hand copy of Louis Bouyer’s “The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism”. I haven’t read it yet. But I have read the excellent summary of this work by Mark Brumley “Why Only Catholicism Can Make Protestantism Work”. You might want to take a look at this.
Brumley argues that the three “solas” (Gratia, Fide, Scriptura) are solidly Catholic doctrines, but that these solas lose their meaning when separated from the Catholic faith. At one point Brumley makes the following assertion, which by now you will see that I fully agree:
According to Bouyer, the main thrust of the doctrine of sola fide was to affirm that justification was wholly the work of God and to deny any positive human contribution apart from grace. Faith was understood as man’s grace-enabled, grace-inspired, grace-completed response to God’s saving initiative in Jesus Christ. What the Reformation initially sought to affirm, says Bouyer, was that such a response is purely God’s gift to man, with man contributing nothing of his own to receive salvation…
Thus, Bouyer’s point is that the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide) was initially seen by the Reformers as a way of upholding justification by grace alone (sola gratia), which is also a fundamental Catholic truth. Only later, as a result of controversy, did the Reformers insist on identifying justification by faith alone with a negative principle that denied any form of cooperation, even grace-enabled cooperation.
The whole article is worth reading–especially if you think you might be wavering on the edge of jumping into the Tiber for a swim. If you read it and find yourself agreeing with Brumley, you might be surprised to find that you are nearer the far bank than you realise. If you find yourself violently disagreeing with him… –well, stick with Pastor McCain.