There's a fair amount of flapjaw coming from Catholic prelates --who ought to know better-- to the effect that the "justification" argument is settled, and that Lutherans and Catholics should move on.
...The historic debate over justification is commonly stated in terms of
faith alone, the Protestant position, and faith plus good works, the
alleged Catholic doctrine. This dichotomy plays into a Protestant
narrative that Catholics believe that our salvation involves a
combination of faith in God and hard “work” on our part. The obvious
worry here is that our good works diminish the efficacy of the cross and
give us cause to glory in ourselves rather than in Christ.....
That word, "alleged" is red for a reason.
...I gradually came to the realization that the true dichotomy is not one
of faith alone versus faith and good works but faith alone versus faith
Umnnhhh...yah. Remember yesterday's Gospel??
...Good works, of course, still belong to the economy of salvation. But
they are not ‘signs’ of faith, as Protestants today claim. Instead they
are expressions of charity....
Citing Galatians 5:6,
where St. Paul declares that faith works through love, Augustine
elaborates, “Wherefore there is no love without hope, no hope without
love, and neither love nor hope without faith.” (Note that as Augustine
indicates here hope plays a role in justification as well.) As Aquinas
after him, Augustine associates good works with love...
The happy-talk often revolves around a 1994 document signed by Lut'rans and Catholics. Unfortunately, the key text of that document is interpreted VERY differently by those two denominations. The Prots state that love is a product of faith; the Catholic position is the reverse in the order of perfection. Big difference.
The author cites Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, then goes for the kill-shot:
...This teaching merely restates in distinctly Thomistic terms what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13
in which Paul enumerates spiritual gifts that are “nothing” without
love. Significantly, this includes “faith that could move mountains.”
Paul spells out all that love does winding up to this pronouncement: “So
faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is
This statement presents obvious difficulties for Protestant
interpreters who would make love a mere “tool” or byproduct of faith.
Calvin resolves this
by simply imposing a completely contrary meaning on the text: “For if
we single out the particular effects of faith, and compare them, faith
will be found to be in many respects superior. Nay, even love itself,
according to the testimony of the same Apostle, (1 Thessalonians 1:3),
is an effect of faith. Now the effect is, undoubtedly, inferior to its
cause.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, by the way, does not at all say what Calvin claims it does.)
Luther likewise struggles mightily with the passage. “How is it,
then, Paul speaks as if faith without love were possible? We reply, this
one text cannot be understood as subverting and militating against all
those texts which ascribe justification to faith alone,” Luther declares
in a sermon.
He then muddles his way through three possible explanations—Paul is not
talking about true Christian faith, or he is talking about true
Christian faith but has in mind those who lost it, or he is postulating
an impossible scenario to highlight the inseparability of love and
faith. In the latter Luther comes closest to the Catholic doctrine, but
remember, he considers love to be a “tool” of faith that has no power of
its own—a position that completely misses the whole point of 1
Luther alludes to “all those texts” which limit justification to
faith. But the word “alone” is in none of the verses he cites. Luther
had to add it. The only place ‘faith alone’ appears in the New Testament is in James 2,
where it is described as dead if it lacks “good works” (the expression
of charity). Catholics can welcome any verse on justification by faith,
because we absolutely hold that faith is essential to justification. But
Protestants will struggle with any verse that insists on the primacy
and power of love. And there are many more than the few that are
identified above (omitted due to space constraints). One thinks
especially of 1 John 4:8, which declares that those who do not love do not know God....
So after all that--and it is subtle and somewhat intricate--we still love (most of) our Lutheran friends. But they're not getting saved by faith alone.
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