16 April 2008

Would the Pope agree?

With Pope Benedict XVI visiting the U.S. and capturing the media headlines, here's a question for you--just for some fun, theological discussion--emphasis on the fun part, now! (Didn't know theology could be fun? Well, let's see! At least that's the only goal I have in mind here in this post. :-)

Would the Pope agree with this following statement on Justification, or not?
What is justification?
Justification is the most excellent work of God's love. It is the merciful and freely-given act of God which takes away our sins and makes us just and holy in our whole being. It is brought about by means of the grace of the Holy Spirit which has been merited for us by the passion of Christ and is given to us in Baptism. Justification is the beginning of the free response of man, that is, faith in Christ and of cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Please explain - and briefly! - your reasons for why you think the Pope would agree, or not, with that statement on Justification. (Source of the quote will be revealed after discussion dies down--you know, so we can focus on the content of the quote, not get sidetracked on who wrote it. ;-)

While we're asking, would *you* agree with the above statement on Justification? Why or why not?


Joe Crabtree said...


Mary Kruta said...

I think the Pope would agree, I do not. "the beginning of the free response...cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit" can a dead man respond or cooperate?

Anonymous said...

Classic B16. So close, and yet so far.

Anonymous said...

Would President Kieschnick agree with the statement? Probably not.

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Sounds like Pope Benedict XVI.

Regarding "faith in Christ and cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit" it depends on whether God's grace and Spirit are in heaven covering us and our sin but not actually coming to us or whether we actually receive God's grace and Spirit which then work in us (ie, Baptism, Holy Communion or as the Pope calls them "means of the grace of the Holy Spirit." (ie, what is the Lutheran and Catholic understandings of grace?)

Even if some Lutherans, as it appears, are not comfortable with the reception of God's grace and Spirit (ie, the power of God to make alive through the means of grace) at least they may appreciate what he says here - "which has been merited for us by the passion of Christ and is given to us in Baptism."

I believe that the sacraments are more than just mere "pledges" of something that the Lord promises us (ie, mere symbols) but that He actually gives us what He says ("where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation"). In other words, it is both/and - God's merciful judgement/declaration for the sake of Christ and what He works in us in Christ (ie, His Word does what it says).

His quote, "Justification is the most excellent work of God's love" is a great quote and one that should certainly catch the attention of those who belong to the Church of the Augsburg Confession.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Nope, I don't agree.

Mostly because of the "which has been merited for us by the passion..." part.

Salvation can't BE merited. Doesn't need to be. It isn't for sale in exchange for merit. It's GIVEN away, rather than sold. Because it's from God's radically non-self-seeking love.

(That's also why the Orthodox do not have "works salvation," BTW.)

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...


Thank you for your honest response. Regarding the concept of "merit," this is traditional Western theological language, which we see discussed greatly in both Catholic theology and in the Lutheran Confessions - which happens whenever "justification" is brought up. For that reason I mentioned that Lutherans would appreciate his wording there.

Now do I totally understand all of this? Probably not. And I do not totally know and understand what the Orthodox teach here, although I am somewhat familiar with the discussion.

To illustrate, recently I bought a used book called "Why God Became Man" (Anselm). As an Orthodox person, you are probably quite familiar with this book's premise and would disagree with it. I am not so sure I agree with it either although it is certainly a classic text in the West. I bought it
for learning purposes. Also, I think I will be better able to understand from it more clearly what the differences there are between the East and West on this and other teachings. I also have a few texts by Orthodox theologians which I like to read.

Coming from the Lutheran tradition, I am of the understanding and appreciation that salvation is a gift of God in Christ so there is probably quite a bit we agree on. There are also questions I need to study further.
I can always learn more about Orthodoxy too. The soteriological question is definitely related to the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

You are likely aware that Pope Benedict XVI speaks highly of the Orthodox Church, often talks of salvation as gift, speaks highly of the Eucharist and clearly turns toward the East in matters liturgical.

The differences will always remain but it is times like these where we can learn the most. Thanks for clarifying a most important point!

William Weedon said...

Um, isn't your quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church???

William Weedon said...

By the way, since it is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I take it that the current Bishop of Rome would agree with it.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

St. Augustine, I believe.

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Catechism?-Yes; Bishop of Rome?-Yes; Augustine-would not surprise me

wmc said...

No reason the pope should not agree;no reason why I would.

The last sentence betrays the whole thing: "Justification is the beginning of the free response of man, that is, faith in Christ and of cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit."

Same old, same old. Justification as the beginning of a process. Faith and love powered by grace. Nothing new here.