Sunday, December 27, 2009

Benedict XVI on St. Paul

Ignatius Press has recently published a collection of our Holy Father's general audiences that focused on the apostle Paul.  Since the topic of justification has come up recently on this blog, I thought I'd point my readers to a this book.

Excerpts from the book can be read on Google books by following this link.

The relevant essays can be found by searching for "justification."

The essays themselves, once found, can be read for free at the Vatican's website.  Start here, and simply find the general audience by the date listed in the book.

Finally, when I read articles written by evangelicals like this summary (thanks to WHW for the link) from Christianity Today, I can't help but think how very much Catholics share in common with many Evangelicals' understanding of justification.  From a Catholic perspective, there may be room for points of disagreement regarding the fine details of what justification entails, so long as a number of basic truths are not denied.  It turns out that the majority (if not all) of these basic truths are shared by Catholics and (many) Evangelicals.

Many of the canons of the sixth session of the Council of Trent are actually represented in the article linked above that WHW so kindly pointed out in a comment to the previous post.

To really move the conversation forward, I'm always curious to ask Evangelicals the following question:

What specific points from the following two (Catholic) explanations of justification do you find problematic and/or inconsistent with the points that you agree with?

1) Council of Trent, Sixth Session - On Justification
(See especially the canons beginning about half way down the page.)
2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987-1995 - On Justification

I often wonder what Christianity would look like if all non-Catholics suddenly understood that the Catholic Church does not teach (nor has ever taught) that we can be justified by our own human works (apart from God's grace), an idea often referred to as "works-righteousness"?  Even in the Christianity Today article mentioned above, the Catholic position is not given any consideration, apart from a (dismissive?) reference to its supposed teaching of "works-righteousness."

According to Luther, the doctrine of justification was that issue on which the reformation stood or fell.

I'm sorry, but can we really justify using a doctrine about which so much agreement exists as a basis for division?

In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI is a model ecumenist in the essays linked above.  He shows that he is willing to grant the terms and understanding of those who would count themselves opposed to his teaching, so long as the truth is not violated, in order to open the door to true, uncompromising unity.

Likewise, I see something similar happening in some notable evangelical leaders, though there are still some who "are not quite ready" to end the divisions of the Reformation so that true, ongoing, unity-producing reformation can continue.

Since this is the case, both Catholics and non-Catholics are beginning to find themselves uniting behind the common question:

Where are our differences?


Anders said...

Hello! I want to comment on what you write about foregiveness.

Tan’’kh – for example Yekhëzqeil (Hezekiel) 18 – promises foregivness to those who do their sincerest to keep the mitzwot (commandments) in Torah. The Creator cannot lie and He does not change (Malakhi 3:6)! According to Tehilim (“Psalms”) 103 the Creator gives His foregivness to those who do their sincerest to keep His berit (“covenant”; the pre-conditions to be included in the berit is according to the Jewish Bible to do ones sincerest to keep Torah).

No human can keep Torah perfectly. There is a provision. Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh lived and kept Torah with the sincerest of his heart, died innocently and became a sacrifice. Because of this the Creator can give His foregiveness to everyone doing his/her sincerest to keep His instructions found in Torah, and to everyone turning away from their Torah-breaches to instead starting to do their sincerest to keep the instructions in Torah.

I think you see the logical implications of this comment.

Regards, Anders Branderud

Anders Branderud

Ready said...

Hi Anders,

Thanks so much for your comment. Would you mind clarifying which posts that discuss forgiveness you have in mind?

Also, I think your comment contains a lot of wisdom, especially in regard to the benefit of focusing not (exclusively) on "Torah-breaches" (which is a kind of negative focus) but rather on cultivating (with the help of God) a pure heart that is trained on following God's will.

However, I'm not sure if I (or my readers) are going to catch the full implications of what you mean. I'd be happy if you could unpack those implications in more depth yourself.

Peace be with you!