Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | October 31, 2009

JDDJ Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

Ten years ago today — October 31, 1999 — Lutherans from the Lutheran World Federation and Roman Catholics got together at Augsburg, Germany, to sign a document purporting to resolve the major conflict between the two churches — the doctrine of justification.

The document — the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (read it here) — claimed to put to rest all 16th century condemnations between the two churches from the Lutheran Confessions (Book of Concord, read especially the Augsburg Confession, Article IV , VI, and XX, the Apology, articles IV and V, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord, Articles III and IV) and the councils of the Catholic Church (especially the Council of Trent).

A close (very close) reading of the document will make it clear that nothing was really resolved.   Areas of already existing agreement were repeated.  Classic areas of difference were either ignored, downplayed, or explained as different foci or emphases.

One participant in today’s celebrations said: “Today we are celebrating the fact that the decades of patient dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics have paid off and we can now together subscribe to a differentiated consensus in the doctrine on justification. There are thus no longer any church-dividing differences regarding what is for Lutherans the central core of the biblical message.”  Except the continued prayer to Mary and saints for intercession, the belief thatMary is a co-redemptrix in our salvation, the sacrifice of the mass, the teachings regarding purgatory, the continued sale of indulgences, the idea that we have to complete our justification, that we merit eternal life by our life of good deeds…other than that, no real dividing differences at all.

But Paul says:  “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith” (Romans 3:19-30).

And again:  “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:15-20).

And once more:  “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Luther writes in the Smalcald Articles, “Upon this article everything that we teach and practice depends, in opposition to the pope, the devil, and the whole world.  Therefore, we must be certain and not doubt this doctrine.  Otherwise, all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all adversaries win the victory and the right over us” (Part II, Article I).

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