Friday, March 30, 2007

Justification and the Reformation

The Council of Trent insisted that justification brought about a real transformation in the soul of the new and developing Christian.
The Council of Trent speaks of justification in the literal sense, a making just.
Luther, however, insisted that Paul’s Greek word for justification was drawn from the law courts (true enough) and thus can never lose its forensic dimension.

fo·ren·sic 1. pertaining to, connected with, or used in courts of law or public discussion and debate.

By that it meant that the most central meaning of justification is God’s acquittal of the sinner in spite of and still in view of the Christian’s status as mired in sin, the verdict notwithstanding. This is drawing on the obvious fact that Christians continue to sin.
Luther’s point can be easily satirized and misconstrued—and by Catholic polemicists* was—as if he were saying that behavior doesn’t matter, and that God was “letting us off the hook.”

A polemicist is a person who deals with the history or conduct of ecclesiastical disputation and controversy. Polemics is a branch of theology

ec·cle·si·as·ti·cal 1. of or pertaining to the church or the clergy; churchly; clerical; not secular.

Let's look at a modern analogy. Was Luther’s view of God like the California jury that acquitted O.J. Simpson of charges of murdering his wife even though he was obviously guilty?

OJ is now living the high life and playing golf in Florida! Is that really the kind of justice we want to ascribe to God? Such an analogy does not clearly reflect Luther’s position. He was more than willing to insist that a Christian’s justification must be reflected in the transformation of his behavior if a genuine faith were really the material cause of his justification.

VERY IMPORTANT: The Council of Trent was extremely nuanced in its decree on justification. The Council of Trent had Paul’s letters to consider, which could hardly be made to say the opposite of what they do say. And The Council of Trent also had the overpowering authority of St. Augustine on the matter that could not be denied or disputed.

Thus the path to a superficial works-righteousness was blocked from the outset.
Protestant have claimed that Catholics were & are taught that they can“earn” salvation by doing works of charity, going on pilgrimages, and the like. But if Catholics believed that there is no support in Trent’s carefully crafted decree.

Over at Pontifications Edward T. Oakes, S.J. says, "When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteen century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it."

1. quality, characteristic, endowment of a church, that is inherited; heritage.

fissiparated (from the word) fissiparity 1. to break into parts; "the fissiparity of religious sects"

Wouldn't it be nice if Catholics would be able to show our Protestant brothers and sisters that, of course, we know that justification must be reflected in the transformation of behavior if a genuine faith were really the material cause of justification. We live that concept in our Mass and Sacraments and prayers. The reformation took the root of our understanding of justification with them when they fissiparated (isn't that a great word?).

But they forgot somethings . . . .

Justification doesn't begin and end at saying some words and asking Jesus to come into our hearts. Justification doesn't equal being "born again".
Catholics are "born again" at every Mass and through the Sacraments and in every little and big decision we make to follow God and draw close to Him.

I love perusing the pages on line of : Catholic Catechism
That is where I found this information on Justification. Go there -- You will find a wealth of well written information.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

So true! "Justification doesn't begin and end at saying some words and asking Jesus to come into our hearts. Justification doesn't equal being born again."
I just came from Mass. Praise God for His Church!

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