Last night I posted on theological pluralism, noting how various and differing theological systems have co-existed within the Catholic Church since, well, the beginning (here's another example: Paul and James). In the course of writing the post, I thought that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and Pope John Paul II, was a good example.
It was only in the course of writing that I realized what the JDDJ says. Now mind you, I've read the document (and the accompanying Official Common Statement and Annex) before. But I never realized fully what it says; maybe its because of the dissertation research I've done... I don't know. But look again at paragraph 40 (which is in no way denied by the OCS or Annex):
- The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics. In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.
I alluded to what this seemed to be saying last night, but throughout the course of the day today, its meaning and significance have impressed themselves upon me: the Vatican signed the JDDJ, which clearly means that it gives its approval to the text (again, along with the OCS and Annex); this approval was confirmed -- not that anyone misunderstood what the signing meant -- in press interviews and releases afterwards.
In the passages highlighted above, the JDDJ states that there is a sufficient consensus on the basic truths of justification that the remaining differences are not church-dividing. To put it positively, the JDDJ is saying that the Lutheran and Catholic explications of justification (as summarized in the JDDJ) can both be held in a fully-united Church. There are differences, yes -- but they are understood in a way analogous to the differences between Molina and Bañez, or the Scotists and Thomists, or Antioch and Alexandria. They can both be maintained -- and argued about -- within the bounds of orthodoxy of the same Church.
Do you realize what this means, dear reader? While Catholics and Lutherans may and must continue to discuss their differences -- they must, so that they may come closer to a common language with which to proclaim the Gospel to the world -- they can no longer claim that they other is preaching a heretical doctrine of justification.
Think about what this means, fellow Catholics and fellow apologists. If you seek to stand by the Catholic Church, you are no longer able to claim that the doctrine of justification as taught by the followers of Martin Luther and in continuity with their tradition is so wrong that a Catholic cannot hold it. The JDDJ demonstrates that this is not the case, and the Vatican has given it its approval. Yes, disagreements continue, as noted above. But each side's viewpoint is now recognized as a legitimate manifestation of the one saving Gospel. As a Catholic, I am no longer able to claim that Luther was wrong, period, on justification. I can disagree with him, but my disagreement is like my disagreement with John Duns Scotus on the relationship between grace and the forgiveness of sin -- both are opinions which can be held by Catholics.
Am I the only one to realize so late the importance of the JDDJ and its authoritative approval? Or do many Catholics continue to understand the Lutheran view of justification as illegitimate rather than legitimate? How many apologists -- professional and amateur -- have appropriated the JDDJ and its significance?
I'm stunned. Shocked. Are you?