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quod pro nobis traditum est

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rome, Wittenberg and more on justification

Pr. Asburry has an interesting discussion going here on whether or not we as Lutherans might have some agreement with the Pope based on something he has written in his Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I have added a response to his comments there.

If you get a chance to read what he has written and all of the responses please do so. I am providing a citation below that may help one understand how there truly is unity and a direct connection between what Lutherans call "justification" and "sanctification." The following words come from St. Cyril as he writes on the Gospel reading for Cantate (Easter 5) (cf. Jn. 16:5ff):
All that the Lord had to do on earth was now done; but it was necessary that we should become sharers and partakers of the divine nature of the Word, or rather, that giving up of our old life we should be changed to another, and be reformed in newness of life in a manner pleasing to God. But it was not possible to to do this except through the possession and communion of the Holy Spirit. (St. Cyril, cited in Toal, Vol. II, p. 386)

In other words, we do not simply say, "God has done His part" (ie, "Justification") "now we must do our part" in response (ie, what is called "Sanctification"). Rather, as we know in Baptism, the same Lord who justifies is the one who sanctifies. Cyril's quote is an example of the understanding, as we see in John 16, that sanctification is more than a mere response of doing good - it is the actual work of the Holy Spirit who comes to us in Baptism, in Preaching, in Absolution, in Holy Supper. So while the Lord comes to us extra nos, He does not simply keep His distance but actually lives in us (ie, Gal. 2:20). Therefore, the Scripture clarifies that the justified person does cooperate with the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit, that is, Christ, is leading him/her to do so. Therefore, what the sinner is led to do are actually "good" works because they are works which God is doing in and through us.

In brief, justification and sanctification are good ways to understand different works of the same Lord. However, the Lord is not divided in His work outside of us and inside of us (ie, "communion of the Holy Spirit") and this is where focusing on the distinctions may cause confusion in the unity that actually exists between "justification" and "sanctification." Our salvation is a united work of God in Christ. The Spirit does not stop justifying and then say, now it is time to sanctify.

8 comments:

William Weedon said...

Cyril's words tie in nicely also with Lossky's insight that our Lord has saved human nature - taken it through death and into an incorruptible life - and that the Holy Spirit now saves human persons by joining them to that glorified human nature. The struggle of the Christian life is learning to live more and more from that union - to grow in it, if you will - and that is a struggle that we carry out with our renewed self against the old self till our death day.

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

"Against the old self" and "learning to live more and more from that union." Thank you!

Susan said...

>>Our salvation is a united work of God in Christ. The Spirit does not stop justifying and then say, now it is time to sanctify.

And that's why the focus is always on the call to repentance and the forgiveness of sin. Because when justification is the focus, sanctification cannot help but follow. But when sanctification is the focus, it becomes something the person attempts on his own, instead of something that flows from being in union with Christ and His death and resurrection.

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

Yes, that is why outside of theological discussion the terms "justification" and "sanctification" are not absolutely necessary. At the same time the emphasis on repentance and the forgiveness of sins is not in competition with Christ or as you say "union with Christ." They are two sides of the same coin. There is no true repentance without God's Law and no true forgiveness without God's grace and mercy in Christ. Christ, being God, works that repentance in us and delivers us the forgiveness that He has gained for us. He is our comfort and hope when some think we do not focus enough either on sin or on forgiveness. He is all in all (our death and resurrection).

Augustinian Successor said...

Actually, Lossky's insight needs a Lutheran modification ... here's how: As is the typical Lutheran approach, nature is *distinguished* but NOT *separated* from person. Jesus died for PERSONS. It is persons who suffer death, not nature. The Son of God did not die for "abstraction". He died for "concrete" beings. In Jesus, all DIED. In Jesus, all were RESURRECTED. Baptism is emphatically not the union between nature and person, but the union between person and Person.

In other words, the Old MAN (person and nature) died in Baptism. The New MAN (person and nature) is raised up in Baptism. The person must be killed before being made alive. This therefore the conclusion of the theologian of the cross. The glorification of the person only comes through destruction of the *same* person.

Sanctification therefore is killing of the Old Adam and the raising up of the New Adam. Sanctification therefore is the source and summit of the Christian life. Sanctification is but the existential/empirical perspective of the justification as THE Christian life.

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

You are proud of the fact that Bishop Benke who prayed an ecumenical prayer greeted the Pope??? Because he as a NON-Roman BISHOP, GREETED the Pope???

Are you goons that desperate for affirmation? But you ARE *excommunicated* laity belonging to a schismatic body. THAT's the TRUE meaning "separated brethren"!

3:31 AM, April 23, 2008

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

READER - the previous comment was written by "AUGUSTINIAN SUCCESSOR" as a comment for the post "Lutheran Bishop greets the Pope". I mistakenly copied it to this post. Mea culpa!
[I do not know how to delete comments once they are posted.]

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

Augustinian Successor writes:

"Sanctification therefore is killing of the Old Adam and the raising up of the New Adam. Sanctification therefore is the source and summit of the Christian life. Sanctification is but the existential/empirical perspective of the justification as THE Christian life."

The danger here is that "the existential/empirical perspective" has come full roost. The Reformation begins and ends in self, and hence the multiplication of protestant church bodies and denominations, sects and cults. Everyone is doing right in their own eyes (with the "existential/empirical" experience at the heart and center).

This danger is corrected by the Sacraments, or means of grace, (ie, Baptism - dying and rising to life) and the Holy Supper of Jesus' Body and Blood where grace and faith are not dependent on the "existential/empirical" but on the gifts of God's grace and mercy.

Here is one theologian's take on justificaton:
"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."
(Compendium to the CCC)