Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Gospel as a Criterion for Catholicity

This post follows up on a discussion David Schuetz and I had over the legitimacy of using the Gospel narrowly defined, that is, essentially the article of justification by faith alone, as a criterion for evaluating catholicity. You can read David's comment in the comments section of the post below. His basic charge is that by using the Gospel narrowly defined in this way (all Lutherans who know the Confessions will understand what I mean by narrowly defined) I am verging on sectarianism.

It occurred to me this afternoon following that exchange of views that this topic was covered in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and further elucidated in the Annex to the Official Common Statement later agreed upon by both parties.
However the merits of those documents are judged, there is no doubt that the Roman authorities basically agreed therein with the Lutheran view, which I have espoused in my 'Provisional Statement on Catholicity' (makes it sound more important than it is to mention it in this context!), that the Gospel narrowly defined (i.e. JBFA) is a valid criterion by which to measure the teaching and practice of the church through the ages.

If it's good enough for the Vatican, it ought to be good enough for any Roman Catholic, and it is certainly good enough for me.

Here is the relevant extract from the Annex:
3. The doctrine of justification is measure or touchstone for the Christian faith. No teaching may contradict this criterion. In this sense, the doctrine of justification is an indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ" (JD l8). As such, it has its truth and specific meaning within the overall context of the Church's fundamental Trinitarian confession of faith. We share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5-6) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts" (JD 18).

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