Friday, October 19, 2007

Talking justification with a Protestant

I offered the following thoughts to a Protestant who was having difficulty following the theology of Orange and Trent on grace, works, and justification (typos corrected and link to previous discussion added):

I'll say this and then leave it be. I hope that it profits you to hear it. You once said that you rejected the idea that works could be both 100% God's and 100% man's, one of four options, because that option pertained to Christology and not justification.

In light of v. 2:10 and the rest of the book of Ephesians (espec. vv. 1:9-10, 22-23 and ch. 3), do you truly believe that Paul's doctrine of justification and Christian works is not Christological? And if the dichotomy between divine works and human works is false in Christ, why is it not false for those in whom Christ is working as well? Moreover, in the work of Christ, what cause do we have to boast of ourselves? (Compare Rom. 3:27 with Rom. 15:17-18, Gal. 2:20, Phlp. 2:13.)

Paul calls his teaching on grace in Ephesians his knowledge of the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4; see also Eph. 5:32). If, by that same Incarnational mystery, Jesus of Nazareth can be wholly man and wholly divine, why would we treat grace differently? Thence comes the Catholic theology of grace; the works of Christ are not properly ours, but only as a gift, mysteriously worked through the operation of grace by Christ Himself.The mystery of the Incarnation is beyond argument, so even if you are asking for one, I can't give it to you. Instead, I'm asking you to listen to that phrase "in Christ Jesus" in v. 2:10, and let it resonate with what you know of the Incarnational mystery. And then try reading Ephesians and 1 Cor. 15 once more. If the Scripture doesn't speak to you on this, then I very much doubt that anything I could say would help, so I'll shut up now.


Strider said...

You are absolutely right, Jonathan. "In Christ Jesus" is the key to grasping a properly biblical and catholic understanding of justification, sanctification, salvation. When matters are reduced to forensic or legal categories, everything gets skewed.

Fred Noltie said...

This is a direct link to your comment. :-)

CrimsonCatholic said...

And this is what I get back. Couldn't have proved the point better.

CrimsonCatholic said...

Thanks for the kind comment, Fr. Kimel. Of course, I can't take credit for it, since it's the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church as reiterated by Catholic scholars (I noted Fitzmyer and Mitchell in Rereading Paul Together). I will close up this combox, since it seems the point has been adequately made and no further headway can be made with the person to whom the comment was directed.