Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ecumenical Catholicism & Protestantism or “Let’s Change Theology & History”

An article on the Catholic blog, Pontifications, caught my attention. It’s a few years back, but it’s ideas demand a few comments even today. The article by Fr. Kimel is about the ecumenical Joint Declaration On the Doctrine of Justification, signed by Catholic and Lutheran theologians and wants to believe that all those old spats in centuries past are outmoded and no longer apply. I quote:
“On what grounds do Anglicans maintain separation from the Roman Communion? Are we justified in maintaining this separation? The current dissolution of the Episcopal Church, and of Reformation Christianity in general, requires orthodox Episcopalians to thoughtfully answer these two questions.
Martin Luther broke the unity of the Church because he believed that the gospel itself, expressed in the slogan “justification by faith,” was at stake. This, and this alone, justified schism.
Is it any longer reasonable to justify separation from the Catholic Church because of differences on the doctrine of justification by faith? …”

Whatever the issues that led to the “dissolution” of mainline Protestant denominations, I would say that the ecumenical coziness with Rome is a symptom of the problem. Firstly, Fr. Kimel should look to his Roman Catholic church, and ponder whether it is calling the kettle black to speak of Protestant “dissolution”. Ecumenical compromise is the result of a weary discernment; a spiritual compromise with error. Remember that little thing called “another Gospel”? It was identified by the Apostle Paul because of the grace choking error of legalists in the early church. Their error was not so much pure law (too obvious), but a co-mingling of law and Gospel, so that justification by grace through faith was obscured. I quote further:
“First, the document clearly states that “the mutual condemnations of former times do not apply to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of justification as they are presented in the Joint Declaration” (Annex to Common Statement). The Lutheran understanding of justification, as defined by the document, is not considered to be church-dividing by Catholicism; the Catholic understanding of justification, as defined by the document, is not considered to be church-dividing by Lutheranism. In other words, one can hold a “Lutheran” understanding of justification and be a Catholic!”

Miracle of miracles! Lutherans can be bona fide, sola gratia Protestants, and sacerdotal, indulgence and penance Roman Catholics can let bygones be bygones, ‘cause the old disputes about the Gospel in medieval Europe just no longer apply to a more contemporary and inclusive age. IF this is the way it is now, then my Protestant brothers in the Lutheran bodies that have partaken of this error have truly lost their way.

It’s not that the signatories of the Joint Declaration forget the bloody disputes and condemnations of the past. What they want to do is find a common ground on the doctrine of justification that evades the divisions of the past. How do they do this? As stated in the document of the Joint Declaration :
“By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today's partner.”
So after 500 years, newer insight has now rendered once damnable heresies null and void. Anybody heard of the Council of Trent???

To be sure, this is not the first document to speak of ecumenical agreement between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. This has been ongoing for decades. But, call me an old fashioned Bible Christian type...WHY would I even want to find agreement with Rome when I know the truth?
I’ll have more to say on this in another post...God willing.


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