Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Vatican and "Faith Alone"

Recently, I have discovered (courtesy of one of Turretin Fan's recent posts) a couple of interesting quotes from some articles contained in the Vatican. It seems that the Pope now admits to the correctness of the phrase "Faith alone", even quoting from the Lutheran formula of Concord. It should be noted though that he seems to use the phrase in a way that is different from how Protestants use it, and inserts the Roman understanding of Justification into the phrase (at least, that's how it appears to me, as I read the documents). What is the purpose of these? I will let you all see for yourselves:

Against this cultural pressure, which not only threatened the Israelite identity but also the faith in the one God and in his promises, it was necessary to create a wall of distinction, a shield of defence to protect the precious heritage of the faith; this wall consisted precisely in the Judaic observances and prescriptions. Paul, who had learned these observances in their role of defending God's gift, of the inheritance of faith in one God alone, saw this identity threatened by the freedom of the Christians this is why he persecuted them. At the moment of his encounter with the Risen One he understood that with Christ's Resurrection the situation had changed radically. With Christ, the God of Israel, the one true God, became the God of all peoples. The wall as he says in his Letter to the Ephesians between Israel and the Gentiles, was no longer necessary: it is Christ who protects us from polytheism and all of its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity within the diversity of cultures. The wall is no longer necessary; our common identity within the diversity of cultures is Christ, and it is he who makes us just. Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther's phrase: "faith alone" is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5:14).
(From the General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, 19 November 2008)

Justification takes place "by grace alone“ (JD 15 and 16), by faith alone, the person is justified „apart from works“ (Rom 3:28, cf. JD 25). "Grace creates faith not only when faith begins in a person but as long as faith lasts“ (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th.II/II 4, 4 ad 3).The working of God’s grace does not exclude human action: God effects everything, the willing and the achievement, therefore, we are called to strive (cf. Phil 2:12 ff). "As soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit...“ (The Formula of Concord, FC SD II,64f; BSLK 897,37ff).
(From the Annex to the Official Common Statement)

One can't help but be reminded of the supposed anathemas of the Council of Trent.


  1. So... Benny the Rat's really a Lutheran? Huh!


  2. I have no idea what his real intention was. I would assume that he was trying to be nice and "ecumenical" to the Lutherans. In any case, these are quite the glaring quotes, especially when you consider all those Roman apologists who balk at the phrase "faith alone".