Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Big Formality...Nothing Accomplished

I find it amusing that this occured today. I have a theology test this evening on justification. Basically the Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Lutherans have gotten together and agreed to what they have always agreed to. That we are saved though Christ's suffering, death and resurrection.

However, the Catholic Church places emphasis the necessity of a person's deeds being reflective of their faith. If one has faith, but doesn't attempt to be Christ-like, does that person really have faith? As Christians, we are called to follow Christ, in word, and deed and action. As is says in the Epistle of James, "faith without works is dead".

Let us not forget that while our deeds do not justify us, but they can certainly condemn us.

While I am glad to see unity between these Christian denominations, I hope this agreement is just another step toward watering-down the Catholic faith.

From Catholic News Service:

Methodist, Roman Catholic and Lutheran leaders said their communities will
be able to work more closely in proclaiming the Gospel message of salvation
after the World Methodist Conference adopted the Catholic-Lutheran joint
declaration on justification.

"This is a historic day. This is a gift of God. We can be grateful for it,"
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting
Christian Unity, said at the July 23 signing ceremony in Seoul, South

The agreement on justification -- how people are made just in the eyes of
God and saved by Jesus Christ -- "provides a basis for a more profound common
witness before the world," said the cardinal.

Delegates to the World Methodist Conference voted unanimously July 18 to
adopt the declaration, which was approved in 1999 by the Vatican and the
Lutheran World Federation.

Cardinal Kasper's office at the Vatican released his statement and other
texts from the signing ceremony.

The Methodists' resolution said the 1999 agreement "expresses a
far-reaching consensus in regard to the theological controversy which was a
major cause of the split in Western churches in the 16th century" over salvation
by grace alone or by grace and good works.

The 1999 declaration said, "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving
work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and
receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us
to good works."

The Methodists said the declaration "corresponds to Methodist doctrine,"
especially its explanation of how each person of the Trinity is involved in

The Methodist Movement," which grew out of the Anglican Church, "has always
understood itself as deeply indebted to the biblical teaching on justification
as it was understood by (Martin) Luther and the other reformers," the resolution
said. "But it has also always embraced elements of the doctrine of justification
which belong to the Catholic tradition of the early church."

In the Methodist understanding, it said, human beings cannot cure the
effects of original sin and corruption. It said the fact "that people are able
to respond to God's call is due only to God's prior work" of grace that helps
people accept salvation in Jesus.

Accepting salvation leads to healing and love, the Methodist statement

'Faith working through love' is seen as the root of all good which results
from the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ. Works of piety and works of
mercy are fruits of the Spirit in the lives of those who follow Jesus," it

The Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation,
also participated in the signing ceremony in Seoul.He called the Methodist
resolution "a new ecumenical landmark for which we must thank and praise God

The 1999 agreement, he said, "was an event which lifted up our shared
biblical faith in God's justifying grace, a faith which paradoxically became an
area of division in the Western church."

By joining together in expressing a common faith, Rev. Noko said,
Lutherans, Catholics and Methodists "should not see justification merely as a
piece of theological doctrine, but as an expression of the living Gospel

A shared witness to how God saves people, he said, "transforms us into a
community of hope in a world where hope is in short supply."

At the signing ceremony, Cardinal Kasper expressed his hope that the joint
agreement would be translated into "a joint commitment to deepen our common
prayer; may it encourage us to continue our theological dialogue, and building
on our common foundations, may it lead to an increase in joint witness to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ."

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