Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On Justification by Faith

I posted this in the comments section of Kyle's blog in response to his post about justification:

I confess belief in the Reformation version of justification by faith -- as I best as I can see I think it makes the most sense of the New Testament witness -- especially the writings of Saint Paul. So I am happy with saying I believe in justification by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.

That being said, I believe the way most contemporary evangelical protestants (CEP) script this doctrine is wrong. CEP's are the children of the 2nd great awakening (2GA). Among other things, the 2GA left the heritage of decisionalism and conversionism. The key to being Christian in this approach is a momentous decision/conversion whereby one is "born-again" and "justified." In this approach justification is something that is abstracted from union with Christ and faith gets ossified into a momentary decision.

The historic reformation script is very different than this (and very catholic I might add). In this script one participates in the life of the Church centered in worship in word and sacrament. Word and Sacrament are certain and sure signs of the presence of Christ and his good will towards us. By participating in the visible Church and her ministry one participates in Christ. By virtue of participating in Christ one is justified (as well as adopted, regenerated, sanctified, glorified -- its a package deal). Faith is also conceived differently. Faith is a living reality. Faith is a continual posture. In a symbiotic manner, it is both a prerequisite for participation in the life of the Church and her ministry and, at the same time, faith is nourished by participation in the life of the Church and her ministry.

On the ground it looks like this. Daily I am living in to and out of the gift of justification. Weekly, I renew my faith in this gift through Word and Sacrament -- but especially when I approach the Lord's table and the gift of himself is present there. Justification is not a rubber stamp of righteousness I received the day "heaven came down and glory filled my soul." Justification is a living reality that I come to daily/weekly.


Dennis said...


Do you think your understanding of Faith Alone is in line with someone like, say, Sproll?

As a RC, I have no disagreement with your understanding of faith in action, although I would not call it Faith Alone (there is too much historical baggage in the term for it to be of any proper use at all).

Would you say (according to your understanding) that the RCC teaches Faith Alone? I would say that, if your understanding of the concept is authentically Protestant, we are alot closer then many realize.


+ Alan said...

Yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking. I think you may officially be in trouble with some of your more reformed brethren with that statement. That continuing reality that keeps being worked out daily deal I'm not hearing in a lot of reformed Protestant talk on the subject.

The Scylding said...

Good post. I think our understanding of JBF has been greatly coloured by modernist concerns, in so much as placing our faith in the proposition that we are JBF, not in Christ. As someone recently approached the subject in a debate - JBF should be approached through Chrstology - it tells us about Christ.

Peter said...

Scylding -- yes that gets at what I am pushing on in this post. JBF is an aspect of salvation all of which is found in Christ. For me, participation or mystical union is central.

Brandon said...

It's been a while since I've checked here...

Been working through this issue over the past couple of years Fr. Pete. Your points here in that comment are right on the money with what I ended up coming to after 2 years or so of thinking somewhat critically (at times and at times, not critically at all) about justification.

What you could be getting at is that justification, our participation and union with God in it, is essential for our salvation but also possibly, our very sanctification as well?

And heck, Alan, as an Anglo-Catholic Methodist (is that a paradox or oxymoron?), my very denomination and theological sway already puts myself in trouble with those from the more pointy-ended reformed end of the spectrum.