Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification. Edited by David E Aune
Article first published online: 27 NOV 2008
© The author 2009. Journal compilation © Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered 2009
The Heythrop Journal
Volume 50, Issue 1, pages 151–152, January 2009
How to Cite
Turner, G. (2009), Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification. Edited by David E Aune. The Heythrop Journal, 50: 151–152. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00438_35.x
- Issue published online: 27 NOV 2008
- Article first published online: 27 NOV 2008
Pp. 270 . Baker Academic , Grand Rapids, Michigan , 2006 , $24.99 .
In 1999 representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed a ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justication’ (not reprinted here but easily available on the internet). Given the history of the last four-hundred years, this was a significant achievement, though inevitably there were some Catholics who said their Church had abandoned the Council of Trent and some Lutherans thought their representatives had sold out to Catholicism. In fact some sticking points remain which suggest there is no ‘sell out’: Catholic reservations about simul justus et peccator whereby Lutherans maintain that believers are right with God and at the same time sinners (in the sense of ‘mortal sin’ as used by Catholics) because they see concupiscence after baptism as actual sin; and Lutheran reservation about the odd way in which Catholics speak of ‘merit’ whereby God rewards the believer for his or her actions, actions which come entirely from God's grace, however, and cannot be boasted about. Nonetheless both sides have agreed on the basics – salvation comes entirely from God, it is the result of grace which is available through the achievements of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have also agreed that history has moved on and the condemnations of the sixteenth-century no longer apply to the Churches of the twenty-first century.
This collection comes from a joint meeting of American Lutherans and Catholics sponsored by Valparaiso and Notre Dame Universities in 2002 and focuses on how the two traditions might now read Paul together in the light of this formal agreement. The first three chapters are rooted in the Joint Declaration. David Truemper introduces the document, Susan Wood comments on its Catholic reception, and Michael Root responds as a Lutheran systematic theologian, notable for his vigorous repudiation of Eberhard Jüngel's objections to the Declaration which are based on a typically Lutheran (though evidently not typical of all Lutherans) theology of opposites: gospel not law, grace not works, etc. For Jüngel (not one of the contributors here) ‘the doctrine of justification is the one and only criterion for all theological statements’. Joseph Fitzmyer implies that Jüngel and others like him do not read the whole of Paul. In his worthy but well balanced survey of justification in Paul, Fitzmyer shows that justification is only one way in which Paul talks about salvation and only really in two of his letters in which he is responding to a particular form of opposition. Fitzmyer suggests a decahedron of effects of the Christ-event, as he calls it: justification, salvation, reconciliation, expiation, redemption, freedom, sanctification, transformation, new creation and glorification. Margaret Mitchell smooths this out by identifying them not as ten different effects but as ‘different metaphorical means … for expressing the same, salvific reality’. So, then, not a decahedron of salvific effects but ‘different templates or transparencies that can be overlaid in viewing what is for Paul the singly central Christ-event’. Either way, Richard DeMaris agrees from a Lutheran perspective that, in the light of recent Pauline scholarship, we have to decentre justification without underestimating its integral importance. He thinks we need a new language and suggests that of God as a ‘benefactor’ as an alternative to God as one who justifies or makes righteous.
Much recent work on Romans, particularly the so-called ‘New Perspective on Paul’, coming from Protestant exegetes, has seriously questioned Luther's and subsequent Lutheran readings of Paul. John Reumann here tries to re-establish something like a Lutheran understanding by setting aside Romans and Galatians to focus on Philippians, and specifically Philippians 3.2–11. Margaret Mitchell does a lot to undermine this position methodologically and at the same time quite correctly warns of the danger of requiring a consensus of New Testament scholars as a precondition of ecumenical advance. Especially, I would add, in the ever more complex and confusing world of Pauline scholarship.
There are also chapters on how Paul was interpreted in the early Church, specifically by Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine, by David Rylaarsdam, and on the interpretation of Paul in the middle ages and Reformation by Randall Zachman, but these are make-weights. What is helpful is a lengthy final chapter by the editor on ‘Recent Readings of Paul Relating to Justification by Faith’. For those readers still on the fringe of understanding recent shifts in Pauline studies, this would be a good place to start. These shifts have been provoked by a realisation that Luther got Paul wrong. This is something of a bombshell for Protestant theology which says a lot for the resilience of those who are trying to deal with the after-shock. Within Protestant exegesis there is a dispute between Lutheran and Calvinist readings of Paul, which is not easy to get your head round if you do not come from those traditions. It is a dispute about the status of the law, the value of human actions, and the centrality within theology of justification by faith, among other things. But Catholic scholars need to latch onto this because it would be short-sighted to formally agree with Lutherans in such a way that it cut them adrift in this debate from Calvinists (who would include N. T. Wright) who are the ones who might have a lot to teach us about Paul at the present time.