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This chapter deals with the question of how the established order of salvation, expressed in terms of the processus iustificationis, can be reliable without in some sense being necessary – and hence violating the divine freedom. This debate became increasingly important in late thirteenth-century theology, and was generally framed in terms of a dialectic between the ‘two powers’ of God. God’s ordained power designated the realm of the actual which, though reliable and grounded in God’s promises, was contingent. God’s absolute power referred to a world of possibilities which subverted the established order of salvation – such as God’s ability to accept someone without a created habit of grace. The chapter opens by considering how medieval theology used the notion of God’s ordained power (potentia ordinata) to explore the self-limitation of God, simultaneously establishing the provisionality and reliability of the established order of salvation. It then moves on to consider criticisms of the logical necessity of certain aspects of this established order, particularly those developed by Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and representatives of the via moderna,such as Gabriel Biel.
This chapter continues the exploration of the development of the doctrine of justification during the Middle Ages, focussing on the important concept of grace. Although medieval theologians based their thinking on this significant element of the Christian doctrine of justification on the writings of Augustine of Hippo, it became clear that the idea required further development to engage with the questions being explored at this time. The chapter opens by exploring the increasingly important correlation between grace and the concept of the supernatural, which is expressed in Aquinas’s famous definition of grace as ‘something supernatural within the soul’. The analysis then shifts to the distinction between actual and sanctifying grace. Although this distinction is implicit within Augustine’s theology of grace, it lacked the conceptual precision necessary to engage certain questions. This is also true concerning the distinction between operative and co-operative grace, which became increasingly important in Aquinas’s theological analysis. The chapter concludes by exploring one of the most distinctive themes in thirteenth-century theology: the role of supernatural habits of grace in justification. What factors led to its introduction, and why did Ockham and the via moderna criticise this? This analysis establishes a significant continuity of argument between the via moderna and Luther on the relational aspects of grace.
Chapter 22 considers an attempt to secure some degree of rapprochement between Catholics and Protestants as rising tensions seemed to point towards an irreversible fissure within western Christianity. Aware of the significance of the divisions over the nature of justification and justifying righteousness, a group of Catholic and Protestant theologians met to discuss these at the Regensburg Colloquy (also known as the Colloquy of Regensburg) in April and May 1541. This chapter considers the positions that were represented at this Colloquy, and the outcomes of their deliberations. The importance of the Colloquy rests in part on first-hand accounts and explanations of the theological concerns about justification from each side of the debate. Although the Colloquy secured an informed and balanced way of approaching the doctrine of justification, its outcome was inconclusive, and unable to prevent a final rupture between Catholic and Protestant.
The fifth section of this volume deals with the discussion of justification in the modern period, and deals mainly with Protestant approaches to the issue. Chapter 27 opens this discussion by considering the emergence of new attitudes to justification in England, in response to growing interest in the cultural virtue of ‘reasonableness’, the concept of ‘natural religion’ and the wider issue of religious toleration. Although there is now growing support for the notion that ‘Deism’ is partly socially constructed for polemical purposes, it remains a useful tool for discussing more rationalist approaches to the Christian faith which emerged in the eighteenth century. This chapter thus considers the Deist critique of the foundations of justification, such as the notion of original sin, focussing on writers such as John Toland and Matthew Tindal. The chapter then turns to consider the debates about justification which took place during the German Enlightenment, particularly the approaches associated with Johann Gottlieb Töllner and Gotthilf Samuel Steinbart. Finally, the chapter considers the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s views on radical evil and justification, which some scholars consider to mark a re-appreciation of the continuing significance of justification in secular moral discourse.
This chapter continues the exploration of the development of the doctrine of justification during the Middle Ages, focussing on the question of how sinners are able to appropriate justification. The chapter opens by considering the nature of the human free will (liberum arbitrium), a question discussed by Augustine, but which was found to require further conceptual development in the light of ambiguities and lack of precision at certain points. One of the questions regularly raised for discussion in the early medieval period concerned whether some form of predisposition for justification was required, and how this was to be correlated with the compromised capacities of fallen humanity. This chapter considers the debates within medieval theology over the the necessity and nature of the proper disposition for justification, which often centred on the question of the relation of human and divine contributions to the process of justification. Finally, the chapter considers the origins and application of the medieval theological axiom facienti quod in se est Deus non denegat gratiam (‘God does not deny grace to anyone who does their best’).
Chapter 25 considers the 1547 Tridentine Decree on Justification. This document is widely regarded as one of the most significant statements on the doctrine of justification. It set out a full exposition of the Catholic position, rather than simply rejecting opinions regarded as unacceptable. The Council saw its task as ‘expounding to all the faithful of Christ the true and sound doctrine relating to justification’, not simply identifying what they considered to be the errors of Protestantism. This chapter consists of four sections. The first considers the Decree’s teaching on the first stage of justification, which includes a strongly transformist concept of justification, and a rejection of any idea that justification can be said to be merited. It also firmly links justification with the sacrament of baptism. The second considers its teaching on the second stage of justification, dealing with the way in which believers increase in righteousness. The third deals with the restoration of justification through the sacrament of penance. Finally, the canons of the decree, dealing with views that the Council regarded as unacceptable, are noted and their significance assessed.
Chapter 14 explores the complex and shifting views on justification that emerged during the Reformed evangelical groups in Zurich, Strasbourg and Geneva over the period 1519 to 1560. Early Reformed theologies of justification, such as that of Zwingli, tended to reflect an Erasmian perspective, seeing justification as one of several ways of framing the transformation of the life of faith through divine grace. However, a growing awareness of the views emerging within the Wittenberg evangelical movement led to more emphasis being placed on the notion of justification, which increasingly came to be understood in a forensic manner. Bucer’s theology of justification can be seen as an important landmark in this process of transition, which is generally considered to have been completed through the theological synthesis achieved by John Calvin in Geneva, particularly in the 1559 edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion.Calvin’s approach placed an emphasis on the importance of ‘union with Christ’ as a framework for understanding justification as a forensic category, linked with the essentially transformist notion of sanctification.
Chapter 29 concludes this study on the development of the doctrine of justification by considering how the doctrine has been explored and expressed since the end of the First World War. The chapter opens by considering Karl Barth and Dialectical Theology, a movement of theological reconstruction and retrieval, and notes the place of the doctrine of justification within this movement, especially in the writings of Barth and Emil Brunner. The analysis then shifts to the growing interest in retrieving the existential and affective aspects of justification, particularly in response to Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit (‘Being and Time’, 1927). This is followed by a discussion of the retrieval of justification as a viable theological concept in recent theological writings. Writers such as Robert Jenson, Robert Kolb, Thomas F. Torrance, Michael S. Horton and Kathryn Tanner have shown how justification remains a significant theme in modern theological reflection, despite earlier suggestions that the concept was trapped in the theological past. Finally, the work reflects on discussions of justification in recent Pauline scholarship, particularly the ‘New Perspective on Paul’, and its role in the major ecumenical dialogues of the late twentieth century. The work concludes by expressing cautious optimism for the future of justification as a viable theological category.
Chapter 19 analyses the approaches to justification found within the movement known as ‘Pietism’, which is generally regarded as a reaction against the excessive cerebralism of the theology of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Pietism developed a focus on a ‘living faith’ and the ‘new birth’, which countered a more intellectual and institutionalised account of the Christian faith dominant in German Lutheranism in the late seventeenth century. Pietist theologians and pastors – such as Philipp Jakob Spener – were suspicious of the Lutheran notion of ‘imputed righteousness’, which they considered as being destructive of piety. These concerns were developed in the writings of both John Wesley and Charles Wesley, who urged the importance of moving beyond purely forensic approaches to justification. John Wesley argued that the notion of ‘the imputed righteousness of Christ’ was neither Scriptural nor necessary, and was damaging to personal holiness. For Wesley, the ‘plain scriptural notion of justification’ is pardon or the forgiveness of sins.
Chapter 23 considers the range of Catholic positions that were represented during the Council of Trent’s debates on justification. Although some representatives are best considered as independent theologians, not specifically committed to one of the leading schools of theology of this period, it is clear that many of those present aligned themselves with one of three schools: the early Dominican school (based mainly on the works of Thomas Aquinas), the early Franciscan school (based mainly on the works of Bonaventure), and the later Franciscan school (based mainly on the works of Duns Scotus). This chapter considers the basic position of each of these schools of thought in relation to the questions being discussed. Although some earlier accounts of the Tridentine discussions of justification suggest that there was a distinct Augustinian school of theology represented, the evidence does not support this view.
Chapter 26 considers how the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification was received within Catholicism, particularly during the second half of the sixteenth century. The chapter contains two main blocks of material. First, it considers early Catholic Interpretations of the Decree, noting how the Decree was open to several interpretations at points. The most interesting of these concerns whether the Decree permitted the teaching that justification could be merited de congruo, an opinion which was widely held within Franciscan theological circles. The Council of Trent also gave rise to a series of Catholic catechisms, designed to blunt the Protestant advantage in this field. The Catechismus Romanus and Peter Canisius’s Summa doctrinae christianae (1555) are of particular importance. The chapter also notes how the Council of Trent’s decree on justification initially led to Catholic discussion of salvation focussing on the concept of justification. However, a gradual return to the more traditional Catholic use of multiple images of salvation, including but not restricted to justification, can be seen taking place in the seventeenth century.