One item on a packed agenda that faces the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland this week is, “a resolution that seeks to engage the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland in discussions around the contemporary understanding of the Doctrine of Justification.”
Explains Mr Gribben, the Clerk of the PCI, “While we would work closely with other churches on a range of matters throughout the year, if agreed to, I think that this would be the first time in recent memory that we have considered a formal church-to-church theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.”
I trust that agreement to enter into such dialogue will not be obtained; that an overwhelming majority of delegates, in opposing this resolution, will ask the legitimate question, “What exactly is there to discuss with Roman Catholicism with respect to the biblical teaching on Justification by faith alone?”
Despite what those who wave the flag of false ecumenism would have us believe, the Roman Catholic Church is today no closer to a proper biblical understanding of the doctrine of justification than it was 500 years ago at the Protestant Reformation.
A 1999 document that is viewed by many as encapsulating “the contemporary understanding of the doctrine of justification” – The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, agreed by Catholics and Lutherans – is, in the analysis of competent scholars from the Reformed evangelical tradition, so riddled with loopholes that it permits ‘doctrinal carts and horses’ of any shape and size to sweep straight through.
Heike Schmoll, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, dubbed this Joint Declaration the result of “cheating-ecumenism,” while Jörg Baur claimed that the whole process is an enterprise in “ecclesiastical diplomatic slyness” that disguises a remaining fundamental dissent.
Should anyone wish to cut through the deliberate obfuscation of this Joint Declaration and discover what official Roman Catholic teaching is on the topic of Justification, the Catechism of the Catholic Church underlines how the Catholic Church still articulates a false ‘gospel’ – teaching the notion that a man is justified by means of his baptism and good works, and maintains and regains this justification by repeated acts of penance.
According to Martin Luther’s own confession, he had lost Christ due to the impact of the Catholic Church's theology of the late middle-ages, but rediscovered Him again when he discerned from the pages of holy scripture that a man is saved by grace through faith alone.
This is the Gospel. It should never be slipped onto the negotiating table. By anyone. Galatians 1:9-10.