I have been following The Vatican Files for a few months. They are a series of blog posts written by Leonardo De Chirico, who since 2009 has been involved in a church planting project in Rome and is now pastor of the church Breccia di Roma.
In this latest post, De Chirico analyses #15 in the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) which was signed by the Roman Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation. This point states,
"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 and calling us to good works."
As De Chirico points out, this sentence – if read out of context and in a theologically naïve way – has a distinct evangelical ring to it and appears to be a relevant and pointed summary of the biblical message concerning:
* the mode of justification (by grace only and not based on merits),
* the means of justification (by faith alone),
* the grounds of justification (the saving work of Christ),
* and the consequences of justification (divine adoption and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the renewal of the heart and the activation of the Christian life).
However (and this is only one example of the deviousness of this entire document, JDDJ, where the same terms are stretched to mean different things to different signatories), De Chirico notes how the Roman Catholic Church understands this wording as referring to sacramental grace mediated by the Church and received through baptism, therefore completely undermining the idea that it is only by grace that God saves sinners through faith alone.
For the full explanation of this piece of religious chicanery, please read this article on Leonardo De Chirico's site.