Friday, May 05, 2006

Christ and Justification

As is often the case, there is some good theological discussion going on over at Without Authority, stemming from Thomas' post of some thoughts on Eberhard Jüngel's view of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,

Most recently, in the comments on that post, D.W. has questioned the influence that Tuomo Mannermaa and the new Finnish interpretation of Luther have had on the JDDJ and whether Lutherans should be willing to accept the Finnish interpretation at all.

As I said there, I am a big fan of the JDDJ. I also happen to be quite intrigued by the Finns' proposal, not just as it relates to Luther but also as it relates to Lutheranism as a way of thought. I think it's possible that they go too far in attributing the views they do to Luther, but quite apart from whether Luther believed what they claim, the ideas themselves are quite interesting and useful.

In one of the posts on Pontifications that turned Thomas' attention to the JDDJ and the question of justification, the Pontificator quotes John Henry Newman as asking, "what is it in a man, which God seeing there, therefore calls him righteous?"

I think there's a reflex temptation in Protestantism to give "faith" as the answer to this question. This precise answer caused a lot of problems in American Lutheranism during the predestination controversy at the end of the 19th century. But historically, Lutheranism knows better. We confess that we are saved by an alien righteousness, not because of anything which is in us. We confess that "Christ is our righteouesness," which necessarily means that faith is not.

And so, in answer to Newman's question, "what is it in a man, which God seeing there, therefore calls him righteous?" I think a good Lutheran answer is, "It is Christ!" (Interestingly, Newman gives the same answer: "This is really and truly our justification, not faith, not holiness, not (much less) a mere imputation; but through God’s mercy, the very Presence of Christ.")

But the difficulty lies in the fact that I was willing to accept Newman's question at all. I might just as well have said, "There is nothing 'in a man' which God seeing there therefore calls him righteous. It is all about Christ." The very question smacks of infused righteousness, and sets off ancient Lutheran trip wires. But is this really essential? I wonder if there isn't a danger of leaning on the extra nos formulation so much that we, ironically, separate ourselves from Christ.

The categories of infused righteousness and imputed righteousness are dusty artifacts of medieval theology, and the fact that we continue to drag them around may itself be a barrier to making progress in understanding the mystery of justification.

They key insight of the Reformation was NOT that we are saved by imputed righteousness. The key insight of the Reformation was that Christ is our righteousness, and I find Mannermaa and the Finnish school to be exploring this idea in a thoroughly Lutheran way.


Thomas Adams said...

Melancthon – I appreciate your willingness to undertake my challenge to read the Pontifications posts concerning justification. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if you read back far enough. The posts that really set off my “ancient Lutheran trip wires” were Robert Gleason’s writings on created grace. The excerpts from Newman, especially the one you refer to, are far less explicit concerning the infused nature of grace, although the same problems lie just below the surface (Nathan does a good job of addressing these points in his comments on that post).

I take issue with your statement “the categories of infused righteousness and imputed righteousness are dusty artifacts of medieval theology.” You’re correct that these terms are somewhat archaic, and that few people in either church really care about them. However, as Jüngel points out, underneath these technical terms lie two radically different theological anthropologies and ontologies. Catholics have largely retained an ontology of substance, inherited from Aristotle, that views righteousness as a property of the person. Thus, in order to be justified, the person must become righteous in and of themselves. Of course, this transformation is accomplished with the help of God’s grace, but in the end, the Christian is made fit to have the Holy Trinity dwell within them (i.e., they have a new capacity for grace).

In contrast, Luther (who always distrusted Aristotle) advocated a relational ontology in which the human is properly defined from the outside. We do not exist within ourselves (as a substance-based ontology would have us think), but only in our relationships with others. D.W. said it nicely in his comment that “the believer is taken extra se by God so that one's identity is no longer located in oneself but in God.” And lest you think that this viewpoint is limited to gnesio-Lutherans like Jüngel, it’s important to remember that Pannenberg also speaks of an “ecstatic fellowship” in which the faithful live beyond themselves in Christ. Far from “separat[ing] ourselves from Christ”, as you fear, the extra nos ensures that we cling to Christ for our salvation.

I agree that “the key insight of the Reformation was NOT that we are saved by imputed righteousness”, if by imputed righteousness you mean a purely forensic declaration by God that we are just (or, as Newman puts it, merely “a movement of the Divine Mind, and altogether external to the subject of that justification”). However, the “ecstatic fellowship” with God does not leave a believer unchanged; quite the contrary, it’s a near mystical experience that opens wide the doors to heaven. For me, it is the extra nos element of justification that is its true mystery, and I find it far more glorious than scholastic talk about “indwelling” and “preveient grace”.

Andy said...

I read the Gleason article, and it was like a foregin language -- the significance of which is explained by Lindback's proposal. I'm not necessarily defending either the Gleason piece or the Newman pieces. But I am saying the existence of such thought within Catholicism need not be decisive for us.

You'd have a hard time convinving me that Luther "advocated a relational ontology." Luther didn't just distrust Aristotle; he distrusted philosophy. And so while he may have said things that fit within a framework of relational ontology, I don't think that was what he was trying for.

And I think this can be significant for us as Lutherans. I don't think we need to counter neo-scholastic theology with better scholastic theology. I think we need to replace it with a proclamational theology. And, in terms of ecumenical dialogue, I think we can afford to simply ignore it. If the Roman Catholic Church is willing to agree with us in terms of proclamation, that is sufficient.

We do not need to have detailed theological agreement in order to mend our differences. Theological differences are better worked out in an open marketplace from within a unified Church.

My concern with regard to the extra nos formulation is strictly that when it is used in opposition to a view such as the Finnish suggestion of Christ present in faith, while we may be clinging to Christ in name, we may be found to be disavowing possession of and by Christ. And, I would add that our righteousness is not in that we cling to Christ but in that we have Christ and are in Christ.

If our being consists in our relatedness to Christ, then Christ as our righteousness cannot be purely and strictly extra nos.

Thomas Adams said...

Melancthon – It’s seems to me that you are advocating a drastic minimization of theology in our ecumenical discussions with other churches, in that “we do not need to have detailed theological agreement in order to mend our differences.” On this point, we will simply have to agree to disagree. But your statement begs the question: on what other foundation are we supposed to base our agreements and disagreements? You mention “proclamation” in your comment, but this just raises more questions for me. I agree that proclamation is not identical with theology (primary versus secondary discourse), but isn’t theological reflection essential to ensure that our proclamation is the gospel, and not law or “some other gospel”. And is the R.C. Church really “willing to agree with us in terms of proclamation”? What specifically is that proclamation? From a Lutheran perspective, proper proclamation is grounded in God’s justification of the ungodly through faith (we’re back to theology again!). So, in my opinion, disagreement on the nature of the gospel cannot be glossed-over with an appeal to proclamation.

I was also surprised by your comment that “theological differences are better worked out in an open marketplace from within a unified Church.” Isn’t our current situation much closer to an open marketplace, as competing firms (i.e., denominations) are free to debate their respective truth claims? I’m afraid that a reunified Church under the authority of the papal office would not exactly foster a “marketplace of ideas”.

But clearly, you’re further along the ecumenical road than I. So what’s the next step? If the two churches agree on so much, what is keeping them apart? And how do you envision the merger to take place? Will the Lutheran churches remain semi-autonomous units within the Catholic framework, or will we just dissolve, like salt into soup? Perhaps you could address these questions in a future post.

Finally, I suppose that we also have to “agree to disagree” on the value of the extra nos. However, it is an essential element of Luther’s thought, and even the Finns seem to acknowledge this to some degree. As Luther writes in Freedom of a Christian, “we conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor.” And while you’re correct that Luther never used the words “relational ontology”, he believed in something very much like it: “The Christian, therefore, is not righteous formally, not righteous according to substance or quality…but righteous according to a relation to something; that is, with reference to the Divine grace and free remission of sins, which belong to them who acknowledge their sin, and believe that God favors and pardons them for Christ’s sake.”

Andy said...

Of course there is always some degree of theology involved in as much as you can't have proclamation without content (or rather, you wouldn't want to). But at some point, trying to peek behind the curtain becomes counter-productive (another of Luther's key insights). And I think that's where the Lutheran resistence to Catholic scholasticism should lie.

Just as we have traditionally balked at the Catholic formulation of transubstantiation without offering a formal philosophical alternative, I think we can reject the Catholic notion of infused grace without having to insist replacing it with something else concrete.

And this is where I think the JDDJ lies. The JDDJ spells out in no uncertain terms an agreement on the basics of justification. I believe agreement at a similar level was earlier spelled out on the Eucharist and Baptism.

And, so here I would invoke my broad and generous interpretation of the satis est clause of the Augsburg Confession. If we agree with the RCC on the gospel and the sacraments, then we can acknowledge unity with them within the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. It is sufficient.

As for what I hope to see come of an agreement, I have no desire to see Lutherans in a hierarchy under the Pope. I would, however, like to be able to walk into a Catholic church and receive communion. What I want is really already there from the Lutheran side. I just want everyone to stop pretending to be the "one true Church" and acknowledge our unity under the Cross.

Of course, it's not that simple, and it shouldn't be. There are very good reasons for the preservation of episcopal structure, and even the papacy can, perhaps, be seen to have some value. So those are the things we need to work out now, now that we have agreement on justification.

D.W. Congdon said...
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D.W. Congdon said...

I will add my two (or three) cents to this fascinating discussion. I will start with the original post itself. Melancthon, you were right when you said that Newman's very question is suspect, but I think we can and need to step back from the theological debate over infused and imputed righteousness. Just look at the question: "what is it in a man, which God seeing there, therefore calls him righteous?" If the Reformation stood for anything, it was that there is nothing in any human person that God counts as righteous. And that is the whole point of the substitutionary atonement: God does not "look" at us, but rather at the Son who took our place on the cross. So you were absolutely right when you said, "It is all about Christ." But either one answers Newman's question by saying Christ is "in us" or one rejects Newman's question altogether and says instead that we are taken extra nos to be with God. You wrote that you "might just as well have said" one or the other and meant the same thing; but unfortunately the two roads diverge and ecumenism cannot be allowed to obscure the necessary differences between them.

Let's explore your final paragraph for a moment. You wrote that the "key insight of the Reformation was that Christ is our righteousness." Everything you say is fine until you use the possessive "our" (I'm just using this to make a point.) The key insight of the Reformation is that righteousness is never "ours" but always God's gracious gift -- a gift which we never possess but must always rely on God to provide. When we make this quite theological clarification, we discover what makes Mannermaa's position so suspect: he has kept the Christocentrism but lost the theocentrism. He argues rightly that Christ is the locus of righteousness, but he locates this locus in the believer, rather than in God. That is the move which, theologically, must be opposed by one committed to what the Reformation stood and still stands for. To accept the centrality of Christ means that we no longer accept the centrality of the believer. Mannermaa's move is ecumenically interesting, but theologically unacceptable.

We need to clear up some misunderstandings regarding Luther and philosophy. First, Melancthon is right to point out that Luther is distrustful of philosophy. So the question which needs to be addressed is not, 'Does Luther advocate a relational ontology?' but rather, 'Does Luther's theological position(s) -- which is itself a very hard thing to define -- warrant a philosophical-theological clarification in order to help us think through the implications of Luther's theology?' In other words, does Luther's theology necessitate a systematic-critical analysis? I would answer yes, Luther does warrant such careful attention. And Luther's direct followers clearly recognized this and offered the kinds of systematic treatments that they saw as necessary to the continuation of Lutheranism. We do a disservice to Luther by attributing philosophical systems to him which he never subscribed to. BUT we do an even greater disservice to Luther by not continuing what he started through careful, systematic exposition of his theological positions.

D.W. Congdon said...

Which leads me to what I really want to talk about, and that is the relationship between theology and the church, between dogmatics and ecclesiology. I quote at length:

"And I think this can be significant for us as Lutherans. I don't think we need to counter neo-scholastic theology with better scholastic theology. I think we need to replace it with a proclamational theology. And, in terms of ecumenical dialogue, I think we can afford to simply ignore it. If the Roman Catholic Church is willing to agree with us in terms of proclamation, that is sufficient. We do not need to have detailed theological agreement in order to mend our differences. Theological differences are better worked out in an open marketplace from within a unified Church."

And again you say, in another comment: "If we agree with the RCC on the gospel and the sacraments, then we can acknowledge unity with them within the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. It is sufficient."

Let me be the first to say that "it is sufficient" is not how the foundation for the Christian church. What is and always will be the foundation is the truth, specifically, Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life. But it's the truth of life which grounds our faith, the church catholic, and our very being. Not sufficiency. I take this unwavering stance because I believe it is this fundamental truth which ecumenism is willing to lose. And when ecumenical agreement stresses our unity at the expense of the truth, we do nothing less than sell our souls -- our very lives. I truly mean that. If we sacrifice the truth, we sacrifice ourselves; our lives are at stake in this matter.

At the same time, I am as outraged as anyone else about the divisions in the church today. Nothing distresses me more than the failure of the church to follow Jesus' high priestly prayer that we would be one as he and the Father are one. Our witness to the world as one body is also at stake in this matter. I see both sides, and both must be given full and complete attention. To sacrifice either one is sin, in my opinion.

I return now, Melancthon, to some of the comments you made which I quoted above. I think are confusing scholastic theology, systematic theology, and substance ontology. The three cannot be used interchangeably. Modern-day Lutherans like Jüngel are not trading one scholastic theology for a "better" one. Scholastic theology carries metaphysical baggage which theologians post-Schleiermacher are quick to forgo. But they still have a systematic perspective, which in itself is not wholly negative as long as we define systematic in way that does not mean we are forced to systematize our theology so that we erase all problem areas (which is impossible; every system has its leftovers). Substance ontology is part of the scholastic system, but it predates it and can be found in various mutated forms. It is also prevalent in much Protestant theology as well.

The real problem I see latent in your comments is an aversion to theology itself. You write that we can "simply ignore" what you call neo-scholastic theology for the sake of ecumenism. And you write that "we do not need to have detailed theological agreement" in order to move forward ecumenically. But what is ecumenism if not the debate over our theological disagreements? (Here I would echo Thomas's fine comments.) All of this seems to rest on a very precarious position on the meaning of ecumenism and the identity of the church. Let me explain first by looking at your proposal and then by offering some comments of my own.

Thomas did not push you hard enough. Your actual comments are quite ambiguous. You first wrote by arguing for the replacement of scholastic theology "with a proclamational theology." But later you speak "in terms of proclamation." Proclamation or a proclamation theology? Thomas assumed you meant the former, and your later comments take that stance. But your slip-up at the very beginning is quite instructive, I believe, even if unintentional. When speaking about replacing scholastic theology, you naturally (and rightly) spoke of a theology of proclamation -- which reveals that your aversion to theology is more of a surface concern. At some level, however unconscious, you recognize that you cannot toss out scholastic and systematic theology (however you define those terms) without offering a better theological possibility. A theological vacuum is not possible.

Assuming now that you meant proclamation pure and simple, what does that mean? In order to proclaim, we have to proclaim something. As you say, "there is always some degree of theology involved in as much as you can't have proclamation without content." At least here you recognize that "some degree of theology" is necessary. So is it a matter of degree? In that case, we would need to decide what degree of theology is appropriate for the church. This is a theological question, because now we are in the realm of ecclesiology. Moreover, I cannot help but think that the answer to this question would be entirely conditioned by the ecumenical framework you have established. According to the ecumenist (not really a word, but you get my point), what is the limit of theological engagement in the church? When our theology starts to become divisive.

Proclamation is always proclamation of the gospel, and the gospel is not some fixed propositional truth but an event in time and space, an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, we proclaim the mystery of God's advent, the mystery of God as love incarnate. We proclaim a person, a life, a death, and an eschatological event that conquered death and offers new life to all. But all of what I am saying is theologically conditioned and is itself conveyed in a particular theological framework. Seminaries like the one I attend can only teach homiletics while also teaching theology for a very good reason. In order to proclaim the gospel, we have to know what it is that we seek to proclaim and why we must proclaim it. In other words, and this is my central point on this topic, we do not decide the limits of theology for the church. The gospel itself determines its own limits. The kerygma conditions our thought and demands that we think through this event with careful, critical attention. Anything else is not ecumenical but rather failing to live according to the gospel which interrupts us, grasps us, and propels us to think theologically. For the one possessed by the gospel, theology is not an option.

Theology is not "trying to peek behind the curtain" because it is not something we control. Our thought is controlled by the gospel. When that happens, ecumenical agreement is not the first priority. Faithfulness to the truth comes first and remains first. Obviously different confessions condition people as well, but the question which someone like Jüngel poses to the church is: are we willing to allow our doctrines, our confessions, our very way of thinking to be grasped by the truth of life? This is Jüngel's positive contribution to the ecumenical dialogue. What truly unites is not some institutional conglomerate that seeks to bring the churches together institutionally into a organized whole. What really and truly unites is the one thing that is always singular: the event of Jesus Christ. Questions of hermeneutics and interpretation of this event are secondary and necessary, but Jesus Christ is the only unifying factor for the church. But he is a factor which is not just one factor out of many. Jesus determines to be the only source of unity, the only center for the church, the only truth of life for each individual.

Jüngel speaks of theology as "thinking after" God, as a "speaking after" the event of revelation. We need to conceive of the church as a "community after" God, a societal being that follows the being of the triune God in the world. When this happens, we will no longer allow our own pursuit of unity condition our theology (or lack thereof). Instead, with the event of God's advent at the center, we will be forced to reckon with this reality before ever seeking institutional union. The question is thus not whether a document like JDDJ forms an agreement. It is whether such an agreement does justice to the gospel of God's unconditional grace which justifies the ungodly, a grace made concrete in Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, we cannot "reject the Catholic notion of infused grace" and simply leave it at that. A doctrine of grace is essential to any carefully thought out faith. Without one, we may uncritical adopt a position in which we cooperate in our salvation. Without a doctrine of grace, we may fall into numerous errors, many of which were already countered by the ancient church. To avoid systematic, critical theology now is not only to go backwards; it is to threaten the very life of the communio sanctorum.

D.W. Congdon said...

(Parenthetically, Melancthon, I wholly support your political positions. And I was born and raised in Gresham, OR, so Beaverton is quite close to home. My wife, who is from Troutdale, and I both deeply miss Oregon. We are excited about returning home for a few weeks in June.)

Andy said...

Hi D.W.,

Thanks for stopping by. First, let me say that I readily acknowledge my sloppiness in both language and thought and appreciate your willingness to work through it. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and am eager to respond.

To begin with, we have a difference of emphasis on the "possession" of righteousness that we may or may not be able to agree on given some clarificaiton. I said, "the key insight of the Reformation was that Christ is our righteousness." You took issue with my use of the possesive "our." I stand by it.

At a minimum, a grammatical defense could be made of my statement in as much as if God regards us as righteous because of Christ then Christ is our righteousness. But you rightly sensed that I would like to go beyond this. I would like to use language (which I believe I am borrowing from Luther) of us "taking hold of Christ" and, yes, even "possessing Christ." Of course, you are right in maintaining that Christ is never ours in the sense that we have control of Him and may do with him what we please. But what I wish to emphasize is that he is not apart from us and his righteousness is not merely imputed to us from a distance. He is in me and I am in him. And this is why I have tried to juxtapose the language of Christ present in the believer and the believer present in Christ (both, of course, with biblical precedent). I think they are two ways of expressing the same reality.

You or Thomas (or perhaps both) have spoken of us being taken outside ourselves into God. I must confess that I can't make any sense of this idea of being taken outside of ourselves. Who is it that is so taken? And so groping blindly into a relational ontology that I don't fully grasp, if I say that God's existence is in relationship and that my existence is in relationship and that my salvation consists in my relatedness to God, then I think the language of Christ present in faith is perfectly appropriate.

And this, still harping on my use of "our", is what I would like to get at. God is not "up in heaven" imputing righeousness to me, but rather God has come to me. This, I feel, is the essence of the Gospel. You are right that we should not allow the believer to be central, but if God has come to the believer....

Now then, the unity of the Church.... It's probably clear to you that I view ecumenical dialogue in very pragmatic terms. I do not believe that the goal of ecumenical dialogue is to produce unity in the Church. Rather, I believe the goal is to get the structures within the Church to function better together.

I view the unity of the Church by analogy to justification by faith alone. The unity of the Church is purely a gift from God. It is not something that we can work to achieve. The high preistly prayer is not a command to be followed. It is something Jesus asks of his Father. But, of course, it is not without implication.

You said, "What truly unites is not some institutional conglomerate that seeks to bring the churches together institutionally into a organized whole. What really and truly unites is the one thing that is always singular: the event of Jesus Christ." Absolutely! So where does that leave our institutions and how should we use them?

And finally, theology.... I intended to use the term "scholastic theology" very broadly and non-technically as a term to describe any attempt to join theology and philosophy. I do tend to be suspicious of systematic theology in general and particularly so as it becomes more sophisticated (a lot of etymological echos there). I would never have thought of myself as having an aversion to theology itself. In fact, I love theology. But I think theology is only worth having around if it is helping us to know God better (which most theology does in some way or another). As pure knowledge, it is worse than useless.

I did confound the ideas of proclamation and proclamational theology a bit. I think both are needed. I see proclamation as central to the mission of the Church and I think our theology should be geared to support our proclamation. I think you and I see very much eye to eye about this as a starting principle. What I really want to avoid (and am averse to) is theology for theology's sake (which I take to include theology for the sake of knowing what is true). You said, "Theology is not 'trying to peek behind the curtain'..." I would say, "Theology should not be trying to peek behind the curtain." I'm quite certain that sometimes it is precisely that.

One thing I wish to avoid, however, is any sort of idea that we can find a single correct theology, which thinking is a perennial trap for Lutheranism. The reason I would like to be tolerant of other theologies, and in dialogue with them, even those that seem to be in fundamental contradiction to my own, is that I find there is much insight to be gained from other perspectives and generally the extent to which they are "wrong" often turns out to be reducible to the different idea that I would be wrong if I expressed those ideas within my mental framework.

You said, "Faithfulness to the truth comes first and remains first." As a basic principle this is good, but it seems to have the flavor of modernism. I'm not saying that truth-is-relative™ but I am saying that it would be a mistake to regard any systematic theology as a set of true statements. The truth of any theology is tied up in how it points us to God.

D.W. Congdon said...

Apart from where we agree to disagree, we are mostly of one mind, as I suspected. Like Jüngel, I am trying to be polemical in order to push us toward a more careful, critical theology. I still stand firmly by my position that Christ present "in us" means something very different from us being outside ourselves with Christ. I think the best way for you to see whether you agree with Jüngel's position on this matter is simply to read Jüngel. But I will offer a few important aspects that will hopefully clarify the issue.

First, the extra nos character of Jüngel's theology is closely connected to, even dependent upon, his anthropology of the human person as a unity of the inner and outer person. Jüngel appropriates Luther's inner-outer distinction and makes it the center of his soteriology-anthropology. This is something Lutherans like Oswald Bayer and, I think, Mannermaa wish to discard entirely. Jüngel, on the other hand, allows this to condition how he understands the "extra nos": the inner person is taken extra se, while the outer person remains active in the world. The point is that by making this distinction he is able to advocate what would otherwise be an absurdity: that our whole bodies are somehow taken away like some alien abduction. No, he rather makes this distinction so that our inner person (spirit) is re-created ex nihilo by God -- brought into correspondence with God -- upon which act the outer person is brought into active or moral correspondence with the inner person, and thus with God. So there are three levels and a clear direction of activity: God acts creatively on the passive inner person (taking it outside itself) by bestowing personhood, then the inner person brings the outer person into moral correspondence with this personhood granted by God.

I was going to explain the extra nos more, but I think it would be far more effective to just quote Jüngel so you can decide for yourself. I can summarize the concept: our identity is not in ourselves but in God; we do not possess God but rather God possesses us; modern persons want to realize themselves through works and thus come to themselves, but the gospel tells us that we can only come to ourselves by forsaking ourselves and cleaving only to God. Okay, here is Jüngel.


[From E. Jüngel, Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, 205-206, 212-214.]

The intention of the forensic view of justification is to highlight the justification of sinners as an event by which they are accepted by God as righteous purely on the basis of God's righteousness - a righteousness completely extraneous to them - as it has been shown in the person of Jesus Christ Thus believers are described as those who 'are made acceptable to God because of [the] imputation [of God's righteousness].' This ensures that sinners can do nothing towards their own justification and, what is no less important, that they can never
internalize the righteousness that is foreign to them or make it their own so that it passes into their possession. I am always accepted by someone else. I always have to gain my acceptance before a group. So recognition can never be 'had' as a possession by the one who is accepted or recognized. Those who are justified must resort to a tribunal outside themselves (extra se). There is nothing about them or in them - not even justifying grace poured into them - which can make sinners righteous. In
the reality of the state of the justified there are no concessions
to be made. They are righteous purely and simply because they are pronounced righteous. And they are only pronounced righteous
because God's righteousness, which is extraneous to them, is attributed, imputed to them. So in the strictest sense, God's righteousness comes to them from outside, it is outward. Sinners are righteous externally to themselves: extrinsece Iustificantur semper. Sinners are righteous externally to themselves in the same sense that the Word is an external One, coming from the outside into our innermost being and responding and relating
to what has happened outside us (extra nos) in Christ. So it is the Word alone that can come from outside into our innermost being in such a way as to move us to the place where we should be, where we have the right to be together with God. The doctrine of justification by the Word alone (solo verbo) is aimed at emphasizing this external relationship of justified sinners. ...

... If any discussion of the gracious renewal of the inner person (renovatio interioris hominis) is to be acceptable to Protestant theology, it must never be seen as complementary, as an alternative or as completing the
extrinsetist view of justification. It can only be seen as a refinement of the definition of the external reference of justified sinners.

This occurs when we take the justifying Word of God seriously as one that speaks to us creatively. Such a Word can never remain 'external' to those addressed. Together with the righteousness of God that brings it to us, it touches us so greatly that it touches us more closely than we can touch ourselves. It becomes to us something more inward than our inmost being: interior intimo meo. [In a footnote here, Jüngel writes, "This is the element of truth in T. Mannermaa's interpretation of Luther."]

However, now we need to emphasize again that the justifying Word that so addresses and touches sinners does not let us remain in ourselves; it calls and places our inner being outside ourselves. If our inner being were to stay put, it would not be justified. This is what creatively defines those who are in concord with God: they come out of themselves in order to come to themselves - outside themselves, among other persons, and above all with the person of the wholly other God. And this is our human sin: that we want to come to ourselves by ourselves - instead of outside ourselves. So, leaving the relational riches of our being, we press forward into relationlessness. The Word of justifying grace essentially interrupts sinners in this urge towards relationlessness as it speaks creatively to us. It calls us out of ourselves as it comes so close to us, as it speaks and relates to what is outside ourselves, to what has been definitively moved by God's righteousness. It speaks and relates to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ as they are outside us. The justifying Word from the cross addresses our inner being in this
exterior aspect of our existence so that there we may come to ourselves and thus really, effectively be renewed. 'Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation' (2 Cor 5:17). In the next section we shall see how this comes about through faith. [These passages come from the section on solo verbo, "by the word alone."] For the moment we need to highlight the creative, renewing strength of the justifying Word by which alone God in his grace reaches our inner being and effectively makes us righteous.

So the justifying Word remakes our human existence anew, by relating us to Jesus Christ and there bringing us to ourselves, outside ourselves (extra se/extra nos). Thus this external reference is not something inferior and superficial, but a relationship which defines us in our inmost being. We are simply not ourselves when we are only by ourselves. We cannot find ourselves
by 'going into ourselves'. We must come out of ourselves in order to come to ourselves. In a very clear sense we are called out of ourselves by the Word of justification: 'By faith he rises above himself unto God'. By faith we are able to 'rise above ourselves' because the Word of justification addresses us in such a way that we know we are related to the person of Jesus Christ and of God who acts in him. This is why we can speak of justification as a renewal of our inner persons who are also placed outside ourselves. It is impossible to imagine a more thorough-going renewal. So righteousness imputed to sinners is also righteousness which is imparted to them and renews them - by the Word alone.

Andy said...

Thanks, D.W. I liked that passage from Jüngel a lot. It touched off a lot of connections in my mind.

When I read your description of his anthropology, it had me worrying about dualism. I'm not sure what to make of the distinction between and inner self and an outer self. I tend to think there is just one self. I'd need more context on that. But this is one of the potential problems in the Finnish proposal also -- namely the problem of selves having bodies. If I have a body and Christ has a body, what is the relationship of these bodies when Christ is present in me or I am in him? I think this is one of the things the Formula of Concord is wrestling with in Article III where it rejects Oseander's proposal on Christ present in the believer on the grounds that it has Christ present and saving only according to his divine nature.

The first part of the Jüngel passage you quoted was very good with regard to why justification must be regarded as extra nos. There is some synergy, I think, between what he's saying there and the so-called new perspective on Paul. Namely, when he talks about God's righteousness being shown in that he accepts us. I see Jüngel's point that this acceptance is necessarily extra nos

The part about the inner self being called outside of ourselves makes sense and provides some very good perspective on the significance of personal renewal. The transformation he describes sounds very much like a transition from an I-it view of the world to an I-you view, to use Martin Buber's terminology. But, if I am correct in this evaluation, I don't really see how it changes the location of the self in any way.

And that brings me to the point of question in this whole thread. Jüngel doesn't really seem to be offering a different answer than the Finns so much as he is putting forward an entirely different framework. And so in order to evaluate what his insights mean to Mannermaa et al, I'd have to try to think through how their proposal would look if translated into his framework. I'm sure he must do some of that in the book. Maybe I'll have to see if I can find a copy.

D.W. Congdon said...

I think you are on to something there about the change of framework. It's true, Jüngel does work from within a very different framework, but I have to think that this conditions his theology in a number of ways. To use just one obvious example, the Finnish Lutheran position is built around the supposed consonance between Luther's soteriology and the Orthodox doctrine of divinization. Once we recognize this context, the differences between Mannermaa and Jüngel proliferate quickly.

Mannermaa and Jüngel are only saying the same thing if all they are saying is that justification is ontologically effective, that it changes who we are ontologically. But all modern Lutherans have been saying this pretty much since Gerhard Ebeling arrived on the theological scene. Mannermaa takes the ontological element and tries to use this to ecumenically build a bridge with the Orthodox church. So he finds language of indwelling and Christ's presence in Luther's writings -- a rather easy thing to do -- and attempts what I think is almost undoubtedly against Luther's intentions: to show how the human person is completely united with Christ so the divine is given to the human. Mannermaa is actually hyper-Orthodox, because he takes Luther's doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum and uses this to assert that there is a transfer of the divine attributes to the human person who exists in faith. Not even the Orthodox are willing to go that far! Divinization is only concerned with the problem of mortality, i.e, with how our mortal bodies become immortal by divine grace. That's a lot different than saying we actually receive the attributes that are associated with Christ's divine nature.

Clearly, Jüngel goes just the other direction, by stating clearly and unequivocally: we must be human, and God must be God. Out of this clear distinction arises the even clearer relation between God and humanity. But this relation between two partners -- an I and a Thou, as you very astutely observed -- only occurs in that there is a real distinction between them. If Christ is truly united to the believer so that Christ is actually in the one who has faith, this distinction is lost, especially when Mannermaa states that we receive Christ's divine attributes. (The question any reasonable person should ask is, if Mannermaa's account is true, where is my omniscience? my omnipresence? my perfect love? etc.)

By the way, I posted these selections from Jüngel on my blog as well, and another interesting discussion is under way there. You are more than welcome to join that conversation. I value your input.

I never commented on some of your other responses to my earlier comment. When you say that theology is sometimes, even often, "peeking behind the curtain," what do you have in mind? Is it asserting things about God that we simply cannot know? Is it trying to organize theology too much? I think I might agree with you, but theology often needs to logically think through the faith in ways that carry it in directions never envisioned by the biblical writers.

When I wrote that we need to be faithful to the truth, I meant that truth = Jesus Christ. Specifically, theology must be faithful to God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. That was what I had in mind. I completely agree that we are never bound to any systematic treatment of theology. All theology is liable to great error, and may need to be scrapped altogether. Christianity must always remain self-critical and suspicious of any system that tries to rationalize the faith by jettisoning the mystery of God. This is another reason why I find Jüngel so fruitful and instructive for the church. As his magnum opus shows in its title, he is trying to show how theology flows from the mystery of the triune God, a mystery which gives itself to be known by humans though never possessed by finite creatures. God, according to Jüngel, is the mystery of the world.

Thus, I agree whole-heartedly that there is no "single correct theology," and never could be. When systems reach this kind of hubris, they leave the domain of the church in which all thought is in the service of the worshipping community. We think through our faith, and criticize those very same thoughts, because we are the communio sanctorum that worships the triune God who gives Godself to be thought.

Thomas Adams said...

Great discussion, Melancthon and D.W. (by the way, D.W., I was just about to post that same Jüngel passage on my blog, but you beat me to it!!). Anyways, I wanted to briefly turn the conversation back to the issue of church unity. Mel, I was surprised to hear that your ecumenical goals are quite modest, essentially amounting to open communion between the two churches. Is this why you have set the theological bar so low? Also, it seems to me that you believe true unity is possible without a merging of ecclesiastical hierarchies. Do I understand you correctly? I too would like to be able to receive communion at a Catholic Church (or at a LCMS church, for the matter), but I have never wished to see the two churches fuse together. That’s why I find your modest ecumenism quite appealing, since it would offer a “union in separation”. However, I’m confident that the Catholic Church will not stop calling itself the "one true Church" anytime soon. Sadly, it appears that even the “modest” unity that you envision would require a complete capitulation on the part of Protestants, as the Catholic Church will never acknowledge that another church is fully legitimate.

D.W. Congdon said...

While I too would like to see open table fellowship between Catholics and Lutherans (Protestants in general is probably going too far, though Anglicans should be easy enough), the problem is how high a view of the sacraments you have. If, like most Catholics, you see the Mass as the absolute center of the faith (because Christ is the center), then having table fellowship is much more than a recognition that we are fellow brethren in the Lord. Eucharistic fellowship is the pinnacle of the faith for a Catholic, so if you can accept this union of the churches, then issues like hierarchy and institutional order should naturally follow. In short, if table fellowship, then logically, one church institution. To accept the former without the latter would be, for a Catholic, like trying to accept Christ without partaking of the sacraments. Sure, the former may be greater, but the latter must follow since it is the less important of the two.

Andy said...


I don't doubt that Jüngel and Mannermaa are saying different, even opposing, things. All I'm saying is that even where they are contradictory, I wouldn't want to evaluate them against each other.

I know Mannermaa's work emerged from the Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue, but I'm not sure how much I'd be willing to say that he has let that dictate his results. I think he really believes he's found something in Luther.

The communicatio idiomatum thing is interesting to me. I've got some additional thoughts on this that I hope to put together into a new post today or tomorrow.

With regard to my comment about "peeking behind the curtain," I have kind of a broad spectrum of things in mind. One thing is what Luther calls seeking after Deus Absconditus. Not content to see God as he has revealed himself, we seek to know God as he is. This is a constant temptation to theology. I saw your recent reference to Rahner's axion on the identity of the economic and immanent Trinity. I see this largely as a corrective to speculative theology that tries to peek behind the curtain.

But beyond this, many attempts at systematic theology lead to categorizing and defining things better left uncategorized and undefined. The nature of Christ's presence in the Sacrament and the basis of predestination are a couple of prime historic examples. More recently (on an ecclesiastical timescale) I suspect the argument over a point of contact gets into this realm.

Andy said...


What I'm saying is that the unity of the Church is independent of ecclesiastical heirarchies. I do believe that God works in and through these hierarchies, but I don't believe they are the Church. The outcome of the Reformation is hard data against any claim to the contrary.

So I think we need to recognize that our structures, whether divinely inspired or wholly pragmatic, are getting in the way of the mission of the Church. And it is that which leads me to place low theological barriers.

We confess in the Nicene Creed that the Church is one. We don't need to do anything to make it so. We only need to act accordingly. We also confess that the Church is catholic, but our actions tend to indicate that we don't really believe that either.