Justification as a Triune Event
423surely contribute to convergence. These studies have then appeared togetherwith reports of the dialogues' results, seemingly as support for them, thoughin fact they have little if any such function.The "transformatory" doctrine of "justification," represented by the Catholic side in dialogue, takes up a second question, also with ancient standingin the tradition. This other question about "justification" has been cultivatedby Western
What is the plot of the events that end inbelievers' eschatological righteousness? Specific positions on this question,and vehement critique of some of them, ran through the Reformation-eracontroversies: so Melanchthon's critique of the distinction between merits
Nevertheless, once Reformation theologianscame to propose their own answers to the Augustinian question, and Catholic theologians came to follow the directives of Trent, proposals producedon the two sides have showed much the same character and have fallenwithin much the same limits of acceptability.
Finally, there has been the specific doctrine which the
uniquelyput forward under the label "justification," that has appeared in the dialogues as the "proclamatory" doctrine. This doctrine is interchangeable withthe distinction of "law and gospel" and is most clearly documented byArticle IV of the
Apology of the Augsburg Confession.
It is not directly aboutGod and his establishment of righteousness, nor yet is it about the effect of grace on believers. The doctrine is about the word of grace
as it is to bespoken in the church: that it must be spoken in its proper unconditionalcharacter, and that when it is there is nothing to do with it but believe it—ornot. When the church's message invites lesser responses than faith, that is,"works," this by itself shows that the message has been perverted—which iswhat made this doctrine an explosively critical doctrine.The question must be asked: Is the appearance of these three doctrinesunder one label a mere equivocation, or does their mutual attraction to thelanguage of "justification" signal some deeper unity? A case could wellbe made for the first construal, that is, that the three historical doctrinesof "justification" are related to one another only in the same way that anyseveral doctrines of the gospel are related.The
scientia dei et beatorum
that according to Thomas
is the archetype of our theology is doubtless a single web of unambiguous implications, so thatit would be impossible for the saints—if one can imagine them conductingcolloquia—to agree in one point and disagree in any other. But our ectypical
necessarily lacks this sort of unity. None of our theologicalsystems is logically proof against dismembering. It is possible for us toagree, for example, in the matter of Christ's two natures and disagree aboutthe
and to do this without self-contradiction by any party, eventhough we see that the questions cannot finally be independent.Just so and not otherwise, it might be held, are the three doctrines of "justification" related. There is, however, the other possibility; and I will shortly
© Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1995