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Title: CHIEF ARTICLES OF FAITH - Article IV - Justification

Discussion in 'Formal Debate Threads' started by MarkRohfrietsch, Jun 27, 2014.

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  1. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Topic: Catholic Lutheran Dialogue - The Augsburg Confession and the Confutatio Pontificia - Where we were then, and where we are now. (First in a series of Article by Article discussions relating to these historic documents).

    1. MarkRohfrietsch will represent the Lutheran Position; Athanasias will represent the Catholic position.
    2. Following the historic pattern, the opening posts of each discussion in this series will consist of the particular Articles themselves (The Augsburg Confession) , and the corresponding response as presented from the Confutatio (1530 Roman Confutation). Mark will then open the discussion with Athanasias responding.
    3. Sincethis is a one-on-one discussion rather than a debate the number of rounds will be three each, however, by consent of both participants, if the discussion has run it's course, the discussion may be closed early; if it has not run it's course, the participants may agree to extend it. (Some articles such as the first historically resulted in little dispute, so the discussion may be quite short; others not so much;))
    4. The posts will be alternating.
    5. Since both of us lead busy lives, we will not be setting a time between posts.
    6. The maximum length for each post will be limited to the word count capacity of a single post.
    7. All quotes and outside references are allowed. Please note that all quotes will fall under the 20% copyright rule. Also note that all quotes from the Lutheran Confessions and the Confutation will be taken from the unaltered Book of Concord; 1580 edition found here: Welcome to the Book of Concord.
    8. Start date-Very soon.;)
    9. In this discussion, the three Peanut Galleries; set up in General Theology , One Bread, One Body - Catholic, and Theologia Crucis - Lutherans will be updated and links to this debate will be added. Please note that the Christian Only rules apply in General Theology, and the Congregational rules apply in both the OBOB and TCL threads.
    Peanut Gallery threads:

    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
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  2. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter



  3. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Mercyful God, we beseech Thee to cast the bright beams of Thy light upon Thy Church that, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed Apostles, it may so walk in the light of Thy truth that it may at length attain to the light of everlasting lifr; through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

    (Collect 11, page 103 TLH)

    Well, Athanasias, here we are again, setting off in another of our adventures to discover more about our theologies. So far, this has been very interesting. Our positions on these first three articles have proven to be, from my personal POV and opinion to be not really all that divisive. The road ahead of us though may be getting a bit more bumpy and a bit steeper too. While our adventures may become a bit more challenging, I find myself delighting in the anticipation, for I am in good company here.:):thumbsup:

    So, here we go...

    I'm going to begin with a deconstruction of the
    Confutatio and share a few brief thoughts and comments and will break it down into four sections.

    SECTION 1:

    In the portion quoted above our Churches again are in agreement, except that there is an implication made in the part I highlighted in green above, that man could merit eternal life by his own powers with the grace of God.

    As we read on, we note that what is implied above is clearly stated below:

    SECTION 2:
    This final section, quoted below, I find very interesting for a few reasons.

    SECTION 3:

    In this section of the Disputatio Matt. 20:8 is offered up as a proof text, yet as one reads beyond verse 8, this parable seems to be telling us something different...

    In this parable, logic would tell us that the guys who worked in the vineyard for the full 12 hours would get paid for 12 (that's how it works where I work;):p); if you punch in for only one hour, that's all you get paid for:preach:. Yet, here we see that those who one supposes would earn the most 'merits', yet the "part-timer" get's paid exactly the same with only 1/12 the amount of 'merits'. So it was also (as I pointed out in the discussion regarding Article III) with the good thief hanging on the cross next to our Lord Jesus Christ. His life was devoid of merit yet through faith, and by the Grace of God, he was taken to paradise that very day.

    That being said, section three seems to fully support the Lutheran position in Article three, that there is no such thing as merits, or at least that merits don't really count.

    SECTION 4:
    Athanasias, I will leave this here for now. I admit that I'm a bit taken aback by what seems to be conflicting statements regarding merits.

    I look forward to your explanation and insight regarding these apparent contradictions.

    Blessings and peace,

  4. Athanasias

    Athanasias Regular Member

    United States
    Amen! Thank you for that opening prayer Mark! ☺ So I am excited because finally we are getting into hot button doctrinal topics that have bothered both of our respectful Churches for almost 500 years. So talking it out prayerfully and thoughtfully will be key for both of us. Fortunately our 2 Churches have done some dialog on this in the past 40 years and some things have been cleared up. So before I begin by answering your good questions let me first start you off with a positive quote by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who is known in the Catholic Church as one of the top biblical theologians out there in the field today.

    He said this in a general audience in 2008:

    “Luther’s expression ‘sola fide’ is true, if faith is not against charity, against love. To believe is to see Christ, to trust in Christ, to become attached to Christ, to conform to Christ, to his life.”

    While this is not all encompassing it shows a few things to begin with when we are dealing with this all-important topic of justification. It shows us that the Vatican and Pope recognize that while the Church condemns some forms or expressions of the phrase “faith alone” is does not nor ever did condemn all forms of “faith alone” and there are nuanced senses in which a Catholic can say “Sola Fide” depending on what is meant by that. The Pope here is stressing the Gal 5:6 understanding of faith. It also shows us that after just 45 years of dialog with Lutherans we have come to recognize that the Lutheran position is not one of antinomianism. This is huge because that is what those at Trent thought and that is what is condemned at Trent and by the Catholic Church. Basically because we each used the term faith differently we had trouble understanding each other. Catholics used the term as it was applied in James 2 ie the “intellectual assent alone” and protestants used the term as St. Paul applied it in Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians ie Faith that included love, and trust. Each side accused the other of a heresy.

    Lutherans accused Catholics of being pelagian at worst or semi-pelagian at best and Catholics accused Lutheran of the heresy of antinomianism. One thing we both have in common is that we both believe a “saving faith” is the kind of faith St. Paul talks about in Gal 5:6 which says : “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but “faith working through love.”. This is the sense that Catholics can use the term sola fide in. So this is huge. Later when we get into further dialog I can explain at length why the Catholic position is not pelagain or semi-pelagian as some protestants may mistakenly think(actually the Catholic Church condemned both theories as heretical in the second Council of Orange in 529 A.D. in can. 5, 10, and 18 and at Trent. On its Decree on Justification, chs. 5, 6, 8, and 13). Like any good theology that expresses Christ truth there is plenty of nuance to our positions. I will keep it at that for now and let the talks develop where they may and maybe we can get into other issues as there are so many that involve this topic.

    So now I will focus on your questions and what is raised in the document themselves. Let me begin by saying the first phrase you highlighted and worried about go back and read it again slowly. What it is saying is basically that we agree with the Lutherans in the historic condemnation of the pelagain position. We should because it was our Church that condemned it historically. :) So that one was easy.

    What I think throws a lot of Lutherans and protestants off is the term “merit” and its meaning to Catholics. The confutio uses two different senses of the term. Now Catholics like those of the confutio just assumed that you all knew what we meant. But in reality I do not think you do. So to clear up the confusion I will explain what merit means to the Catholic and this meaning will vary depending on its context. This is a bit nuanced so hang on and try to follow me.

    There are different types of merit in Catholic theology. The first type of merit is called “Strict Merit” this type of merit does earn something. But only Christ can do it. It is this type of merit that we speak about in regards to Christ and his work on the cross. Human beings cannot ever earn or "strictly merit" anything especially not justification. The Catechism of the Catholics Church explains this:

    “"With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator" (CCC 2007).

    So pelagains had the idea that one could literally earn justification or merit it strictly and do this without Gods grace. The Catholic Church condemns that position and teaches that 1). We can never “strictly merit” anything as God is infinite and we are finite 2). Everything we do merit in a non-strict sense is done by God’s grace alone through Jesus Christ. So we hold to sola gratia and always have.

    The second sense of the term “merit” that is used in the confutio is the sense most commonly used and misunderstood by protestants when it refers to mankind and his role in final salvation. This kind of merit is called “condign merit”. This type of merit is not strict and does not earn anything. This type of merit is synonymous with the concept of reward. So when Catholics talk about man meriting “eternal life” what they are talking about is not strict legal earning. What they are talking about essentially is the doctrine of rewards. These rewards are based on God’s grace alone which precedes any acts ( in which He gives mankind the ability to do a supernatural act of love ie..Charity). And this type of merit is also based especially on His mercy and promise in divine revelation to reward those acts and not because he “strictly” owes us anything. This point needs to be stressed. This is true because according to Catholic theology even when God gives us his grace to do a supernatural loving act, the reward received by His promise ie heaven is not ever equal in intrinsic value to the act done itself. This is because God is infinite and we are finite, and according to St. Anselm the value of the act is proportional to the one making the act.

    Only Christ who has both natures can be that mediator to bridge that gap as Paul rightly shows(1 Tim 2:5). So this also shows how this kind of meriting(condign merit) is not earning in any way, shape, or form. There is no way for a man to ever earn salvation. His nature will not allow it. So the “reward” or condign merit man receives is based upon Gods grace, mans free act of the will to be obedient, and most importantly Gods promise to reward that act out of his mercy and love. On thing that is extremely importantly also is the fact that according to Catholic theology God elevates the beatitude in that act gratuitously by His mercy and love . So its all His mercy and grace and his promise based on his mercy and grace and the work of Jesus Christ. Our part only deals with our free will to follow him or not once he has given us His grace initially as a free gift. LOL so far can I hopes this makes sense to you even if you disagree.

    We believe that God initiates the justification process and it’s a free gift of His and there is nothing we can do to precede or earn or merit it. In fact the council of Trent quotes Eph 2 on this. This is also why Catholic baptize babies. What could a baby possibly do to earn salvation? Nothing its given to him as a free gift of God. If that baby dies he is going to heaven. Likewise if the good thief died after freely receiving God’s gift of grace and promise he enters heaven. No merits needed at that point. God calls man first and by his grace. But for many/most of those babies who were initially justified grow up and are called to lead a life of holiness and charity in Christ as his follower.

    One thing is for sure we can please God by leading a faithful life of charity in Christ and we see that in scripture(1 Thess 4:1, Col 1:10).Now sometimes God promises to reward those acts of obedience and love done in and through a living faith( a Gal 5:6 type of faith) and this is because those acts are part of this living faith and that faith is promised a reward(or merit in the condign sense) by God in scripture. The Confutio was right to suggest Matt 20:8 as a example of condign merit. God does call those and reward those with the wage based on his promise and mercy. Its true some of them were angry because they felt that they had worked longer But look what God shows them about merit there. He shows them their merits are based on his promise and gratuitous elevation of each act and not strictly how long they have worked. Remember meriting in this sense is not strict earning and according to Catholic theology God supernaturally elevates the beatitude of each act by his mercy to reward those whom He will. This is why those who worked only one hour are rewarded with the same wage. But it still shows merit in the condign sense. Matthews Gospel is full of example of condign merit and we see this in passages like (Matt 6:1-4) where Christ instructed His people to avoid vain practices and to pray in secret so they would receive a “reward” from the Father. Merit is shown in other passages too like (Matt 5:12, Matt 10:41, Matt 16:27, and Luke 6:35). This is the concept of condign merit. The real question then one must ask is Eternal life a “reward” according to divine revelation.

    In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of the final judgment of heaven and hell. For those who clothed the naked, visited the sick, and fed the hungry were “rewarded” with eternal life. For those who did not suffered eternal punishment. This is very clearly an example to us of condign merit.

    Johns Gospel shows it this way:

    ““Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment”(Jn 5:28-30).

    In the Book of Revelation Jesus is also consistent with Himself on this understanding as he will “reward” those with eternal life according to their works(Rev 2:23, Rev 22;12).

    St Paul also seems to talk about condign merit in (Romans 2:5-9) which says:

    “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury" ( Rom 2:5-8).

    St. Paul repeats this concept of condign merit in (Gal 6:6-10, Col 3:23-24, 2 Cor 5:10) and other places.

    The key to understanding the Catholic view of justification is simple. Scripture shows us that apart from Christ we can do nothing(Jn 15:5) but with the grace of Christ we can do all things(Phil 4:13), which includes meriting eternal life(Rom 2:5-9, Gal 6:6-10) in the condign sense of the term. For it is the grace of Christ within us that enables us to work for God’s pleasure(Phil 2:12-13) and He has promised to "reward" our good works with eternal life if we are faithfully obedient to Him(Matt 25:31-46)

    So I hope that helps clear some stuff up. I look forward to your good response my brother in Christ.
  5. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Greetings Athanasias:wave:. Please forgive me for taking so long to respond; it has been a very busy time at work with an over abundance of hours, but I'm still having fun.:)

    With regards to "Section 1", you are indeed correct. For what ever reason I did misread and misunderstand what was written.:blush::doh:

    I thank you also for your very complete discussion regarding "merits". Strict and Condign merit are terms which I was unfamiliar with. The explanation that you offered above, including the reference given from the CCC 2007.

    As I re-read that section of the CCC (it has been some time) I read in the summary (IN BRIEF; 2017-2029) that there is still a conflict presented in 2027:
    This seems to be a clear statement that once we do have faith and the "initial grace" that we are given through that faith, ("we can merit for ourselves") benefits both temporal and eternal, not only for ourselves, but for others. The idea that we can merit "necessary temporal goods" sounds a lot like the gospel of prosperity as taught by the likes of Robert Schuller.
    When one studies the lives of the saints and their great and bold witness to the faith, we see that many who should have merited these "
    necessary temporal goods" had few if any and that their "initial grace" earned them not temporal rewards but the white robe of a martyr. 2027 also seems to be in direct conflict with the Words of our Lord found in the Gospel of St. Matthew 6:19-21:
    While I do not believe that we can earn merit for others, I do believe that
    "initial grace" given through faith can be passed on to others and that God's grace can be shared when we extend grace to family, friends, acquaintances and colleges. Likewise, when the faithful shares temporal gifts with others, they are extending God's grace to others.

    Athanasias, dear friend, I look forward to you response.

    As always, blessings and peace to you!:crossrc::prayer::crossrc:
  6. Athanasias

    Athanasias Regular Member

    United States

    My Dear friend thank you for this good rebuttal and excellent objection. I am having fun and I hope you are too with this. I bet we can talk for days on this stuff if we lived closer. I can see it now We would go to the local pub get a pint of ale and a burger and have long, fun, fruitful, theological and prayerful conversations. Our wives would have to drag us away :)

    Let me see if I can possibly help clear away some obstacles in this quote from CCC 2027. It can sound kinda harsh to a protestant who may not be familiar with what we mean. Do you remember doing word problems in Algebra class in high school? I do and I hated them. You had to translate the words into a equation so you can solve it. I was horrible at it. Since one of the biggest obstacles to Catholics and Protestant dialog is terminology itself I feel it is probably helpful to for both of us to get to be able to translate what each other means when we use certain phrases. Like Algebra this can help us get to a solution to solving the equation of what our official statement mean. So what I am gonna do is translate in parenthesis what Catholics and Catholic theologians understand some paragraphs to mean which may help.

    CCC 2027 can sound really pelagain and Health and Wealth Gospel if one did not understand the context or meaning of it. It’s a recap paragraph that shortens the CCC’s earlier teaching on this. What it is abbreviating is Paragraph 2010. If we look at CCC 2010 in context I think this will help us solve the good dilemma you brought up. So lets Quote CCC 2010

    “2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.”

    Now let me repeat that paragraph and translate it.

    “2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion(Eph 2). Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity (by God indwelling in us and by his supernatural grace we got at baptism), we can then merit for ourselves(condign merit) and for others(because we are part of the same Body of Christ and can effect others in the Church through our suffering and prayers Col 1:24) the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. ( We can then by Gods grace work or be obedient for Gods pleasure and do things like pray for ourselves and the sanctification of others and by His grace and His promise and His will and He will “reward” ie..”condign merit” us and others with these things as He sees fit) Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited (can be received as a “reward” based upon someone else’s prayer) in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

    So the Temporal goods spoken of by the Church are not the health and wealth gospel kinda of stuff. I do not know anyone who is in direct contradiction to the message of the health and wealth Gospel more the Catholic Church as many of our clergy and religious vow poverty, chastity and obedience as a sign to the world that temporal goods especially sex, money, and power can never attain true happiness. What they mean are things like health. What they are saying is Christian can pray for good health for others and ourselves and by God’s grace and promise if He sees it in accordance with His plan of wisdom he can and does at times grant those things to others as a “reward”(merit in the condign sense) because we prayed for them. Again its all his will and promise and grace. The same thing can be said about friendship or peace between countries who are at war. We can and should pray that God grants peace to our world and sometimes He will grant that to others as a reward based upon our prayers out of his promise and Wisdom. Likewise the same can be said about Sanctification as St. Paul exhorts this kind of stuff all over the Church and prays constantly for its sanctification so they may achieve Eternal life.

    Here is one of my favorite passages from Thessalonians on this.

    “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(1 Thess 5:23)

    This is how St. Paul prayed in reference to and for the final salvation and full sanctification of others. We believe we can do this as well . Ultimatley its up to God but God can “reward”(condign merit) others with those gifts by our prayers like St. Paul’s. The prayer of the righteous avails much as St. James says.

    So one of the keys to determine here when you read a Catholic statement is what kind of merit are they talking about? If it is human merit and eternal life or temporal good is mentioned then it is always condign merit and you can translate that as receiving a “reward” based on Gods grace, His gratuitous elevation of beatitude in our prayerful actions, and most importantly God’s Promise in scripture through and by the union of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and his Cross.

    I hope that helps. If there is anything i have not explained or have not answered sufficiently or if you would like to talk deeper or further on this let me know. God bless you brother!
  7. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Such would indeed be the case; we likely would have to leave our wives to their own resources, to do their own thing.

    This has indeed helped and I find little if any conflict with what you explained and our Lutheran understanding. That being said, I have an off topic question, and I feel it's a valid one.

    I understand the both our confessions are steeped and entrenched in our traditions. We both carry a lot of historical baggage when it comes to wording and the use and definition of these words.

    You and I have both been around the block in our reading and study, which is why we search and question things. We need to know.

    The CCC is not an ancient document, but draws from Scripture and Tradition which includes many ancient documents and writings.

    I think, that it may be time to revise some of the language and wording in the CCC. The complexity of your well put together explanation is clearer than what the CCC offers.

    If protestants and Lutherans (even those of us who have read a bit of stuff) stumble over these things; those less well informed certainly are going to misconstrue a lot more than just this.

    On the topic itself, it seems that we again find that we share similar views regarding Justification.

    Blessings and peace to you this Lord's day!:crossrc::liturgy::crossrc:
  8. Athanasias

    Athanasias Regular Member

    United States

    You have a fantastic and excellent point. There have been unofficial books (some better then others depending on the author) that have tried to take the CCC and explain it better. For the most part its pretty easy to read but it does have important nuance. For teens we have the YOUCAT in Q and A form with easier language. We also have the Compendium of the CCC which is a abbreviation of it for adults and various other books.

    The problem of course is the Church has to be precise and nuanced in her language so as to avoid heresy and yet be understandable to all denominations. This is a huge daunting task. I have heard Catholic apologist and theologians explain what I was explaining in our dialog on ecumenical radio programs and shows and that is very helpful. What I see happening first before a revision of the CCC comes out in a language that is more receptive to protestants is a growth in our official dialogs.

    For many Lutherans this has happened on justification with our dialogs with them. They may not agree with us 100% but they realize we are much closer to believing similar truths on justification then they thought we were. Some of this is due the fact that we use different terminology. For other Christians we have not gotten that far. The official documents that come out of Rome about our dialogs and explaining this stuff can be helpful. I think more needs to develop their first before I see the Vatican making a another revision of the CCC.

    In My opinion over the next 50-200 years the Catholic/Lutheran dialog is only going to get better and we are going to really be listening to each other and understanding each other and leaning on each others prayers for support in the world. I see this in practicality at my store with LCMS Sem Students and ministers and Catholics ones who come in all the time. There is already that desire to love and listen and be fully united again from many of them. I can truly see a time(maybe not in my life time) that at least many Lutheran congregations who are orthodox and Catholics will be reconciled to full unity again and share table fellowship at the Eucharist.

    I have always thought that the protestant view of Justification by faith alone and our Catholic understanding of merit when properly understood would not be the big thing that will keep us separate. My professors who teach at the Catholic Seminary have good relations with the Local Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis and have positive ecumenical talks with them a few times a year.
    My one professor told me that a few years ago the topic of "what would both churches need to have full communion with one another again" came up.

    This is very good because it shows their hearts desire that full communion to be one again as Christ talked about in JN 17 yet they did not water down doctrine or pull punches either.

    They listed and discussed 3 things. 1). Unity in government
    2). Sacramental Unity
    3). I forgot this one unfortunately

    Thanks for the good dialog Mark. Keep em coming! God bless you brother!
  9. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Athanasias, thanks again for your great answer.

    I realize that we have worked our way through this article, as as I expected, there is little that we really disagree on in regards to this Article, other than terminology.

    I recall hearing or reading about the three things necessary for unity also; and my memory is about the same as yours.:D:D:D

    However, from a fellowship, rather than a reunion stand point, unity of governance and polity may not be a requirement. For example, in the international Lutheran Council, our Synod is in fellowship with other Synods; some of which are governed in a similar way to us and some are Episcopal and have Apostolic Succession. This would be similar to the way that the Catholic Church has extended Altar fellowship to the EO Churches. Likewise the EO Churches are Autonomous, but are in fellowship with each other.

    With regards to terminology; what may come out of the on going and "official" dialogues, may be, more unity in terminology. Both of our Churches are culturally and linguistically diverse, and understanding would also require multiple translations; and along with translations comes differences in subtitles in terminology and understanding.

    The first Book of Concord I read was the Triglotta (translated by Dau and Bente). The confessions were written in Latin, and translated into German; and published in both languages. This book had three columns, one Latin, one German, the third an English translation of both, with lots of notes on the subtitles and differences. (still available as a print on demand book: Concordia Triglotta) Such differences seem to be unavoidable:confused:.

    From these dialogues between our Churches, it may well be that the first "unity" that should be sought may be in language and terminology.

    Anyway, these are my thoughts. I will leave this open if there is anything that you wish to add.

    If you are ready for more; I will prepare Article V; The Ministry. Something we have already covered in another debate/discussion; but I'm all for a brief revisit (in context of the AC and the Refutation, in interest of continuity in this series). How about you?:);)

    Blessings and peace to you, and again many thanks for engaging in these discussions with me; I am learning and growing. Some day we should do this face to face with beers my friend!:thumbsup:
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
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