Justification and Salvation, Preliminary Remarks and Definitions

  1. Although there had been some serious theological challenges to the 'Thomist settlement' in the 15th Century - e.g. Nominalism, the Lollards - and although Biblical scholarship was beginning to present serious challenges to orthodoxy at the beginning of the 16th Century, and although there was widespread public criticism of corruption in the Church - e.g. The Ship of Fools - the immediate cause of the Lutheran Reformation was an unforeseen combination of a public and an intensely personal perception.
  2. The public perception was the scandal of an indulgence preached by the Friar Tetzel in Northern Germany in 1517 to raise money for the construction of the new Saint Peter's, who promised eternal life in exchange for money. The private perception was Luther's gnawing awareness of his own intrinsic sinfulness from which he was rescued by a study of Romans which led him to believe that Paul's formulation of justification rendered good works, epitomised in the scandalous indulgence, of non effect and that we were all thrown upon the mercy of God.
  3. As Luther saw the orthodox position as an accretion of tradition set against his understanding of the pure Word of God, Protestants soon began to develop a doctrine summed up in the shorthand phrase Sola Scriptura, i.e. Scripture is the only authority for Christian belief.
  4. Luther's proposed reforms soon took on a political dimension and attitudes hardened on both sides so that polemics tended to exaggerate differences.
  5. The ARCIC process is seeking to restore Christian unity within the context of Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism and, while the Church of England declares itself to be Reformed rather than Protestant, the ARCIC report on salvation provides a useful summary of the 16th Century positions and a synthesis of contemporary consensus, bearing in mind that justification and grace are theological tools for trying to understand the mystery of salvation.


The following are useful definitions, partly take from dictionary.com:


Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) II: Salvation and The Church: An Agreed Statement, 1986


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