A Pentecostal Voice on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: A Pentecostal Assessment

by Isaac Elsadanam (Author)
©2020 Thesis 272 Pages


The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which is considered to be
‘a milestone on the journey of ecumenism’ has a very significant place in the theological-ecumenical realm since it hoped to overcome the disunity between
the protestant Churches and the Catholic Church at large. This work analyzes
and redefines the JDDJ from a Pentecostal perspective, and proposes a new
Pentecostal view of ecumenism for this century. The major questions that are
considered here are: what is the ecumenical and ecclesiastical significance of this
Joint Declaration in the 21st century, what are the neglected theological elements
in the Joint Declaration, what are the controversial issues connected to the JDDJ
and what challenge can it give to the present world of Christianity?.
The JDDJ has become a basis for theological agreement and further discussions.
This study also brings out ecumenical and theological understandings of the
Pentecostal Church and substantiates the Pentecostal assessment of the
JDDJ. The first chapter has two parts: the first part explains the research topic,
methodology and the importance of the research; and the second part gives an
outline of the Pentecostal movement and its theology mainly with regard to the
doctrine of justification. The second chapter deals primarily with the significant
stages and influences that helped for the formation of JDDJ. The last part of
this chapter explains the responses of other churches to the JDDJ. The third
chapter presents a Pentecostal response to the JDDJ, which starts with a positive
evaluation and will be followed by a negative response to the same. The fourth
chapter expounds the development of a paradigm model for the ecumenical
thinking of the 21st century from a Pentecostal point of view.
The Proposed slogan for this century can be “back to Pentecost” and be united
in the love and power of the Holy Spirit. Because it is said that Pentecostal
experience of the 1st-century Christianity has had a true Ecumenism, which was
somehow lost in the long run. Nevertheless, methodological shifts in the approach
to ecumenism can still make a change. When such a step is taken, the good
news of unity of Christians will become a reality. Only then one can say that the
condemnation of the 16th century regarding the doctrine of justification is invalid.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • The Letter of Appreciation
  • Letter of Recognition
  • Preface
  • Abbreviation
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • General Introduction
  • Assessing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: Topic Explored
  • a) Research Topic
  • i) Topic Explained
  • b) Important Considerations
  • c) Tools and Methods
  • i) Questionnaire Model I
  • ii) Questionnaire Model II
  • d) Importance of the Study
  • e) Restrictions of This Study
  • f) Outline
  • Chapter I The Importance of Justification in Pentecostal Theology
  • 1.1 Pentecostalism as a Spiritual Movement
  • 1.1.1 Neo-Pentecostals
  • 1.1.2 Charismatic/Catholic Pentecostals
  • 1.1.3 Classical Pentecostals
  • 1.2 Justification in Classical Pentecostal Theology: An Outlook
  • 1.2.1 Salvation and Justification
  • 1.2.2 Sanctification as Living in Faith
  • 1.2.3 Baptism of the Spirit and Justification
  • 1.2.4 The Trinity and Justification
  • 1.2.5 Ecclesiology and Justification
  • 1.2.6 Eschatology and Justification
  • 1.3 The Foremost Sources of Pentecostal Theology
  • 1.3.1 The Word of God (the Bible)
  • Narrative Theology
  • Literal Interpretation
  • 1.3.2 Tradition
  • 1.3.3 Experience as a Source of Theology
  • Chapter II The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: Significant Phases and Responses
  • 2.1 From Division to Unity: Pre- Vatican Council II Undertakings
  • 2.1.1 The Colloquy of Regensburg as an Ecumenical Healer
  • 2.1.2 The Peace of Augsburg
  • 2.1.3 The Council of Trent: An Ecumenical Guide
  • 2.2 The Immediate Formation of the JDDJ
  • 2.2.1 Vatican Council II
  • Unitatis Redintegratio(UR)
  • 2.2.2 Various Other Dialogues/Documents
  • All Under One Christ (AUOC- 1980)
  • The Malta Report
  • Justification by Faith (1983)
  • 2.2.3 Other Dialogues
  • 2.2.4 The Impact of the Observers in the Official Meetings
  • 2.2.5 Ecumenical Gatherings
  • 2.3 New Ecumenical Methods
  • 2.3.1 New Method of ‘Learning and Knowing’
  • 2.3.2 The Concept of Reception
  • The Revised Reception Strategy
  • 2.3.3 Mutual Visits
  • 2.3.4 Regular Follow-ups
  • 2.3.5 Joint Services
  • 2.3.6 Ecumenical Accomplishments of Pope John Paul II
  • 2.3.7 A Wider Ecumenical Convergence on Justification
  • 2.3.8 The Influence of the Ecumenical Movement
  • The Catholic Participation in the Ecumenical Movement
  • Ut Unum Sint
  • 2.4 The Foundation for the JDDJ
  • 2.4.1 Important Steps by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • 2.4.2 The Construction of Draft
  • 2.4.3 Official Responses to the JDDJ
  • 2.5 Significant Responses of the Official Common Statement (OCS)
  • 2.5.1 The LWF Response
  • The Lutheran Professors’ Views in Germany
  • 2.5.2 Response of the Catholic Church
  • 2.5.3 The Necessity for Additional Clarification: Steps Taken From Oct-Nov 1998
  • 2.6 The Signing of the JDDJ
  • 2.7 Characteristics of the JDDJ
  • 2.8 Various Responses to the JDDJ and Their Significance
  • 2.8.1 The Lutheran Response
  • 2.8.2 Catholic Response
  • 2.8.3 The Reformed Perspective
  • 2.8.4 The Anglican Perspective
  • 2.8.5 The Jesuit Response
  • 2.8.6 The Orthodox Perspective
  • 2.8.7 The Response of the World Methodist Council
  • 2.9 Subsequent Responses after the JDDJ
  • 2.9.1 The Authority of the LWF Questioned
  • 2.9.2 A Positive Action by the Methodists
  • 2.10 A General Appraisal of the Various Responses
  • 2.10.1 Catholic Negligence
  • 2.10.2 Dissonance among the Lutherans
  • 2.10.3 Divergent Teachings
  • 2.10.4 Differentiated Consensus; A Model to be Followed?
  • Advantages of Differentiated Consensus
  • Disadvantages of a Differentiated Consensus
  • Evaluation and Conclusion
  • Chapter III A Pentecostal Assessment of the Joint Declaration
  • 3.1 Agreeing Elements
  • 3.1.1 Theological Elements
  • Justification as a Gift from God
  • a) The Debts Are Paid
  • b) Inability to Gain
  • Justification as the Union
  • Justification by Grace Alone
  • a) Grace as Unconditional Love
  • b) Grace Which Gives Hope
  • Justification by Faith Alone
  • a) Faith as the Element of Union
  • Justification as Triune Work of God
  • 3.1.2 Ecclesial Elements
  • An Occasion for a Reaffirmation of the Christian Faith
  • A Unifying Constituent
  • An Opportunity for Further Discussion
  • 3.2 Disagreeing Elements
  • 3.2.1 Neglected Theological Elements
  • Importance of Personal Requirement in Justification
  • a) Hearing the Word
  • b) Personal Instigation to Be a New Creation
  • c) Human Freedom in Cooperation
  • Christ’s Act of Establishing Righteousness
  • The Importance of the Holy Spirit
  • a) Condemning Sin
  • b) The Spirit Baptism
  • c) A True Guide for Mystical Unity
  • The Obligation of Sacraments in Justification
  • a) Baptism
  • The Church in Justification
  • Eschatological Concept
  • a) The Kingdom of God and Final Judgement Concept
  • Sanctification as the Process of Justification.
  • ‘Simultaneously Justified and Sinner’ Concept
  • Predestination
  • Tradition; the Bearer of the Spirit
  • Justification Transforms
  • Justification as Restoration
  • 3.2.2 Ecumenical Interrogations
  • Ecumenical Challenge
  • An Agreement Which Is Not Seen in Action
  • Proper Language?
  • The Doctrinal Authority of the Lutheran Church
  • JDDJ: A Pseudo-consensus?
  • Incomplete Theology of Justification?
  • a) Accusatorial Discourses
  • The Joint Declaration as the Theology for the ‘Above’
  • 3.3 The Joint Declaration and Its Later Effects
  • 3.3.1 From Conflict to Communion
  • 3.3.2 Declaration on the Way to Unity
  • 3.3.3 The Unified Commemoration
  • 3.3.4 The JDDJ and Unresolved Disputes
  • Various Responses
  • Issues That Require Action
  • a) Eucharist-Church-Ministry
  • Evaluation and Conclusion
  • Chapter IV A Paradigm Amendment in Theology and Ecumenism: A Need of the Hour
  • 4.1 Innovative Theological Inception
  • 4.1.1 Personal Choice of Grace Which Is Imparted
  • 4.1.2 The Emphasis on the Holy Spirit as a Meeting Point
  • Genuine Renewal
  • A Guide for Spiritual Growth
  • Empowering People to Be a Witness
  • Manifold Role of the Holy Spirit
  • 4.1.3 Salvation and Justification
  • The Place of the Church in Justification
  • 4.1.4 Anthropological Significance
  • The Identity Cognizance
  • The Concept of New Birth
  • a) Justification and Sanctification
  • 4.2 Back to Pentecost: A New Slogan for the 21st Century
  • 4.2.1 Pentecostalism - a New Model of Ecumenism
  • Pentecostalism as a True Ecumenism
  • a) The Concept of Theo-praxis
  • Pentecostal Mission Strategy
  • Pentecostals as Anonymous Ecumenists
  • Pentecostal Theology as Intercultural
  • Ecumenism as the Pentecostal Miracle
  • 4.2.2 Ecumenism on a New Surface
  • Ecumenism of Underneath
  • Plea for Intercommunion
  • Resolving Disparities
  • a) Pentecostal Inclusive Model
  • Dialogical Proposition
  • a) Intra-church Dialogue
  • b) Inter-church Dialogue
  • Spiritual Unity
  • An Identical Consensus
  • 4.2.3 A Paradigm Shift
  • Ecumenism as a Unity of Individuals
  • Ecumenism as Friendship Model
  • Ecumenism as Family Resemblance
  • Ecumenism as Reconciliation
  • a) Racial Reconciliation
  • b) Class Reconciliation
  • c) Gender Reconciliation
  • Ecumenism as Fellowship
  • Ecumenism as Receptive
  • Ecumenism as People’s Experience
  • Towards People’s Ecumenism: Strategy and Vision
  • a) The People-based Ecumenism
  • b) Gospel-centered Ecumenism
  • 4.2.4 Towards an Ecumenical Journey: Some Proposals
  • Proposal for an Invisible Church
  • Praying in Unity
  • One Common Aim
  • Experiencing Spirit-based Ecumenism
  • a) Embracing the Diversities in the Spirit
  • b) Acceptance of Various Tongues
  • c) Speaking in Tongues: A New Input
  • 4.2.5 Future Challenges
  • The Promise of Ecumenical Ecclesiology
  • De-constructing the Complex
  • Diversity as God’s Creation
  • Ecumenism as the Strength of the Oppressed
  • The Task of Theology Today
  • a) Working upon the Negative Responses
  • b) Proposing the Ecclesial Diversity
  • c) Unbiased Theology
  • Evaluation and Conclusion
  • General Conclusion
  • Appendix 1 Interviews by Correspondence
  • Appendix 2 Email Interviews
  • Appendix 3 Telephone Interviews
  • Appendix 4 Personal Interviews
  • Bibliography

General Introduction

Assessing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: Topic Explored

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (hereafter Joint Declaration or JDDJ), which is considered to be ‘a milestone on the journey of ecumenism’, by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), has been extensively discussed and appraised by most of the churches since the topic has a very significant place in the theological-ecumenical realm. The history of Christianity has seen several deviations which dealt on the one hand were cherished, but on the other were dubiously questioned. As an agreement which dealt with the main teaching of the church, the Christian world has looked upon it with curiosity and concern. Taking this into consideration the churches and theologians have responded to such an ecumenical and ecclesiastical endeavor both rationally and positively. Those responses led the churches to have a different focus on the JDDJ. The purpose of this work is to analyze the JDDJ from a Pentecostal perspective and to redefine it through Pentecostal teachings, and propose a new Pentecostal view of ecumenism for this century. Besides, this research will also analytically explore the JDDJ through the Pentecostal theology of justification.

a) Research Topic

After the signing of the JDDJ, numerous disputes and admiration arose in most of the major churches. However not many researches or discussions have been done by the Pentecostals to respond and evaluate the JDDJ. Therefore the objective of my research is to re-read the JDDJ from a Pentecostal theological point of view and makes a study on the doctrine of justification. The major questions to be considered are: what is the ecumenical and ecclesiastical significance of this Joint Declaration in the 21st century, what are the neglected theological elements in the Joint Declaration, what are the controversial issues connected to the JDDJ and what challenge can it give to the present world of Christianity?

←25 | 26→

i) Topic Explained

The emergence of JDDJ is a major outcome of the ecumenism of the 20th century that hoped to overcome the disunity between the protestant Churches and the Catholic Church at large. A common agreement was, therefore, fundamental and indispensable. As the major forces in Christianity the Catholic and Protestant churches, who had been separated for the last five hundred years, found a common place to discuss unity. As it is said opposing interpretations and applications of the biblical message of justification were a principal cause of the division in the 16th century and led as well to doctrinal condemnation1. A common understanding of justification was necessary to overcome such a division.

The steps taken by both the churches, to find a doctrinal solution, have gradually steered to the formation of the JDDJ. Through the regular meetings and discussions, on 31 Oct 1999, in the city of Augsburg, the officials of the LWF and the Catholic Church had agreed on the doctrine of justification and produced the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. On the one hand this declaration is considered to be a remarkable step towards unity of churches, but on the other it has got the limitations and drawbacks. For instance, the JDDJ does not expound all about justification, but encompasses an agreement on the basic truth of justification. In addition, it avoids mentioning the differences and thereby asserts that the doctrinal disparities are no longer the object of dissention. The rest of the comments I have mentioned in the latter parts of this thesis. There are a number of articles and materials available on this particular issue, which implies that it has both ecumenical and theological significance. Since the JDDJ was considered to be ‘an ecumenical development’, which was said to be one of the important ecumenical steps in the history of Christianity, many churches have taken this declaration into consideration for further theological discussions.

The emphasis of my work is to portray the theological-ecclesiastical arguments (both positive and negative) on the JDDJ and its influence on ←26 | 27→ecumenism and Christianity from a critical-analytical point of view. The basic question which can arise here is: do the Pentecostals differ from other Christians in their understanding of and teaching on justification and if so on what basis? This research also discusses on the question of how justification takes place in a person’s life and what happens to the individual after justification through the Pentecostal view point.

When defending the Pentecostal understanding it is not intended to offend any one’s theological feelings and doctrinal sensitivities, but to expose the thoughts about the ecclesiastical and ecumenical implications made by JDDJ.

b) Important Considerations

One can observe that Christianity is having new developments, especially in the area of ecumenism. Meanwhile, the Christian world is also curious about the progress of the Pentecostal movement, which had not been involved in many ecumenical activities (although there are exceptions). As a student of ecumenism, it is worthwhile to tell the Christian world how the Pentecostals look at the Joint Declaration. Most of the church responses to the JDDJ are taken into consideration for this research work. While appraising the JDDJ, further attention is given to the neglected ecclesiastical and theological elements. The JDDJ is even alleged to be ‘an ecumenical trick’ by theologians, which has to be discussed in spite of the fact that the JDDJ, however, has positive influences as well.

As Jacobsen2 says that justification is the foundation for everything that follows because justification provides the assurance of God’s favor, which is the necessary prerequisite for any further progress in Christian life3. Therefore any theological discussions in connection with the doctrine of justification must be studied carefully.

←27 | 28→

c) Tools and Methods

To reach the objectives of this study I included empirical aspects. For a study of a religious group or phenomenon ‘theological reflection’ is required. This includes that experiences in life are critically reflected upon in the light of Christian tradition to produce a practical outcome in Christian life. This process most commonly begins with experience as its starting point. In this understanding, God can be seen through people’s experiences, allowing for or perhaps necessitating an empirical element to theological research as well. Since practical theology operates at three different levels (professional, academic, congregational and practice), tools for theological reflection have been adapted to suit different purposes.

When anything is dealt with a Pentecostal point of view, two key features of Pentecostalism have to be identified: experience and the Spirit. And therefore any study related to Pentecostalism must also be seen within the framework of these two. The Pentecostal experience of the Spirit is interpreted to be more than just a religious experience, but very closely linked to the events recorded in the Bible, particularly in the book of Acts. The experiences of Pentecostals today are interpreted and shaped in the light of the experiences of the early church, but present-day experience also impacts and forms the development of theology4.

This research is primarily based on various sources such as written materials that include documents, books, articles, unpublished papers, online articles, and additional interviews. For the purpose of such interviews the following groups of people were selected; pastors, priests, theologians and professors from India and Germany. The interviewees were well informed about the Joint Declaration and were given enough time to think and respond. The question models that I have followed for the interviews are given here, although sometimes I had to ask other related questions to get exact feedback.

←28 | 29→

i) Questionnaire Model I

Do you think that the doctrine of Justification holds a special position in the Biblical doctrines?

Is justification a one-time declaration or a lifelong process?

If it is a process, what are the other important steps towards justification?

How is justification connected to sanctification?

Does the Holy Spirit have any role in the act of justification?

What role does human effort play in justification?

If human effort is a decisive factor, how does this relate to predestination?

Questionnaire model I was mainly formulated to interview the pastors and theologians from the Pentecostal background, in order to bring the Pentecostal understanding of justification. Since there are not many written materials on Pentecostal understanding of the doctrine of justification, these interviews are much important.

ii) Questionnaire Model II

How aware are you of the ecumenical developments in Christianity?

Have you heard about the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification?

Would you agree with the JDDJ or not. Why?

What is your personal opinion on ecumenism?

The questionnaire model II was used mainly to get feedback regarding the JDDJ from theologians and professors. The answers have been carefully evaluated and included in this study with the consent of the interviewees in the appendix. For bibliography and footnotes, Hunter P. Mabry’s book on ‘A Manuel for Researchers and Writers’5 is also referred to in this research.

d) Importance of the Study

There have been numerous studies on the doctrine of justification, but the theological discussions of the Pentecostals are rarely considered. ←29 | 30→Therefore the aim of this study is to bring out ecumenical and theological understandings of the Pentecostal Church. This study has great significance, since not much research has been carried out by the Pentecostals in this field (here I would like to mention that Frank D. Macchia is the only person who has responded to the JDDJ from a Pentecostal perspective6). His main focus was to evaluate the JDDJ from the pneumatological perception. Nonetheless my study differs from the work of Macchia (which is mentioned above) since it substantiates the Pentecostal assessment of the JDDJ and presents the positive and negative elements and impacts of the latter. This investigation, although emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit in the process of justification, does not limit it to this, but evaluates other elements that are not given due emphasis and importance.

The JDDJ has not led to a visible form of unity wherein churches join together for worship or communion. As the protestant churches celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the JDDJ could be the backdrop before which any possibilities of visible Christian unity may be discussed. This study will also deal with the JDDJ and its further scope for the theological-ecumenical world. Although the Pentecostals see the JDDJ as an important step towards the unity of the church, they still think that there are a few elements which need to be clarified and discussed. Therefore this study will lay emphasis mainly on the theological and ecumenical side of the Joint Declaration.

In general, Pentecostals are told to be evangelicals with a dynamic and joyful experience of God with a sense of the leading of the Spirit. However, as the Pentecostal movement is totally in the realm of experiential religion, there are those who would question whether the Pentecostal movement can give any valid contribution to worldwide theology. However it is equally important to see how the Pentecostals view ecumenical undertakings like the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Pentecostals have even been considered to be fake or hypocritical Christians and their congregations at best strange and at worst manipulative. In spite of these allegations it is evident that the growth of the Pentecostal movement is largely dependent ←30 | 31→on conversion rather than birth-rates. Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity is now believed to make up over a quarter of the world’s Christian population. And therefore it demands much attention7.

This investigation is also important because it deposes the direct opinions of church leaders, professors, theologians, and pastors or priests both from India and Germany.

e) Restrictions of This Study

This research focuses mainly on the evaluation of the JDDJ and does not, therefore, elaborate on the historical developments of the doctrine. The second chapter, which deals with the historical background of the JDDJ, is limited to the immediate reasons that are considered to be momentous for this work. Although the purpose of this thesis is to highlight what the Pentecostals in general think about the JDDJ, it is mainly restricted to the classical Pentecostals8 who are called the ‘real Pentecostals’ within the Pentecostal movement. As a member of the Pentecostal Church in India (Assemblies of God Church), the author also represents the insiders’ view on justification.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 272 pp.

Biographical notes

Isaac Elsadanam (Author)


Title: A Pentecostal Voice on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
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