The grammar of justification: the doctrines of Peter Martyr Vermigli and John Henry Newman and their ecumenical implications

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Castaldo, Christopher A.

This thesis analyzes the doctrines of justification in the Roman Catholic John Henry Newman (1801‐1890) and the Reformed Protestant Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499‐1562), examining their historical contexts and respective works. Recognition of their common concerns, common commitments, different commitments, and different conclusions provide insight into agreements and variences between Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants in contemporary ecumenical dialogue. We conclude that many of the classic discrepencies between Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants are not as irreconcilable as they may appear at first glance. We recognize, for example, a common commitment to union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, a union that imparts twofold righteousness by divine initiative. This righteousness grows in an internal habit of grace, producing virtue as it reaches toward holiness. Such works are a necessary part of justification, which pleases God and receives his favor in the form of rewards. Despite this convergence, however, some irreconcilable differences remain. Most fundamental is the question of justification’s formal cause, whether divine forgiveness is ultimately based upon an internal work of the Spirit or the forensic imputation of Christ’s righteousness. There is also the basic difference of how righteousness is appropriated, by means of faith alone through the sacrament of baptism. Finally, there is disagreement over perseverance of faith, whether Christians are eternally secure in their justification. In addition to advancing scholarship on several issues associated with Newman’s and Vermigli’s doctrines of justification and illuminating reasons and attendant circumstances for conversion across the Tiber, the overall conclusions of this study offer a broader range of soteriological possibilities to ecumenical dialogue among Roman Catholics and Protestants by clarifying the common ground to which both traditions may lay claim.
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