I was in Minneapolis Thursday through Sunday for the Catholic/Evangelical Dialogues (USA only). I enjoy the fellowship and theological discourse.
This dialogue was interesting and frustrating. The topic was “salvation.” The Evangelical paper was presented by Glen Menzies (Assemblies of God) and the Catholic was presented by Ralph Del Colle. We focused on the central point of division during the reformation, “justification.” The frustrating part is that the evangelical team (there were seven of us) was trying to dialogue out of very diverse traditions while the Catholic team has a well established script of doctrines from which to speak. The 1999 Joint Declaration on Justification issued by Lutherans and the Catholic Church was a starting point but it was the declarations of the Council of Trent that governed the Catholic positions.
The main sticking point is that out of the reformed traditions Evangelicals understand justification as a forensic (legal) act of grace whereby God declares the sinner righteous, i.e., imputes righteousness to the unrighteous. It is a gift from God (grace) and is received by faith alone. Justification is the bases for regeneration and sanctification. For the Catholics justification embraces all of life in Christ and focuses on the transformation of the believer rather than the declaration by God. There is also a sticky point on the concept of “merit,” i.e., in what sense are the saved made worthy of life in the presence of God.
We came up with a brief and I think insightful statement of points of divergence and convergence. I will post it when I get the final copy. However, as a Pentecostal I find the Reformed forensic position somewhat stilted.