“Simul Iustus Et Peccator” Through the Lenses of Paul -- By: Timo Laato

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:4 (Dec 2018)
Article: “Simul Iustus Et Peccator” Through the Lenses of Paul
Author: Timo Laato


“Simul Iustus Et Peccator”
Through the Lenses of Paul

Timo Laato*

* Timo Laato is Senior Lecturer at the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg, Ekmansgatan 3, 41132 Gothenburg, Sweden. He can be reached at timo.laato@ffg.se.

Abstract: The mutual agreement on the Joint Declaration between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the doctrine of justification was rejected in the official response of the Roman Catholic Church in 1998 over objections to the Lutheran notion of simul iustus et peccator (Christians as righteous and sinners at the same time). What does Paul have to say in connection with this ecumenical dead end? In this article, the validity of simul iustus et peccator is demonstrated from Romans 7:14–25 in conjunction with its larger context and other passages of Scripture. The interpretation of Rom 7:14–25 as a description of Paul himself (or any Christian) has wide-ranging effects on the understanding of Pauline theology. Interestingly, Ernst Käsemann once wrote that the reading of verses 14–25 from that perspective would undermine his whole exegesis, not just his analysis of the context, but in truth also all that “Paul says about baptism, law, and the justification of the ungodly, namely all that he says about the break between the aeons.”

Key words: ecumenism, justification, simul iustus et peccator, covetousness, flesh, sin, depravity, Adam and Eve, the Mosaic law, introspective conscience

In the 1960s, there were distinctive hopes that through the research results of modern exegetic, traditional dogmatic disagreements and conflicts between diverse church bodies could be solved. However, the delusion was dispelled rather quickly. Surprisingly, the enthusiasm evaporated. By and large, the ecumenical negotiations came to a dead end. No breakthroughs. Despite several sincere efforts and many fresh perspectives the old doctrinal controversies survived. Presently they are back—if they ever left the meeting hall.1

This has been seen recently during the process which led to the mutual agreement on the Joint Declaration between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the doctrine of justification.2 To be sure, the document has commonly been celebrated and commended as a great leap forward to visible unity throughout Christendom. On closer examination, the state of affairs seems more complex and complicated.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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