Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Doctor of Theology, ThD

First Advisor

Hans K. LaRondelle

Second Advisor

Raoul Dederen

Third Advisor

Gerhard F. Hasel


The teaching of justification of the sinner soley by faith is the "heart" of the Reformation. Martin Luther viewed it as the"main teaching" of Christianity and demonstrated this assertion by the concepts of the sole agency of God and of the consecutive character of good works. Since he could concede neither the co-operation of man nor the "final character of works" (meaning works achieved with an ultimate end in view), his struggle was mainly against the Church's traditional doctrine of merit.

Catholic theology, however, refused to follow the Reformer in this radical break with tradition. When about a decade after theoutbreak of the Reformation it had become clear that the teaching of justification formed the main point of the dispute, Catholic theology set the doctrine of merit like a dam against Luther's sola fide. The Reformer's adversaries viewed the idea of merit as the best proof that justification cannot result from faith alone. Thus, the problem area of justification and merit has functioned since the days of the Reformation as an insurmountable hindrance in the conversations of polemical theology.

With modern Catholic research on Luther (since 1939/40) the entrenched fronts got into motion again. A more objective historical view of the life and work of the Reformer produced a deeper understanding of his theological concerns. The following ecumenical opening in theological studies (about the time of Vatican II) led to a distinct rapprochement between the Catholic interpretation of the doctrine of justification and Luther's. Some scholars (J. Lortz, O. H. Pesch) even claimed a consensus with the Reformer.

The present dissertation has been written to investigate the justification for this claim. The doctrine of merit, which forms the polemical side issue and which in the current-day dialogue has been unjustly pushed to the margin, is used in this investigation as a kind of "scratch test" for the validity of this assertion (W. Dantine). Since modern Catholic theology is anxious to reconsider and to reformulate the meaning and statement of the doctrine of merit, the question arises whether these new interpretations and formulations are adequate to make the alleged consensus with Luther credible.

Subject Area

Justification (Christian theology), Good works (Theology), Luther, Martin, 1483-1546


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