Grace in the Church

St. Augustine, who lived from 354 to 440, was one of the greatest leaders of the early Christian church. He taught that that people are totally dependent on God's grace for any good action, even the desire to do good depends on the action of the Holy Spirit in us.  The Christian church in general, and the Catholic Church specifically, have revered Augustine's teachings since his time.  It is true that by the beginning of the 16th Century, the Catholic Church had shifted towards a works-based theology, prompting Martin Luther to nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517, thus triggering the Protestant Reformation.  However, following the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church has returned to the Biblical doctrine of salvation by grace.

The doctrinal reunification of Catholicism and Protestantism was officially signified by the Joint Declaration on Justification.  On October 31, 1999, officials from The Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed the declaration, ending over four centuries of mutual condemnation. It includes these statements:

“All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith… Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be seen as internally related to each other. It is an indispensable criterion, which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ.”