Yes, A Pope Will Occasionally Speak About Justification By Grace And Faith

The Bishop of Rome apparently made noises about justification by grace through faith and some evangelicals are excited as if this marks a change in Roman doctrine or in the bishop’s thinking. It does not.

This sort of thing happened under Benedict XVI too. The debate with Rome has never been over whether we are justified by grace, through faith but what we mean by grace and faith. Rome means one thing by them and we another. This is why some of us are such sticklers for the “alone” as in “by grace alone” (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide). Because leading evangelicals did not understand these issues in the early 1990s, we got Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Most notably, they produced two muddled statements on the doctrine of justification, which demonstrated no actual movement on Rome’s part but did reveal significant confusion among the evangelical leadership as to why we had a Reformation and what the issues were.

I will not insult your intelligence by rehearsing all the details here again but I can point you to the HB resource pages on Romanism, which includes resources on ECT and these topics and to other HB resource pages on the Reformation solas and on justification and sanctification.


  • Resources On the Reformation Solas
  • Resources On Keeping Justification and Sanctification Together Without Confusing Them
  • Resources On Romanism (including a select bibliography)
  • How To Subscribe To Heidelmedia
  • The Heidelblog Resource Page
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  • Heidelmedia Resources
  • The Ecumenical Creeds
  • The Reformed Confessions
  • The Heidelberg Catechism
  • Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).
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    1. Dr. Clark,
      I think that it is: “occasionally” not “occassionally”. 😉

      The Spelling Stickler (Roxanne Devine)

        • Dr. Clark,

          You’re most welcome. To paraphrase my late mother’s oft used quip: “your mouth got to flyin’ too fast”, “your fingers got to flyin’ too fast”.

          I appreciate your Grammar Guerilla pointers.

          Roxanne Devine

    2. One of the things that puzzled me the most about ECT 1 (&2) was why J.I. Packer signed. For all intents and purposes otherwise, he seemed like a faithful and convincing voice among evangelicals. Unless he got so caught up in the frenzy to cuddle up to Rome on these issues that he simply forgot himself.

      • it was a surprise to Americans but it was not a surprise to those who had been watching Packer over a long period of time. He participated in similar negotiations in the 1960s, in the UK. He knew what he was doing.

        See the Romanism resource page.

    3. I will never understand the revision of the catechism stating the Roman Pontiff is the antichrist of bible prophecy. It seems like a compromise of interpretation of the bible especially when those of the Protestant Reformation exposed this truth and gave their lives.

    4. I believe it was revised in the Heidleberg also …or would it have been the Belgic Confession. I get them mixed up. [I am rather new to these ] It was part of our class in studying the catechism and the confession. But what I remember is the revision that the pope of Rome as the antichrist was not specific now. I do know the revision of Westminster came too but the original in 1646 stated clearly about the Roman pope.

      • Lauren,

        I’m looking at the original texts. Neither the Belgic Confession nor the Heidelberg calls the papacy the antichrist. Many Reformed churches have revised Belgic art. 36 since it calls the magistrate to enforce religious orthodoxy. It does use the expression “the kingdom of antichrist” which, in context, might be an allusion to Rome but it is only an allusion.

        It was widely held in the sixteenth and seventeenth century that the papacy is the antichrist. In the 20th century that was abandoned by most. I think the papacy is antichrist but I don’t know with certainty that any individual pope is the antichrist.

        • Thank you. I do think each pope is the antichrist , given the position he has and the teaching he promotes within the RCC. I cannot see why this would be abandoned. Each one of them fulfills 2 Thessalonians 2. But that is just me, after years of study of the book of Revelation. Thanks again.

    5. Westminster Confession and London Baptist Confession of 1689 calls the Pope “THE” Antichrist. Evidently it is not the character of the man but of the “office.” We must loathe the office of the Antichrist because the person of the Antichrist changes with each Pope.

      The takeaway is this: tell all of your Catholic friends, “Hey, I know your leader is THE Antichrist and you’ve been loyal to him for a long time, but have you considered grace alone?” The Pope as Antichrist is a misguided stumbling block.

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