William G. Rusch edits this selection of nine essays that are dedicated to investigating the context and implications of a milestone ecumenical document, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (hereafter JD). Researched, prepared and ratified over decades of bilateral ecumenical cooperation, the JD represents a major point of reconciliation between the doctrinal views of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church. The public disclosure of this doctrinal consensus, demonstrated by a joint signing of the JD on October 31, 1999, somewhat revived the waning pulse of ecumenical scholarship. Shortly after the release of the JD, Yale University Divinity School and the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale held a joint theological conference to explore the ramifications of the JD; the papers delivered at this conference are the first six of the nine collected here. The first selection, although not focusing on the JD specifically, provides useful background information concerning the ecumenical movement in general.
After this introduction, each subsequent essay represents a certain denominational perspective that focuses on specific emphases of the JD. The second essay is a Roman Catholic analysis that examines the JD as a fruit of the Vatican II council, and speculates on the possibility of subsequent ecumenical opportunities for denominational reconciliation. An Anglican view is presented in the third essay, and holds that the JD overlooks other fundamental points peripheral to justification that divide the Anglican Church from Roman Catholicism (viz. the question of merit and sanctification, and the question of female ordination). An Episcopalian perspective follows in the fourth essay, and suggests that the ecumenical focus should now shift to the question of the Eucharist in order to bring Episcopalians and Roman Catholics into fuller communion. A cautious Lutheran view is held in the fifth selection, one that hesitates to conclude that the JD successfully mediates between the categories of faith and works that have previously been held to be mutually exclusive by the Lutheran typology. Further, this essay brings into the open an underlying concern implicit in all of the essays thus far, which questions if the JD has in any way affected conventional reformation ecclesiological views. Such ecclesial concerns are also explored in the last of the essays delivered at Yale's conference, a Reformed view that states that, although the JD agrees on the 'what' and 'why' of justification, there is no mention made of the 'how.' The author argues that, regardless of the common ground attained by the JD, none has been discovered in the ecclesial debate.
The last three selections, although not included in the original Yale conference, provide further important denominational views. The seventh is a less optimistic Roman Catholic commentary that regards certain muddy points in the JD (e.g. concupiscence). The final two essays, from Eastern Orthodox and Pentecostal perspectives, are perhaps the most unique of the selections compiled in this anthology. Here the issue considered is not the specific doctrinal details of justification or the perennial concerns of merit, of sanctification with or without works, or of ecclesial authority. Instead, the authors question the concept of justification in general, emphasizing not a juridical metaphysic, which entails legalism (forensic justification), but instead a more spiritually transformative view. For the Orthodox, this involves theosis, a process that involves not only justification and restoration of the fallen image, but also divinization. For the Pentecostal, this process involves the Spirit's creative power in bringing about a new human being, a view that emphasizes not justification but emancipation.
What is noteworthy about the Rusch volume is not the insight it provides into the exact makeup of the JD or the decades of ecumenical deliberation that produced it. One will not gain an exact understanding of the doctrinal specifics of the JD from this collection, so for a more productive reading I suggest first reviewing the original JD documents. Further, one will not gain here a full understanding of what theological views were considered in this ecumenical endeavor, or what parts of such views were retained and which were discarded. What is valuable in Rusch's collection is the insight it provides into the perspectives of various denominations regarding the JD, and their particular emphases and concerns. This collection also functions as a successful testament to the plurality of theological views currently held within Christianity. Further important is the fact that, through the essays it contains, the book communicates those specific areas of ecumenical concern important to each denomination and provides an overall snapshot of the current state of scholastic cooperation. The volume is quite general and accessible, and provides a valuable overview to ecumenism that often branches into areas well beyond that of the doctrine of justification. As such, it is a valuable companion piece to ecumenical research, and an informative analysis of the original documents.