A Catholic Who Loved Imputation

I am in the middle of teaching a six week series on Catholicism, Wednesday evenings in Oakbrook. Last night we covered the topic of justification. After enjoying a rich conversation (the class is full of both Catholic and Protestants), I woke up this morning with the topic on my mind, thinking, in particular, of how some Catholic leaders have advocated the evangelical doctrine of imputation. One such person was Cardinal Gasparo Contarini (1483-1542), no small cookie in the 16th century Catholic hierarchy (Contarini helped Ignatius Loyola to obtain approval from Pope Paul III for his Jesuit order. He also served as  Papal prefect at the Colloquy of Regensburg). Here is what Contarini had to say about imputation.

Living faith is that which both appropriates mercy in Christ, believing that the righteousness which is in Christ is freely imputed to it, and at the same time receives the promise of the Holy Spirit and love. Therefore the faith that truly justifies is that faith which is effectual through love [Galatians 5.6]. Nevertheless it remains true, that it is by this faith that we are justified (i.e., accepted and reconciled to God) inasmuch as it appropriates the mercy and righteousness which is imputed to us on account of Christ and his merit, not on account of the worthiness or perfection of the righteousness imparted to us in Christ.


Gasparo Contarini, Letter on Justification, expounded in light of the Colloquy of Regensburg’s Article 5. Quoted in Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 219

Share this article on…

More Articles

The Gift We Overlook

Early Christians saw themselves as the manifestation of Christ in the world. According to sociologist Rodney Stark, this understanding of Christ’s body fueled the church’s

Read More »

Preaching and Prayer

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)—famous bishop, pastor, theologian, and philosopher—was a superlative preacher. In On Christian Teaching, he shares with his brother pastors his meditations on the

Read More »