Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Whether to accept the Reformation's "solas" depends upon what each "sola" is intended to exclude.

Sola Scriptura? Yes, if it meant any doctrine that contradicts Scripture should be discarded. But no, because it actually means all Christian doctrine is derived from the Bible (which is exactly backwards) and/or that the bare text is enough to interpret the Scriptures, and/or that the Bible can be read in a vacuum, "unnormed." That is simply impossible.

Sola Fide? It again depends upon what is meant to be excluded. St. Paul, as the great Apostle to the Gentiles, repeatedly hammered home that one doesn't need the Law of Moses for salvation; instead, it's all about faith and always was, before, during, and after the period of the Old Covenant. So yes, if Sola Fide is used in the Pauline sense: we do not have to be Jews first and then Christians. We do not have to be bar-mitzvah or bas-mitzvah (son or daughter of the commandments). And again yes, if Sola Fide means you cannot buy or earn or bribe your way into heaven. But a big "no" to Sola Fide if it means to exclude the works of faith. Those are the works that reinforce faith in us, strengthen and build it, and help us mature in Christ, that test and exercise us in the faith. It is the works we do in faith, then, that determine, so to speak, the depth or the scope of our salvation. Put another way, the relationship we have with Christ when we die is the relationship with which we enter heaven, and it can be very weak or very strong or somewhere in between. That's what it means to say we are rewarded according to our works.

Solus Christus? Yes, if it means, "Christ and not Brahman," or "Christ and not Moloch," or the like. Christ has nothing to learn from any prophet or imaginary deity or demon. Whatever truth Buddha had, Christ had and expressed better. But if Sola Christus means I sit there passive as a bump on a log, no. The Christian life cannot be lived passively.

Sola gratia? Ditto the above. Yes, it is only by the grace of God we can be saved. But no, if it means to deny that we accept Grace by an act of free choice, another gift of Grace.

Soli deo gratia? Well, sure... but then again, Christ said, in prayer, "The glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given them." So I don't know how one reconciles these. So once more, it all depends on exactly what's meant.


Chris said...

I think any confessional Lutheran who is honest and knows the Book of Concord would look at your description of the solas and wholeheartedly agree. The problem is that the solas have been so contorted and twisted over the years so as to avoid any hints of Romanism (tradition, works, actively living the Christian life, etc.).

Steve Robinson said...

Very astute. "Sola" is not only an affirmation of something but a negation of something also. What we negate is as important as what we affirm. Good post.