Updated: Nov 28, 2020
I never learned much about church history...actually, if I’m honest, history in general. Stuff I was taught in school seems like eons ago and has sifted out the back door of my mind. Never mind Latin. Nope, never learned Latin, (except for any medical terminology).
As I have been homeschooling my kids (based on the classical method), history has become a foundational part of our learning, and I say our because I am learning too! It has helped me to see how events of the past shape us today, which is really important, especially for the church.
The Protestant Reformation changed church history in a very dramatic way. Out of the Reformation, there were five distinctives that totally separated Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. These have become known as the five solas of the Reformation.
The word “sola” means “alone” in Latin. So, each of the five solas end with the word alone. No arguments. Just foundational principles resting in no other opinions or traditions.
“Sola: How the Five Solas are Still Reforming the Church" by Jason Allen, is a compilation of five essays, each on one of the solas - although I found that each chapter links to the others. It is written to encourage believers to see the roots of our Protestant heritage, apply the biblical truths found in the solas, and understand how they continue to form our beliefs today. It is a short read, 135 pages, packed with history and application for the practical life for the church today.
So, a here’s few Latin words. What are the five solas?
1. Sola Scriptura = Scripture alone. It seems like this could be common sense, from a Christian perspective. This is the foundational principle, because all of our thinking and beliefs are to be rooted in the Word of God alone. My favourite quote from this chapter is “Sola Scriptura means that Scripture establishes the church; the church does not establish the Scriptures. Scripture judges the church; the church does not judge the Scriptures. The church did not create the Scriptures; the Scripture created the church.”
2. Sola Gratia = Grace alone. Our salvation is not “grace +_____”, there is nothing to be added. The gospel rests on the sufficiency of God’s grace, not on our good works. We respond to the Gospel in obedience, but it is not our works that save us. “We must be mindful of how centering grace can be. It can keep us out of the ditch of legalism on the one side and out of the ditch of antinomianism on the other.” Because we are saved by grace, we don't keep track of the good things we do, nor do we act carelessly without any regard for God's law.
3. Sola Fida = Faith alone. “God calls us, gives us faith - a beautiful vessel, a bridge - through which He gives us His righteousness in Christ. Saved by faith alone, we are made new and sent forth to do good works for His glory.” We receive the gift of salvation, through faith in Him; believing He has done what the Word says He has done, and takes our rags for His righteousness.
4. Sola Christus = Christ alone. It is out of His sacrifice, His death and resurrection, we have the opportunity to walk in relationship with the Father. There is no other way to the Father than through Christ.
5. Sola Deo gloria = Glory to God alone. “At an innate level, fallen mankind doesn’t want God to be God. We don’t want the Lord to get the glory that is due His name. We want glory for ourselves.” It doesn’t mean that we don’t have God-given talents, interests, and passions. Rather we use those gifts to make God known, not ourselves.
The solas of the Reformation reflect the opposition to the Roman Catholic theology of “salvation plus good works.” The word alone ends each one to reflect the confidence and security we have in our salvation through Scriptures, God’s grace, faith, Christ’s sacrifice and for God’s glory.
These truths are just as important for us today, as they were five hundred years ago. We are reminded that there is nothing we do to earn salvation. It is a gift of God, graciously given to us, allowing us to freely respond in adoration and obedience. The solas also admonish us, as the church, to fix our eyes on the Word of God to guide how we interact with our own beliefs and also secular culture.
Read this book if you are looking for a short read on some history of the Protestant Reformation! I enjoyed it.