What the 5 “Solas” Really Mean
The Reformation has powerfully impacted Christianity. Some think that’s a good thing. Others believe it is a disaster. Many understand that, as beneficial as the Reformation was in its time, there are unintended consequences that adversely affected the Church then and continue to do so today.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
It is often pointed out that there are five main tenets to the Reformation. I’ve listed them below with some unintended consequences from my own perspective.
- Sola Fide: Faith alone – I don’t need to put forth any effort to experience salvation and its fullness.
- Solus Christus: Christ alone – I don’t need the Church. It’s Jesus and me.
- Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone – I don’t need Tradition, creeds, councils, or personal experience. The Bible alone, and my or my group’s interpretation of it, is the only authority I need.
- Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone – I don’t need saints, hierarchy, images, or priest/clergy. I believe that to honor anyone else is to dishonor God.
- Sola Gratia: Grace alone – I don’t need sacraments, means, or method. Grace is seen as a created substance isolated from anything material, physical, or experiential.
And, here are some unintended consequences to the Reformation:
- I don’t need church history, organized religion, dogmatic doctrine, or any spiritual authority over me.
- I am an autonomous self, able to determine for myself what I will believe (or not), what I will do (or not), how I will decide, whom I will follow, and when all this will take place.
- I see church as optional. I need faith, Christ, scripture, God’s glory, and grace but I don’t need the Church. How could it be that the reformers missed the claim of “Sola Ecclesia?” Of course, they could not make that claim since they were opposing the one church they knew. Centuries of church divisions, theological battles, “fresh” truth claims, and re-awakenings have not healed the church’s brokenness or purified her operation. Since it’s not what I think it should be, I can reject it.
I doubt what I write here will be received well by many of you. But, I want to challenge your thinking about these matters.
I’m sure the reformers were devout, smart, and articulate men – to be admired for many reasons. However, the consequences of their actions and beliefs are difficult to deal with today.
At least for some of us.