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Wednesday
May212008

Theological Term of the Week

five solas
Literally, the “five alones,” the “five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the Reformers’ basic beliefs and emphasis in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of the day”,1 consisting of sola scriptura (scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).  

  • From scripture:
    But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.(2 Timothy 3:14-17)
    And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.(Acts 4:12)
    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins … and were by nature children of wrath…. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-8)
    Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring….(Romans 4:4-5, 16)
    For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.(Romans 11:36)
  • From The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelical, 1996 (pdf):
    Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
    Thesis One: Sola Scriptura
    We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
    Thesis Two: Solus Christus
    We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father. We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
    Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
    We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
    Thesis Four: Sola Fide
    We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice. We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
    Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria
    We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: What are the five solas?
  2. Greg Strawbridge: The Five Solas of the Reformation
  3. Monergism.com: What are the “five solas,” and what do they mean?
  4. Michael Horton: Five Pillars of the Reformation
  5. North Ryde Anglican Church: 5 Solas of the Reformation (pdf with study questions)
  6. Tim Challies: Reformed Theology (infographic)
  7. Steve Lawson: The Five Solas of the Reformation (mp3)

Related terms:

1From Theopedia

Have you come across a theological term that you don’t understand and that you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do. Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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