I haven’t taken many classes on the subject of Theology, or read nearly enough books on the history of the Church, but still I find it surprising that I learned about the Five Solas only recently. Maybe I did learn about them in the past and they fell somewhere into the recesses of my memory. Now that I am aware of them, I believe these five principles are a great summary of my faith. Perhaps they are for you, too.
From Theopedia.com: “The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers' basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. "Sola" is Latin meaning "alone" or "only"…”
In an article on Christianity.com, episcopal Priest Justin Holcomb wrote that the Five Solas "summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity". He listed the Solas and provided the following explanations.
There is no definitive author of the Five Solas, but they reflect the teachings of all the early Reformers.
In reality, I’ve been exposed to these principles all my life; they just haven't been listed out in this manner, nor have they been communicated in Latin. But, I wonder why this list isn't discussed more frequently in mainline Protestant churches.
Let’s start by talking about where I do find the Five Solas. Most of my research points to the Five Solas being used predominantly by the Reformed Church. Perhaps the Arminian-leaning denominations don’t utilize the “Solas” list for that reason- because it has a reputation of being a “Calvinist” doctrine. On the surface, I don’t see any point of the Solas that is not true for both groups. It is most likely the predestination slant that the Reformed Church applies to the concept of Sola Gratia that makes denominations who follow a “free will” ideology shy away from identifying with the Five Solas.
Maybe we don’t use the list because it seems unnecessary, because the same ideas are already spelled out in our respective doctrinal statements. Even though the Five Solas were more of an antithesis to the teaching of the Catholic church, and were not meant to be a complete Statement of Faith, I think this list is a great starting point for the exposition of my faith.
Perhaps this list isn't more broadly published because we don't want to seem combative toward our Catholic friends. We certainly want to affirm our beliefs, while not purposefully causing contention with other believers.
Maybe we don’t use this list because it’s in Latin. This seems logical to me. We don't commonly use Latin in our communication, plus people may associate Latin phrases with the Catholic church. Even so, I’m thinking about making a shirt for myself that just says “Solus Christus”, because I love this statement. It might even prove to be a conversation starter.
A more troubling theory for the perceived absence of the Five Solas is that some Protestant churches no longer hold to the founding truths of the Protestant Reformation. Sadly, there are churches in which the bible is not hailed as the highest authority and the message of Ephesians 2:8 isn't taught. Still, it remains true: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:"
I tend to think we don't focus on the Solas mainly because of the concept of Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is the basis for our teaching, so we hear the scriptures that convey the Five Solas but not the formal list as such or the church history from which it was born.
I've enjoyed my simple examination of the Solas. I hope someone will find it enlightening in some way. Please share your thoughts with me!
Please keep in mind, this article is based on my personal observations and mainly internet research. If there are errors, please reach out to correct me (with grace)!
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