4/03/2013

Communicating the Reformation: The “Five Solas”

(This article was originally written for my local newspaper.)

I bet you can name which company uses all or most of the following slogans:  Reach out, reach out and touch someone.  Finger-lickin’ good.  Taste the rainbow.  Eat fresh.  Think outside the bun.  Have it your way.  Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.  (The slogans belong to: AT&T, Kentucky-Fried Chicken, Skittles, Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King, and M&M’s respectfully.)

Advertisers use slogans because they help communicate a message in a brief, effective and memorable way.  The leaders of the Protestant Reformation used the same method.

The Protestant Reformation occurred in 16th Century Europe.  It was aimed at reforming, or changing, the beliefs and practices of the church at that time. Its leaders included Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Heinrich Zwingli.  The Reformation would eventually bring about great changes in the Western Church. 

One of the best ways to understand what the Protestant Reformation was about is to understand the slogans its leaders used to communicate, and that is what the next few Soli Deo Gloria articles will do.  Like much theological writing at the time, the slogans were in Latin. They are called “Solas” because each begins with that Latin word.  Each of the five slogans is printed below with a translation into English and a very brief explanation.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone): The Bible contains all things necessary to understand and obey God, and no other form of authority is needed to bind the conscience of the Christian.

Solus Christus (Christ Alone): Christ alone and his death on our behalf on the cross are the means by which all Christians are saved.  Only Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death can make us right with God.

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone): Salvation is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by grace alone.  Salvation is not a work of the human heart at all.

Sola Fide (Faith Alone): A person is justified (declared innocent) before God through faith alone and through Christ alone.  We get credit for Christ’s righteous life and sacrificial death when we have faith in Him, and the good things we do play no part in our salvation.

Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory): Salvation is only for God's glory and not for man's glory.  Christians everywhere should always do everything they do for His glory alone.

A fitting place to end: to God alone be the glory.

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