The Five Solas

We hear today of "The Five Solas" which are, Faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace alone and Glory to God alone.  So let us look first at a summary of these five "alones."  Please note, the source I chose clearly holds to an anti-Catholic proposition.

Faith alone (Sola Fide)

Justification (that is, becoming right before God) comes through faith only, not good works, though in the classical protestant scheme, saving faith will always be accompanied by good works. This doctrine can be summarized with the formula "Faith yields justification and good works" and is contrasted with the Catholic formula "Faith and good works yield justification." This doctrine is sometimes called the material cause of the Reformation because it was the central doctrinal issue for Martin Luther.

Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)

The Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God and is accessible to all (that is, perspicuous and self-interpreting). This doctrine is directly opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church that Scripture can only be authentically interpreted through Holy Apostolic Tradition by the "Magisterium" (that is, the teaching authority of the Pope and bishops at church councils). This doctrine is sometimes called the formal cause of the Reformation because it was the underlying cause of disagreement over sola fide.

Christ alone (Solus Christus)

Christ is the exclusive mediator between God and man. Neither Mary, the saints, nor priests (other than Christ himself) can act as mediator in bringing salvation. This doctrine is contrasted with the Catholic doctrines of the intercession of saints and of the mediation of the priests.

Grace alone (Sola Gratia)

Salvation comes by grace only, not through any merit on the part of the sinner. Thus salvation is an unearned gift. This doctrine is a response to the Catholic synergistic doctrine whereby acts of man become meritorious by cooperating with God's grace.

Glory to God alone (Soli Deo Gloria)

All the glory is due to God alone, since he did all the work — not only the atonement on the Cross, but even granting the faith which allows men to be saved by that atonement. The Reformers believed that human beings (such as the Catholic saints and popes) and their organizations (the Church) were not worthy of the glory that was bestowed on them.


Before I get going let's clarify.  The concept of "five solas" or "five alones" seems quite contradictory, even silly on the surface.  What is really going on here is each of the "solas" speaks to something different.  They are not all about salvation or justification, e.g. soli Deo gloria simply says all glory to God alone.  The "Five Solas" are really about presenting a counter argument (a protest) to the Catholic Church.  No one ever heard of "The Five Solas" until sometime after Luther came on to the scene.  So for over 1500 years of Christendom, these five pillars - or foundations - of Protestantism were unknown, especially as a group of "solas."  Now this being said, not ALL the "solas" are contrary to Catholic theology which I will explain as I go.  Keep in mind, these are only my own summaries - entire books can be (and have been) written on these individual topics.

Sola Fide - Faith Alone
Well literally speaking, this statement is outright denied by Scripture.  James 2:24 explicitly states:  "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (NIV) This verse in Scripture is actually the ONLY PLACE where the words "faith" and "alone" are used together and they are in explicit denial of "faith alone."  However, you will notice the caveat my source above used as do many other Protestants, like R.C. Sproul “justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone.” (Sproul, 26, Faith Alone).  Well that caveat pretty much destroys the whole "alone" notion, now doesn't it!  If the faith is not alone, then it's not sola fide, period.  Protestants will go round and round with all sorts of rationalizations about this but in the end, sola fide is a flat out lie and unequivocally denied by Scripture in the ONLY PLACE those words are used by Scripture.  

Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone
As for this subject, there are several definitions of sola scriptura and the above quoted and cited source is just one.  Others would include the definition of (James White) which, I believe, is a bit better of a definition than most.  White puts it this way: "The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fidei, the infallible rule of faith for the Church." (White, 59, The Roman Catholic Controversy).  White also puts it this way: "Sola scriptura  teaches that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church." (White,  This second definition seems more concisely worded.  The most obvious challenge to this "regula fide" or RULE of faith - is if sola scriptura were a true and infallible teaching - then it would be taught by Scripture, right?  Well it's not!  Protestants will clamor all over verses which point to sufficiency of Scripture - but sufficiency is not sola!  You can find more articles on this subject by clicking here.

Solus Christus - Christ Alone
On this point Catholics are really in fundamental agreement with Protestants!  Of course Protestants like to paint a picture of other mediators to our salvation - but the reality is the Catholics adhere to the fact that our salvation is due to the mediation of Christ alone.  The fact that we accept the "Communion of Saints" (part of the Apostle's Creed -click here for a non-Catholic source) which is professed by many Protestants!  Of course they don't define the "Communion of Saints" in the same manner Catholics traditionally have, throughout Christendom, but their denial is novel in the overall picture.  Asking others, Saints who have gone before us or saints among us, does not replace Christ as our sole Mediator for our salvation, which is the fundamental definition of solus Christus.

Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
Again, this is a concept with which Catholics do not fundamentally disagree with Protestants.  Catholics do not believe that we can earn our salvation through our own merits.  Salvation is due solely to the grace of Christ on the Cross, and more importantly, His Resurrection and victory over death and Satan.  Anti-Catholics will try to paint a picture of "works-salvation" and force their straw man argumentation upon Catholics - but Catholics do not believe in a "works-salvation" system, regardless of how hard our opponents try to force that square peg into a round hole.  

Soli Deo Gloria - Glory to God Alone
Well, again, without the polemics thrown in - Catholics agree!  To God alone goes the highest glory.  I can hear it now, "Scott added the disclaimer of the 'highest' glory, and the statement is 'glory to God ALONE!'"  We must point out the short-sightedness of such a proposition.  Glory is, afterall, "honor" and Scripture tells us we're to "honor our father and mother," which is a FORM of "glory" given to our parents.  The fact is the English word "glory" is an imprecise word.  Catholics use the more precise Latin terminology to distinguish the glory given to God as "latria."  Latria is only given to God, and is that praise and honor due only to the One who is worthy of our latria.  So while Catholics would agree fundamentally with "soli Deo gratia," the better Latin phrase would be "soli Deo latria."

St. Thomas More on Luther

I have "lifted" this from BeggarsAll - because I thought it an interesting comment and my "response" doesn't really "fit" with Swan's sentiments.  Plus, if I'm going to respectfully disagree with an alleged statement by a Catholic Saint, I'll do so over here!  ;-)   Being a former Lutheran myself and I would like to look into this particular topic more.  Here is what is found on BeggarsAll:
James Swan wrote:  Thomas More, beheaded and later ushered into Romanist sainthood: "formally beatified by Pope Leo XIII, in the Decree of 29 December, 1886" and "canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935," actually made an argument against Luther that warmed my heart.

If Luther is willing to accept nothing except what is plainly set down in Scripture, why does he believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary? There is nothing to prove this in Scripture and Helvidius actually took it upon himself to prove the contrary, relying on no other authority than that of Scripture.

Thomas More, "An Answer to Martin Luther," The Essential Thomas More (Canada: Mentor-Omega Books, 1967), p. 112.


Now, while I would go so far as to say that the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin is not explicitly taught in Scripture and is anchored in Sacred Tradition - it is at least implied by Scripture.  The following comes from the Scripture Catholic site:

Mark 6:3 - Jesus was always referred to as "the" son of Mary, not "a" son of Mary. Also "brothers" could have theoretically been Joseph's children from a former marriage that was dissolved by death. However, it is most likely, perhaps most certainly, that Joseph was a virgin, just as were Jesus and Mary. As such, they embodied the true Holy Family, fully consecrated to God.

Luke 1:31,34 - the angel tells Mary that you "will" conceive (using the future tense). Mary responds by saying, "How shall this be?" Mary's response demonstrates that she had taken a vow of lifelong virginity by having no intention to have relations with a man. If Mary did not take such a vow of lifelong virginity, her question would make no sense at all (for we can assume she knew how a child is conceived). She was a consecrated Temple virgin as was an acceptable custom of the times. 

Luke 2:41-51 - in searching for Jesus and finding Him in the temple, there is never any mention of other siblings. 

John 7:3-4; Mark 3:21 - we see that younger "brothers" were advising Jesus. But this would have been extremely disrespectful for devout Jews if these were Jesus' biological brothers. 

John 19:26-27 - it would have been unthinkable for Jesus to commit the care of his mother to a friend if he had brothers.

JRW Responses Page

Some discussions over on BeggarsAll got into discussing James White and my 2001 "debate" with him, live on his Dividing Line show.  I went to my James White Responses page and found my provider had restored that page to a really old copy of it.  Many of the links were bad, and it wasn't real appealing.  I have remedied the links (I hope I got them all!) and dressed up the page a bit.   Let me know if I missed anything and/or what you think of the layout.


Tradition Debate?

In a recent discussion on BeggarsAll - James Swan said:
 "Romanists can tear down sola scriptura, but won't positively defend Tradition in debate."
 To which I responded:

"As for a Catholic being unwilling to take up the debate on tradition, I believe that is wholly false. Now, if the non-Catholic is using that as a response to a Catholic challenge; then the Catholic is quite justified in not answering the diversionary and logically flawed tactic. However, if you wish to debate Catholic tradition on the merits of Catholic tradition, I'll take you up on that challenge! Will you put your money where your mouth is, or will you find some excuse to not debate me on this topic? Let me know and we'll work out the details of the debate format."

Swan replies:

"You want to do an in-person debate on Tradition?"
 I replied:
 "As for debate, I will do a written debate with you online. I would welcome a PORTION of that debate to be a live IRC session. In a written debate it is much easier to stay on task and give fuller and more responsible answers. While I do not wholly dismiss a live, face-to-face debate - it is not the best format as if either of us are caught off-guard by a question there is no time in a live confrontation to research and provide a responsible answer.

What do you propose the question of the debate to be? Or, would you like me to present the question/thesis since on the matter of Catholic tradition, I would be the one holding the affirmative?"
That's where we are, so far. 

I propose an online debate because that enables BOTH of us to answer concisely and accurately as possible.  It permits us to present the TRUTH as we see it, and not end up losing a "debate" but where the "truth" does not come out and/or the "best answer" is not given due to the inability to research a question in a live/in-person confrontation.   Will Mr. Swan follow through with this?  If and when he does, of course, links and/or the debate itself will be posted here (and I'm sure at a site and/or blog of his choosing).

Stay tuned!

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