What the 5 “Solas” Really Mean

Looking At The Flip Side

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. 

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: 

  1. I don’t need church history, organized religion, dogmatic doctrine, or any spiritual authority over me. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

Dr. K 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “What the 5 “Solas” Really Mean

  1. I always enjoy your sharing, and I love that it makes me think. I have been quietly following. Honestly, I am struggling to relate to the ugliness that is world right now, and I a wrestling with what living the gospel looks like in such times. I’m tired/weary/falling short.

    • Hi Sandi. Thanks for quietly listening. As I read your description of where you are right now, I say to myself, “Sandi is in a good place.” God seems to do His best work when we come to the end of ourselves in weariness and cloudiness. This place usually causes you to pursue God in ways you would not normally. Blessings to you on your journey as God hides and reveals Himself to you. It is a good journey though often dangerous and unsettling. Thank you for reading and engaging. And…thanks be to God for all things. Keith

  2. “One cannot have God as Father without the Church as Mother” is an ancient phrase that has been lost and needs to be recovered, especially by Reformation Christians. Thanks for pointing out the limits of the solas.

    • And, thank you Tim for your gracious and measured response as one who knows reformation issues well. Your quote, if fully understood and experienced, would put most contemporary church life on it’s ear. Thanks for reading and engaging. See you soon. Keith

  3. I’ve personally been all over the map regarding the reformers. We all agreed that Luther would roll over in his grave if he saw what has happened. Not what he had in mind. He was not a madman.

    While it is easy to be critical of the reformers, in fairness to them, what were they supposed to do? It was a mess. But you point out very clearly what happened with the five Solas. From that point forward unity in the church has become impossible. Too many popes. Too many people who have “heard from God”. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

    Now, there is no one who actually believes that their church is true. Christ is true but the church is suspect. We believe in the Bible but we don’t believe in the church. What a shame

    • Hey Bruce. You are correct on so many levels. Thanks for bringing a balancing perspective to my rantings. My focus on the “unintended” consequences is the main point. There were many good consequences, of course. The RC church was ripe for renewal and reformation. Much that resulted is unfortunate to say the least. Thanks for reading and engaging with The UnCommon Journey. You are a good brother. Keith

  4. I do agree with you…the refermation went in the wrong direction….they should went back to the first church…not splitting off.

    • Thanks Debbie. As they say, “If Luther had been Orthodox there would have been nothing to reform.” Thanks for engaging The UnCommon Journey. Keith

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