Although likely a twentieth century addition to the original three solae of the reformation — sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia — solus Christus — by/through/in Christ alone— accurately captures and reflects the message of the reformers. Solus Christus, like the other solae is designed to be set against something else. So Christ alone means that Christ’s person and work is sufficient to save sinners and there is no need for additional assistance, whether from a priest, Mary, the church, or ourselves. It suggests that Christ is all we need to be right with God. It seeks to place Christ at the center of everything. He is the one about whom sola sciptura speaks. He is the one from whom we receive grace. And he is the one in whom our faith is placed. Solus Christus means: Christ at the … Read More »
As noted when thinking about sola scriptura, most religions and religious movements have formal and material principles from which authority is derived and by which doctrines are summarized, respectively. Usually the formal principle is a text(s)—hence sola scriptura is the formal principle of the Reformation—while material principles tend to be the summary or central teaching(s) of the religion or the movement. The material principle of the Reformation is the next sola under consideration: sola fide. This no doubt was what Luther was getting at when he called justification by faith articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae-the point of belief which determines whether the Church stands or falls. Likewise, G.C. Berkhouwer:
The confession of divine justification touches man’s life at its heart, at the point of its relationship to God. It defines the preaching of the Church, the existence and progress of the life of faith, the root of human … Read More »
More than anything, the Reformation began as a soteriological struggle. Medieval Christianity had degenerated so much that the gospel had become a demand to make oneself acceptable to God by improving on the infused grace received in baptism and the Lord’s supper (see Vanhoozer, Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity) rather than a donation, that is, a gift from God. This soteriological struggle was envisaged in Luther’s life personally as he wrestled with this theme. We are not talking about an esoteric or abstract theological idea. The Reformation was about the gospel and the Christian life. In some ways, the Reformation was the result of Luther’s personal struggles and the resultant outcomes. He wrestled with the things he saw when he journeyed to Rome. He struggled with his understanding of grace as he read and taught … Read More »
All religions have authoritative texts and persons to whom they look for direction and guidance. This is sometimes called the formal principle of religion. As we have noted recently in our Sunday school class, the formal principle of Orthodoxy is the Bible and sacred tradition. In Catholicism it’s the Bible and tradition and the pope and the magisterium. After the reformation, two traditions—Anglicans and Methodists—would come to emphasize a slightly nuanced position which became known as prima scriptura; the teaching that holy Scripture is first among other places of God’s revelation.
In contrast to all of these, the formal principle of the Protestant reformation was Sola Scriptura: by scripture alone. Alone set this off from Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and later Anglicans and Methodists, and their competing and complementing sources of authority.
Scripture alone is the sole repository of God’s authoritative revelation, the … Read More »
October is the month that Protestants usually celebrate and remember the Protestant Reformation. Although political, economic, and theological controversies were already churning beneath the surface, the date of the Reformation is usually linked with Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses on the churches in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. These 95 Theses come in the form of pithy and succinct sentences, something more akin to Donald Trump’s twitter feed than a theological tome. And that is not an insult. I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t fully understand the attraction to social media. But there are some really talented and gifted people out there who know how to wield it like a surgeon uses a scalpel. And this is how Luther used the theses when he posted them on the door of the church. For example,
Read More »
The recent NFL controversy—which is spreading to other venues too—concerning the appropriate posture during the national anthem got my mind running in so many different directions.
First, there is the liturgical path I went down. We are liturgical beings and therefore we need structure and order and routine. It’s just what we do. It’s who we are. It’s all around us if we will look around and see. We need it. We crave it. As such the national anthem serves as the liturgical call to worship of all American sporting events. Very interesting.
Second, I got thinking about the nature of this national anthem itself—this cultural call to worship—and what protests to it signified. Far more than a set of beliefs one is called upon to affirm intellectually, the protests to the national anthems reveal that the American anthem that signals the … Read More »
In his book, The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love, James Bryan Smith explores what it looks like to follow Jesus in the context of community of faith. He explores at least eight aspects of our communal life as Christians and the import and impact of that on our growth in grace. The community of faith is a: 1) Peculiar community; 2) Hopeful community; 3) Serving community; 4) Christ-centered community; 5) Reconciling community; 6) Encouraging community; 7) Generous community; and 8) Worshiping community.
Knowing Christ and making him known in our context takes place in a whole host of ways
Smith does a pretty good job at a graphing with the variegated way we, as a community, interface with both those on the inside of our community and those on the outside of it.
In the most rudimentary … Read More »
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
Those, of course, are the words from the third stanza of Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Recently I was struck by the last six words – One little word shall fell him – and specifically the word little. Luther shames the devil and extols the power of God’s word. Not just one word shall fell him. But one little word. God’s word is a mighty chain saw and the devil is a tiny tree. It takes but one little, tiny word to fell … Read More »
In Book 2 of Mere Christianity, Lewis moves from the more general and basic topic of natural law that testifies to the existence of God to more specific core issues that relate to Christianity as a whole—that is, he moves to what all Christians believe. Those of you who know anything about the history of Christendom know that this is not an easy topic. How would you summarize what all Christians believe? Where would you start? Where would you end? What would you include? What would you leave out as something specific to your denomination or church but not representative of the whole?
In the span of five addresses Lewis moves from the difference between atheism and theism to the difference between Christianity and Judaism and Islam; to the problem of sin; to the atonement of Christ; to the nature of … Read More »
When C.S. Lewis took to the air waves to deliver what would become his well-known, Mere Christianity, he did so in a very intentional non-partisan way. “Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” And so off he goes.
Mere Christianity is really a compilation of three parts—each part consisting of a series of very short essays. Part one takes up a case for Christianity made from the ubiquitous agreement between humanity about what is right and what is wrong. The second, what Christians believe; and the third, how Christians behave.
In the first part, Lewis eventually gets to the Christian gospel in a very powerful way, but before that … Read More »