the Five (updated) Solas

by jdavidcharles

This post is in response to a post on Ex Animus’ blog. Both him and I have expressed our disgruntled-ish-ness at people who, one, invoke the five solas as if they were dogmatic, and, two, completely misinterpret them. Although I may not have the complete support of Kevin here (author of Ex Animus), I thought I would “update” the five solas because I feel like being reactionary. For those of you who do not know (or easily forget) he are the five solas that are often invoked by Lutheran/Reformed types as being demonstrative of the Christian life:

Sola scriptura—by Scripture alone

Sola fide—by Faith alone

Sola gratia—by Grace alone

Solo Christo (or Solus Christus)—through Christ alone

Soli Deo Gloria—glory to God alone

Not that these five solas are insufficient per se, but I felt the need to update their language in part to be snarky and also to proffer how I think most of the five solas are to be interpreted. Enjoy.

by scripture alone–>by the World alone

It strikes me that all knowledge I have of scripture, “divine revelation,” comes from and is based upon previous but equally divine other knowledge, what is called “natural revelation,” such as my knowledge of language, interpretation, genre, history, etc. In short, the fact that I am in a world, a created world that is endowed with meaning and life, precedes any understanding I have of scripture. The world is the most primordial (and convincing) “argument” for God and our only means of communing with the divine (why else would God become man?).

by Faith alone–>by Love alone

Faith has nothing on love. It is only by moving beyond myself to feed and clothe the poor that I may enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 25.31-46). Further, faith is only “seen” or given fleshly existence by and in the act of love. Love precedes all belief, faith, and knowledge.

by Grace alone–>by Humility alone

This is more of a specification—I am saved by and participate in the grace that is Christ’s humility. It is only in Christ’s emptying, his becoming “truly” man, that I may meet him face-to-face in this life by equally emptying myself and becoming truly man. It is only in recognizing oneself as worthless, dying to the old man, realizing I am the last, poor, naked, wretched, etc. that one can be seen to already be the first, the new man, rich beyond imagination, and part of the Kingdom of God. Humility is realizing what you are as such and further realizing you do not deserve it.

through Christ alone–>through Everyone-Except-Yourself alone

I personally think this is what solo Christo means to begin with. Love everyone as if yourself, that is to say, love yourself only in loving others—it is in this way you love God. Who are you justified by? At the risk of sounding new-age-y, everyone except yourself, for the image of God (that is Christ) is in everyone, no matter how “fallen.” Every single one of them has something to teach you and save you by—the only place you learn about Christ in this world is through other people, whether that be the experience of the trace of another in the scriptures or through the face of a loved one.

glory to God alone–>glory to the other alone

…wherein “the other” is God, Christ, the Trinity, humanity, your neighbor, the poor, and, perhaps most of all, your enemies. Once again, I think this is what soli Deo Gloria is supposed to mean to begin with, but thought I would strip it of all poeticism for the sake of this post.

As most of these descriptions say I essentially think this is what the five solas are intended to mean on one level or another, but I felt the need to “personalize” and update the language due to absurd abuse I have often seen. Feel free to polemically disagree.