Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, Sola Deo Gloria. These are the so-called ”five solas” that make up the rallying cry of Protestantism’s view of how we are saved.
In a nutshell, Protestants contend that we are saved by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, by the authority of Scripture alone, for His Glory alone.
Now, make no mistake, we are to understand that we are certainly saved by Grace through Faith in Christ, aided by the Scriptures and for His Glory.
but all five of these Protestant doctrines are false….. because God requires our participation in our own salvation and, though it is certainly Christ that is the Author of our salvation, it is the Church that is the means.
God has never acted alone, in the affairs of men, since He created the first man. Does God need man’s participation to carry out His will? Of course not. Was Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary materially sufficient to save all men? Yes, it was.
The issue isn’t what God needs, it is what God wills. We do not have to understand why God has attached Salvation to a Covenant relationship but we do have to understand that He has done so and honor our part of the Covenant.
That is why Grace alone, through Faith alone in Christ alone, by Scripture alone for His Glory alone is Bologna alone….. and not present anywhere in Scripture or Judeo/Christian history.
These five solas were the invention of Martin Luther. They do not appear, expressed or implied, anywhere in the Bible. The only times they are alleged to appear result from verses of scripture that are wrenched from their context and misinterpreted, as we will clearly show.
In the course of exposing these flawed doctrines for what they are, we are going to have expose several protest straw men used frequently to defend them.
The first strawman is the so-called “weak Jesus” argument. This argument holds that the Catholic Jesus is a ”weak Jesus” because He is somehow unable to save us without our assistance. This argument is totally fallacious because it draws a non-existent line between what Christ is able to do according to His omnipotence to what He must do according to His Justice. Christ simply cannot declare an unjust person justified, for to do so acts against His very nature of Justice, which is perfect. Rather than the Catholic Jesus being a “weak Jesus”, the protestant Jesus is not a sovereign Jesus.
The second straw man is that Catholicism is a religion of works while protestantism is a religion of faith. This is a fallacy of the “false dilemma” where two choices are presented as the only two options in order to force someone to accept your position. The truth is that real choice is between protestants who believe that Faith consists of verbal and intellectual assent alone and that works are a presumed result of Salvation as a singular and finished event. Catholics, on the other hand, reject both the propositions of salvation by vain, faithless works as espoused in verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 and of work-less faith as espoused in Romans 2 and James 2 and countless other passages. Catholics uphold the two-fold principle that without God we can do nothing, yet through God we can do anything.
The third straw man is that Catholics reject the inerrantcy and inspiration of Holy Scripture. Again, this is a fallacious argument. Scriptural sufficiency is, in no way a logical consequence of Scriptural infallibility. If I quote Jonah 1;17, I quote a passage that is both infallible and inspired but I challenge anyone to tell me that knowing that Jonah was inside a fish for 3 days is sufficient for salvation. The Bible tells us that the teachings of Jesus couldn’t fit in all the books written since the beginning of time (John 21:25).
The last straw man is that the Catholic church violates 1 Timothy 2:5 by elevating the Pope, the Priests or the Saints to the position of mediators between God and Man. Ministers are not mediators and they certainly are not mediators between God and Man. Only Christ could perform this role because only He IS God and Man.
With these points made, let us enter into our discussion.
To support their position that Salvation is by Grace alone
, Protestants often quote Ephesians 2:8
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast.
These verses do indeed tell us several things about salvation.
- That we are saved by grace, which is a free gift, undeserved and unmerited.
- That that grace is received as a result of faith.
Many protestants assert that this passage says that Salvation is the free gift of God that this passage describes and that Grace is nothing but an expression for God’s favor.
This interpretation does extreme violence to the passage. The subject of the sentence is Grace. The verses tell us the attributes of Grace- that it is free and undeserved- and the result of Grace- Salvation. So Grace is a thing, not a disposition.
Verse 7 proves this; 2:7 that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Grace is not God’s kindness but something given to us according to God’s kindness.
JN 1:16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,
JN 1:17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
ACTS 6:8 Now Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.
ACTS 11:23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
ACTS 13:43 After the congregation had dispersed, many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.
ACTS 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”
EPH 1:7 In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace
EPH 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
EPH 2:7 that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
EPH 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
EPH 3:2 if, as I suppose, you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit,
EPH 3:7 Of this I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power.
EPH 3:8 To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ,
EPH 4:7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
EPH 4:29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.
So, Grace is given to us. But why? To find out, you need to go only 1 more verse.
2:10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
By Christ’s Grace we are saved for the purpose of doing the good work that has been prepared for us. This means that that Grace must be responded to by works. Works are the completion of Faith (James 2:22). Therefore, Grace alone is refuted because Grace requires a response and it is that response that confirms our faith. There is still no reason for boasting because the grace that enables us to do good works is not a result of our efforts but of God.
To support their contention that Salvation is by faith alone, protestants cannot support any direct proof texts. In fact, the only text that uses the term Faith Alone is one that explicitly refutes it
James 2: 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
There are scores of passages that tie Salvation to works and perseverance. Phillipians 2;12, Matthew 24:13 and Romans 2: 5-10. Matthew chapter 25 explicitly ties works to Salvation. The idea of salvation by only a verbal assent to Faith is absurd and comes from taking certain verses out of context.
One such example is Romans 10:9-13
9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. 13 For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The biggest mistake one can make (and many do make) is to read this passage out of literary and Biblical context and inject into it that which it does not say. In doing so, one turns the Bible into a mass of contradictions on salvation.
Indeed, conforming to this kind of overly literal translation, this very passage gives 3 different criteria for salvation;
- Confessing Jesus’ Lordship with your lips and believing God raised Him from the dead. (verse 9).
- Believing in Him (Christ) (verse 11)
- Calling on the name of the Lord, only. (verse 13)
One can simply take these words and run with them- and many do- but all that does is create confusion with a multitude of passages about salvation.
Out of such absurdly literal interpretations grows the doctrine of Sola Fide- Salvation by “Faith alone”. Many people confuse “literal” with “true”. The two are not at all synonymous. There are countless scriptures that must be properly interpreted because the literal interpretation would be misleading.
One example of this is a Scripture that has an allegorical meaning;
Revelation 12: 3 And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth.
Another example is a scripture that loses something in the translation because the English words are not quite compatible;
Luke 14: 26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
To take the English translations of these passages, at literal face value, would be ridiculous. So, it is the same with the passage in Romans. How many different versions of salvation can we come up with if we apply this kind of a simplistic, sound byte approach?
There are 3 in the passage above, alone.
- Confessing Jesus’ Lordship with your lips and believing God raised Him from the dead. (verse 9).
- Believing in Him (Christ) (verse 11)
- Calling on the name of the Lord, only. (verse 13)
There are so many more.
- We are saved by keeping the Commandments (Matthew 19:17)
- We are saved by belief only (John 3:16)
- We are saved by belief and Baptism (Mark 16:16)
- We are saved by Repentance and Baptism (Acts 2:38)
- We are saved by Baptism only (1 Peter 3:21)
- We are saved by being born again by water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5)
- We are saved by perseverance (Matthew 24:13)
- We are saved by Faith, apart from works (Romans 3:28)
- We are saved by Works and not by Faith alone (James 2:24)
- We are saved by multiplying faith (Matthew 25:14-30)
- We are saved by the Corporal works of Mercy (Matthew 25:31-46)
- We are saved by advancing in Righteousness (Matthew 5:20)
- We are saved by being poor in spirit, pure in heart,meek, merciful, peacemakers who are persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10)
- We are saved by producing good fruit as proof of repentance (Matthew 3:7-10)
- We are saved by His blood (Romans 5:9).
- We are saved by Grace (Acts 15:11)
- We are saved by Grace through Faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- We are saved by working out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phillipians 2:12)
- We are saved by eating Christ’s Body and drinking His blood (John 6:48-58)
- We are saved by the Church (Matthew 16:18-19)
- We are only saved by forgiveness through those Christ gave the authority to (John 20:23)
- We are saved by humility (Matthew 18:2-4)
- We are only saved by obedience to earthly religious authority (Romans 13:1-2)
- We are only saved if we don’t judge (Romans 2:1-3)
I have just given you more than 25 different perspectives on how we are saved. Which one is true? Which is the correct one?
It is silly to simply pick one, interpret it how we choose and run with it. If we are to use Scripture as the model for Salvation, we must use the whole body of Scripture and interpret it as it is, not as we wish it to be. The truth is that all of these verses contain elements of what is required for salvation.
This brings us back to Romans 10, and other proof texts like it, where protestants claim Salvation is only an act of Faith or Belief. The issue is not that the verses are not true, they are.
Yet, they are only true in that which they truly say and not in the meanings that are falsely ascribed to the words.
The entire weight of these passages hinges on the meaning of belief. Protestants want to define belief in it’s simplest form- intellectual and verbal assent. In other words, if I assent to a truth in my heart and express that truth with words, then I am saved.
Does the sense of this chapter convey that? no it does not!
The word believe is translated from the greek word pisteusēs which conveys to believe in, to trust in and to lean on. It conveys an active commitment to action. So, it is also true with the word Lord (kurios, meaning authority) and the Word Confess ( omologēsēs, meaning to speak of one mind)
Therefore, what this passage is saying is that you must believe in, lean on and trust Jesus Christ fully, submitting yourself fully to His Lordship and authority and fully accepting and trusting in His resurrection. This is an active, ongoing process.
Notice that it says that if you do this, you will be saved. There is nothing in this passage (or any other, for that matter) that implies Salvation as a singular event.
These passages assure us that those who truly believe in Christ in mind, heart and deed, can have confidence in salvation. Those who believe in vain cannot.
1 John 2: 4 He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:
If Salvation is not by Grace alone
nor by Faith alone
then, as a consequence, it cannot be by Christ alone
Take the parable of the wedding feast . It illustrates this very clearly.
again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, 3* and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ 5 But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ 10* And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; 12* and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13* Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Let’s look at this analogy closely. The King represents the Father, the Bridegroom represents Christ and the Bride represents the Church. The wedding feast represents Christ’s mystical marriage to His Bride. Those who are invited first represent the Jews. Those servants who brought the invitations were the prophets. The Jews killed the prophets so the King destroyed them and their city (Jerusalem). [Matthew 23:37, Revelation 17 & 18).
Then the King invited others (The Gentiles). Many came and dined but some came unprepared. they are represented by the foolish servant who showed up without the wedding garment.
This represents those who are not baptized or sanctified.
Revelation 3: 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
So, you see that Christ offers the invitation but many will refuse the invitation outright. Others will accept the invitation in word but still hold on to their uncleanness.
The result will be the same-
13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The attendants represent the Holy Angels and the outer darkness, of course, represents hell.
So, the fact that we must respond to the call (and not just by word but by action as well), refutes the concept of Sola Christus on one level. However, what is meant most by the Protestant claim of Sola Christus (Christ alone) is foundational to another Protestant Sola- Sola Scriptura.
By Christ alone, Protestants assert two things;
- That we cannot contribute to our own salvation.
- That there is no visible church or ministry or communion of saints that contribute to our salvation.
In asserting that Salvation is through Christ alone, protestants contend that each person is saved individually and personally according to a personal relationship with Christ.
This claim is bound structurally to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and to the doctrine of Sola Fide. They all must stand together or fall together.
Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that asserts that the only authority we are bound to is Scripture. Further, Protestants contend that we are bound only to the 66 specific books that make up the Protestant canon. Some go even further and maintain that we are bound to a specific translation, namely, The King James version.
The first, and most ironic thing is that there is nothing whatsoever in Scripture that asserts such rubbish but that does not stop Protestants from going to great extents to assert that there is.
Each and every argument presented to defend Sola Scriptura is a non-sequiter that simply does not get them to their destination.
In fact, in their zeal to defend this indefensible doctrine, protestants will invariably misrepresent the Catholic position, whether intentional or not.
Therefore, our starting point must be that on which Protestants and Catholics agree upon regarding scripture.
- We both believe Scripture is inspired. That is, we believe Scripture is- in a sense- the Word of God. More accurately, it is a recording of the Word of God.
- We both believe that Scripture is free from doctrinal or moral error (infallible). That is, we believe that Scripture itself is free of doctrinal or moral error. This does not always hold true to the interpretation of Scripture. Protestant interpretation of Scripture is free of all kinds of errors!
So, let’s move on to the definition of Sola Scriptura. Not my definition, mind you, but theirs;
from the fivesolas.com;
The doctrine that the Bible alone1 is the ultimate authority2 was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms3, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God4 saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another5 — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” Similarly, the Belgic Confession stated, “We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully6 contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently7 taught therein…Neither may we consider any8 writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible9 rule” (VII).
There is more than enough there to declare Sola Scriptura as heretical and even blasphemous but, unfortunately, protestants go even further.
The very words of the Westminster confession assert:
VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.10
Let’s look at these points closer.
- The principle of the Bible alone is expressly refuted by Scripture in so many places it is difficult to count. In Matthew 16:18-20, we are told that the Church has the authority to bind and loose. this is a legal term denoting authority. In Luke 10:16 we are told that He who rejects the words of the Disciple (and by consequence, his successors) rejects Christ and The father. In Matthew 18:15-17, we are told that the Church is the final arbitor of disputes. In 1 Timothy 3:15 we see that the Church is the Pillar and foundation of all truth. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 were are told to obey all teachings of the Church, written and Oral. In Romans 13:1-2 we are told that rejection of ordained authority- yes it uses the term “ordained”- brings Judgment on us. In Matthew 23:2, we are told that the authority rests in the Chair of Moses and, that it is not dissolved but given to others. (Matthew 21:42-44). The authority of the Church is clear as crystal.
- The notion of the Bible as an ultimate authority is absurd and untenable. The Bible is a book! It is a collection of inspired and infallible documents written by men. Each and every book of the Bible is written by men who were authorized and ordained to write, but also to preach. The Bible draws it’s authority from men. Men wrote it, translated it, canonized it, interpreted it, printed it, bound it and sold it. The Bible didn’t fall from the sky. Without the Old and new Testament Churches, the Bible could never have come to be. The authority rests in the Church. Without the action of men, the Bible will sit on your nightstand and collect dust. It cannot read itself, interpret itself, preach itself . The Scriptures contain the word “Bible” 0 times but the word “Church” more than 100 times. The Bible is not an authority and never claims to be, nor ever can be. The Bible is not divine, nor can it last forever. It is paper and ink. Should we cherish Scripture? Of course! but the idea of Scripture alone is nonsense and, ironically, un-Biblical.
I cannot help but appreciate the fact that Luther defended his heresy at a place called the diet of worms, since that is what he now is.
Mark 9: 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
- The Word of God canard is one of the most circular arguments that protestants use. It goes like this- because the Bible tells us that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, anything that isn’t scripture isn’t the Word of God. They justify this insidious nonsense by quoting Scripture telling us not to add to the Word of God. This is a circular argument. Only Scripture is the Word of God because Scripture, which is the only Word of God, tells us not to add to the only Word of God, which is Scripture. How anyone could fail to see this argument as fallacious is beyond me. However, the argument is not on fallacious, it is false.
Romans 10:8 But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); ……..
…………14 But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? 15* And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”
2 Thessalonians 2: 15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
- This is not only the fallacy of the unestablished premise (for Luther has only his own word that the church has erred or contradicted itself), but it contradicts the plain promises of Christ that what the Church bound on earth would be bound in heaven (Matthew 16:18-20), that whoever rejected what the Church said rejected Him (Luke 10:16), that He would be with the Church always (Matthew 28:20) and that the Holy spirit would lead it to all truth (John 16:13). All these promises are recorded in Scripture. Luther cannot plausibly infer that all of these scriptures have been broken and still credibly appeal to Scripture. All Christianity stands or falls on these promises.
- John 21:25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
- See note on 6
- Since the Scriptures, themselves, are writings of men, this argument is self contradictory.
- Since Luther is claiming his own doctrine as Infallible, he has to prove that he speaks with God’s infallible authority. Further, by his own logic, he must do so Structurally.
- Practical sufficiency is dis-proven practically, in the fact that 33,000 Christian denominations cannot agree on what Scripture teaches Re; Salvation.
This brings us, lastly, to Sola Deo Gloria. To say that Salvation is for God’s Glory alone
makes God look like an egomaniac. God’s Great Glory is exemplified in His Power and Might and Justice but, most of all, in His Great Love and Mercy.
I close with Paul’s words to the Romans;
Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4* Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6* For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11* For God shows no partiality.
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