Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sola series--part 1

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Comet, Chilson's Pride, Cheyenne and CG Highlight.

Five statements that have shaped the church came out of the Reformation. These statements have been referred to as “the five solas.” These five statements sum up the major issues of the Protestant Reformation. The five statements are:
• Sola scriptura
• Sola fide
• Solo gratia
• Solus Christus
• Soli Deo gloria

It is my belief that many (if not all) of the former “mainline” denominations are at the beginning stages of a new reformation. The five “sola” statements are central to those reformations.

Sola scriptura means “by scripture alone.” Reformers believed that scripture alone is where God reveals everything people need to know in regards to faith, truth, morals and living. Getting the Bible translated into the common language of the people became very important.

The Roman Catholic Church (at the time of the Reformation) believed that scripture alone was not sufficient in regards to faith, truth, morals and living. The Roman church felt that church tradition, Papal authority and the biblical interpretations of bishops and priests were to be added to scripture when determining faith, truth, etc. The Roman church actively discouraged people from reading scripture—the church thought that it could be dangerous (The Index of Forbidden Books of Pope Pius IV in 1559).

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has moved away from sola scriptura. The 218th General Assembly is an excellent example of this move away from scripture. The Reformers would never have imagined a denomination that openly encouraged celebrating the holy days and festivals of the Muslim faith (or any other religion, for that matter). The Reformers would never have imagined how the denomination openly ignores scripture and what it says about sex outside of marriage (heterosexual and homosexual). The PCUSA seems to believe: scripture + justice issues +culture=> what we need to know in regards to faith, truth, morals and living.

Many have said that the PCUSA has reached the “tipping” point. The PCUSA’s view of scripture is one thing that has brought us to the tipping point. The time has come to move back to sola scriptura.

Sola fide means “by faith alone.” We need to look at the need for “justification” as the starting point for learning about sola fide. Justification is God’s act of declaring a sinner holy. One might ask, “Is there a need for justification?” Human sin is universal. Period. End of discussion. Then there is the truth that God’s judgment is inescapable. Period. End of discussion. Each human is in need of God’s justification!

The Roman church believed: faith+works=>justification. An individual needed to have faith in the Jesus of the Bible—his life, death and resurrection. This faith was not “enough” for justification to occur. Upon confessing one’s sins to a priest or bishop, a person would be given certain “things” to do—for example, saying some “Hail Marys,” lighting candles, etc. Failure to complete the appointed actions would mean that God would not forgive their sin. The Protestant church believed: faith=>justification and works. God gives us the ability to have faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus Christ. Our faith in Jesus Christ is all that is need for God’s justification. Our works flow out of the new life we have in Jesus Christ.

Today’s definition of “faith” is very different than the definition that was used in biblical and Reformation times. Back then, faith was not “subject” centered—it was “object” centered (J.I. Packer). “Subject” centered means that the individual is the focus of faith. “Object” centered means that Jesus Christ in the focus of our faith. To have faith in Jesus Christ is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ that leads and directs our life.

On the surface, it would be easy to say that most all Presbyterians believe in sola fide. Unfortunately, that would be incorrect. I believe (and it is my contention that Presbyterian Panel surveys bear this out) that most “people in the pews” and elders believe in sola fide (as defined in scripture and the Reformation). There are many pastors (and church leaders) who believe that everyone will be in heaven—after all, God is love. There are those who believe that all we have to do is “love” people. There are those who do not believe in the Jesus of the Bible: Son of God, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, did miracles during his earthly ministry, died on the cross for our sins, bodily rose from the dead—conquering death, showed himself to his followers following the resurrection, and then ascended into heaven. Too many in the PCUSA DO NOT have faith in this Jesus.

Many have said that the PCUSA has reached the “tipping” point. The PCUSA’s view of faith is one thing that has brought us to the tipping point. The time has come to move back to sola fide.


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