All to often we hear statements from our challengers which are more like slogans. Slogans are fine to get one to think about the deeper message of the slogan – but all too often we find in apologetics, especially among Protestants, they seem to embrace the slogan itself and not go any further. Let’s examine The Five Solas, which are embraced by nearly all of Protestantism. Not only embraced, but these are foundational to most Protestants, some saying that if fault can be found in even one of these – that they should return to Catholicism. Hmmm. Consider as well, these terms are in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church (yes, it still is) yet these terms are virtually, if not wholly, unheard of in the first 1500 years of Christendom! One would THINK if they are so foundational that the Church Fathers, especially the Latin Church Fathers, would have not only spoken of these terms, they would have spoken IN those terms – and they simply do not.
Slogan 1: Sola Fide
The anti-scriptural concept of Faith Alone. Whoa! What am I talking about? Protestants will argue that St. Paul teaches this throughout his epistles, but what they don’t realize is that in virtually every case, St. Paul is contrasting faith with “works of the law” and clarifying that works of the law cannot save you but it is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ which saves. What they tend not to look into – or ignore if they’ve encountered Catholic apologists – is the fact that St. Paul is not preaching Faith Alone for as St. James teaches “faith without works is dead.” Can a dead faith save anyone? No! Faith, if it is saving faith, is never alone! Another interesting point here, again ignored by most Protestants, is that the ONLY place the words “faith” and “alone” are used together in Scripture is in flat out denial of the 16th century invention of sola fide. All “Bible believing Christians” ought to flee from any group or leader who professes the lie of sola fide.
One of my criticisms in this article is that most Protestants don’t go beyond the slogan to see what it really means however, not all do that. Some do examine these to seek out deeper meaning. Ironically, especially with sola fide, we find the rationalizations end up in double-speak (rendering the argument contradictory and useless). For example, while greatly respected in most Protestant circles, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines sola fide and comes to the conclusion that “we are saved by faith alone, but not a faith which is alone.” So which is it, Dr. Sproul? Is it alone or is it not alone? The term sola fide states it is alone, so to contradict that, regardless of the rationalizations, makes sola fide invalid if it is “a faith which is not alone.”
Slogan 2: Sola Gratia
OK, well this one is not anti-scriptural as sola fide is, but what does it mean? Sola gratia means “by grace alone,” and in concept – that is a true statement for Catholics as well. It IS by His Grace that we are saved, and none can be saved outside His Grace. Does this mean we do not DO anything in the economy of salvation? Well, unless you’re an adherent to an extremist interpretation of predestination (typically among Calvinists) which is represented by the “U” in TULIP (Unconditional grace or election), you would reject the view of having to do nothing. Even the ACT of ACCEPTING the grace is an ACT of DOING something. Therein lies the chief separation between most of Christendom and the Calvinists. While Catholics would accept that the grace is limited in who would receive it, the grace is not limited as to who COULD receive it. “For God so loved the world…” not just part of the world, but the whole world… “He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall be saved.” (John 3:16). Note, the CHOICE to believe is left to man. The passage does not say, “that whosoever God has chosen to believe in Him…” it states “whosoever,” so that this GIFT is freely given to any and ALL who may accept it, or reject it. Back to the point here though, Catholics do not reject a proper understanding of sola gratia.
Slogan 3: Sola Christus
This is a statement that we are saved by (Jesus) Christ alone. Again, this is not a statement or slogan which Catholics disagree with! It is purely or solely through Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross, and more importantly His Resurrection on the Third Day, by which all of mankind was redeemed. Jesus Christ paid the price in full, our redemption is made! All we must DO is ACCEPT the FREE GIFT which He has given to the world. Those who reject this GIFT are rejecting their salvation.
Slogan 4: Sola Deo Gloria
Translation, “Glory to God alone.” In Catholicism the honor we reserve to God alone is called “latria.” It is wrong to give latria to anyone besides God Himself. Now does this mean we are not to give honor (glory) to anyone else? Do we not “honor” those whom we consider “heroes” who have given their life for others, or risked their life to save another? The use of titles, like “doctor” or “teacher” or “professor” or “rabbi” are forms of glory/honor we freely give to others. This slogan is hypocritically used by ignorant Protestants who do not consider other forms of honor/glory which even they give to others stemming from a lack of understanding of the Catholic differentiation between latria and dulia (which is honor given to those who are not God). So, while Catholics would not wholly reject sola deo gloria, if we’re going to use Latin, the more accurate slogan would be “sola deo latria.”
Slogan 5: Sola Scriptura
And we come to the fifth of the Five Solas, and another anti-scriptural slogan. Whether you accept the broader “If it’s not in Scripture, we don’t have to believe it” position or the more precise, “Scripture alone is the sole infallible word of God,” the fact is neither can be found in Scripture! So if the former, since it is not found in Scripture, you don’t have to believe it! If the latter, since it is not found in Scripture – THIS slogan is not infallible. The root of this teaching stems from those who left the authority laid down by Jesus Christ who selected The Twelve and further commanded that they go out and do as He did. The Twelve, our first bishops, did as He commanded and went out and selected others to serve and guide His Church. Then comes the revolt of the 16th century and these new leaders, having rejected the authority Jesus Christ established, created a “different gospel,” to fill the void they created. And, to make it clear that they would not yield to Christ’s authority, they invent this slogan that only Scripture is infallible.
Now, if this were simply not found in Scripture that would not make it “anti-scriptural,” as I have earlier labelled it, so what makes this slogan anti-scriptural? If Scripture is truly the sole infallible source for the Church – then Scripture should not be telling us of ANOTHER infallible source – yet it does! I am reminded of my discussions/debates with Dr. (oh, that intolerable use of glory, honor, title again) James White who made the challenge for us to show him “the other pen.” Well, having done this many times before, let us do so again. That “other pen” is revealed no less than two times in Scripture wherein a single man, Peter is given this infallible authority and later the whole council of the Apostles are given this same infallible authority. Of course I speak of Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:18. Unless you are conceding that error (something fallible) can be bound in Heaven, then you must concede that these men were given infallible authority AND said authority is recorded IN Scripture – thus “Scripture alone” is not the “sole infallible source of authority for His Church.” Therefore sola scriptura is a lie and is anti-scriptural, for Scripture itself opposes it!
As I originally stated, the use of slogans is not necessarily a bad thing – but limiting ones apologetic to “slogan salvation” is. What do those slogans actually entail? Is faith ever REALLY alone if it is a “saving faith?” What do we MEAN by Grace Alone? Can we really rationalize our way around a lie like sola scriptura? If you’re going to use slogans, can you REALLY defend your use of them, or do you just fall back on the slogan, over and over again? I believe a fuller examination of any of these slogans will bring you to the truth of the Catholic Faith, if not right away – someday, if you’re being honest with yourself.