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The Five Solas -- Class 1, Sola Scriptura

The Five Solas is a series of classes exploring the five major slogans of the Protestant Reformation. In this class, we look at Sola Scriptura or the Bible Alone. This traces some of its origins, its development during the Reformation, and how it applies today.

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The Five Solas -- Class 1, Sola Scriptura

  1. 1. The Five Solas SOLA SCRIPTURA C.S. NOREN
  2. 2. Acknowledgment  Much of the historical information is taken from: McGrath, Alister E.. Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 4th Edition. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Kindle Edition.
  3. 3. October 31, 1517…  October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  This is the date that the Roman Catholic Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther, nailed 95 discussion theses on the Wittenberg Castle Church door.  Over the course of a number of years, Martin Luther will awaken to the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  This movement will awaken in other areas in Europe. It will become known as the Protestant Reformation.
  4. 4. The Five Solas  Five slogans will become known during the Reformation:  Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone.  Sola Fide – Faith Alone.  Sola Gratia – Grace Alone.  Solus Christus – Christ Alone.  Soli Deo Gloria – To God’s Glory Alone.
  5. 5. The Class  This class will explore each of these slogans and what they mean in our daily lives.  This class will also cover some of the history of the Reformation, its origins, development, and significance.
  6. 6. Uses of the word Reformation  Reformation can refer to:  Lutheranism (originating in present day Germany).  The Reformed Church (originating in present day Switzerland).  The Radical Reformation (Anabaptism).  The Counter Reformation (Catholic Reformation).
  7. 7. Definitions…  Mainstream Reformation – This refers to Lutheranism and Reformed parts of the Reformation.  Magisterial Reformation – This refers to the Mainstream Reformation. The term “magisterial” refers to how the mainstream reformers developed a positive relationship with the civil government, such as princes, magistrates, or city councils.  Protestant – The name originates from the consequences of the Second Diet of Speyer (February 1529), which ended the toleration of German Lutheranism. Six German princes and 14 cities protested the oppression, and the term “Protestant” comes from that protest.
  8. 8. Europe 1470 … The region of Italy had reminders of the great Roman past. 1400’s – Florence enjoyed political stability great prosperity. Scholastic theology was a major intellectual force in Northern Europe… 1453, Byzantium crumbles, many Greeks intellectuals flee to Italy. Scholastic theology was not a major intellectual force in Italy. In this vacuum, something else will fill it. This led to the development of an intellectual movement, known today as humanism.
  9. 9. The Renaissance and Humanism  The 1400s and 1500s saw a literary and artistic revival.  People of this period called it a restoration, revival, rebirth, awaking, reflowering. We call it the Renaissance.  An intellectual movement that we call “humanism” developed in the region of Italy.  This is not the humanism of the 20th or 21st century.  The English word “humanist,” which first appears in 1589, has the sense of “a literary scholar, especially someone versed in Latin studies.” (McGrath, p. 37)  Our use of “humanism” as a label for the Renaissance movement started in the 1800s.
  10. 10. Humanism  The 15th century humanists were interested in the classics of antiquity.  The classics were viewed as a means to develop eloquence.  There was no coherent philosophy.  Heterogenous ideas.  “… humanism was concerned with how ideas were obtained and expressed, rather than with the actual substance of those ideas.” (McGrath, p. 39)
  11. 11. Humanism and the Church  The literary and cultural program of humanism can be summarized in the slogan ad fontes – “back to the fountainhead.”  Applied to the Christian church, the slogan ad fontes meant a direct return to the title deeds of Christianity: the patristic writers and, supremely, the New Testament.  Ad fontes was more than a slogan: it was a lifeline to those who despaired of the state of the late medieval church. The apostolic era, the Golden Age of the church, could once more become a present reality. (McGrath, pp. 40-41)
  12. 12. Spread of the new ideas… These ideas spread throughout Europe.
  13. 13. Regional Distinctives … Swiss Humanism: • Strongly moralistic • Bible describes correct behavior • Justification was not a major issue French Humanism: • Interested in legal reform. • Legal reform to govern France. • Roman sources. • Applying it to today. Erasmus of Rotterdam • A leading intellectual. • Laity is the key to revive the church. • Compilation of the Greek New Testament. German Humanism • Academic orientation • Theological orientation. • Justification with God was a leading concern. • This broke with other humanism.
  14. 14. The Rise of Sola Scriptura  The fundamental conviction motivating the magisterial reformers was that Christianity could best be reformed and renewed by returning to the beliefs and practices of the early church. (p. 20) Golden Era Christ Born End of Apostolic Era Augustine born End of Patristic Era Augustine died Luther's 95 Theses 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600
  15. 15. The Rise of Sola Scriptura  The best way of returning to the golden era was going to the Scriptures.  Secondarily:  Going to the Patristic writings, particularly Augustine of Hippo.  Earliest Creeds.
  16. 16. What Constitutes Scripture?  Latin Vulgate? Erasmus noted several issues:  It was a Latin translation from the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament.  Some mistranslated words, Erasmus noted, gave the wrong inference on sacraments (Ephesians 5:31-32 was translated as “sacrament” for marriage where the Greek meant “mystery,” Matthew 4:17 translated “repent” as “do penance” implying an outward sacramental action instead of an inward attitude implied in the Greek).  Erasmus noted that practices that the medieval church developed around Mary and supported by the Vulgate text of Luke 1:15-16 as Mary containing a reservoir of grace was not supported by the Greek, which simply stated Mary was a favored one.  These and other issues (such as no standard text) led to a loss of confidence of the Vulgate.  New editions of the Greek New Testament (Erasmus, 1516) and the Hebrew Old Testament (1477, 1509).
  17. 17. What Books?  The 27 books of the New Testament were not in dispute (except for some of Luther’s comments on several books, which did not gain traction).  The Old Testament.  Roman Catholic Old Testament contains books that were disputed.  The Reformers choose the books contained in the Hebrew Bible (protocanonical books) and exclude the other additions – deuterocanonical books (from the Greek meaning "belonging to the second canon").
  18. 18. Concept of Sola Scriptura  The authority of any church officer (popes, councils, theologians) is subordinate to Scripture.  Authority comes from the Word of God which the office bearer serves (and not from the status of the officer).  Authority does not come from historical continuity.  Protestants stressed the doctrinal continuity to Scripture.  Authority in the church is grounded with fidelity to Scripture.
  19. 19. What Role Does Tradition Play?  Three views:  There is no place for tradition in the interpretation of Scripture.  Tradition designates a traditional way of interpreting the biblical text, which does not displace the text. (p. 100)  Tradition refers to an additional mode of divine revelation, in which information that was not committed to writing in the Bible was passed down from one generation of authorized and privileged persons within the church to another. (p. 100) Magisterial Reformers
  20. 20. Rules of Engagement  Two sets of beliefs and practices are endorsed:  If beliefs and practices are explicitly stated in Scripture.  If beliefs and practices can be reasonably inferred from those that are explicitly stated.  As stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1.6): The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture  The idea of traditional interpretation of Scripture is acceptable if it can be justified.
  21. 21. Trouble in Reformation Land  Before the 1530s, there was an optimism that every person could read the Bible for themselves and come to a common understanding of what is taught.  The German peasant revolt and the Radical Reformers led to a pessimism on common people reading the Bible.
  22. 22. Solutions to the Troubles of Sola Scriptura During the Reformation  Catechisms. Summary statements of essential doctrines, often in question and answer form.  Luther’s initial catechism was awkward and relatively unsuccessful.  Luther was more successful with his lesser catechism (1529).  The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. It was immensely popular. It is Reformed in its orientation.  John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Extremely popular and circulated widely (1541, and revised many times through 1560) .  Political Fiat.  Example, Zurich city council ruling in 1523.
  23. 23. Heidelberg Catechism Example Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death? A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
  24. 24. Sola Scriptura Today  The Bible is God’s very words to us.  We are not “Lone Rangers” in reading our Bibles.  We live in accountability with a community of believers.  In the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we have:  Catechisms. Catechisms provide a framework for the “traditional” understanding of Scripture. These are subordinate to Scripture.  The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).  The Larger Westminster Catechism.  The Shorter Westminster Catechism.  Book of Church Order (BCO)  Elders, examined by the Presbytery (Teaching Elders) or the Church Session (Ruling Elders) who help us grow in understanding the Bible.
  25. 25. Sola Scriptura and You  Read your Bible regularly. The Lord of the Universe is speaking to you in those pages. God has put what He thinks is most important to say to you in the Bible. Read broadly from the Old Testament and New Testament.  Pray for illumination from the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible and apply it to your life.  Worship. Participate in the worship service. The hymns and liturgy are Scripture breathed. Toby Holt is one of the best Bible expositors I have heard. Do what you can to actively listen to his sermons.  Participate in other teaching opportunities with church, such as Sunday School, Bible Studies, even fellowship times.  Read widely with helpful tools. The elders can help with what is best.
  26. 26. Next Lesson  Sola Fide.  What does it mean?  What was Luther’s crisis?  What was Luther’s breakthrough?  What is saving faith?  Can we have assurance of salvation?  How is faith understood differently between the mainstream reformation and the Roman Catholics, especially after the Council of Trent?  Does it matter today? Is the Reformation over?