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  • Writer's pictureVic Bernales

The Origin of Five Solas

Not so long ago, I was preparing a series of messages on the five solas (or Lat. solae) of the Protestant Reformation (Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone; Solus Christus - Christ alone; Sola Gratia - Grace alone; Sola Fide - Faith alone; and Soli Deo Gloria - for the Glory of God alone).

Then I was wondering who was the first person to put these five formulas (or solas) together. Clearly the solas summarize the teachings of the Protestant Reformation on the sovereignty of God and the glory He deserves in salvation.

As I was searching the internet, I've found this quote attributed to Chad B. Van Dixhoorn: "[T]he popular delineation of these five solas is not a Reformation idea but a modern one. That is to say, if the Reformers were told to list their core doctrines they might as readily have spoken about salvation by the Holy Spirit alone in the church alone" ('Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology,' 23.1 [2005]: 119).

So it seems that the five solas are really a modern formula by a modern author or authors attempting to summarize the essential doctrines of the 16th century Protestant Reformation movement.

One FB friend told me that she has read somewhere that it was B. B. Warfield who put these solas together, but I haven't come across to it yet in my readings of Warfield or about Warfield. But even if the originator of these solas is unknown, I know that these summary doctrines are faithful to the teachings of the Scripture.

By the way, the solas are not the only teachings of the Reformers and Reformed churches. They covered a wider area of teachings than the doctrines of salvation and God. Their reformatory work goes beyond Theology proper and Soteriology (or doctrine of salvation). One will find a rich treasury of knowledge on the doctrine of the church (ecclessiology) and pastoral theology and ministry also in their writings.

The contemporary Christian church, its ministers and members, will surely benefit a lot from reading the primary writings of pre-Reformation figures like Wycliffe and Hus, and the more prominent Reformers like Luther and Zwingli, Calvin and Bullinger, Bucer and Cranmer, and a few others.

The Lord richly has blessed us and our generation because the writings and the sermons of these men are now easily available not only in published books but also in the worldwide web.

May the Lord cause His truth to shine upon the hearts of many! May He cause His Word to turn many people back to Him in the knowledge of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ! Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!


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