Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Five Catholic Solas

Some time back a fellow blogger circulated a list of five Solas.  Now, he wasn't a Catholic.  In fact, his list was meant to conflict with Catholic theology, to show the differences.  Its been awhile since he put it up, but i felt a desire to write a response piece. 
      Mr. Calvin, who put forth the original articular, gives the following list;
  • Sola fide ("by faith alone")
  • Sola gratia ("by grace alone")
  • Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
  • Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("Christ alone" or "through Christ alone")
  • Soli Deo gloria ("to God alone be the glory")
      Given my extreme laziness and very rusty Latin i'm going to leave my responses in English.  If one of my readers feels called to translate my list into Latin i would find that amusing.  It should be mentioned, my list should not be seen so much as a point by point critic, but rather as a Catholic alternative.  There are some points upon which Calvin and i would agree, although i shall do my utmost best to ignore them for the remainder of this post.
      The Five Catholic Solas, which i put forth, are these;
  • By Grace Alone
  • By Love Alone
  • By the Word of God Alone
  • God Alone
  • From God Alone is the Glory
      The first point on my list is grace alone.  More observant readers will notice that Mr. Calvin has already used this term.  In some ways it is a point were we would agree, but i think Calvin takes faith too far.  For Catholics it is all grace, we contribute nothing of ourselves.  Everything we have to offer, even our faith, we have only by the grace of God.  If my faith is of myself i would have cause to boast.  We are not saved by some combination of faith and grace.  We are saved by grace alone and everything else, including faith and works, flow from that.
      My second point is love alone.  We are saved for love, through love and on account of love.  God saved us because He loves us so that we might love Him.  Because God loves us, He is not satisfied to simply ignore our deficiencies.  He is compelled by love to heal us, to reconcile us to Himself.  God is love and we cannot begin to understand God apart from love.  It is for and by love that we were made in the first place.
      This third one is pretty straight forward.  The Bible alone is insufficient.  Scripture alone cannot explain where it came from, how we know what is and isn't scripture.  Scripture alone cannot address series differences of opinion within the Church.  Perhaps most grievous is that one must look beyond scripture to to find the very idea of scripture alone, it's not found in the Bible.  In professing the Word of God Alone we affirm the need for and value of both scripture and tradition and the need of the
Church to interpret it.  We profess the Word of God alone, but we do not limit this to only that which is written.
      God Alone is perhaps the foundational tenet of Catholic faith.  All the others are contained in this one.  God is the source and means of everything.  Salvation comes from Him, forgiveness comes from Him, the Word of God is His word which He enables us to interpret through His grace.  I have expanded this from Christ alone to God alone in order to emphasis the roles of the Father and Holy Spirit.  Christ is not alone, we cannot come to Him unless we are first called by the Holy Spirit, and this journey does not conclude until we arrive at the house of the Father.  Additionally, i want to emphasis that even when God works in and through others, it remains God Himself who does the work.
      In this final point, it is perhaps a very small change grammatically, but it is a very large change theologically.  In the original, to God alone, any praise not directed towards God directly is wrong.  To attribute glory to anything outside of God would detract from God.  In recognizing instead, that all glory flows from God, we are free to praise popes and saints and small children because the glory we see in them is of God.  They do not detract from God, they reflect God.  In proclaiming From God Alone is the Glory, we recognize that to praise truth, goodness and beauty, wherever they are found, is to give praise and worship to Him who made them.  We give glory to God when we recognize the grandeur of His creation.

      By Grace Alone - This first point reminds us that we can go all things through God who strengthens us, but we can do nothing apart from Him.  Everything we have we have through His grace.  Everything we do, we do through His grace.
      By Love Alone - This second point reminds us that we were made by love and for love.  Apart from love our lives have no purpose, no meaning.  We owe everything to God's love and are now called to share that love with the world.
      By the Word of God Alone - This third point reminds us that our own intellects are insufficient.  We must be guided by the Holy Spirit if were are to know anything of God.  Our understand comes from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, interpreted by the magisterium under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
      God Alone - This fourth point reminds us that we exist only by God's continuing choice.  Our very existence is grounded in Him.  He needs no one else but we desperately need Him.
      From God Alone is the Glory - This fifth point reminds us that no matter where we may encounter truth, goodness or beauty; it is God's glory being manifest.  We in no way detract from Him in praising His creation.

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