The Seven Solas
The seven solas are seven Latin phrases rising
up during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the Reformers' basic
theological beliefs in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman
Catholic Church of the day. The Latin word sola
means "alone" or "only" in English. The seven solas articulate seven fundamental beliefs of the
Protestant Reformation, pillars which Reformers believe to be essentials of
Christian life in belief and practice.
1) Sola Scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
Sola scriptura is the
teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God,
is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to
all—that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting.
That the Bible requires no interpretation outside of itself is an idea
directly opposed to the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox,
Coptic, Anglo-Catholic, and Roman Catholic traditions, which teach that the
Bible can be authentically interpreted only by Apostolic Tradition, this
being for the Roman Catholic tradition embodied in the Magisterium,
(that is the teaching authority embodied in Bishops in union with the Pope).
Sola scriptura is
sometimes called the formal principle of the Reformation, since it is the
source and norm of the material principle, sola
The adjective (sola) and the noun (scriptura) are in the ablative case rather than the
nominative case to indicate that the Bible does not stand alone apart from
God, but rather that it is the instrument of God by which He reveals Himself
for salvation through faith in Christ (solus Christus)
2) Sola Fide ("by
Sola fide is the teaching that justification
(interpreted in Protestant theology as, "being declared right by
God"), is received by faith only, without any mixture of or need for
good works, though in classical Protestant theology, saving faith is always
evidenced by good works. Some Protestants see this doctrine as being
summarized with the formula "Faith yields justification and good works"
and as contrasted with the Roman Catholic formula "Faith and good works
Protestantism also teaches the doctrine of Regeneration, which has always
been part of the doctrine of Justification by Faith, which states that the
Holy Spirit Indwells a new believer at the point of his response to the
Gospel with Faith in Christ, and the Holy Spirit thus Regenerates the soul of
the believer and makes it not only "legally" righteous according to
the declaration of the Father, but also objectively righteous. In
Regeneration, the Holy Spirit makes actual the declaration of righteousness
of the Father. But Luther recognized that this inner transformation, (termed
in some Evangelical circles today as being "saved" or "born
again"), does not immediately make the believer completely sinless in
his actual daily life. The soul is seen as Regenerated and made perfect by
the Holy Spirit, but the "flesh" still holds some sway in the life
of the believer and must be progressively overcome and brought into obedience
by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Protestant theology, this progressive
realization and "living out" of the inner transformation that took
place in the act of Regeneration is called "Sanctification".
The Sola fide doctrine is sometimes called the material
cause or principle of the Reformation because it was the central doctrinal
issue for Martin Luther and the other reformers. Luther called it the
"doctrine by which the church stands or falls" (Latin, articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae). This doctrine asserts the total
exclusion of any other righteousness to justify the sinner other than the
"alien" righteousness (righteousness of another) of Christ alone. Sola fide excludes even the sinner's own righteousness of
Sanctification or his "new obedience" from his Justification.
3) Sola Gratia ("Grace Alone")
Sola gratia is the
teaching that salvation comes by God's grace or "unmerited favor"
only — not as something merited by the sinner. This means that
salvation is an unearned gift from God for Jesus' sake. While some maintain
that this doctrine is the opposite of "works' righteousness" and
conflicts with some of the aspects of the Roman Catholic doctrine of merit,
it might be asserted that this article, taken at face value, conflicts in no
way with Roman Catholic teaching; while the doctrine that grace is truly and
always a gift of God is held in agreement between both views, the difference
in doctrine lies mainly in two facts:
that of God as sole actor in grace (in other words, that grace is always efficacious
without any cooperation by man),
that man cannot by any action of his own, acting under the influence of
grace, cooperate with grace to "merit" greater graces for himself
(the latter would be the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church).
This doctrine asserts divine monergism in
God acts alone to save the sinner.
The responsibility for salvation does not rest on the
sinner to any degree as in "synergism" or Arminianism.
Lutheranism holds that this doctrine must not be maintained to the exclusion
of gratia universalis
(that God seriously wills the salvation of all people).
4) Sola Christus ("Christ
Alone" or "Jesus Alone")
Solus Christus is the
teaching that Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and that there
is salvation through no other (hence, the phrase is sometimes rendered in the
ablative case, solo Christo, meaning that salvation
is "by Christ alone"). While rejecting all other mediators between
God and man, classical Lutheranism continues to honor the memory of the
Virgin Mary and other exemplary saints.
This principle rejects "sacerdotalism,"
which is the belief that there are no sacraments in the church without the
services of priests ordained by apostolic succession under the authority of
5) Soli Deo gloria
("glory to God alone")
Soli Deo gloria is the teaching that all glory is to be due to God
alone, since salvation is accomplished solely through His will and action
— not only the gift of the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus on the cross
but also the gift of faith in that atonement, created in the heart of the
believer by the Holy Spirit.
The reformers believed that human beings—even saints canonized by the
Roman Catholic Church, the popes, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy—are
not worthy of the glory that was accorded them.
That is that one should not exalt such humans for their good works, but
rather praise and give glory to God who is the author and perfecter
(finisher) of these people and their good works.
6) Soli Sangre Christi ("blood of
Jesus Christ alone")
Soli Sangre Christi is
the teaching that faith and trust in the shed blood Jesus Christ alone is the
only sufficient sacrificial payment debt and only satisfaction for God's
wrath upon Sin. The actual shed blood of Christ (not transubstantiated blood)
is presently sprinkled upon God's "mercy seat" in heaven and
continually washes "cleanses" the regenerate of sin until the day
man's perishing body (the flesh) is replaced with his new redemptive body (at
7) Sola Veritas ("truth
The solid non changing Truth of God is founded in His living Word, steadfast
in Jesus Christ