This semester, we will dive in and discuss the topic: 5 Solas of the Reformation which are: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory). Along with TULIP, these are crucial principles to the Reformed Theology. However, in this first meeting we didn’t dive right into the principles just yet. Instead, to start things off, Reverend Budy gave a lecture on the historical context of Reformed Theology. Why bother learning about something that happened such a long time ago? What does it have to do with us, Christians living in the modern world of the digital age? Well, it has to do with everything. Those who cannot remember the past are bound to repeat it. Let us be wise and carefully observe the past that God has set before us.
There are three main points guiding us in the first meeting, the first one being the fact that Reformed Theology is a Christian Theology. Reformed Theology is deeply rooted in early Christianity. It is a theology that you can trace through the Reformers, the Church Fathers, and eventually the Apostles themselves. Just like the early Christians, Reformed Theology accepts the Bible as the infallible, authoritative Word of God. Reformed Theology recognizes and associate with the creeds and councils of early Christianity, which are the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Council of Constantinople, and the Council of Chalcedon. Church-going Christians would be familiar with the Apostle’s Creed: a summary and a confession of what we as believers of Christ believe in. It is one of the oldest creeds that have been guiding the Church. According to Church traditions each of the Apostles contributed to the articles of the Creed, although it seems that the Creed emerged several decades after the end of the Apostolic era. That is beside the point though—what matters is its content and significance throughout Church history. The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) was conceived through the Council of Nicea, to counter the false teachings of Arius. He taught that while Jesus was divine, he was not God and was instead God’s first creation. The council was the first major effort to gain consensus for what Christians believe in, and through it the conflict started by Arius was cleared, asserting that while Jesus is a ‘Son’, he is also God Himself. The Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) followed years later, and was held mainly in response to the controversies regarding the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) is the last major Church council that Reformed Theology recognizes and accepts (the outcomes of later councils contradict the truth of the Scriptures). The main issue in dispute in the council was the two natures that existed in Christ. Through the council, it was affirmed that God was truly God and truly man—the two natures exist unchangeably, invisibly, and inseparably.
The second point is that Reformed Theology is a Protestant Theology. Reformed Theology is a theology rooted in the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther separated from the Roman Catholic Church. Up until then, the Bible’s authority within the Church has been compromised. Yes, it was recognized that the Scriptures were authoritative—but so were church traditions and decisions by the Pope, they claimed. Salvation is not gained only by grace alone, but also through hard works. Protestants, however, insisted that only the Bible has such an authority, and that salvation is through grace alone. Hence the 5 Solas: we know that we are saved because of the Bible, which shows us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone.
The final point is that Reformed Theology is a Reformed Theology. The Protestant Reformation was one started by Martin Luther (although there were pre-Reformation figures like John Wycliffe and John Huss who proclaimed Scriptural authority), but John Calvin is arguably the most important figure to have taken part in it. Some people say that Luther was there to bring down the false doctrines and teachings that have been clouding the Church up until then, and Calvin was there to build the Church back up with solidified doctrines and strong commitment to the Scriptures. It was from these two men that two Church denominations originate: Lutheran and Reformed. As it can be seen rather blatantly, this is where Reformed Theology came to be. Although that does not mean that Reformed Theology should be treated as ‘Calvin’s teachings of Christianity’ though. When the term ‘Reformed’ is used here, it means ‘reformed according to the Word of God’. So no matter what, Reformed Theology is a theology that, in principle, keeps reforming itself according to the truth of the Bible—Calvin just merely affirmed this reality.
That about wraps it up. We hope that through this trip throughout Church history you may come to know more about the faith we hold dear to and are set to learn more about the 5 Solas in the following weeks!
May God bless, and to Him be the Glory!