Sola gratia

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Sola gratia (Latin: by grace alone) is one of the Five solae propounded to summarise the Lutheran and Reformed leaders' basic beliefs during the Protestant Reformation. [1] These Lutheran and Reformed leaders believed that this emphasis was in contradistinction to the teaching of the Catholic Church, though it had explicitly affirmed the doctrine of sola gratia in the year 529 at the Council of Orange, which condemned the Pelagian heresy. [2] As a response to this misunderstanding, Catholic doctrine was further clarified in the Council of Trent. This Council explained that salvation is made possible only by grace, and that the faith and works of men are secondary means that have their origins in and are sustained by grace.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Grace in Christianity aspect of Christianity

In Western Christian theology, grace is "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it". It is not a created substance of any kind. "Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

The five solae of the Protestant Reformation are a foundational set of principles held by theologians and clergy to be central to the doctrine of salvation as taught by the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestantism. Each sola represents a key belief in the Lutheran and Reformed traditions in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. These Reformers claimed that the Catholic Church, especially its head, the Pope, had usurped divine attributes or qualities for the Church and its hierarchy.

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History

During the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed theologians generally believed the Catholic view of the means of salvation to be a mixture of reliance upon the grace of God, and confidence in the merits of one's own works performed in love, pejoratively called Legalism. These Reformers posited that salvation is entirely comprehended in God's gifts (that is, God's act of free grace), dispensed by the Holy Spirit according to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ alone.

Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:

Salvation in Christianity Saving of the soul from sin and its consequences in the Christian faith

Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance, redemption is the "saving [of] human beings from death and separation from God" by Christ's death and resurrection, and the justification following this salvation. Christians partake in this redemption by baptism, repentance, and participating in Jesus' death and resurrection.

In Christian theology, good works, or simply works, are a person's (exterior) actions or deeds, in contrast to inner qualities such as grace or faith. In Judaism, a good work is also known in Hebrew as a mitzvah, and refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an individual act of human kindness in keeping with the law. The expression includes a sense of heartfelt sentiment beyond mere legal duty, as "you shall love your neighbor as yourself". Islamic theology holds that salvation is a combination of the grace of Allah and the works performed by the individual. On the Day of Judgment, if an individual's bad deeds are outweighed by their good works, he or she will be forgiven of all sin and then enter into Jannah (Paradise).

Consequently, they argued that a sinner is not accepted by God on account of the change wrought in the believer by God's grace, and indeed, that the believer is accepted without any regard for the merit of his works—for no one deserves salvation; at the same time, they condemned the extreme of Antinomianism, a doctrine that argues that if someone is saved, he/she has no need to live a holy life, given that salvation is already "in the bag". [3]

Antinomianism is any view which rejects laws or legalism and argues against moral, religious or social norms, or is at least considered to do so. The term has both religious and secular meanings.

It is also linked to the five points of Calvinism.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches affirm salvation by grace, teaching: [4]

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

So we, as Orthodox Christians, affirm as clearly and unambiguously as any Lutheran, for example, that “salvation is by grace” and not by our works. Unlike medieval Catholicism, Orthodoxy does not hold that a person can build up a “treasury of merits” that will count in our favor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. What will matter then is our having surrendered our sin to God through confession, and our gestures of love (Mt. 25), together with the unshakable conviction that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” and the unique Way to eternal life. [4]

Being synergists, those of Wesleyan-Arminian soteriology, such as Methodists, take a different approach to sola gratia than Lutherans and Reformed Christians, holding that God, through prevenient grace, reaches out to all individuals though they have the free will to cooperate with that grace or reject it. [5]

Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Arminian theology, though it appeared earlier in Catholic theology. It is divine grace that precedes human decision. In other words, God will start showing love to that individual at a certain point in his lifetime.

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In November 1999, the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" that said, "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works." [6]

On July 18, 2006, delegates to the World Methodist Conference voted unanimously to adopt the declaration. The Methodists' resolution said the 1999 agreement "expresses a far-reaching consensus in regard to the theological controversy which was a major cause of the split in Western churches in the 16th century" about salvation.

Some conservative Protestants still believe the differences between their views and those of the Catholics remain substantial, however. They insist that this agreement does not fully reconcile the differences between the Reformist and Catholic viewpoints on this subject. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Semipelagianism is a Christian theological and soteriological school of thought on salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation, which had been dismissed as heresy. Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Saint Augustine, who taught that people cannot come to God without the grace of God. In semipelagian thought, therefore, a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semipelagian thought teaches that the latter half – growing in faith – is the work of God, while the beginning of faith is an act of free will, with grace supervening only later. It too was labeled heresy by the Western Church at the Second Council of Orange in 529.

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References

  1. Barber, John (2008). The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture. Academica Press. p. 233. ISBN   9781933146348. The message of the Lutheran and Reformed theologians has been codified into a simple set of five Latin phrases: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).
  2. White, R. A., "Sola Gratia, Solo Christo: The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification," http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a134.htm
  3. Rublack, Ulinka (2017). The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780199646920.
  4. 1 2 Breck, John (2 August 2010). "Salvation Is Indeed By Grace". Orthodox Church in America . Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  5. Olson, Roger E. (20 September 2009). Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. InterVarsity Press. p. 95. ISBN   9780830874439. Arminians do not think so; they hold a form of evangelical synergism that sees grace as the efficient cause of salvation and calls faith the sole instrumental cause of salvation to the exclusion of human merits.
  6. Joint declaration on the doctrine of justification, by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church on The Holy See home page
  7. "Welcome to WELS". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014.
  8. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in Confessional Lutheran Perspective
  9. McCain, Rev. Paul T. (12 March 2010). "A Betrayal of the Gospel: The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification". First Things . ISSN   1047-5141 . Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  10. Gerlach, Joel, A Question of Indulgences - Again, Forward in Christ, October 1999
  11. An Appeal to Evangelicals, by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc.