|A series of articles on|
|Grace in Christianity|
a theological concept
Sola gratia is one of the Five solae propounded to summarise the Reformers' basic beliefs during the Protestant Reformation; it is a Latin term meaning grace alone. Protestant reformers believed that this emphasis was in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, though the Catholic Church had explicitly affirmed the doctrine of sola gratia in the year 529 in the Council of Orange, which condemned the Pelagian heresy.1 As a response to this misunderstanding, Catholic doctrine was further clarified in the Council of Trent-- the Council explained that salvation is made possible only by grace; the faith and works of men are secondary means that have their origins in and are sustained by grace.
During the Reformation, Protestant leaders and theologians generally believed the Roman 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. The 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.
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, a concept that some take to 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".
|The Five Solae of the
|Soli Deo gloria|
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."2
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" over salvation by grace alone or by grace and good works.
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 Roman Catholic viewpoints on this subject.3
- White, R. A., "Sola Gratia, Solo Christo: The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification," http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a134.htm
- Joint declaration on the doctrine of justification, by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church on The Holy See home page
- An Appeal to Evangelicals, by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc.
- Articles on the five solas from a conservative Protestant perspective