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Re: [Synoptic-L] Sola

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  • Larry Swain
    Hi Bruce, Its been many a year since I ve had to think about this. As I recall, sola fidei came first in Luther s mind. Luther had been a man in need of
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 18, 2009
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      Hi Bruce,

      Its been many a year since I've had to think about this. As I recall, sola fidei came first in Luther's mind. Luther had been a man in need of salvation and wore his confessor out with the confessing and requesting penance for every detailed sin that the Luther's mind imagined until his confessor sent him away. But it is of course based on Paul in Romans and was a revelation to Luther when he was preparing lectures on Romans (said to have come to him while contemplating on the john).

      Sola gratia is pure Augustinianism from his works against Pelagius. Luther was an Augustinian friar, so quite steeped in ol' Auggie's works.

      Sola Scriptura has its origins in the Diet of Worms. Luther was providing proofs for his positions from both Scripture and Church Fathers. His prosecutor trapped him by pointing out that he was criticizing church tradition by using church tradition and so undermined his argument. Luther retired, prayed, and next day came back and declared "sola scriptura" and carried on giving proofs of his arguments solely from Scripture....the good cardinal prosecutor won the battle and so lost the war on that one.

      I don't know about the other two.

      Larry Swain

      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Manu
      On: Five Solas
      From: Bruce

      It seems to me that the sola fide proposition is properly attributed to
      Luther, as summarizing the essence of his view (as against the Catholic
      orthodoxy of his day) that faith alone is necessary and sufficient for

      The other solas I can't speak to. Except for one, they seem to me to be
      elaborations or extensions of the basic Luther proposition. How far Luther
      himself may have gone in that direction I have no idea, nor have I time to
      scan his very voluminous published works. Nor, should these phrases in fact
      be cullable from Luther, do I have a suspicion who may have culled them. In
      any case, the list I have, in my order, is this:

      Sola fide: By faith alone (Luther, in all probability)
      Sola gratia: By grace alone (complement of the preceding)
      Soli Dei gloria: Glory to God alone (ditto)
      Solus Christus: Christ alone intermediates (cf Sola fide)
      Sola scriptura: By Scripture alone (separate but typical Reformation tenet)

      Of course even Two "solas" cancel out the basic idea of "sola," never mind
      Five, but hardly anybody pays attention to such details. The love of
      numbered lists is much more powerful in PR work, and their supposed magical
      potency, as exhausting all alternatives and thus linking up numerologically
      with the Cosmos (notice the plethora of Fives and Tens and Twelves, at both
      ends of the Eurasian continent), made them popular in both India and China
      since about the year 0300, and so they still remain at the present day in
      all areas known to science (eg the women's magazines of the present moment;
      see your supermarket).

      By "scriptura" Luther presumably meant scripture as opposed to dogma. From
      scriptura he would certainly exclude, if he could, the Epistle of James, not
      to mention numerous passages in the Gospels and even in the Pauline
      literature, both Proto and Deutero. In other words, something like the
      Reformation controversy was already in full flame in the 1c. As to which
      side of it was original in the Jesus movement, well, I have given my opinion
      on that elsewhere.

      [Luther is often construed as a progressive, but in his own view he was an
      antiquarian, going back to the unsullied truth of an earlier time. For that
      matter, at least as I read the evidence, Jesus also functioned as an
      antiquarian, going back beyond the pettifogging rules of his time to the
      essentials of conduct articulated by the founding patriarchs of his culture.
      In 04c China we see very much the same spirit, but with a special twist,
      some participants in the political theory arguments of that time not only
      going back to culturally ancestral periods for their proofs, but forging
      texts supposedly *dating from* that period to back up their arguments. I
      don't know of anything on the same scale elsewhere in antiquity. When the
      Romans went in for wholesale textual forgery it was not in the interest of
      political theory (the fundamental principles of society), it was in having
      more plays by Plautus to buy tickets for, than Plautus himself had gotten
      around to writing. Frivolous rather than fundamental. Here perhaps is a
      brand new theory of the Fall of Rome, © 2009].


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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