Why Sola Fide?

Spout-offs Wednesday, February 13th, 2013


The fifth of six posts on the doctrine behind the new album.

Sola Fide – justification by faith alone – is closely connected to Sola Gratia. So much so that the phrase commonly runs “salvation by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). But the prepositions there are important. If we were saved with grace and faith, neither of them would be “alone” anymore. We’d have three Solas and a Duo, and what’s worse, another synergistic soteriology.

This post is coming to you, presumably, through the screen of a computer. That screen is necessary for you to be able to read it. But that screen didn’t really cause this post to exist. In the same way, faith is the only way to lay hold of saving grace. But the faith did not merit the grace or cause it to come. Indeed, the faith was given by that same grace.

“Gospel” in the original Greek is EvangelionEu-, meaning good, and -angelion, message. Sola Fide is why the news is good. After the doctrine of total depravity, Sola Gratia is all well and good, but how is that grace laid hold of? How does one become oriented toward the Good? By faith alone – that is, by a desire for God, the Summum Bonum. One is declared righteous before the good works start, and independently of them. This is justification, and it is brought about by faith alone.

That said, one’s desire “manifests itself only in the reality of action“, which is only to say that justification is always followed by sanctification. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). But faith is not aided by works; rather, it leads to them.

This is why pictures of God as dictator are nonsensical. God does not coerce belief – meaning he does not impose it upon the will, for that is no belief at all – but it’s not quite right to think here of “persuasion” as the alternative either. Yes, God’s self-revelation of his goodness is persuasive, but irresistibly so. Our wills are naturally oriented toward what we think of as good, so the gift of faith is nothing else than belief in a factual proposition – or rather, a definition: God is Good.