Why Soli Deo Gloria?

Spout-offs Friday, February 22nd, 2013


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

Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God alone – is probably the most famous of the Solas, thanks in no small part to its use in the signatures of artists like Bach and Handel. It is no accident that this particular Sola should be the one to adorn creative works, nor that it should be the capstone to all of all the Solas, for it summarizes the purpose of the whole set. Why scripture alone? For therein the glory of God is revealed. Why Christ alone? For thereby God set forth the crown jewel of his glory in creation. Why grace alone? That God alone may be glorified. Why faith alone? That the glory of God may be not merely displayed but apprehended.

But what is the glory of God? Moses once asked to see it. God granted his wish and responded, “I am the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.” (Exodus 34:6-7) “And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” The glory of God is the apprehension of his goodness and transcendent grandeur.

Who else might glory go to? First of all to ourselves. Sola Gratia and Sola Fide are meant to divest us of this. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, as the Catholic Church believed, to Mary and a pantheon of departed saints. The mediator between God and man is a glorified role, but as Solo Christo taught, “there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) The whole of scripture, and thus the five Solas, are concerned primarily with establishing the transcendence and the glory of God, over and apart from that of any creation.

This is particularly relevant to the creative work, which all too easily becomes a vehicle for self-indulgence – especially in the bombastic realms of metal. In Bach’s own time the ornate and bombastic baroque style offered a similar temptation. But “all flesh is like grass, and its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25) Soli Deo Gloria establishes purpose in particular actions, in one’s life as a whole, and in the entirety of history.