It has been some time since I studied Latin ( According to the hand-written note on the inside title page of my text book, “Latin is a dead language, it is as dead as it can be. It killed off all the Romans and now it’s killing me” ). As a result, my translation skills are probably a bit dated, rather much the same as a bi-plane being dated as a preferred bombing platform.
As I pushed back from my TRS-80, I reached behind me to retrieve a medium-sized rectangular object from a shelf. The object was an item called a book and it was further defined as a dictionary.
Ignoring the age old question, “How can you find it, if you don’t know how it’s spelled?”, I began flipping through the pages. After a brief period of time, there it was, “Sola” is defined as “alone”.
The first of several “alones”
A brief trot down the column later, and I discovered “Sola Fide”, faith alone. This had been an “on again, off again” source of interest for me since Sister Spinner mentioned the long-standing battle between Paul and James. ( Her real name was Sr. Blanche Emily, and she told me when I was in the third grade, if she ever saw me doing any number of things I have done, she would turn over in her grave. Subsequently, the other nuns in the cemetery refer to her as “Sister Spinner”. )
Paul wrote in several places man is justified by faith in the Son of God, Christ Jesus. Using the Bible Gateway website to be able to compare various translations, I explored a few of Paul’s statements:
Romans 3:28 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
28 For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Romans 5:1 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
5 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Galatians 3:8 New International Version (NIV)
8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
Many similar citations followed, and the general theme appeared to befaith alone is adequate for salvation. However, Sr. Spinner told us ( my memory may not be 100% accurate given the passage of massive amounts of time which have transpired between the third grade and now, further muddied by long evenings with Johnny, Jack & Jim ) when James went running to help Paul after he fell off of his horse, James said , “See, if you do not do good works, such as me helping you back on your horse, your faith alone won’t help. Did your faith keep you on your horse, big fella?”
Back to the Bible Gateway to check on the writings of James, again, multiple translations were selected:
James 1:22 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
James 2:14-17 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
They both said the same thing
Ultimately, both James and Paul were saying the same thing. Paul stated “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” which is from Phil 4:13. Putting the words back into context, what Paul said was, essentially, by my faith in Christ Jesus, He has given me the strength to do all of the works I have done thus far in my journey towards heaven.
When confronted by two divergent perspectives, what was required was to seek out the counsel of a disinterested party. As a result, I decided to see what a certain Unemployed Jewish Carpenter had to say about faith and its implications.
Matthew 7:21: (part of the Sermon on the Mount): “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”
Paul and James and the Carpenter all agree, faith is the noun which must be transformed into a verb. The results of this transformation are the good works which help transform the lives of the others with whom we interact.
Then came the next alone
As I was reaching to put the dictionary away, what to my wandering eye should appear? Not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but yet another Latin phrase…
The phrase which drew my eye was the phrase “Sola Scriptura”, or Scripture alone. That which represents itself as my mind quickly formed the question, “At what point would multiple ‘alones’ form a together?”
This one should be easy to figure out. All that was necessary was to use a search engine and find out where the bible itself said that the bible alone was necessary for salvation.
A short trip to the USCCB web site and I entered “scripture alone” into the search engine. Interestingly enough, the phrase ‘scripture alone’ does not appear in scripture. The closest scripture comes to saying scripture is everything is in 2 Tim 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.”
For the first bunch of years after the Ascension, the Apostles had only their memories, their words and the examples they were shown by Christ Jesus. How then could the scriptures be all that is required since the scriptures themselves did not exist until well after the events recorded in them ( at least the New Testament portion ).
Two for two
Thus far, of the solae considered, the results are two for two. Sola Fide does not work since faith which remains a noun is of no benefit to us or our neighbors. Sola scriptura is not supported by the scripture it seeks to isolate.
The bad news is while I was exploring the search engines to find sola scriptura, a total of five solae were unearthed…
The remaining three of the five solae to be considered are:
Sola Gratia — by grace alone,
Solus Christus — by Christ alone, and
Soli Deo gratia — glory to God alone.
Sola gratia holds the grace necessary for salvation is an exclusive gift of God the Father on the behalf of His Son. Taking this a half of a step further it means grace is an unmerited gift and man can do nothing affecting this grace. At first blush, this may appear to be in agreement with the Catholic views of grace is a gift of the Father, it says however man can do nothing to or with the grace it is there, it is a gift, have a nice forever. This is not in keeping with our faith.
Solus Christus reduces to the action of Christ alone as the mediator between Man and God. This sola indicates there is no need for a priestly class as the laity are, in effect, the only necessary priests. This sola, if followed through its logic, holds there are no priests, and the laity are all the people required for the sacraments.
Soli Deo Gratia simply translates to glory only to God, and is in keeping with Vatican II documentation which clearly states only God is to be worshiped. This sola appears to be a vehicle through which veneration of saints may be “shown” to be misplaced as all glory belongs to God only. People who do good works, as in Mother Theresa, are not to be venerated, but only the Father who is the author if you will , of the good works these people undertook.
Looking at the variety of solae which have been discovered thus far, I will now launch my own campaign to inflict another “alone” on mankind. The all inclusive “alone” which I have taken to launch may be described as “Sola de Panton.”
This is the alone of everything. You will excuse me, but, I have to go over there and listen to my car rust as I attempt to reconcile “Everything Alone”, meanwhile, Happy Sola Gratia, Fide, Deo gratia, Christus, Scriptura to all.