Another Sola?

During the Reformation, there were five “solae” (sola is Latin for “alone”) that attempted to sum up the doctrine of salvation. To the reformers, salvation is:

by Grace alone
through Faith alone
in Christ alone
as revealed in Scripture alone
for the Glory of God alone

This is right and good. But is it enough?

Several years ago, a mentor posed the question to me: “I wonder how history would have changed had the reformers included another sola: for love alone.”

There should be another. After all, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

Think about it. How might church history, or even world history, be different if the reformers had been absolutely focused on ensuring their theology so transformed people it made them into the best lovers of God and neighbor the world had ever seen?

Reformed theology is a beautiful thing. I’ve benefited from it so much. But as I continue to grow older, I’m not so naïve to believe it alone (see what I did there?) has all the goods. Love, like we see it in the life of Jesus, simply was not emphasized by the reformers or their pupils as it should have been.

Reformed theology has too often trained many of its students, including me, to embrace and practice a faith that seeks to be right rather than get it right. Being right is nice when you’re having a debate with your buddy. Getting it right? Love is getting it (aka “life”) right.

And that’s the exact thing Jesus told us really matters to God. I want that to matter for you and me.

We need good theology. Obviously! But let’s be honest: knowing good theology without real, true, Spirit-empowered love makes us, as someone once put it, good for nothing.

2 replies on “Another Sola?”

Thank you James, for you articulate an evil I have felt in the reformed church.

I want to lampoon “They Will Know We Are Christians” with a rewrite of the words, including “They will know we are Christians by our doctrine, by our doctrine, they will know we are Christians by our doctrine.” The lampoon would contain mention of all the very scandelous things believers have done in the name of teaching – including John Calvin, who had a way of secretly causing the governmental forces of Geneva to execute people who dare disagree with anything he taught.


Hi, James, I am the guy that wanted to write the spoof (see my other email). Paul pronounced anathema upon those who teach a different gospel to people (Gal. 1). The various churches of diverse doctrines reacted by saying that whoever disagrees with them are going to hell. Calvin made like whoever dares disagree with him on any doctrinal issue was going to hell. Martin Luther also takes the same attitude toward anybody who disagreed with him at any point. It’s all about avoiding hell, to listen to these guys and many more. In contrast, Jesus once said that Martha had many points of anxiety, but only one was needful. Funny language out of a savior who supposedly required everybody to be same page, same paragraph, same sentence, same word, same letter on every doctrinal issue. Satan can easily kill us by displacement of so much as one letter.

But the Jesus I know seems not to be anything of this mind. Many are those who accentuate doctrine to the point that virtually anyone is shut out of the kingdom. See Matt. 23.


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