After critiquing Sola Scriptura and a little bit of Sola Fide last week, one of my faithful readers asked if I would talk about Sola Gratia.
I am always up for critiquing Reformed Theology, so sure! Let’s do it.
Sola Gratia, yet another Sola of the Reformation, also sounds wonderful. But any time you hear an absolute statement, think on it for a bit. Sola Gratia is an absolute statement. Let’s look at some definitions.
The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. This doctrine means that nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God, and that the sinner does not cooperate with God in order to merit his salvation.
This is what Sola Gratia means, quoting Reformed Theology types themselves. These are not my words. Here’s another definition just to let you know I’m not making anything up.
Sola gratia is a Latin phrase that means “grace alone.” Sola gratia means that salvation from sin and death is provided by God’s unmerited favor alone, and we can do nothing to earn it.
As I’ve said before, Reformed Theology is a response to Catholic Theology. As much as Catholic Theology was wrong, combating it with an equally wrong theology does little good. Often, when combating a doctrine, we drive ourselves into the opposite ridiculous corner.
The Reformers wanted to eliminate penance, indulgences, and various other churchy things Catholics said to do to get forgiveness of sins. The Reformers moved as far away from this as possible (in theory anyway). Instead of correcting Catholic error, they eliminated works of any kind from the discussion by saying that salvation has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Certainly this will keep you from the dangers of works!
But it’s overstated, as most reactionary stances are.
Every time Sola Gratia is brought up, Ephesians 2 is brought up, with emphasis on verses 8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”
A simple reading lets you know salvation is not by grace alone because he just said, “for by grace are you saved through faith.” Grace and faith are both there. Which, of course, they admit: that’s why they also have Sola Fide.
And again, this is where I wonder if words mean anything to people anymore. If it’s by faith alone, how is it also by grace alone?
Calvinists even understand this tension and some eliminate faith from the equation (I saw RC Sproul recently say Reformed Theology is founded on the idea that regeneration comes before faith, which is contrary to many verses). If Reformed Theology folks were honest, they would believe in Sola Electio, by election alone. They think salvation is entirely up to God, you have no say, you’re either one of the lucky ones whom He picked, or you’re not. This doctrine is officially called “Monergism.”
Irresistible Grace is what Sola Gratia means. I think Irresistible Grace is a human invention, thus I think Sola Gratia is also a human invention. If you are not a Calvinist, you do not hold Sola Gratia. Sola Gratia is Calvinism.
Sola Gratia says we can’t earn salvation. I agree. Sola Gratia goes on to say we have no part in our salvation, because if we did, then we would have earned it. I disagree.
This is a false conclusion. Me exercising Faith is not a work that earns/merits salvation. It’s fulfilling a condition that God placed on us that we are equipped to respond to or deny.
“God gives grace to the humble” is said a couple of times in the Bible. God does not arbitrarily give some people grace and not others. He tells us who He gives grace to: the humble.
If God says we can humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then we can. If He says He gives grace to people who do that, then He does.
We should then act accordingly.
Beware any theology that eliminates human responsibility. It is of the devil.
In our desires to celebrate Grace, which indeed deserves our celebration, let’s not deny Scripture to push it out of reasonableness.