Saturday, October 27

The Five Solas of the Reformation

The "Five Solas of the Reformation" are Latin slogans used by Protestant Reformers to summarize and proclaim the essential theological distinctives of the Biblical Gospel:

Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
Sola Fide, by faith alone.
Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

495 years ago in the little college town of Wittenberg, in Saxony, Martin Luther’s theology had not yet been sufficiently burnished in the furnace of conflict and affliction to produce such a succinct list.  Indeed, in the span of a single month—between the end of September and the end of October in 1517—Luther detailed two prodigious lists, the lesser known "97 Theses Against Scholasticism" and the better known "95 Theses Against Indulgences."  Both Latin texts were posted on the College Chapel door for the purpose of discussion within the academic community—but both were quickly translated into vernacular German and transmitted far and wide by means of the new technology of moveable type printing presses.

The Reformation was launched by those lengthy and technical discurses, but was not until 1521, at the interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, that the shorter, clearer, more definitive list of the “solas” began to take shape.  It was then that he declared his conscience to be altogether captive to the Word of God saying, "Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons—for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another—my conscience is bound solely and completely by God's Word: Hier stehe ich; Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen!”

Afterward, this Reformational worldview was cogently summarized in the “solas.” Informed by the Scriptures alone, concerned for the glory of God alone, because of the grace of Christ alone, producing faith, which alone was effectual for salvation. This not only beautifully described Gospel doctrine; it beautifully described Gospel life.

Thus was reclaimed the Scriptural teaching of the sovereignty of God over every aspect of the believer's life. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."

This great and all consuming purpose called for all of life to be lived under the Lordship of Christ. Every activity of the Christian is to be sanctified unto the glory of God. Everything we have, everything we do everything we are is pledged to His greater Kingdom purposes.
As the Scripture says, "Whether, then, we eat or drink or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God; Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Ptr 4:11; Rom. 11:36)

Friday, October 26


About twenty years ago, I was doing research for a book on early American history and opened a Revolutionary-era Bible in an antiquarian bookshop in Boston.  I found a poem, written on a scrap of paper interleaved in the pages of the Bible, probably untouched for decades, maybe longer.

The author and date of the poem were not noted, but I matched the handwriting to other inscriptions in the Bible. During the American War for Independence, the Bible had apparently belonged to Lawrence Tribble.  The poem seemed to be his description of the events of the Great Awakening.

I loved the poem and what little of the story I could piece together, so I published it, probably for the first time, in my book, "The Patriot's Handbook."

One man awake,
            Awakens another.
The second awakens
            His next-door brother.
The three awake can rouse a town
            By turning
            The whole place
            Upside down.

The many awake
            Can make such a fuss
It finally awakens
            The rest of us.
One man up,
            With dawn in his eyes,
            Surely then

Amazingly, the poem has now been set to music three times that I know of--including as a single by the CCM band Leland. Most recently, a new setting has been written by Craig Brinks and recorded by Samuel Walker: Awaken by Lawrence Tribble.

It's a perfect reminder as America prepares to go to the polls in this pivotal election.

Wednesday, October 24

In This Hour

"If ever there was a crisis in our history, when courage and consistency have been more called for, it is the day on which we have now fallen, when the poison of false and hollow principle is undermining our strength from within, and thousands of our deadliest enemies from without are on the tiptoe of high expectancy for a coming overthrow." Thomas Chalmers (1840)

Saturday, October 13


This Sunday marks the beginning of Kingdomtide, a liturgical season generally observed by Protestants, especially Methodists and Presbyterians thanks to the ongoing influence of Martin Bucer, John Calvin, George Whitefield, and Charles Wesley. 

The season extends from the end of Pentecost until the beginning of Advent. Worship services during Kingdomtide stress the extension and growth of God’s great Kingdom. Inevitably, this means that we look to both the majesty of our King and the high call of service within the Kingdom. 

Thus, we are charged to go forth into this poor, fallen world with the light of the Gospel, shedding abroad charity to the poor, and bringing Good News to all men by graciously evangelizing and discipling all the nations of the earth.

Wednesday, October 10

New Urbanism at Its Best

First, there was the remarkable High Line project in New York City, transforming an abandoned overhead rail line into an elevated park. Now, plans are underway to bring the same kind of transformation to New Orleans with the very ambitious Lafitte Corridor. These projects represent New Urbanism at its best.

Monday, October 1

Jesus “Wife” Papyrus: An Elaborate Hoax

According to a report in both the Guardian and the New American, the much-ballyhooed discovery of a  supposedly ancient fragment of papyrus is in fact a fake, say multiple scholars and experts.

According to the September 18 issue of the UK's Guardian newspaper, Karen King, a professor of early Christianity at Harvard University, said the fragment is from the third or fourth century AD and contains text in which Jesus refers to “my wife,” whom he identifies as Mary. “King helped translate and unveiled the tiny fragment at a conference of Coptic experts in Rome,” said the report. “She said it doesn't prove Jesus was married but speaks to issues of family and marriage that faced Christians.”
But a host of Bible scholars have refuted that notion, saying that the relic is probably little more than an ingenious hoax. Professor Francis Watson of the UK's Durham University, who studied the fragment, said the papyrus is actually nothing more than a a patchwork of texts from a non-canonical Coptic-language Gospel of Thomas, which have been reassembled to suggest that Jesus had a wife.
In another piece, the Guardian reported, “Watson argues that all of the sentence fragments found on the papyrus fragment have been copied, sometimes with small alterations, from printed editions of the Gospel of Thomas.” Watson said that he would be “very surprised if it were not a modern forgery, although it is possible that it was composed in this way in the fourth century.”
Interesting, isn't it? The discovery and translation of the papyrus garnered big headlines all over the mainstream press and on the internet--but, it's debunking has hardly warranted a peep (and even then, only with a nod to unnamed Vatican experts). It's time CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, et al started "snopsing" themselves.