The solas basically argue against idolatry, legalism, humanism, pluralism, and pride. And those things need to be battled in every generation. It is precisely here that we see how Christianity is unique among all the religions in the world. The solas show us that Christianity does not look like a religion that any human being would have made up. And that is a reason to think that it just might be from God after all.
“What is Reformed theology?” This is the question I get asked all the time. Especially since I teach at a school called Reformed Theological Seminary!
While there are many ways to answer that question, I have found that the 5 Solas of the Reformation provide one of the best summaries of what it means to be Reformed: sola scriptura (Scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).
Since the 5 Solas are borne out of the Protestant Reformation, then it would not be surprising to know that, in many ways, they reflect the circumstances of the time period in which they were formulated. Each of the solas are a response to what the Reformers saw as problematic in the Roman Catholic church of their day.
As an example, sola scriptura—the affirmation that the Scriptures are the highest and only infallible authority—is an obvious response to the Roman Catholic claim that the church (and church tradition) should be seen as equally authoritative as Scripture.
But here’s the thing. Some misunderstand the 5 Solas as merely a response to Roman Catholicism and nothing more. In other words, they are viewed as a time-bound, historically conditioned set of affirmations that are largely applicable to an era that is long gone.
It is precisely here that I want to offer a bit of pushback. Let me suggest that the 5 Solas are much more than a response to Catholicism. On the contrary, they are a response to the universal tendencies of fallen human hearts everywhere. Put differently, the 5 Solas are inherently counter-cultural. They run contrary to the average human intuition about the way life (and religion) ought to be.
Let me explain:
1. Sola Scriptura. As noted, sola scriptura obviously was designed to counter Roman Catholic claims about church tradition.