Sola Fide: Does It Really Matter? -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:4 (Fall 1997)
Article: Sola Fide: Does It Really Matter?
Author: John H. Armstrong


Sola Fide: Does It Really Matter?

John H. Armstrong

The sixteenth-century rediscovery of Paul’s objective message of justification by faith came upon the religious scene of that time with a force and passion that totally altered the course of human history. It ignited the greatest reformation and revival known since Pentecost.

This Protestant movement was firmly grounded in the material principle of sola fide, so-called by Philip Melancthon. The Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone, powerfully revived in the life of the church, set off a movement of God which changed the religious landscape forever. It is time modern church leaders reconsidered the power of this truth. If it were unleashed again the consequences would undoubtedly amaze us.

Now, if the Fathers of the early church, so nearly removed in time from Paul, lost touch with the Pauline message, how much more is this true in succeeding generations? The powerful truth of righteousness by faith needs to be restated plainly, and understood clearly, by every new generation.

In our time we are awash in a “Sea of Subjectivism,” as one magazine put it over twenty years ago. Let me explain. In 1972 a publication known as Present Truth published the results of a survey with a five-point questionnaire which dealt with the most basic issues between the medieval church and the Reformation. Polling showed 95 per cent of the “Jesus People” were decidedly medieval and anti-Reformation in their doctrinal thinking about the gospel. Among church-going Protestants they found ratings nearly as high.

Reading Scott Hahn’s testimony in his book, Rome Sweet Home (Ignatius Press, 1993), I discovered the same misunderstanding. Here can be found a complete and total failure to perceive the truths of grace, faith and the righteousness of God. No wonder Hahn left his Presbyterian Church of

America ordination behind to become a Roman Catholic. He did not understand the gospel in the first place, as his own words demonstrate.

I do not believe that the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith can be overstated. We are once again in desperate need of recovery. Darkness has descended upon the evangelical world in North America and beyond, much as it had upon the established sixteenth-century church. Luther said [in effect] “Upon this article the church is standing or falling...” If this be so I believe this issue of Reformation & Revival Journal will show why much of the modern church is “falling.”

But what, after all, is meant by the slogan sola fide?

Righteousness by Faith: Impu...
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