The Meaning Of Sola Fide For Luther -- By: Samuel E. Waldron

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 01:1 (Jan 2004)
Article: The Meaning Of Sola Fide For Luther
Author: Samuel E. Waldron


The Meaning Of Sola Fide For Luther

Samuel E. Waldrona

The classic articulation of sola fide by Luther must be defined in terms of the answers he found in sola scriptura to his anfechtung (distress of soul). In other words, Luther’s doctrine of “faith alone” must be understood as the outgrowth of (and in terms of) the biblical insights to which he was driven by his troubled, spiritual experience.

Why Re-Examine “Faith Alone” In Luther?

Recent developments reveal an amazing convergence of interest among Evangelicals in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The Ecumenists of the last century have been forced to address the issue of justification as the rock that split the Western church. They have recognized that if that church is ever to be re-united, the breach opened by Luther’s doctrine of justification must be repaired. Major steps have been taken in that direction, as the publication of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church shows.1

Though evangelicals were not involved deeply in the ecumenical developments of the 20th century, as they kept a wary eye on these developments, some attention was of necessity focused on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. With the publication of Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission, evangelicals have been faced with a movement toward rapprochement with Rome in their own midst.2 Complaints from prominent evangelicals about a lack of clarity with regard to the subject3 led to the inclusion of a statement about justification by faith alone in a publication entitled, The Gift of Salvation.

Affirming that the gift of justification is received by faith, this document adds: “We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide).”4

Other contemporary winds also are blowing through the stately (though somewhat dusty) halls of the doctrine of justification. A tendency toward easy-believism crept over evangelicalism in the last century. Many Evangelicals defended theories of the carnal Christian, receiving Christ as Savior and not as Lord, and eternal security that others (especially those in the Reformed tradition) attacked as contrary to the Bible and to fundame...

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