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Two of the Five Solas are:

  • Sola Gratia: Salvation by Grace Alone
  • Sola Fide: Justification by Faith Alone

If salvation is by "grace alone", how can "faith alone" be added as well? Only one of these two should be chosen in order to use the term "alone". From scripture grace and faith work together, e.g.:

... we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand ... (Romans 5:2, ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8, ESV)

Suppose someone builds a bridge over a chasm to rescue a group of hikers from a great disaster, and announces to all hikers that the bridge has been built. Arriving on the safe side, someone tells the hikers: "You arrived here only through the goodwill of the bridgebuilder", and "You arrived here only because you actually crossed the bridge". How logical is that? Clearly, the two must work together (and not together, although separately alone)?

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    Salvation and Justification are not (according to adherents of the 5 solas) the same thing. – Flimzy Mar 9 '15 at 16:11
  • I think your bridge example demonstrates the distinction more than you realize. To assume a question like "How did you get here?" can be answered by both responses places a certain equivocation on the meaning of "how" and its relation to the basis of arrival. It might help to consider more explicitly what the two responses are actually answering: How did you travel from there to here? (by crossing the bridge) How did the bridge come to be? (by the goodwill of the bridgebuilder) Both responses are valid (even in their exclusivity), because they're really answering different questions. – Steven Mar 10 '15 at 18:21
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These two slogans were used to explain two major disagreements Protestants had with what the Catholic Church was teaching, and yes, they are designed to work together! They don't compete, they are alone in their own respective fields.

Sola Fide refers to the belief that works are not a means or prerequisite for salvation. People are declared to be justified (righteous) purely on the basis of trusting God to fulfil his promise to save us through the gracious act of Jesus taking the hit for us on the cross. This was the major defining belief of the Protestant reformation.

Sola Gratia refers to the belief that nothing a person does contributes to their salvation. From God's perspective no person has ever merited any component of their salvation - salvation is purely a gift (grace) from God. There is a lot of overlap between this and Sola Fide. But it means that the game never changes. Once you're saved you still live on the basis of grace and faith. The good works Christians do will never be anything other than graces from God. I've also heard that it is a kind of summary of the other Solas: Our faith is a gift from God, not something we produce ourselves. Christ Alone means we come to God purely through Jesus, with no human mediators. Grace Alone means that Jesus was never obligated to do anything, especially not come to the earth and die - every action of God is a gift. Similarly God was never obligated to reveal himself to us through scripture - the Bible is a gift.

The two work together, and many Protestants will say that we are saved "by grace through faith", exactly what your verse from Ephesians says.

  • If these two solas don't compete, and there is a lot of overlap, how can each one still attempt to claim exclusivity? Neither grace (provided by God) nor faith (man's response by accepting Christ) should be viewed in isolation. It is the combination of the two that brings about salvation. – aslan Mar 9 '15 at 9:10
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    They claim exclusivity in their respective fields. – Matt Gutting Mar 9 '15 at 10:21
  • Their respective fields overlap, and the two solas cannot therefore be exclusive? – aslan Mar 9 '15 at 11:10
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    @aslan I don't understand what the issue is. In respect to how we are justified, we are justified by faith alone. I respect to what our works contribute, they contribute nothing for it is grace alone.\ – curiousdannii Mar 9 '15 at 11:15
  • @curiousdannii Is it possible to be justified and not be saved (or saved but not justified)? I agree that salvation cannot be earned through works, and that faith is not part of works (but still an action or response on man's part). – aslan Mar 9 '15 at 11:49

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