Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James — If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person
We are not to worship the Bible; we are to worship the One the Bible reveals. Too often, we clutch desperately to our Bibles, memorizing only those verses that support our views and panicking when anyone suggests God might speak a fresh word. We belong to a long tradition of people who’ve found it safer to trust the Scripture we can control than the God we cannot.
Jesus never promised a written document to his followers. He promised something far more wonderful. He said, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things…” (John 14:26). To deny the Spirit’s authority is to deny the very means God chose to speak to his people.
With this post I am going to start a short series of posts around a book by one of my favorite Christian authors. Phillip Gulley is a pastor of the Quaker church not too far from me. He is also a world renowned author of many books. The book which we will study here is If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person. Many of Mr. Gulley’s books are somewhat controversial in some theological circles but that is really not the topic for this post. The Bible as the sole witness to God is the topic at hand.
As I have mentioned before I spent almost twenty-five years in Lutheran churches. Martin Luther who these denominations were named after had three solas as the foundation for his revised beliefs.
Sola Fide – This is a belief that faith and faith alone gives us salvation. Luther made this doctrine based a couple of sentences from one of Paul epistles. It was about being saved by grace alone and not be works so that no one can boost.
Sola Scriptura — This belief is that all the words in the Bible are from God and he has never provided any others. Everything else is immaterial.
Sola Christo — Only Jesus is the meditator between man and God.
Calvin later added a few more solas but these are the ones from Luther. Over my study of the church and the history around this reformation period I have come to have differences with each of these solas.
Sola Fide – The concept itself is very valuable. That is that faith in Jesus is the foundation of our religion but the trouble I have with this is how that faith was put into practice. Luther, or should I say later Lutherans, went on to conclude that therefore works had nothing to do with Jesus’ message or commands. To me this could not be further from the truth. Works might not gain us personal salvation but in some ways they are even more important in that they take the focus off of us and onto those Jesus told us to love. If we focus totally on salvation then we are totally focused on ourselves.
Sola Scriptura – As pointed out above Jesus no where in the biblical text said he was leaving a written document for his followers to cling to. Instead he said the Holy Spirit would teach us more things. To think that somehow the Holy Spirit finished his job with the Apostles or early church fathers and therefore Holy Spirit revelations ceased is almost heresy to me. The Holy Spirit continues to this day to give us additional messages. I believe that this like the other solas were possibly an human overreach by Luther to get back at the Pope who thoroughly dissed him.
Sola Christo – Yes, Jesus may be the sole mediator between us and God. I know when Luther made up the sola he was disturbed by the actions of the current pope in selling indulgences. He wanted to take the pope, whom he had up to that point deemed the head of the church, out of the picture. He certainly had good reasons to do that. But I won’t take the possibility away from God in the past or in the future having other mediators for us humans. To do that somehow limits God’s powers and I won’t go there.