Why I’m Not, And Never Will Be, A Roman Catholic (Reason 4 – Luther, History, and Solafide)

April 5, 2011

Jesus, Mary and Joseph depicted in stained glass

It is commonly assumed by Roman Catholics that solafide was invented by Luther for having added the German word “allien” to his German translation of the Vulgate. Here is a debate by James Swan where he seeks to clear up some false Catholic assumptions in regard to Luther. Not only was Luther not afraid to retract the word, but Luther was within the realm of reason to add it in the first place since even some Catholic NT translations prior to Luther also included “alone”, i.e. the Nuremberg Bible (1483), “allein durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.” Source

In defense of his translation, Luther also claimed that others before him included the word “alone”. They may not have interpreted it the same (or they may have), but the word is there. That’s the point. Thomas Aquinas is one example. He said, “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law).

(Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588)

All of this is even pointed out by Catholic scholar Joseph Fitzmyer in his commentary on ‘Romans’.

(Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361.)

This link has Fitzmyer’s reference list of early fathers whom mention solafide, and it also gives many of the quotations if you want to check it out.

Just as there was a time in history prior to the Council of Nicaea when the doctrine of the Trinity was never placed under the Biblical microscope of scrutiny, likewise solafide had never been as debated in history as it was in the 16th century. This doesn’t imply, as many Catholics assume, that solafide was never believed, however.

How did Luther get his epiphany of solafide in the first place? It’s unknown. I personally think it’s because he was reading his Bible. Nevertheless, Luther didn’t make it up, he realized it.

Solafide has a greater pedigree then Rome’s current gospel of having to believe that Mary was sinless (not required or fully accepted until 1854), while even 7 Bishops of Rome taught that only Jesus was sinless (according to scholar Philip Schaff).

(Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol.1, chap 4, sec 29:121)

Here is a link that goes in-depth to show that Schaff, and Launoy whom he referenced, weren’t lying in their scholarship that 7 Bishops of Rome taught that only Jesus was sinless.



  1. Stop taking the church fathers and Fr. Fitzmeyer out of context. Why don’t you read this to open your mind and see what the fathers truly meant.

    http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/fathers.html#J) St. Thomas Aquinas

  2. It blows my mind that you would even say I’m taking them out of context when I never even offered an interpretation of them on this thread! Are you nuts?

    I simply pointed out the fact that Fitzmeyer illustrates that Luther wasn’t the first to interpret Rom 3:28 with the words “faith alone”, and I simply used a quote from Aquinas that illustrates this. Don’t reply on my blog if you’re not going to pay attention.

    Also, I just looked over your link and it’s wrong about Ambrosiaster. Look at my thread here which debunks the old arguments that your link has.

    Your website also leaves out 1 Clement which very clearly teaches solafide. Also, Rom 3:19-22 very clearly teaches that we’re saved apart from the moral law, and Rom 3-5 is the most didactic in all of Scripture on the very issue on the justification of the sinner before God. Sorry. Remember, you could be making the fallible decision to follow Rome. I am “catholic” in the original sense of the word, however, which is why I can let Rom 3:19-22 say what it says. There’s more of a track record for solafide then there is of Rome’s current gospel of 1854, and being required to believe that Mary was sinless, while that issue wasn’t even brought up for the first 7 centuries of the church.

  3. 1. I’m suprised that your mind blew up simply because I pointed out the truth. Is your mind that soft? You did offer your interpretation, which is that the church fathers supported sola fide. None of the fathers believed in sola fide in the context of justification. They were referring to sola fide in an entirely different context. Just because a word or group of words are quoted together doesn’t mean they’re endorsed by the author/speaker. You have to read the entire paragraph or literature. For example, I could say that King David endorsed atheism because Psalms 14:1 says “…there is no God”. But if I read all of Psalms 14, I would know that he is referring to those who wrongly believe there is no God, not to himself.

    2. Quite frankly, to use St. Thomas Aquinas in support of sola fide is sad and shows a complete arrogance on your part. You know that many Catholics, let alone non-Catholics, are not even familiar with Aquinas’ teachings. So you use that to your advantage to make it look as if Aquinas did support sola fide. Have you never read that it is written, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”?

    In his Summa Theologica On Merits, he states “our works are meritorious from two causes: first, by virtue of the Divine motion; and thus we merit condignly; secondly, according as they proceed from free-will in so far as we do them willingly, and thus they have congruous merit, since it is congruous that when a man makes good use of his power God should by His super-excellent power work still higher things…. ” Doesn’t sound like justification by faith alone without works to me.

    3. Rom 3:19-22 does not refer to moral law. It refers to Mosaic ritual laws such as circumcision or washing of hands. If faith nullifies the law, then why does St. Paul go on to say in Rom 3:31 that we UPHOLD THE (moral) LAW through faith?

    4. Just because I disagree and point out the misinformation you are posting against Catholics doesn’t give you the right to tell me not to post my comments. What? Do you allow comments only when people kiss up to you and say how grateful they are that you “saved” them from hell or Romanism? Give me a break. If I was so insignificant and inferior to your ‘infallible’ interpretation, then why are you so afraid that others will see my comments? After all, according to you I’m wrong and you got nothing to lose right?

  4. My mind didn’t “blow up” silly. I addressed your reply with a thoughtful response, which entailed argumentation backed with more substance than assertion.

    I didn’t take Aquinas out of context, because, like I ALREADY said, I NEVER gave a context for him stating solafide! I merely said he translated Rom 3:28 using the wording “sola fide”. I only ever argued in this thread that history proves that Luther wasn’t the first person to translate it that way. I even CLARIFIED that they MAY NOT have interpreted it the way Luther did! I NEVER claimed that he held to solafide the exact way that a Reformed Protestant would! You wasted all that time explaining context to me, which I already understand, simply because you didn’t pay attention and didn’t read close enough. Sorry you wasted your time.

    Now speaking of context, let me teach you. Rom 3:19-20 is referring to the law that reveals sin to the entire world (thus can only be the moral law), and thus also condemns the entire world (thus can only be the moral law again). No civil, ceremonial, dietary, or sacrificail Mosaic laws stricly for the Jewish people did those two things besides the moral law. Paul goes on to say we uphold the law by faith. This is entirely different than teaching we uphold faith and the moral law to become justified. He teaches the former, not the latter.

    I’m asking you not to reply UNLESS you first pay attention. I don’t mean to embarrass you but I’m a busy person and it doesn’t do any good when someone argues against points that I clearly never made, and even clarified the opposite!

    Afraid to let people see your comments? Hardly. I’ve debated these issues with very intellectual Catholics on their own Catholic blogs. They dog-pile me there and I don’t whine. I also let atheists call me every name in the book on here and keep the replies. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Practically or theologically. Sorry.

    It’s debatable what the ECF really believed about justification. They may have disagreed on it just like they do an many issues. I’d argue that the wording or concept of solafide in the context of justification is at least mentioned multiple times prior than even the immaculate conception (not for 400 years) and the bodily assumption (not for 700 years) beliefs.

    I have a question for you. Could it be possible that people are fallibly believing that the Papacy is infallible?

  5. 1.Don’t insult me by saying that I don’t know what I’m talking about theologically or practically. I do understand and know that you asserted there were others out there who used the words “sola fide” before Luther. However, later on in the article, you say “solafide has a greater pedigree then Rome’s current gospel..” Which means you believe that the Fathers who used “sola fide” in their writings did support sola fide as Luther understood it. Of course, no early father believed sola fide in the justification context that Luther invented. Since you also claim that there were others who believed in sola fide according to Luther’s definition, why don’t you name them instead of assuming there were those who believed in that?

    2. You’re wrong that sola fide has a greater pedigree than the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception or assumption. You are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the Pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it. Doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the Magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; cf. Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already-existing belief (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/immaculate-conception-and-assumption). In that case of Mary, the immaculate conception was defined because of the latte reason.

    3. It is impossible for the Pope in union with all the bishops of the world (Magisterium) TO TEACH wrongly in regards to FAITH AND MORALS. Infallibility is not impeccability. Christ instructed the Church to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19–20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). That mandate and that promise guarantee the Church will never fall away from his teachings (Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15), even if individual Catholics might. (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility).

    4. If by Papacy you mean official Catholic teaching through the Magisterium, then let me ask you a question. Is it possible that people may fallibly believe that the Papacy is fallible?

    5. And do you believe you are infallible in your Biblical interpretations?

  6. Saying that solafide has a greater pedigree does not necessarily mean I’m saying it was held to just as Luther held to it. I’m saying mentions of solafide, even in the context of justification, has a greater pedigree.

    The same would be true for Rome. Anyone can see that for the first 1,000 years of the church no one held to the immaculate conception the way modern Rome does. If you were going to argue for a pedigree of the IC, you as well would have to argue the same way I am – in that there might be mentions of it but not the exact beliefs matching modern Rome.

    This should all be easily understandable.

    Your link tries to extrapolate those doctrines from Scripture. I’ve heard those arguments before many times. It’s amazing how Rome anathematizes any who don’t hold to those doctrines when the Scriptural evidence for them is extremely lacking. But this is changing the subject. In this thread I’m talking about pedigree in terms of what ECF have historically believed.

    And I never said that something isn’t believed by Catholics until the Pope says it. You’re the one who brought that up. I know how your system works. Another false assumption on your part. Sorry. I also give a reference where 7 bishops of Rome, and a few of them may have been Pope during the time, said only Jesus was sinless. So when was it that another Pope commanded Catholics to believe that Mary was sinless before 1854? Tell me if you know.

    I know how papal infallibility works as well. The thing is though, one who is really the Vicor of Christ, and is to be just as authoratative as one of the early appostles (or the supposed chief apostle Peter) they wouldn’t have stepped into heresy which many Popes have done in the past, ie. Honorius and Zosimus. This is why it’s easy for me to believe I’m not being fallible in rejecting papal infallibility. Consistency is a sign of Truth.

    In terms of me being infallible in my interpretations, I’d say I’d rather have an elephant in the room where people disagree over how to interpret what is God-breathed, rather than have an elephant step on me when one comes along and claims to be just as authoritative as that which is God-breathed yet contradicts it, hence Rome contradicting Rom 3:19-22.

    (Philip Schaff lists seven Roman bishops who rejected her sinlessness (The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], Vol. I, p. 123).

    Pope Leo 1 (440 a.d.) “The Lord Jesus Christ alone among the sons of men was born immaculate”(sermon 24 in Nativ. Dom.).

    “And therefore in the general ruin of the entire human race there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succour the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits. Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, ‘’Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?’” (Sermon 28:3) The unclean seed includes Mary. The one being from Adam who is sinless is Jesus – Pope Gelasius (492 a.d.)

    “It belongs alone to the immaculate lamb to have no sin at all.” (Gellasii papae dicta, vol. 4, col 1241, Paris, 1671)

    Pope innocent the third (1216 a.d.) “She (Eve) was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin, she (Mary) was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.”

    Full grace to you in Christ, not partial grace. He really is a greater Savior and sufficient Mediator than Rome would have it!

  7. I’ll ask you 3 simple questions:

    1. Where in the Bible does it say a doctrine has to be in the Bible to be believable? Give me book, chapter, and verse since you go by sola scriptura.

    2. Name me one ‘church’ or denomination that does not have a single sinner as its pastor or leader.

    3. You say you know the Catholic system well. So are you an ex-Catholic?

  8. Also, you mentioned that there’s no consistency in Catholic teaching. What was the ‘heresy’ that Honorius and Zosimus taught in union with all the bishops of the Church?

  9. 1. It’s not an issue of what’s “believable”, but moreso an issue of what’s the standard. I believe that which is God-breathed is the standard and the truths from that authority is the proper apostolic succession we should be looking to. These truths are to be passed on, not an authority which eventually contradicts those truths, hence Rome contradicting Rom 3:19-22. The Scripture is the most authoritative by virtue of what it is, namely, what God has breathed out. The problem for the Catholic is they can’t know if the canon authorizes the Church, or if the Church authorizes the canon. All they can do with this dilemma is appeal to “tradition”, yet there is no unanimous tradition, let alone of Peter (esspecially in the first 350 years of the church), as Vatican I would have it. At least, I would assert all this to you.

    2. This is irrelevant. I don’t know why you’re bringing this up. I never argued about impeccability, but am arguing that since popes have erred in the past that papal infallibility is extremely unlikely. An infallible tour guide who gets lost, even for a momment, loses all credibility for such a grand claim.

    3. I’d say I have a pretty good foundation for what Catholics teach and believe from my conversations and studies over the years. I’m not an ex-Catholic, but a lot of my family is Catholic. I probably know better Catholic apologetics then they do.

    4. Of course their heresy wasn’t in union, but that doesn’t matter. Look at it the other way and it gets flipped on its head! All the other churches would have had to follow suite and forced themselves to be united on these heresies had the Popes never retracted their heresy, or been later condemned for their heresy. On top of this, if one were really the Vicor of Christ, and just as authoratative as an original apostle, they would have never for a second entertained the ideas they did.

    Full grace to you in Jesus Christ, not partial grace, for he is an all-sufficient Mediator all by himself, hence being God.

  10. Cameron,

    You state that, “I have a pretty good foundation for what Catholics teach and believe from my conversations and studies over the years. I’m not an ex-Catholic, but a lot of my family is Catholic. I probably know better Catholic apologetics then they do.”

    What do you base this “good foundation” on? Your own experience with uninformed and poorly catechized Catholics? Or your own selective reading of Church documents without reading the entire document or context? If you knew as much as you claim, then why do you post such an obvious miscaricature of Catholic friars and nuns on the top page? You should know that such a caricature is an exaggerated and foundation-less misrepresentation of countless self-less men and women who gave their lives to serve the poorest of the poor because they saw Jesus present in these people. They also spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth and continue to invite non-believers to God with their actions and words.

    Your last post above shows another one of many misrepresentation of Catholic teachings. If you have ever read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you would know that they teach Jesus gives full grace and is a mediator for Christians to the Father. Can you even cite one official Church document that teaches Jesus gives “partial grace” and is not an all-sufficient Mediator?

    It seems most likely that your knowledge of Catholicism extends as far as Jack Chick tracts. How dissapointing, yet typical of people like you who never study Catholicism but proclaim to be an “expert” on Catholicism anyways. Shame on you. If you’re a Christian, then why don’t you stop bearing false witness against your neighbor? If you disagree with the Church, fine. But disagree with what She actually teaches and not what you think She teaches (i.e. half-truths, misrepresentations, etc..)

  11. I have had many respectful and loving conversations with Catholics. I do not at all believe that they are all like the caricature I have above on these posts. I know many Protestants that would perfectly fit the caricature above, and in fact if we’re all honest with ourselves, there’s probably some finger pointing legalism inside of all of us at times. I know the picture can be offensive, but my goal is not to offend. I simply, and honestly, believe that any view of Christ other than one where he is an efficacious High Priest that one then has a very skewed view of Christ. Most often this very skewed view of Christ leads to (but not always leads to) finger pointing legalism. My point is not to attack anyone personally. Nevertheless, I do believe that ideas have consequences. I try to stick with objective arguments, not make personal attacks on people. If you don’t like the pictures, I’m happy to remove them!

    Yes, I am aware that many Catholics have given their lives to serve others, and I am grateful for that. In addition, Protestants and Catholics have many theological agreements, and I am grateful for that as well. I have studied certain parts of the Catechism, but even moreso, discussed justification with many Catholics whom have studied the Churches position more than I. I am well aware that Catholics would never use terms like “partial grace”, because they do believe in an “all-sufficient Mediator”. However, what they mean by this is very different than what Protestants mean, and what I’d argue the Bible teaches. The Catholic view, at the end of the day, says that Jesus is all-sufficient, yet makes salvation possible, hence grace unto salvation being merited or rewarded. This is in fact different from saying that Christ is all-sufficient in the sense that Rom 5:1 says in that we have “shalom” with God, and this peace can never be broken. It is not hypothetical. Christ is not a hypothetical all-sufficient Savior, but an efficacious all-sufficient Savior.

    You claim I am dishonest, yet show me where I claimed to be an “expert” on Catholicism! I’ve debated for years over major doctrines with Catholics (usually experts themselves, hence being moderators of blogs) online, so I’m pretty aware of the positions and arguments.

  12. Luther was an emotional wreck. Please….I’m confident that he is ashamed of the damage he did and the killing he incited.

  13. I’m sure he is ashamed of it too, but it has all been made right in Christ, as we are all sinful and need forgiveness. Surely Luther himself would have understood this reality more than most, hence coming to grips with the fullness of the gospel. No differently, many Popes, Muslims, atheists, etc. abusing people and power would now be ashamed of the damage they did.

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