A Great Song on the Five Solas for Reformation Sunday

Zac HicksHistory of Worship and Church Music, Songwriting4 Comments

Reformation Sunday is coming up this weekend.

I remember several years ago sitting in Christian Ethics class in seminary, hearing the professor ask the group of forty-plus students, “Can anyone name the five solas of the Reformation?”  Collectively, as a group, we nailed three and squeezed out a fourth at the end.  I was ashamed to call myself an aspiring evangelical Protestant pastor.

Are the five solas of the Reformation about being flag-waving, polemical anti-Catholics?  No.  In fact, I believe Protestants and Catholics serve the same Triune God, and I have many good Catholic friends whom I consider brothers and sisters in Christ.  But the fact that the five solas emerged out of a polemical context does not diminish their importance in Christian life and faith.  What are the five solas?

Sola fide (pronounced “FEE-deh”) – faith alone
Sola gratia
(pronounced “GRAT-see-ah”) – grace alone
Solus Christus
(pronounced “KREE-stoos”) – Christ alone
Sola scriptura
(pronounced “skrip-TOO-rah”) – Scripture alone
Soli Deo gloria
(pronounced “DEH-o GLOH-ree-ah”) – to God alone be the glory

(Don’t forget to roll the r’s.)  Ironically, the lead in for today’s post comes to us from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions, which give us the model of art-as-education.  The beautiful art (paintings, architecture, stained glass) of medieval cathedrals was intended not only to, as the Orthodox say, “see through” to the intended Object of those art works.   Art was meant to educate, and it was meant to do that especially for non-readers.  People could learn the biblical stories (creation, Jonah, feeding the five thousand) through art.  People could learn theology (Trinity, divinity of Christ, soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology) through art. 

So I chose to engage in the Christian practice of art-as-education through writing a song that worshiped God through the five solas of the Reformation.  I’ve entitled the song “Sola”—subtle, clever, and artsy, isn’t it?  It works very well as the first song in a worship set or liturgy—a song of entrance or gathering.  In addition to the five solas, I wanted to convey something else at the beginning of worship that I don’t see in a lot of worship songs, namely, that Jesus is our worship leader.  It’s a short, simple song.

Listen along: 

chord chart | lead sheet | video tutorial | about

By Your Word alone, our eyes have seen Your salvation;
Through faith alone, not by the works of our hands;
By Your grace alone, we’re purchased from every nation; 
Through Christ alone, we stand.
To God alone be all the glory!

Lead us now, O King, in the worship of Your name;
Make us pure and clean, 
Tune our hearts to sing Your praise.
Lord, we long to bring something worthy of Your fame:
Through Your Word, accept our praise;
Through Your Word, accept our praise.

Words & Music: Zac Hicks, 2010
©2011 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP)


For more reflections on Reformation Sunday, see the post:
Reformation Sunday: Wishing More Worship Leaders were Equipped to Celebrate It.”

4 Comments on “A Great Song on the Five Solas for Reformation Sunday”

  1. Nice post, cool song.
    One comment on your Latin pronunciation: "Gratia" should be pronounced "GRAT-ee-ah," not "GRAT-see-ah." T's in Latin are always pronounced without aspiration.

  2. Really great song – we're opening with it this weekend!

    Steven, I'm afraid Zac is correct on his Latin diction.

    Liturgical/ecclesiastical Latin is what is used as the spoken/sung language of the church. I can't speak to classical Latin, as I am certainly no scholar(!), although I literally am not sure whether there are hard and fast rules for diction.

    There are, however, for ecclesiastical Latin. The rule in question here regards "ti" between a vowel and a letter other than s,t, or x. In this case, "ti" is to be pronounced [tsi]. Other examples include: "Pontio" (Pon-tsee-oh) and "orationem" (o-rah-tsee-oh-nehm). An example of the "s,t, or x exception" is "majestatis" (ma-yeh-sta-tees).**

    **memory helps from "Diction for Singers" edited by Joan Wall (college was a while ago…)

  3. zac, i'm really disappointed that you didn't take "SOLAS" and use it as an acrostic for your verses. Maybe this as a suggestion for your next version. 😉

    Solely on Scripture we…
    Only by Faith alone…
    Living by Grace alone…
    Only through Christ alone…
    Singing to God's glory…

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