Over at Liturgy, Bosco Peters has a post entitled 'Wrong about sola scriptura' It includes reference to N. T. Wright, including some humorous riffs on N. T. Wright's greatness as a scholar. The essence of the post is captured in these words, "Once you’ve accepted this, and handed over that particular Reformation weapon, now attention turns to the next link, the next weapon, in the Reformation camp, the next sola". That is (in my interpretation) the Reformation was a form of category mistake.
In some forms of such critique of the Reformation, the real business of reform of the church in the 16th century took place at the Council of Trent and the real business of the (non-Roman Catholic, non-Eastern Orthodox) church in the 21st century is to move on from the Reformation. One does such moving on when embarrassing episodes occur in one's past! It intrigues me in the post-and-comments that some recognition is given to the (debatable) possibility that N.T. Wright ends up promoting a Roman understanding of salvation.
Specific engagement with the details in the argument of the post should take place there, not here.
But I am prompted by that post to offer some positive thoughts on the 'Solas'. In what follows I offer just three Anglican reflections on the Solas by way of citing relevant Articles.
(1) It is easy to misunderstand, or misoverestimate, the scope of the 'Solas'. Sola Scriptura/Scripture Alone, for instance, as I understand things, has two meanings.
For some Protestants it means (according to Wikipedia) "the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all—that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting. "Scripture interprets scripture" is a governing principle of many Protestant denominations."
But for Anglicans it does not mean that everything any Christian ever needs to know about anything is found in Scripture. It means that Scripture alone is sufficient for knowledge of salvation; nothing outside of the teaching of Scripture is required for salvation. This is bog standard Anglican theology, as expressed within Article 6:
"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."
That there might be things important for Christian life (e.g. how the church is governed by orders of ministry) which are not found or not found clearly in Scripture is okay for Anglicans. As Article 20 says,
"The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation."
That is, the Anglican church might ordain (i.e. order into being) things which are not mentioned in Scripture but it may not do in contradiction of Scripture and certainly may not do so in respect of adding to Scripture any requirements for salvation.
If any Anglican reader here has any knowledge of anything necessary for salvation which is not found in Scripture, please let us know. If any Anglican reader here agrees that nothing necessary for salvation is found outside of Scripture, could you please accept that you, like me, are an Anglican Sola Scriptura person.
(2) It is surprising that Sola Fide/Faith Alone has become the subject of controversy these days in the way it has become. Who would want to argue over the offer of an utterly free gift?!
For Anglicans Sola Fide is, again, wonderfully expressed in the Articles.
From Article 11: "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification."
That is, whatever the role works play in the life of the Christian (on which there is much controversy, both generally between Romans and Protestants, and recently, among Protestants (as Bosco Peters' post points out, with N.T. Wright leading the charge in one direction), the role is not a saving role.
And thank goodness for that. Imagine if works did play a saving role in our lives. What works would save us? How many works would save us? Would some works be better than others (e.g. giving money to overseas missions rather than to local missions, serving the poor in faraway countries rather than on our doorstep)? The brilliance, the good news of Sola Fide is that the merits of our situation before God as Judge are the merits of Christ and not of ourselves.
Again, if any reader here can offer answers to questions such as above, as part of a case for the saving merits of our good works, even if your name be N.T. Wright, let us know. Indeed it is your "works" obligation not to withhold the truth from those of us who think the Reformers opened up the Scriptures rightly on this matter and challenged the creeping reliance on works which had become part of the Western European church.
Further, if any reader here thinks, with Scripture, that one can be saved even in the last seconds' of life, with a whole life of crooked deeds behind oneself, as was the case with the penitent thief, then please take the next step and join with me in celebrating Sola Fide!
(3) On the question of works, I clearly need to catch up with what N.T.Wright is saying in his latest writings, a veritable four part two volume doorstopping tome of 1519 pages (note the lovely correspondence with the chronology of the Reformation in that number!!). See pic below with my smartphone for comparison re size of Paul and the Faithfulness of God.
But if what Wright has to say does not accord with Article 12,
"Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit."
then his bishopness is in conflict with his scholarship!