Reformed theology, also known as Calvinism, is a system of Protestant theology developed during the Reformation of the sixteenth century and further developed within Reformed and Presbyterian churches. This doctrine has become most closely associated with the French theologian and reformer John Calvin (1509-1564), though it was also developed and propounded by the reformers Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger,Huldrych Zwingli, and Thomas Cranmer.
Among the central tenets of Calvinism are the five solas and a system of five core beliefs about God and man (the five points of Calvinism).
The Five Solas
The "Five Solas" are five core doctrines that were formulated by the Protestant Reformers against the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. They are named after the Latin word sola and its grammatical variants, which means "only" or "alone." They represent one of the major criticisms against the Roman Catholic Church, namely that it had added elements to the teaching of the Bible and held believers accountable for subscribing to them, even though, in the eyes of the Reformers, they distorted or contradicted Christian doctrine.
The five solas are:
- sola scriptura (Lat. "by Scripture alone"): This belief holds that only the Bible can be considered authoritative in questions of doctrine and rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine that teaches the equal authority of tradition, that is, of the pope as the authoritative successor of the apostles.
- sola fide (Lat. "by faith alone"): This expresses the belief that justification (that is, God's declaration of a person as righteous) is received by faith only, without any need for or benefit from good works.
- sola gratia (Lat. "by grace alone"): In addition to the previous sola, this statement holds that God's decision to save a person is a decision God has made before all time out of mere grace and not as a result of any good work performed by the believer.
- solus Christus (Lat. "Christ alone"), also known as solo Christo (Lat. "by Christ alone"): This is the belief that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man, that justification is imputed to believers only through the saving work of Christ, and thus that no other intermediary, either in heaven or on earth, is necessary for the believer to communicate with God.
- soli Deo gloria (Lat. "glory to God alone"): This is the teaching that only the triune God of the Bible is worthy of worship and adoration (i.e. "glory") and no creature, whether a human saint, church leader, pope, or anything else, could or must be worshiped.
The Five Points of Calvinism
The so-called "Five Points of Calvinism" are five key doctrines that were developed in opposition to Arminianism. They were distilled out of the heads of doctrine developed in the Canons of Dort, a creed of the early 17th century that summarizes the judgment by the Synod of Dort (1618-19) against the teachings of the Arminian Remonstrance.