When we say Soli Deo Gloria, do we really mean it? Do we know what it meant in the context of the Reformation? Do we realize it included local government resistance, risking real, dangerous, physical consequences, to other powers and governments? Do we know, and do we acknowledge, that it still means these things today: risk, resistance, real change, social justice, and more? In some cases it means defiance of established authority; at others, emptying of self and self-sacrifice to serve those weakest and most oppressed and hurt among us.
In this lecture, I discuss several of these aspects, including two major themes exhibited strongly in Calvin’s Geneva that developed and advanced this view of Soli Deo Gloria. First is the nature of the Kingdom of God, and second is the social meaning of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
These mean first that there are no mediatorial institutions in history. Secondly, this means that there can be no salvation through legislation, works of man, agencies of man, etc. These together mean all institutions are only, and only ever will be, ministerial in nature. They exist to serve, not rule, others. When they serve, we develop civilization and great works. When they begin to rule, we defy God’s purpose and begin a tyranny. Corruption, violence, enslavement, and destruction will follow in various different ways.
This talk is the final in a series of three, delivered last month at the Biblical Worldview Academy in Hobart, Tasmania. Together they essentially make one long presentation in three installments, urging us to look at the broader social implications of Sola Scriptura (authority), Sola Gratia (Grace and work), and Soli Deo Gloria (mediatorship), each for every area of life.
There is one thing I can assure you: you have probably never heard the Reformation taught like this before.