Sola fide

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Sola fide (Latin for "by faith alone"[note 1]) expresses the doctrine — taught in most branches of Protestant Christianity — that states that one earns salvation solely by acceptance of Jesus' execution by the Roman authorities as a sacrifice for the sin of humanity, and that one's works of good will or charity have no bearing on one's right to a place in Heaven. This doctrine stems from Martin Luther's interpretation of the words of Paul on salvation, which claims that good works are not sufficient to achieve salvation in the eyes of YHWH.[note 2] Sola fide has been encapsulated as a single Bible verse, John 3:16, basically implying that all the other parts of the Bible don't matter.

Fide does not actually mean "by faith", anyway. Latin does not have a word for the English concept of "faith"; it is at best only a bad approximation. Fide is better translated as "by duty", "by loyalty", or "by fidelity", rather than as "by faith". Remember, Romans would have considered "faith" (as we understand the word to mean today) as superstition.

Not all Christian denominations accept the doctrine of sola fide. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox Church, which are the oldest major Christian traditions, have rejected sola fide, treating heaven as a meritocracy of the faithful. The Catholic Church anathematized those who believe in faith alone at the 16th Century Council of Trent soon after the rise of Luther, while all historic churches consider the notion a heresy as well. Catholics consider faith without reason nothing more than superstition.[note 3]

Interestingly enough, James 2:24 seems to fly in the face of this doctrine, as it specifically says man is justified by works and not by faith alone. Martin Luther wasn't fond of the book of James, referring to James as an "epistle of straw" (a reference to burning heretics at the stake), By some accounts, Luther even wanted that book removed from the Bible.

See also[edit]


  1. Latin ablative case. The nominative case, sola fides, is properly pronounced /'sola 'fides/
  2. Romans 9:30-33 being one example of Paul's teaching.
  3. See also: Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio "Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition."]