This year, Eastern’s annual Faith Forum, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Templeton Honors College and the Office of Faith and Practice, featured one of its own: Dr. Phillip Cary. Cary is a professor of philosophy on campus and has published several books, including “Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do,” “Inner Grace: Augustine in the Traditions of Plato and Paul,” “Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine’s Thought” and “Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Platonist.” Cary has also written a theological commentary on the book of Jonah, as well as multiple other articles (some of which are available for purchase in the campus bookstore).
The forum, entitled “The Good News of the Protestant Reformation,” expanded over four sessions, each session breaking down different components of the topic. These sessions included Eastern’s Chapel, Windows on the World and two other additional sessions that were held Thursday morning and Thursday evening. I felt extremely enlightened by the sessions I was able to attend, entitled “Faith and Grace Alone” and “Scripture Alone.”
Cary began the session “Faith and Grace Alone” by telling the story of when the Protestant Reformation began. The Reformation started almost 500 years ago on Oct. 1, 1517. This Reformation was started, primarily, by Martin Luther due to certain disagreements with the Catholic Church at the time. For instance, Luther felt that it was wrong to promise that the souls of loved ones would be spared from purgatory based on a monetary contribution to the church.
Martin Luther’s main ideologies were the concepts of grace alone, faith alone and Scripture alone. Christ alone is our Savior, and faith alone is how we will be saved. When we say “faith alone,” we mean that our love and works do not save us. Although it may seem a bit radical, Luther argued that love does not justify us. Our love is very imperfect, and sometimes it can become tainted. We love, but not well. Sometimes our love is not sincere, or it is self-centered. This is why we get our justification by faith alone. Jesus Christ was raised for the justification of all, so we should not solely rely on our faith, but rather rely on Jesus, our Savior.
In the next session, entitled “Scripture Alone,” Cary gave us a little lesson in Latin before we began. The audience, as well as myself, learned that the word “sola” is Latin for alone or lonely. Therefore, “Sola Scriptura” means “Scripture Alone.” However, just like faith alone, some elements have to be excluded. In this case, the idea of traditions and the church is excluded. Luther believed that the church cannot establish what is necessary for the faith. The Scripture is God’s way of addressing us and speaking to us as the people of God. It brings us good news. The Holy Spirit is also connected with the speech of God in the Bible. The phrase “filled with the Spirit” is said multiple times throughout the Bible and especially in Acts. When you hear the phrase “filled with the spirit,” that is referring to the word of God. If it is in Scripture, it is most definitely God’s Word.
Cary was a very insightful speaker. It is important that we listen to others with open minds, so we may expand our knowledge and learn the significance of the Protestant Reformation and how it has shaped modern-day Christianity.