Sincere question --- after reading Spurgeon here, I am wondering why so many then still use Latin language on a lot of the blogs and even in churches with the Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura words - when it can be confusing unless you studied the Reformation or know Latin, you don't know what those Latin words mean.
Why not just write the English words of Sola Fide etc. so people can easily understand them and not have to do a double explanation of both what the Latin words mean in English and then explain what the English words mean.
I am being sincere, why keep using Latin instead of saying those words in English. I am not saying we shouldn't say "Justification by Faith Alone" or "Salvation by Grace Alone". but why not say them in English. 98% of the time i see them only listed in Latin, which then seems like you need to be an inser to know that they mean or feel an outsider that you don't know Latin.
The words of Spurgeon made we wonder about that, so I thought I would ask.
Dan, good question.
There have been numerous answers, so I'll repeat them here for the benefit of our readers:
Phil Johnson is quite direct:
Scott Hill adds:
If I'm speaking to or writing for someone whom I have reason to think probably doesn't understand a term like sola fide, I would ordinarily try to explain it, or not use it at all. We use some terms like that because in contexts where they are familiar, they make really nice shorthand.
And if I sometimes forget to translate those expressions in contexts where people are confused by my usage of them—mea culpa.
Dan, I agree that if someone doesn't know the Latin we use then we have not communicated, but I am not for doing away with terms like Sola Fide, or simul justus et peccator and just using the English translation.
For me personally when I here these terms I not only think of the theology, but also the history of the reformation itself and the great men of God that surround that history.
I generally use the terms to one, teach the meaning of the latin term, which means using english, and two to teach some reformation history.
As for our blog name, we just thought it sounded cool.
Dan, if I may chime in one more thought:
I don't think there's one word-choice template to use, that works for every audience. Paul spoke the same message to the Antiocheans, the Corinthians, and the beards at Mars Hill, but he used some different terminology and quotations and lines-of-approach to each. I've preached the same message in rescue missions and fancier churches, but the wording I use has some variation.
I definitely think the Sola's are useful, but either only to those who know the meaning, or if we explain them. For instance, I once preached a Reformation Day sermon which I titled Five 'Alones' That Changed Everything. My springboard was Romans 1:17, and from it I preached the truth expressed by the five Sola's, explaining and applying. From what I'm told, the Lord graciously used it for those with and without a Biblical background.
The redoubtable Centurion continues:
On the one hand, I'm all for making discipleship like any educational process. For example, first you learn numbers and sets, then you learn arithmetic, then you learn division and multiplication, then you learn algebra, etc.
On the other, eventually you have to learn the technical language. people who play baseball have a technical language which is -required-; people who play video games even have a technical language which is required (for example, everyone knows what happens when some noob get pwn'd). In the same way, if you're serious about understanding the Christian faith, you'll have to learn some theology, and the language of theology is littered with Latin and Greek.
Does someone have to affirm sola fide and homoousios to become a Christian? Not hardly. Do they have to learn -- for their own good, for their own discipleship -- that it is only faith in Christ which saves, and that Christ is of one substance with the Father? Yes, I think so.
Technical language is hardly a liability. It strikes at the heart of the claim that our faith is some kind of brainless, anti-intellectual thing which men accept and follow blindly.
Finally, I add:
By continuing to use these Latin terms, we are anchoring ourselves to the Reformation. The Reformers and the Protestant High Orthodox, as one reads their theologies, were concerned to anchor themselves to the Ancient Church. The Ancient Church was concerned to anchor itself to the Apostolic Church, and they, in turn, anchor themselves to the Old Covenant Community (for example, the frequent use of Isaiah in the works of John, and the whole Book of Hebrews, and that's just for starters!). So, we're only following precedent.
Further, even if we translate "Sola Scriptura" for example, to "Scripture Alone" we aren't explaining anything. In fact, we could be exacerrbating the problem. The "Sola" language is borrowed from Aristotelian categories of causality, but if you bring them over in English, as in this case, one can give the impression that "Scripture Alone" means "Scripture only," which is a mistake. It only refers to the rule of faith such that Scripture alone is infallible, but tradition is fallible and useful. So, the English rendering still requires some explanation and may also result in a bigger mistake on the part of the hearer than "Sola Scriptura."
Let's take "Sola Fide." On the one hand we speak of "justification by faith alone" but Sola Fide can be misread (as it often is as "salvation by faith alone"). That too is a mistake. Justification by faith alone (Sola Fide), in the Reformed tradition, is a species of Sola Gratia, for we anchor justification by faith alone in grace alone. We take the two together to form a unit: justified by faith alone and saved by grace alone), and they stand in a particular relationship to each other. In English, I fear this often gets lost.
Taken apart, you wind up with hyper-Calvinism (by collapsing all the decrees into one of grace and forgetting that the covenant is unconditional in terms of merit but not in terms of instrumentality) or Arminianism (by divorcing Sola Fide from Sola Gratia completely or treating Sola Gratia as quantitative, not qualitative, as if there's a certain amount of grace emanating from God and a certain amount of grace emanating from the person, and these together result in justification, with justification ultimately grounded not in grace alone, but faith, that is to say, on the basis of faith itself, not merely as an instrument connecting us to the righteousness of Christ).
In short, no matter if you use English or Latin terms, you'll wind up having to explain the terms.
I'd also add that I think the use of historic terms is useful to encourage the flock to get acquainted with historical theology and church history. We live in an age where, let's face it, the popular literature has been dumbed down greatly. What was considered common knowledge in the 19th century (or even the 17th!) is today considered "too hard," or "for preachers." This, of course, leads to a people who are "destroyed for lack of knowledge," and we can see exactly what Isaiah had to say about that. Keeping the historic language thus not only keeps us anchored, it provides, I would hope, an incentive for study. Certainly, we should explain our use of these terms, but there is also a time, as we often tell our children (or at least I know my parents and teachers often told me), "Go look it up." We need to do that from time to time with our own people in our churches and our readers on the blogs, for their good. Let us not cultivate a generation (as lamented by the writer of Hebrews) that "should be teachers but are still drinking milk" (paraphrased).
So, here's a suggestion. The next time you deliver a Sunday School lesson or teach on a Wednesday or Sunday night (since these are smaller, more manageable groups for most of us) give your class or congregation some homework. Tell them to look something up in the week between and then come back to discuss it/teach it the following week. It's high time we put the "school" back into "Sunday School," and that's also a creative way to give an invitation @ the end of your services to get away from the "walk the aisle and make a decision" style of invitation, yet keep the tradition alive, but refocused.