Saturday, 12 July 2008

Soli Deo Gloria

When I finished writing the final sentence of The Infinite Day I signed off with three letters SDG. Since then one or two people have asked me what it means and I am left wondering if it was a bit of an affectation. I think I thought its meaning could easily be found through Google: but having tried it that is not as easy as I had thought. So here you are.

SDG stands for Soli Deo Gloria: the Latin for ‘Glory to God alone’. The background to it is that during the Protestant Reformation the theology of the Reformers came to be summarised in the five solas. These are:
  • Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone
  • Solus Christus - Christ Alone
  • Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
  • Sola Fide - Faith Alone
  • Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone
The ‘alone’ bit refers to the fact that the Reformers felt that the church of their time had added to these truths and so it was important to ‘get back to basics’. I would have thought the meaning of all five were reasonably obvious but there are a number of websites that will give you text and verse on all of them. The last of the five – Soli Deo Gloria – was I suppose a bit of a dig against the medieval church’s glorying in ceremonies, the priesthood and the Pope. (Lest I be accused of anti-Catholicism here, let me point out that since the time of the Reformation a number of Protestants have managed to very successfully swing the spotlight off the glory of God and onto themselves. But I name no names; I don’t want to be preached against on the God Channel.)

Anyway it’s a rich phrase. In fact, my younger son so likes it he has it tattooed on his arm. (It’s his body not mine.)

I have a soft spot for it because the great Johann Sebastian Bach signed off almost all his own works with the same three letter motif.

So I am in good company. Of course, by adding SDG, not simply as a motto but as something that is meant, I was of course asking that God be praised, not me. That’s a bit tricky as I am no different from anybody else and actually rather like praise. But I suppose it was also, in a sense, a commending of the whole artistic enterprise into the divine hands. In effect, over to you Lord. Amen.

Have a good week.