As was said in Part I, history shows us that Sola Scriptura (the Bible Alone) has caused division and schism among Christians. Protestants who claim that Sola Scriptura was meant to protect the ancient faith are proven wrong by history itself and the endless splintering of post-Reformation Christianity. Doctrines that had been unquestioningly held dear are now up for grabs. Certainly there were divisions and disagreements before the Reformers’ time; even the ancient Church suffered schism. But the scale of division that was seen after Sola Scriptura entered the scene is unprecedented.
The previous divisions in the Church’s history were largely caused by specific heresies – the Arians, the Donatist, the Pelagians, etc. If these heresies were bad because of the division they caused, then the Protestant heresy of Sola Scriptura, with the thousands of divisions it has caused, must rank high on our list of very bad heresies.
Protestants may shout: “Wait! We do not believe in heresy. We accept the early Councils. We accept the Creeds. We are merely concerned that these early statements of faith should not be corrupted by later additions. We limit our beliefs to these early Creeds and statements of faith so that we all have common ground as Christians. And so any differences you might see between Methodists and Baptists, or Anglicans and Lutherans, etc., are few and only secondary. We all still agree to the basic statements of the ancient faith. We reject the early heresies, but by using the Bible Alone to formulate our doctrine we avoid going beyond the ancient creedal statements.”
But this is a false and dangerous approach for at least two reasons.
1) The ancient Councils and Creeds themselves were not the product of using the Bible Alone. Indeed, these are examples of an authoritative Church which met together in Council to decree which doctrines were true and which were false. The Church realized that it was not enough to have a book of Scripture to sort out Truth. It was necessary for the Church to speak with force in order to quell a heresy. So for Protestants to claim that the Bible Alone will now protect the faith of these Councils flies in the face of what these Councils actually were. They were examples of an authoritative Church defending the Bible. How can the Bible now defend itself? It simply cannot. The existence of Creeds and Councils proves that Sola Scriptura is not an effective way to formulate sound doctrine. Sola Scriptura is a departure from the ancient practice of the Church.
2) To say that Protestants actually agree to these early Councils and Creeds is itself an overstatement of reality. There are definitely Sola Scriptura churches which do adhere to these ancient sources…but there are far more that do not. Sola Scriptura sets itself up to allow for rejection of these ancient Church statements. Since the Bible ALONE is their source of authority, then anything issued by the Church (ancient or otherwise) is automatically suspect, and can be discarded if a denomination views it as unbiblical. Protestants may like to pat themselves on the back because they agree on some doctrinal basics, but those basics are shaky at best and no two denominations agree on what those basics should include or how they should be understood. So the premise itself, that Sola Scriptura protects the ancient faith of the Church, is false.
Let’s keep in mind that the Councils and Creeds were largely designed to answer heresies. They were designed to settle doctrinal controversy. And let us also remember that the ancient heretics used the Bible to make the case for their own false doctrines against what the Church taught. The Bible is a two edged sword. As we said before, the Bible cannot defend itself. But it can be used to defend heretical doctrine. Only an authoritative Church can sort out Truth from error.
Indeed, over the course of 500 years, Sola Scriptura has actually served to resurrect old heresies, so that now new life has been breathed into old lies. There are Bible Alone denominations that reject Christ’s divinity, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth and other long-held doctrines from the ancient Church. Sola Scriptura does not defend Christian doctrine, nor does it lead to authentic interpretation of the Bible. It only serves to destroy the faith and unity of the Church.