As discussed in Part I and Part II, the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura does not protect the ancient Christian faith – instead it opens the possibility of widespread heresy. Nor does Sola Scriptura bring about unity among Christians – rather it divides Christians into denominational sects and causes endless schism. History has shown that the introduction of the “Bible Alone” Protestantism has brought about unprecedented divisions in the Body of Christ and has resurrected ancient heresies mixed with new false doctrines and theologies.
Obviously Sola Scriptura does not “work” from a practical standpoint. Division and heresy are its end results. But furthermore, it is simply not a principle that was ever used by Christians prior to the Reformation. In other words it is a relatively recent invention. And I mean “invention” in the worst possible way. It was “invented” as an excuse to depart from traditional Christian teaching and to undermine Christ’s Church.
Early Christian experience contradicts the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura. For example, the early Church did not have an authoritative Biblical Canon. The books of the bible were not agreed to for at least the first four centuries of Christianity. Imagine if the United States existed for four hundred years without adopting a Constitution.
Thankfully the Church does not work like a nation or state. Before the Bible was compiled (in fact, before the New Testament was even written) there was already an established authority for the teaching of sound doctrine, and that authority was the CHURCH. Without an agreed to Biblical cannon there had to be some other locus of authority (i.e. not Sola Scriptura), and sure enough, the Church Fathers attest to a strong teaching authority for their bishops and under them the priest and deacons.
For early Christians, obedience to one’s Bishop was compared to obedience to Christ Himself. And these bishops received their authority through Apostolic Succession. Proving such a lineage, tracing one’s ministry back to Christ, proved the Church’s authenticity and ensured sound doctrine. That does not sound like a Protestant ecclesiology and it certainly doesn’t sound like Bible Alone Christianity.
Protestantism (for the most part) rejects Apostolic Succession, some even reject bishops altogether, and they reject the authority of a bishop to expound doctrine authoritatively (as “in the place of Christ” – the way the early Christians would have understood it). If you were to travel back in time and explain to a First or Second Century Christian the Protestant notion of a weak ecclesial governance and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura you would be called a heretic. And with good reason - Sola Scriptura is a heresy!
No doubt, when it comes to sound doctrine and teaching authentic Christian faith, Protestants would say that the Bible should be our pillar and foundation of truth. But the Bible itself proves them wrong. As the early Christians knew, and as Catholics believe today, for correct teaching we must look to “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1Tim 3:15)