My Experience with Sola Scriptura
Recently, I had a rather protracted e mail debate with a "Bible only" Christian who insisted that Catholics believe a "false gospel" based on his personal interpretation of the Scriptures. It became evident after a few e-mails that he considered most other Protestant sects that didn't adhere to his personal interpretation as "false gospel believers" too! After many e mails, back and forth, it degenerated into a contest of who could find the most verses to back up their point of view or the doctrine each of us believed in. " His last e-mail volley: "It is a real tragedy that you are placing your eternal destiny in the hands of fallible men when you could place it in Christ and his word and know for sure."
In that very setting I realized, that we were no different than Calvin, Zwingli and Luther sending each other polemic and inflammatory diatribe because of the failure of each party to see things "my way". Each of the reformers rejected the teachings of Catholicism and the firestorm of debate that erupted made it obvious very quickly that they "didn't know for sure. " It further helped me to understand why we need Christ's Church to be the "Pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15) You see, there I go again using the Bible to prove my point!
But seriously, it's a great joy for me to know that the church Jesus started continues to hold the deposit of faith given to the apostles. Trying to use the Bible alone as the source of all authority for doctrine leads to a road splitting off into innumerable pathways (and each one thinking they are the only right way to go!) Christ said he would build the Church upon Peter giving it the authority to loose and bind, forgive sins and yes...even interpret the Bible! But remember, this church was flourishing, growing, spreading and preaching the gospel throughout the world hundreds of years before the Bible was ever compiled and available! So clearly the Bible alone as the source of all authority was a paradigm that never existed in the early centuries of our salvation history. It's also good to remind ourselves , the Catholic Church gave us the Bible, the Bible didn't give us a church. History will support this, but then again, as my "Bible-only" friend said to me, 'The history of the early church is written in the book of Acts.' It would be defying Sola Scriptura to read any history outside the Bible to help understand our faith. Ironically, the tradition of Sola Scriptura isn't in the Bible so by my friend's own definition must be a tradition "of fallible men."