The early Church’s first heresy it encountered was Gnosticism; a belief that declared the material world evil and the spiritual world good. The body was seen as an obstacle to the earnest strivings of the soul. Also produced by the Gnostics were the “Gnostic Gospels” which were composed of the gospel of Judas, Thomas, Phillip, and Mary Magdalen.
How would the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” (The Bible Alone) have dealt with these Gnostic gospels? The New Testament, as authorized scripture, was not around. A few books of the New Testament were in use by the early Church, but they were not compiled authoritatively or binding to all. In fact, there were some real concerns about the book of Hebrews (Eusebius the Church historian mentioned this).
So, some books were fraudulent, some were in question, and some were accepted. If the early Christians had believed in Sola Scriptura, how would they have dealt with this problem? There was no formalized set of books for Christians to draw the line because the line had yet to be drawn. The Church leaders took upon themselves the authority to carefully determine which books were credible and authoritative and which were not. They had to consult the authorship, interpretation and meaning, and the truthfulness of each book’s substance. And, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the books they chose were established into the New Testament Canon.
How foolish therefore, to look back on such an authority and tradition and reject it in the name of Sola Scriptura; a doctrine which could never have produced the very thing it relies upon. “Sola Scriptura” declares “I accept your New Testament, but in the name of the New Testament I reject you.”
If Sola Scriptura would have failed the early church, why do we think it successfully reforms the modern church?