My problem isn't necessarily with Sola Scriptura itself, but Sola Scriptura isolated from its proper context. A trend I've noticed among many Americans, pop-historians, and yes, Protestants, is a complete disregard for philology. In other words, they assume that a text can be interpreted as-is through our own 21st century lens opposed to actually trying to understand it through the lens of its authors, recipients, context, history, and the other multitude of factors that could shape your interpretation of it. This is the same sort of thinking that undermines homosexual literature with its pop-history claims that Abraham Lincoln, David & Jonathan, and pretty much every historically significant person was gay, just because they are reading their own 21st century ideals about romance and relationships into a history, time, and context where such ideals could have been completely different.
So the question I would ask, and the criticism I would raise, is how did Protestants go from Sola Scriptura to isolating the Scriptures from their rightful context? Because I do more or less believe that most of the essentials of Christianity could be derived from the Scripture alone. But that's assuming that the Scripture is interpreted through the lens of its proper context within the Church. Happy Lutheran
is right in quoting the Fathers:
"This seal have thou ever on thy mind; which now by way of summary has been touched on in its heads, and if the Lord grant, shall hereafter be set forth according to our power, with Scripture proofs. For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
"The generality of men still fluctuate in their opinions about this, which are as erroneous as they are numerous. As for ourselves, if the Gentile philosophy, which deals methodically with all these points, were really adequate for a demonstration, it would certainly be superfluous to add a discussion on the soul to those speculations. But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings."
St. Gregory of Nyssa
"The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth"
"They say that we are to understand the things concerning Paradise not as they are written but in a different way. But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err".
St. John Chrysostom
"We are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of the Scripture."
St. Basil the Great
I do not believe that these quotes support Sola Scriptura. I believe he is extrapolating. But that's not the point. For the sake of argument let's assume it is true and that the Fathers did support Sola Scriptura. How do you jump from Sola Scriptura to let's isolate Scripture from its very context? It would seem counterintuitive--the very context that would allow us to interpret the Scripture alone properly would ironically be denied by the same doctrine that tried to safeguard against heresy and personal interpretation. In other words, even if the Fathers asserted Sola Scriptura, they would have asserted it within the context of the Church and it would have been through the lens of the Church--the Scriptures' true historical context--that they would have interpreted them through.
But advocates of Sola Scriptura don't just do this. Hence the extrapolating. They set up a dichotomy between the Scriptures and the Scriptures' rightful context. It isn't just Scripture alone but Scripture isolated from her context. A case can be made for the former but the latter is preposterous, and I'm not sure where the jump comes from. Again, Happy Lutheran
touched upon this issue with:
The church fathers used Scripture not tradition to refute early heresies.
This statement assumes that there is a dichotomy between the Scripture and the Tradition. But the Church does not teach this. Rather, the Scripture itself is seen as being a component of the Holy Tradition which consists of the former as well as the canons, fathers, service texts, and other elements of the Church. The definition of the Holy Tradition would be the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church. See Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev's Orthodox Christianity
books for reference, or even St. Paul's own statement. In that famous 2 Thessalonians 2:15 passage, he does not say to hold fast "to the tradition and the scripture," but to the tradition which he defines as consisting of Scripture as well as the oral. In other words, he did not believe in the dichotomy that Protestants erect between Scripture and Tradition, but like the Orthodox, saw the former as being a component of the latter.
So again, the question I would ask is how do you go from not only Scripture alone, but from isolating the Scripture alone from its very context within the Church? How and why did they erect a dichotomy between the Scriptures and her context as if they were two distinct and opposing things? And third, assuming that they disregard the Scriptures' original context within the Church, what makes them believe that their 21st century, biased lens is going to be any more accurate? How can you possibly in good faith read a modern context into an antiquated text?
Again, whereas Protestants see a dichotomy between Scripture and Tradition, I see the latter as being the very context by which we can properly interpret the Scriptures. So the problem isn't necessarily with Scripture alone, but how, in what context, and through what lens do we interpret them alone?
It seems preposterous to read them alone through any context, lens, and method other than the 2,000 year testimony of the Church which both wrote, compiled, and received them. The Fathers, even if we concede that they affirmed Sola Scriptura, certainly chose the way of the Church. So how do Protestants justify doing it through another route? And why should we trust theirs opposed to the Church? You see the Church as an obstacle, a dichotomy between Scripture and Tradition, but I see the Church as the proper context that helps me interpret the Scriptures alone in the proper way.