During my flight this morning, mostly I slept. However, I did come across this question in this book Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture. The dilemma posed is by what means do the Sola Scriptura adherents seperate those traditions they keep, e.g., Nicean Trinity from those they don’t, e.g., transubstantiation (real presence) or Marian doctrine (virgin birth … not virgin conception). Pelikan pointedly asks:
If the First Council of Nicea was a legitimate development and the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 … an illegitimate development, what were the criteria biblical and doctrinal, for discerning the difference? ….
[… later …]
The several passages of the bible that appeared directly to substantiate the dogma of the Trinity, such as above all the baptismal formula at the close of the Gospel according to Matthew and the prologue about the divinity of the Logos at the opening of the Gospel according to John, mutually reinforced each other to form the biblical proof for church doctrine. Conversely, however, any passages that, taken as they stood, appeared to contradict church doctrine were subject to the “canonical rule” and required careful handling. When, several chapters after the solemn prologue, “And the Word was God,” the Gospel of John had Jesus say of himself, “My Father is greater than I,” Augustine had to being his heaviest weapon into action. If the Protestant Reformers and thei descendants were willing to hold still for such manipulation of New Testament passages in the interest of upholding a doctrinal development that had come only in later centuries — and they were — what stood in the way of such manipulation when the passage in question was “This is my body” or “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
Perhaps nowhere, however, was the challenge of this dilemma more dramatically unavoidable than in the relation between the development of the doctrine of Mary and its purported foundation in Scripture.
So, for those readers who hold Sola Scriptura, how do you answer, and I’m not asking for a detailed defense … unless that’s what you want to do. Just a heuristic explanation for how the distinction is made.