One argument that was used against the Reformers was that they were arrogant to challenge 1000 or so years of church history. They were told that to challenge what the church had learned over many hundreds of years was foolish and wrong. They were also called schismatic. The bottom line, from the Roman perspective, was that Rome should not be challenged because of the traditions that had been accepted for the millennium prior to the Reformation.
The problem for Rome, of course, was the scriptures. While Rome looked to tradition for authority, the Reformers looked to the bible.
We must keep something important in mind: the Protestant Reformation was a reformation primarily in soteriology, not ecclesiology. In other words, it was a rediscovery of the biblical gospel (salvation); it was not a rediscovery of the biblical church. There were certainly changes that took place within the church, but the PRIMARY change was a return to the gospel proclaimed by Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc.
Let's fast-forward 500 years. I think we all realize that there are both positives and negatives with the modern church in the West. We are all in a difficult spot because the Reformers did not complete a reformation of the church. If they had lived long enough they might have done so. Alas, we will never know. We do know that the modern church is in need of reform.
I'm sure that almost all readers of this post would agree that the church needs change. The disagreement, of course, is how much change is needed and in what areas. Some people think more and some think less. How do we know? What do we do?
In light of all the disagreement, we must look to our only objective source: the bible. If we are to try to live by sola scriptura, then let's do this not just for salvation but also for the church. Let us follow in the footsteps of the Reformers, but this time let's apply sola scriptura to how we live as the church.
One problem we will run into today is the same problem the Reformers faced. If we push for biblical change, there are many in the institutional church who will use what amounts to a Roman argument. They will say much has been learned from church history. They will say that since the church has done certain things (especially since the Reformation), we should do them as well. If we question certain beloved practices, we may be called schismatic.
If we think through these arguments carefully, what we see is an argument from tradition. Certain Roman church practices were barely changed at all by the Reformers. Many of these remain today. Many are found nowhere in scripture.
What happens when we question and/or challenge these today? Those who believe in these practices may defend them with scripture. If so, we should engage in healthy, gracious debate. However, they may also defend these practices by looking to church traditions (especially from the past 500 years).
When we hear this argument, we must recognize that it is an argument from tradition. It is a Roman argument. It is an argument that holds no weight.
As we think about what types of changes need to occur in the modern church, let us really live according to sola scriptura. These changes may be uncomfortable. They will not be welcomed by many. However, they must occur.
Let us have lively discussions about these important issues. However, let us only look to the bible, and only the bible, for authority.