Met with a young man for lunch yesterday -- a grad student who has found himself drawn to the Catholic Church by "the splendor of Truth." (A "hard sciences" kinda guy... someone who appreciates the interplay between physics and philosophy.) He shared an observation about Protestantism which I thought was interesting. "The theological 'autonomy' is actually very isolating... I mean, every person is almost their own 'church.' "
Exactly. The inherent problem with "sola Scriptura" -- especially the contemporary understanding and use of the principle, where it is ripped out of the context of Tradition, (which not even Luther and the Lutheran reformers did) -- is that it leaves us unable to clearly and coherently and consistently interpret Scripture. When that naked "sola Scriptura" principle is then wedded to a warped understanding of "the priesthood of all believers", you end up with every guy on the street with a Bible believing he has the right to his own, private, interpretation of Scripture. As a result, instead of one Pope, you have a million "popes"... and Protestantism is the land of a million popes.
Living under the authority of a Bishop -- especially the "Bishop of Rome" -- seems to grate on our American sensibilities, but the ultimate question is this: "Is Jesus Christ Lord?" If so, we are ALL called to live under His Lordship... and if He has granted to the successors of the Apostles the right to exercise His authority in His name...
There is ONE Church... one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church... and to dissent from it is to deny the authority of the Lord of the Church.