I labour under the impression, which I think many people intuitively share, that religion, if it exists at all, must be social, precisely because, as Schleiermacher argues, man is social. Religion as a phenomenon just is social; the very concept of religion is the concept of a social phenomenon. The Catholic conviction is that the same can be said for revelation and relationship with God, that it is first of all social. Catholics thus argue that, although the Scriptures are materially sufficient for orthodoxy, the scriptures on their own are not ‘formally’ sufficient for orthodoxy (or, in other words, they are not sufficient for formal orthodoxy). John Calvin anticipates here a powerful Catholic objection to the whole project of protestantism, and argues on the contrary that the Scriptures alone are formally sufficient for orthodoxy by insisting, in the institutes of the Christian Religion, that every honest person who is regenerate (part of the Church) and who reads the scriptures, will be led by the Holy Spirit to all the same conclusions as all other true Christians, at least on the essentials. Now, though this view deserves some nuance, it has always struck me as an odd response, since it is formal orthodoxy here is only achieved ‘by accident’. This orthodoxy is not a social phenomenon, but rather is a private phenomenon which instantiates often enough that communities (or one big overarching and invisible community) can exist.
I think that if one accepts as that Religion, Revelation, and Orthodoxy are principally communicated through ‘society/community’ rather than immediately and personally (though there is obviously an immediate and personal dimension to all three of those categories), then one must accept the necessity of some “living magisterium”. That is to say, some religious mechanism which provides, protects and ensures formal orthodoxy in the social/communal sense. When one does an analysis on what such a Hierarchy would look like, I think they will conclude it must be sharp (meaning it must have a ‘head’ like the head of a pin, at which ‘the buck stops’ so to speak), it will have to be in some instances infallible, and it will end up looking very much like the Catholic Church.
This is essentially my greatest objection to protestantism as a form of Christian theology. The alternative is just some Theo-epistemological solipsism which itself is completely contrary to the sensus fidelium which all/most Christians share. This ‘social/communal’ intuition is precisely the principle objection to forms of what have been called ‘reformed’ epistemologies, or protestant epistemologies, such as Van Tillianism.