Tom Brown reflects on his personal reading of Nehemiah -- and on how Nehemiah 8, in particular, seems to contradict the Protestant notion of Scriptural perspicuity:
"The people in Nehemiah 8 were competent, capable of hearing with understanding. The people were listening carefully; the ears of all were attentive. They listened with worshipful hearts, crying 'Amen!' and falling on their faces upon seeing the Scripture. In short, we have an ideal setting for an audience to be able to understand the Scripture that was read to them. And yet Ezra and the teachers were needed to give the meaning of the text 'so that the people understood the reading.' These faithful listeners’ qualities of being competent, attentive, and worshipful were not independently adequate to understand Scripture."
It's a short reflection, to be sure, but one that, when taken with other Scriptures (such as Acts 8, wherein the Ethiopian eunuch tells St. Philip: "And how can I [understand the Scriptures], unless some man shew me?"), with a basic application of reason, and with the empirical data of Protestant history (with its ever-expanding multifariousness of contradictory notions regarding what the Scriptures mean) establishes an overwhelming case that God gave us a Church to authoritatively guide us in our understanding of the Scriptures.
Why authoritatively? Because unless the guidance is authoritative, it could be wrong. In fact, the law of averages tells us that, more times than not, it will be wrong! An experience from my own life may be instructive. I was reared in the Presbyterian Church in America, a vibrant, godly Protestant denomination that was founded a few short years prior to my birth. As good Presbyterians are wont to do, my folks had me baptized, by sprinkling, when I was an infant. To their minds (and later to mine), my baptism was a sign and seal of the covenant, but the sacrament itself did not regenerate my soul in any way. Fast forward to my late teens, when I first met my future wife.
She, being reared in one of the offshoots of the Campbellite movement, had been taught that the waters of baptism actually effect in the soul of the baptized the regeneration that they symbolize. Additionally, she was taught that baptism must be offered only to mature believers -- and that it must be administered only by full bodily immersion. Rarely having been exposed to the doctrines of non-Presbyterian Protestants, I was dumbfounded by her seemingly strange beliefs regarding baptism, but I was prepared to observe a "different strokes" approach. Her unique set of beliefs, however, would not allow her to take such a laissez faire approach with me. You see, her faith taught that the baptism-by-sprinkling that I received as an infant was not a true baptism -- and not being truly baptized, I was not truly saved.
Hours and hours of Bible study, reflection, consultation, prayer, and discussion followed. I thought my Presbyterian teachings on baptism were well-supported by Scripture, but I was distressed to find myself concluding that her sect's teachings seemed to have even greater biblical support! How could the Scriptures support mutually-exclusive conclusions on such a vital issue? Is sprinkling okay -- or not? Is infant baptism acceptable -- or isn't it? Is baptism necessary for salvation -- or is it something less? Never being able to reach a firm, satisfying conclusion, I decided to cover my bases and reluctantly agreed to be "re-baptized" at her church. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was in the position of the Ethiopian eunuch -- I had an authority gap. It would take me almost ten years to realize that I, too, needed a successor of St. Philip to authoritatively "shew me" the meaning of the Scriptures and the fullness of the faith that can only be found in the Catholic Church.