Here’s a good statement of the protestant position on Sola scriptura and it’s relation to the authority of the church. I’m going to quit talking about this for a while, because I’d like to stop and do some more reading about the topic before I say any more. In particular, I want to look at Keith Matheson’s book, “The Shape of Sola Scriptura”. Reading the description of the book on amazon, I found somebody posted a great quote that I wish I had read two weeks ago:
“This also is certain, that no one should rely on his own wisdom in the interpretation of the Scripture, not even in the clear passages, for it is clearly written in 2 Peter 1:20: ‘The Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation.’ And whoever twists the Holy Scripture so that it is understood according to his preconceived opinions does this to his own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). The best reader of the Scripture, according to Hilary, is one who does not bring the understanding of what is said to the Scripture but who carries it away from the Scripture. We also gratefully and reverently use the labors of the fathers who by their commentaries have profitably clarified many passages of the Scripture. And we confess that we are greatly confirmed by the testimonies of the ancient church in the true and sound understanding of the Scripture. Nor do we approve of it if someone invents for himself a meaning which conflicts with all antiquity, and for which there are clearly no testimonies of the church.”
–Martin Chemnitz, “Examination of the Council of Trent” Vol. 1, p. 208.