Using Alister McGrath’s Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution – A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First as a launching point, Father Robert Barron of Word on Fire states what he believes is the fundamental issue in the “Catholic-Protestant” dialogue: Who has the authority to interpret the word of God?
Barron effectively argues that “the priesthood of all believers” as Martin Luther put it, does not work when it comes to governing the church – as Luther himself came to realize. What Barron fails to recognize is that the Roman Catholic Church is itself the result of its split from the Eastern Orthodox Church (“the Great Schism” of the church into East and West) in 1054. Thus there is no “single living voice,” as Barron puts it, to rule on matters of interpreting the Scriptures – no referee or umpire, as he says.
What then is the solution? The solution is that Luther was right when he taught the priesthood of all believers. The only problem that results from this concept is when you try to use it to put human authority over the church. There is only one true church and Jesus is the pastor of it. The central idea of the kingdom of God, which was the heading under which Jesus seemed to file all His teaching, is that God would rule in individual human hearts without the need for human mediation. This rules out popes for the Catholics, bishops for the Orthodox, and pastors for the Protestants.
I really like Father Barron, but he would be doing himself and all of us a favor if he were to abandon the Catholic church and devote himself completely and directly to our Lord Jesus Christ.