Professor Beckwith Repents and Returns to Rome
The president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) Francis J. Beckwith, after “much prayer, counsel and consideration” has has decided to seek full communion again with the Catholic Church. Even though much of his work has been sympathetic to the Catholic Church, his conversion is quite a surprise and has caused much response from both Protestants and Catholics. His blog opens up with this paragraph:
During the last week of March 2007, after much prayer, counsel and consideration, my wife and I decided to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. My wife, a baptized Presbyterian, is going through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This will culminate with her receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. For me, because I had received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all before the age of 14, I need only go to confession, request forgiveness for my sins, ask to be received back into the Church, and receive absolution.
You can read this entire post for his explanation of his return, but I thought this statement was very telling:
I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the church’s historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries.
It is obvious that there was little conviction in his previous view of justification and there looks to be little conviction in his now Catholic view. In fact, Prof. Bechwith, feels safe “to err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians that followed Christ’s Apostles.”
While I certainly question Dr. Beckwith’s conviction, I do not question his integrity and even his courage. It took both courage and integrity to announce his conversion despite his high profile position. I will, however, join many bloggers comment on the fact that it is a bizarre fact that Beckwith can say as a converted Catholic, “Because I can in good conscience, as a Catholic, affirm the ETS doctrinal statement, I do not intend to resign as a member of ETS.” The Evangelical Theological Society should see this as its most recent and maybe biggest reproof. Much work and thought should be done in forming distinctions between Catholicism and Openness Theology within the society.
Here are a few responses that are good and helped me think through this:
- Carl Trueman – Ref21
- So, Again, What Is An “Evangelical”? – Thabiti Anyabwile
- President of Evangelical Theological Society Becomes Roman Catholic -Burk