Skip to comments.Dr. Francis Beckwith Returns To Full Communion With The Church
Posted on 05/04/2007 8:40:45 AM PDT by NYer
Dr. Francis Beckwith, the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has become Catholic. Dr. Beckwith was raised Catholic but became an Evangelical Protestant in youth. After a review of Catholic theology and its basis, however, he has been reconciled with the Church.
I recently learned of Dr. Beckwith's intention to pursue reconciliation. Apparently my own humble writings were of use to him in his journey, and he was kind enough to say so. In view of the sensitivity of the situation, however, I of course agreed to refrain from making the matter publicly known. He also was kind enough to let me know just before he went to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Last night I received a note from Dr. Beckwith indicating that the matter had become public, and so I would like to offer warm felicitations regarding his return to full communion with the Church.
The source through which the matter was made public happened to be James White's blog, and as you can imagine, Mr. White is not happy.
In particular Mr. White raises the question of what Dr. Beckwith will do given his present status as head of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Prior to his reconciliation, Dr. Beckwith shared his thoughts on that matter with me, and though I will let him speak for himself on the subject, I will say that he intends to handle the matter in a gracious and frank manner and has already taken steps in that direction.
On his blog, Mr. White questions whether Dr. Beckwith could remain a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, writing as follows:
Let's ponder the hypothetical situation of a President of the Evangelical Theological Society converting to Roman Catholicism in the midst of his tenure. In 1998 I attended the national meeting of the ETS in Orlando, Florida. At one of the sessions some of the founding members were being asked questions about why they did certain things, why they wrote the statement of faith as they did, etc. A woman asked a question of the panel. "Why did you write 'the Bible alone' in the statement of faith?" The ETS statement of faith is very, very short. It reads:
"The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."
Roger Nicole rose, slowly, and made his way to the podium. He looked out at the lady and said, "Because we didn't want any Roman Catholics in the group." He then turned around and went back to his seat. While most sat in stunned silence, I and a friend with me broke into wild applause. The brevity of the response, and Nicole's dead-pan look, was classic. Most looked at us like we were nuts, but we appreciated what he said. Here, one of the founding members made it clear that the ETS was founded as a Protestant organization and that primary to their own self-understanding was a belief in sola scriptura.
Mr. White is correct about the text of the ETS statement of faith or "doctrinal foundation." It's found online here.
While the ultimate interpretation of this statement is up to the ETS itself, I would point out two things:
1) The statement of a single founder, such as Dr. Nicole, regarding the interpretation of such a statement is analogous to that of a single founding father regarding the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, it is not of itself conclusive, however enthusiastically Mr. White and his friend might receive it.
2) If the founders of the ETS intended to exclude Catholics from the organization, they did not frame their doctrinal foundation in a way that would, in fact, block Catholics from being able to agree to it.
The Bible and the Bible alone is the word of God written (as opposed to the Word of God Incarnate, the word of God in nature, or the word of God handed on through the Church in parallel to Scripture). Only Scripture is divinely inspired such that every assertion of the sacred authors is asserted by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Bible is inerrant in the autographs. And, of course, God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.
There is thus nothing in the ETS doctrinal foundation that a Catholic could not agree to in good conscience and it is not an effective instrument for excluding Catholics from membership.
This situation will, of course, be very sensitive for members of the Evangelical Theological Society and its leadership, as well as for Dr. Beckwith and his family, and I ask readers to keep the matter in prayer.
At the hour I write, Dr. Beckwith has not posted on Right Reason, a blog in which he participates, regarding his return to full communion, and I do not know if he will do so, but I invite my readers to watch that blog for possible updates and to offer their felicitations to Dr. Beckwith in the combox below.
VISIT RIGHT REASON.
DR. BECKWITH'S HOME PAGE.
Francis J. Beckwith is Associate Professor of Church-State Studies (tenured) at Baylor University In June 2007 he will join Baylor's philosophy department where he will become Associate Professor of Philosophy. A Fellow and Faculty Affiliate in Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR), he served as Associate Director of Baylor's Institute of Church-State Studies from July 2003 until January 2007.
Born in 1960 in New York City, Professor Beckwith grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, the eldest of the four children of Harold ("Pat") and Elizabeth Beckwith. He graduated in 1974 from St. Viator's Elementary School and in 1978 from Bishop Gorman High School, where he was a three-sport letterman and a member of the 1978 Nevada State AAA Basketball Championship Team.
A 2002-03 Research Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions in the Department of Politics at Princeton University, Professor Beckwith currently serves as a member of Princeton's James Madison Society. He has held full-time faculty appointments at Trinity International University (1997-2002), Whittier College (1996-97), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (1989-96).
A graduate of Fordham University (Ph.D. and M.A. in philosophy), he also holds the Master of Juridical Studies (M.J.S.) degree from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where he won a CALI Award for Academic Excellence in Reproductive Control Seminar. His books include (w/ W. L. Craig, J. P. Moreland) To Every One An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2004); Law, Darwinism, & Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003); (w/ C. Mosser & P. Owen) The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement (HarperCollins/Zondervan, 2002), finalist for the 2003 Gold Medallion Award in theology and doctrine; Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy, 2/e (Wadsworth, 2002); (w/ G. P. Koukl) Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Baker, 1998); (w/ L. P. Pojman) The Abortion Controversy 25 Years After Roe v. Wade: A Reader, 2/e (Wadsworth, 1998); (w/ T. Jones) Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination? (Prometheus, 1997); and Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Baker, 1993), winner of the 1994 Cornerstone Magazine ethics book of the year award.
His forthcoming books include Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Is Statecraft Soulcraft?: Politics and Christianity (InterVarsity 2007)
His articles have been published in a number of academic journals including Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy; San Diego Law Review; International Philosophical Quarterly; Nevada Law Journal; Public Affairs Quarterly; Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy; Journal of Law & Religion; American Journal of Jurisprudence; Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly; Chapman Law Review; Journal of Medicine & Philosophy; Social Theory & Practice; Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics; Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; Christian Bioethics; Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics; Journal of Church & State; Human Life Review; Journal of Social Philosophy; Journal of Libertarian Studies; Journal of Medical Ethics; Logos; The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology; and Philosophia Christi.
Professor Beckwith has also contributed to a number of reference works including Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Blackwell, forthcoming2008);Encyclopedia of the First Amendment (Congressional Quarterly Press, forthcoming 2007); Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (Routledge, forthcoming 2006); Encyclopedia of American Civil Rights & Liberties (Garland, forthcoming 2006); Baker Dictionary of Cults (Baker, forthcoming 2006); Religion: Past and Present, 4/e (English translation of Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart) (Brill Academic Publishers, forthcoming 2006); Dictionary of Contemporary Religion in the Western World (InterVarsity, 2002); Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics (Oryx, 1999); and Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, 2/e (Thomas Nelson, 1992).
Among the books in which his articles appear as chapters are Darwin's Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement, ed. W. A. Dembski (InterVarsity Press, 2006); Bob Dylan & Philosophy, ed. Carl Porter and Peter Vernezze (Open Court, 2006); What's Wrong?: Applied Ethicists and Their Critics, ed. D. Boonin and G. Oddie (Oxford University Press, 2005); Guide to New Religious Movements 2/e, ed. R. Enroth (InterVarsity Press. 2005); The Rationality of Theism, ed. P. Copan and P. Moser (Routledge, 2003); Bioengagement: Making a Christian Difference Through Bioethics Today, ed. N. Cameron, S. E. Daniels, and B. J. White (Eerdmans, 2000); In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case For God's Action in History, ed. R. D. Geivett and G. Habermas (InterVarsity, 1997); Philosophy: The Quest for Truth, 3/e, ed. L. Pojman (Wadsworth, 1996); The Silent Subject: Reflections on the Unborn in American Culture, ed. Brad Stetson (Praeger, 1996); Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Political Issues, 9/e, ed. G. McKenna and S. Feingold (McGraw-Hill, 1995); and Faith in Theory and Practice: Essays on Justifying Religious Belief, ed. E. Radcliffe and C. J. White (Open Court, 1993).
Both colleagues and students have recognized him for teaching excellence. On April 25, 2006 he was awarded a certificate by Baylor's undergraduate journal (The Pulse) for his "outstanding contributions to undergraduate scholarship." In November 2004 he was recognized as a distinguished faculty member by Baylor University`s Mortar Board. The students of Trinity Graduate School (California campus) selected him Professor of the Year for the 1997-98 school year. During his seven years at UNLV he received a 1995 merit award (given by the Multicultural Student Affairs Office of UNLV), a professor of recognition award by the UNLV alumni association (1992), and was a finalist for university-wide and/or college-wide teaching awards in 1996, 1993, 1992, and 1991.
He has presented academic papers, chaired sessions, and offered commentaries at the conferences of a number of professional societies including the American Philosophical Association, the American Political Science Association, the Society of Christian Philosophers, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the American Bar Association (Science & Technology Section), the Christian Legal Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Academy of Religion, the Southwestern Political Science Association, the University Faculty for Life, and the Conference on Faith and History. He has served on the executive committees of both the Society of Christian Philosophers (1999-2002) and the Evangelical Philosophical Society (1998-2003) as well as on the national board of the University Faculty for Life (1999-present).
On November 17, 2006 Professor Beckwith became the President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), a position that has a one-year term. He is the 57th president of ETS, an academic society that has over 4,100 members. In July 2005 he began a three-year term as a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law.
He and his wife, Frankie, live in Woodway, Texas.
Best wishes to Mr. Beckwith!
The only times I remember hearing about Catholic clergy and theologians leaving the Church is when they are liberals with heretical views (Matthew Fox comes to mind).
brave man. God bless him and his family.
I may be stretching here, but I'm wondering how Humanae Vitae sits with him. (I realize that medical factors rather than choice may be a factor in childless marriages if they indeed have no children.)
John Dominic Crossnan
We should pray for Mr. White as well as Mr. Beckwith. Isn’t White the same Evangelical blogger who got in to a royal snit about a family member becoming Catholic?
Good to have another big brain in our camp, but I do really think he should resign his position, it is what I would hope someone (Jean Marchant comes to mind) who leaves the Catholic Church would do were they on a Catholic Faculty.
Though Richard McBrien still teaches at Notre Dame doesn’t he......
Now that just such a high-profile conversion has taken place, prepare yourself for the flood of substance-less "Come Home to Rome" articles. Let me make a prediction: as is so often the case, the very act of conversion, not the reasons for so doing, will be the primary focus. "He's so brilliant, if he converts, he must have a brilliant reason!" There are very few "new" reasons for conversion that have not been fully addressed in the past, and Rome's modern apologists have learned that it is never to their advantage to give air to the replies offered by the most careful of their critics. As any review of the current body of Roman Catholic "conversion stories" will bear out, fair, balanced, insightful representation of the facts related to sola scriptura, Papal primacy, the Mass, the Marian dogmas, purgatory, etc., is utterly lacking. Emotional appeals to "the ancient church," mythical references to the "unity" of Rome (those actually inside the communion and familiar with its rancorous disputes cannot help but chuckle at those blissfully naive, breathless commentaries), and the warm feeling of "coming home" to the Church (almost never anything about conversion to Christ) are the keys to successful conversioneering.
how happy they must be in Heaven!
those actually inside the communion and familiar with its rancorous disputes cannot help but chuckle at those blissfully naive, breathless commentaries
"Those actually inside the communion" doesn't include James White, so how would he know?
I'm still trying to find these "rancorous disputes" among Catholics who are actually loyal to the magisterium (as distinct from those who are loyal to what they think the magisterium ought to be), and I don't see it. And I've been "actually inside the communion" now for going on 47 years.
and the warm feeling of "coming home" to the Church (almost never anything about conversion to Christ)
Read your own sister's conversion story, James. You know her, she's "Mrs. Bonds" to you.
Does Mr. White not consider Evangelicals Christian, or does he think the Catholics do not consider Evangelicals Christian?
Is this gentleman reading the same literature I am?
A friend to whom I sent several books of apologetics by well-known converts (Mr. Currie, Mr. Ray, Dr. Hahn, etc.) had the opposite complaint! She said, "It's all about analyzing the details of Scriptural texts, historical understanding, ancient documents ... and nothing about their own spiritual and emotional experiences."
In all the conversion from Protestantism stories I know, the journey begins with a visit of the Mass, continues with the scripture and the history, and then the candidate struggles with the Catholic spirituality and ecclesiology — that is, Mary, the saints, and papacy.
Conversions from other faiths might be different. Dr. Roy Sholman (sp), a Jewish convert, had Mary appear to him. He did not know who she was...
I agree that a very common factor is the experience of the Mass and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
I haven’t read Mr. Schoeman’s story, although I’ve seen his books in the catalog. It sounds fascinating!
There usually seems to be a "tipping point" argument, one which they can't refute, can't ignore, and to which they can't conform within a Protestant milieu.
fair, balanced, insightful representation of the facts related to sola scriptura, Papal primacy, the Mass, the Marian dogmas, purgatory, etc., is utterly lacking
That sounds like a fine description of James White's own writings.
Alex, have you read Patty Bonds' conversion story? I mention it because she describes, in some detail, her childhood years as a Baptist pastor's daughter ... how her father, said, from the pulpit, that Rome was the Whore of Babylon and the Pope was the antiChrist ... how her parents forbade her to play with a childhood friend, at least in part because the girl was a Catholic ... that kind of thing?
She and her brother were taught to hate -- and that is the only word that can possibly be accurate -- taught to hate Catholicism and believing Catholics from the time they learned to talk.
That is very sad.