Wednesday, May 23, 2007

David Howard on Francis Beckwith's Conversion

I'm a bit late to the draw on this one, but still wanted to comment. David Howard, one of the members of the ETS executive committee, has written a piece in the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, in which he states the following:
Responses to Mr. Beckwith's conversion run the gamut. A small number of evangelicals have reacted as if he committed an act of betrayal. Among many more, including us on the executive committee, the response has been one of cordial disagreement on some critical matters, accompanied by an acknowledgment that we nevertheless have much in common as fellow Christians.

This kind of statement speaks volumes about the state of the so-called evangelical leadership. Howard and the rest of the executive committee are now scrambling for answers to questions such as how the anemic and poorly worded ETS "Doctrinal Basis" can exclude a Roman Catholic, and what the real differences are between Evangelical Protestantism Roman Catholicism. They seem to be genuinely lost, as this statement from Howard well illustrates. Howard doesn't give us any evidence that he is even aware that nearly 500 years ago there was something called "the Reformation," and that the primary issues of that Reformation were the question of authority and the nature of the gospel. These have not changed. Howard muses that some evangelicals act as if Beckwith "committed an act of betrayal," insinuating that he has not. The Roman gospel, as defined by Trent, officially anathematized the gospel of Jesus Christ. Francis Beckwith has traded the sufficiency of Christ and the "once for all"-ness of His propitiatory sacrifice on the cross for an endless series of sacramental obligations and religious works he is now required to keep to "merit" his ongoing justification before God.

Has Beckwith "committed an act of betrayal"? Of course he has. The fact that this simple affirmation is now being called into question among "evangelical leaders"--something which would have been a given in evangelicalism fifty short years ago--shows just how far "evangelicalism" has strayed away from its roots. Some of us will continue our "hard-nosed" approach to all this, while Howard and the others at ETS continue to debate whether Open Theists, Mormons, and Roman Catholics are "evangelical" or "brothers."

I don't even know what "evangelical" means anymore.

Additional Reviews on the Debate

Just a couple of other links (here and here, and one or two follow ups) to perspectives on my debate with Mitch Pacwa.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Post-Debate Review

Monday, May 07, 2007

Doing the Right Thing . . . But Questions Remain

I have been watching from the sidelines the events regarding the recent conversion of Frank Beckwith (until now, president of the Evangelical Theological Society) to Roman Catholicism. He has, effective May 5, stepped down from his position as president of ETS, and just today has announced his resignation as a member of ETS.

. . . the right decision, both actions. I applaud him for that.

Questions remain, however, about how all this happened--though not so much for Beckwith as for ETS and the climate it has created. I think we can assume Beckwith didn't have a Damascus-road conversion to Rome. No one, except for the hopelessly impulsive, leaves a long-held theological heritage for a diametrically opposed theological heritage without engaging for many months or even years in thoughtful reflection about it--during which it must have become obvious (to him if not to others involved) that his theological allegiances had reversed. Did he have questions about where his allegiance resided when he assumed the position as president of ETS? What were the signs of his apostasy? And what measures did/does the ETS executive committee take to provide oversight over the theological musings of its president? How was Beckwith nominated, selected, and voted in given his (now well known) leanings evident in his articles, in his conversation, in his teaching?

This kind of thing is occurring with alarming regularity these days, due in large part to the post-modern, post-Christian abandonment of fidelity to truth (recall my last blog article on Timothy George). There are warning signs for this sort of thing, and they are not that difficult to detect. Do we really need to wait until someone follows through with his "exploratory" musings, all in the name of academic freedom, before we begin to call him to account?