Sunday, May 06, 2007

Beckwith Posts on His Conversion

Francis Beckwith has spoken of his conversion on his blog, Right Reason. He has stepped down from the Evangelical Theological Society since he doubts he would have been elected had he been Catholic. When you read his post you can't help but admire his integrity and courage to follow his conscience no matter what the cost.

He explains some of his reasoning:
" January, at the suggestion of a dear friend, 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."
Of course, Dr. Beckwith is going to take a lot of heat for this--claiming that the Catholic view of justification is "biblical" is going to shock a lot of people. The fact is, and I say this as a Catholic who did undergraduate and now Ph.D. work at Protestant institutions, while there are many substantial disagreements among Catholics and Protestants, in my experience there is also a huge amount of misinformation --and that is something you find on both sides of the aisle. We need to stop building up straw man arguments and really listen to one another. That doesn't mean we will always agree, but it does mean that I think we will find more common ground than we expected to be there.

In that spirit, I want to highlight Richard White's article on the Catholic teaching regarding justification, entitled, "Sola Gratia, Solo Christo: The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification." I mentioned the article in the comment box over at Beckwith's site and I just wanted to provide a link here to it. It is a fantastic overview of Trent's teaching.


JD said...

My wife and I became Catholic 4 years ago. We were raised in fundamentalist churches and converted after I obtained a Master of Divinity from an evangelical divinity school. My experience at divinity school echoes your opinion as to many of the differences between Protestants and Catholics. It is often a matter of semantics and a failure to understand what is actually being said.

Josh McManaway said...

Indeed, I've often heard Catholic Soteriology boiled down to "Works saves you." Of course I don't believe that, but there seems to be a great deal of Protestants who recite that mantra.

Also, something that strikes me about the reaction around the blogosphere to Dr. Beckwith's returning to the Church is the idea that his conversion flies in the face of the Reformation. As I'm finishing up a class on the Reformation this semester, I'm convinced that Dr. Beckwith is operating within the true spirit of the Reformation. The Church took care of its problems, and so I think it's Biblically founded to reunite, despite minor doctrinal squabbles. Citing Phil. 3:15, John Calvin stated, "matters non-essential should not be the basis of argument among Christians." I hope that within the next few years (decades? centuries?) there is a dialogue of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants to bring everyone back under one "roof", so to speak.