The Temple

Francis Beckwith and ETS

Francis Beckwith was the President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). He has recently left his current church membership to return the the church of his youth and upbringing, The Roman Catholic Church. You can read about his decision in Right Reason.

A few comments.

Francis Beckwith can belong to any church he wants to belong to. Here is the first paragraph of his explanation:

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.

I can only guess that one of the sins that he would need to be forgiven of would be the sin of leaving the church, and corresponding to that the sin of belonging to a non-Roman Catholic church. Just a guess, and I am desirous of correction, but isn’t that the underlying presumption. Had Beckwith left whatever church he had been attending and come to our denomination, he wouldn’t have to repent of his association with that particular church. It is interesting to me that a church would demand that a man of Mr. Beckwith’s obvious spiritual stature. Would he not already have asked for forgiveness, and received it without a visit to the local confessional? But I am offended that his association with us would be considered something needing repentance.

I have never been a member of ETS, and have no standing or voice in that group – but it is interesting to me that they would have still allowed Beckwith to be a member in that organization. Their doctrinal statement is:

“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.”

That’s it.

So back in the 80’s they kicked one of my favorite human beings out of their society for his views on the use of redaction in the New Testament. He still held to inerrancy. He still held a trinitarian position. But ETS is not a fan of redaction criticism so he was asked to leave. In recent years, Open Theists have been allowed to remain. And now, it would be OK to be a Roman Catholic and remain in ETS. I am sure there will be many discussions about this in their next meeting in November in San Diego. Maybe I will go.

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May 7, 2007 - Posted by | Christianity, Theological

4 Comments »

  1. What happens in the Confessional we can only guess. I suspect he confessed he left his Catholic faith. I would expect him to confess it. If he spoke out publically against the Church(I have never seen that) then he would confess that too. But that would be the least of it of what he would be confessing. After having not gone to confession for a number of years I suspect he might have other matters he wanted to discuss too

    As a Catholic , I think he could have sign the ETS statement. I saw James Whites view on this and some of the discussion of what went into it. However despite Dr Whites and others thoughts it also shows the necessity to know what it is those you want to keep out actually believe, as distinct from what you think they believe. Obviously, the founders (or at least one of them) thought that Roman Catholics do not hold the Bible as authoritative, or that they ‘add’ books to the Bible , or that the Pope ‘trumps’ the Bible or some such thing. So they confidently said “The Bible is the Bible!” and thought that would be enough to keep the Catholics out

    Comment by jh | May 7, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hey JH,
    thanks for reading and responding.
    I personally don’t think Catholics could or should be kept out based on the basic statement. Is it not the Roman Catholic church who stewarded the Scriptures and the doctrine of the trinity for the bulk of the middle ages? I think so. i also think we should broaden the discussion and the fellowship. I am more than willing to have open dialog and fellowship with believers in Christ who are different than me. I haven’t read James White on this, but he is pretty strong in his opposition to Catholicism.

    Isn’t there more that we have in common than what divides us? I know there are some significant discussions we could have about our substantive disagreements – but wouldn’t that entail some sense of acceptance of one another? That is my question in asking about the nature of his repentance. Does it simply include leaving the church, or does it also include involvement with the Protestants?

    I wonder if it is possible.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 7, 2007 | Reply

  3. I am a Catholic. Of course, I have no idea what Mr. Beckwith’s confession was, but it seems a bit of a stretch for him to confess leaving the Church when he was only 14 when he left. Did he even understand what he was leaving?? Anyone who returns to the Church after leaving has to go to confession before they can receive the Eucharist. As you know, we believe the Eucharist to be the Body and Blood of Christ. You must be in a state of grace to receive it, hence, confession. I know this is very different from Protestant theology, but my point is, he didn’t necessarily have to confess going to another church, unless he understood the truth of the RC Church when he left. That’s a big point! If you don’t understand something is a sin, it’s not accounted to you as sin. Another example of this: Protestants who convert to Catholicism and have used artificial birth control while Protestants. They never gave it a second thought, just accepted it as normal and moral. I have read that when they come into the RC Church they are told by priests that they don’t have to confess this in confession because they thought they were doing the right thing when they were Protestants. I was always told that if you do not understand something as sin, then it is not an actual sin, even though it will still have consequences in your life. Anyway, I hope I have helped you to understand why someone goes to confession when they become a Catholic after having been Protestant. The purpose isn’t to confess the “sin” of Protestantism, but to confess your sins for the time you were out of the Church. I’m probably not explaining this very well, I’m not a theologian, that’s for sure, but I hope it helps you to understand. His confession probably didn’t include anything about Protestantism!!!

    Comment by Rebecca | May 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. Thanks for your response Rebecca.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 30, 2007 | Reply


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