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by Francis J. Beckwith
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Christian Living
  • Author:
    Francis J. Beckwith
  • ISBN:
    1587432471
  • ISBN13:
    978-1587432477
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    Brazos Press; Second Printing edition (December 1, 2008)
  • Pages:
    144 pages
  • Subcategory:
    Christian Living
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  • Rating:
    4.9
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Francis J. Beckwith was reared Catholic. Some of his family remained Catholic when he became an Evangelical Protestant Christian

Francis J. Some of his family remained Catholic when he became an Evangelical Protestant Christian. 19-22) Perhaps his familiarity with the Catholic subculture made it easier for him to revert formally on 29 April 2007, easier than for someone for whom American Catholicism's "culture" is foreign. He is Italian-American on his mother's side.

What does it mean to be evangelical? . Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these questions personally and professionally.

What does it mean to be evangelical? What does it mean to be Catholic? Can one consider oneself both simultaneously? Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these questions personally and professionally. He was baptized a Catholic, but his faith journey led him to Protestant evangelicalism. He became a philosophy professor at Baylor University and president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). This provocative book details Beckwith's journey, focusing on his internal dialogue between the Protestant theology he embraced for most of his adult life and Catholicism. Contact me: inforeq17l. He seeks to explain what prompted his decision and offers theological reflection on whether one can be evangelical and Catholic, affirming his belief that one can be both.

Francis J. Beckwith stunned the Protestant Evangelical world when he returned to the Catholic Church of his youth on April 29, 2007. Francis Beckwith has a PhD from Fordham University and currently is a professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Balylor University (a Baptist school).

Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these questions personally and professionally This provocative book details Beckwith’s journey, focusing on his internal dialogue between the Protestant theology he embraced fo. .

Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these questions personally and professionally. This provocative book details Beckwith’s journey, focusing on his internal dialogue between the Protestant theology he embraced for most of his adult life and Catholicism. He seeks to explain what prompted his decision and offers theological reflection on whether one can be evangelical and Roman Catholic, affirming his belief that one can be both.

The Augsburg Confession found within the Book of Concord, a compendium of belief of the Lutheran Churches, teaches .

The Augsburg Confession found within the Book of Concord, a compendium of belief of the Lutheran Churches, teaches that "the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church". Brodd, Sven-Erik: Evangelisk katolicitet.

Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. by Francis J. Beckwith.

Although originally baptized a Catholic, Beckwith's faith journey led him to become . Return to Rome is the story of Frank Beckwith's homecoming. It's a story told without a trace of flippancy or disdain.

Although originally baptized a Catholic, Beckwith's faith journey led him to become Protestant. Now a philosophy professor at Baylor University, he recently stepped down as president of the Evangelical Theological Society to go back to the Catholic faith. In Return to Rome, the memoir of his journey, he makes a convincing case that one can be both evangelical and Catholic at the same time. But there are also key areas of agreement between us. This book is an irenic, intimate look at one man's journey of discipleship. But it is much more than that.

Francis Beckwith is a Christian philosopher, former head of the Evangelical Theological Society and current professor at Baylor University. This is a short book. I remember the small dust up his conversion caused in 2007. But I have not actually read anything by him previously and did not really know much about his work. Beckwith grew up in a Catholic family. But he really discovered faith in a charismatic Protestant church as a teen. In and out of Protestant and Catholic churches and schools over the next twenty years, he was familiar with both the theology and people on both sides.

Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these. He was baptized a Catholic, but his faith journey led him to Protestant evangelicalism

Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these.

What does it mean to be evangelical? What does it mean to be Catholic? Can one consider oneself both simultaneously? Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these questions personally and professionally. He was baptized a Catholic, but his faith journey led him to Protestant evangelicalism. He became a philosophy professor at Baylor University and president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). And then, in 2007, after much prayer, counsel, and consideration, Beckwith decided to return to the Catholic church and step down as ETS president.This provocative book details Beckwith's journey, focusing on his internal dialogue between the Protestant theology he embraced for most of his adult life and Catholicism. He seeks to explain what prompted his decision and offers theological reflection on whether one can be evangelical and Catholic, affirming his belief that one can be both. EXCERPTIt's difficult to explain why one moves from one Christian tradition to another. It is like trying to give an account to your friends why you chose to pursue for marriage this woman rather than that one, though both may have a variety of qualities that you found attractive. It seems to me then that any account of my return to the Catholic church, however authentic and compelling it is to me, will appear inadequate to anyone who is absolutely convinced that I was wrong. Conversely, my story will confirm in the minds of many devout Catholics that the supernatural power of the grace I received at baptism and confirmation as a youngster were instrumental in drawing me back to the Mother Church. Given these considerations, I confess that there is an awkwardness in sharing my journey as a published book, knowing that many fellow Christians will scrutinize and examine my reasons in ways that appear to some uncharitable and to others too charitable.

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Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic: Why the President of the Evangelical Theological Society Left his Post and Returned to the Catholic Church
by Francis J. Beckwith
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2009
(paperback)
Pp. 144 including notes
ISBN: 978-1-58743-247-7 (pbk.)

Review by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
Published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, vol. 110, no. 2 (November 2009): 74-75

Dr. Francis J. Beckwith was reared Catholic. Some of his family remained Catholic when he became an Evangelical Protestant Christian. (19-22) Perhaps his familiarity with the Catholic subculture made it easier for him to revert formally on 29 April 2007, easier than for someone for whom American Catholicism's "culture" is foreign. He is Italian-American on his mother's side. (27; 52) He gives credit to prayer and to the grace of his Catholic Baptism and Confirmation. (12)

The reason Beckwith became a Protestant is that Evangelicals he encountered were serious about their faith and their commitment to Christ. In the immediate wake of Vatican II, many Catholics were not. (34-35) He was captivated by the Person of Christ at a young age. (32-33) He writes, "Not only did some post-Vatican II Catholics and their progeny embrace a secular ethos and abandon their Christian faith entirely, many Catholics, like me, were drawn to Evangelical Protestantism, since it seemed to us that Evangelicals were serious about their faith." (13; 34-36)

Again, "I would be remiss if I did not point out that virtually every Evangelical Protestant I knew during this time was a former Catholic. And I know that my story is not an isolated one in that regard, for I have met hundreds of former Catholics around the United States who are now (or were, until they returned to the Church) committed Evangelical Protestants trying to follow Christ the best they can. In light of this, the American Catholic Church has to ask itself a serious and painful question: is there anything that we did that helped facilitate the departure of these talented and devoted people from our communion?" (45)

Since Beckwith's public return to Catholicism caused a stir, he felt that an equally public explanation was due. (12) Thus this extended essay published by Brazos Press. (The Brazos River in Texas, called the Rio de los Brazos de Dios by early Spanish explorers, translates as "The River of the Arms of God"). The purpose of the book is "... an account of a personal journey that focuses on my own internal conversation, or struggle, between the Protestant theology I embraced during most of my adult life and what I've come to think of as my Catholic constitution, which I have to believe had always been there." (15) The front cover displays the explanation "Why the President of the Evangelical Theological Society Left His Post and Returned to the Catholic Church". He needed to respond to critics who had their own interpretations of his resignation as president of the ETS, to which he had been elected in November 2006. (14) He also resigned his ordination as a minister of the United Evangelical Churches. (63)

Beckwith teaches philosophy and is tenured at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He says that the Presbyterian theologian Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) influenced his original decision to pursue philosophy. (55) Another early influence on his thinking was William F. Buckley Jr., whom Beckwith and his wife Frankie met in Las Vegas in 1996. Buckley's 1959 work "Up From Liberalism" impressed Beckwith when he was a college undergraduate. (62) He graduated in 1983 from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV). (47)

In 1989 he earned a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University in the Bronx. Among other professors there, he studied under Gerald McCool, SJ, and W. Norris Clarke, SJ. This intellectual background to be a "philosopher of religion" equips him for rigorous thought and "Return to Rome", after the autobiographical sections, focuses on certain carefully scrutinized Christian doctrines. (48)

Cradle Catholics usually have scant knowledge of the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura or justification by grace. As an Evangelical, Beckwith was committed to these and other classic Reformation positions. (81) However, after a detailed study of the Church Fathers and of Sacred Scripture, he arrived at the conviction that Catholic doctrine was more consistent with what believers held, East and West, for most of Christian history. Frequently he refers to The Catechism of the Catholic Church to make points. He found helpful the writings of Joseph Ratzinger.

Without spending too much time here on his doctrinal analysis, we can say that Beckwith overcame what he called "methodological Protestantism". (96) Everything filtered through the aprioi lens of "forensic justification" forces a Protestant interpretation of texts. Once Beckwith saw the problem, he concluded that "the Catholic view has more explanatory power than the Protestant view". (97) Beckwith's little book is replete with quotations from the Fathers and from newer theologians. He writes at length about the Catholic view of justification which became very satisfying for him. (108-110) Once the more important doctrinal obstacles were overcome, then the smaller "Catholic practices" were easy to accept. (114-115)

At the end of his journey, Francis Beckwith asserts that what really happened after his return to Catholicism was a deepened spiritual life. (129) He refers to Cardinal Newman's 1865 "Apologia Pro Vita Sua" in whose tradition he locates himself. (130) He regards himself as both Evangelical and Catholic, keeping the best from his own past but centering it squarely within orthodox Catholicism.
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As I wrote this review it became clear to me that I was actually writing about many books, and had to work hard to stay focused on this one. Perhaps this review is a "tale of two books:" Beckwith's volume, and the book of apologetics written by Norman Geissler in response. Beckwith's book is not a book of apologetics in the strict sense. Nor is it completely a memoir. It may be a mix of both genres, but to the mind of this reviewer, it transcends most books of either sort.

This book reads very much like an explanation. Not designed to be a thorough apologetic nor a complete rejection of another Christian tradition (like Geissler's uncharitable, bigoted, and failed attempt at a "rebuttal": Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim) it is rather a compelling narrative that seeks to explain why the president of a prominent evangelical theological organization (the ETS) would return home to the Church of his youth.

The typical biblical proof-texts are not hammered home to excess and exegesis on them is not shared in great length, which is a good thing. As compelling as the old arguments are, protestants have proof-texts of their own, and one can only hear the same old Bible verses screamed at the top of one's lungs uncharitably so many times before one becomes convinced that Christian charity is absent on the part of the players in the argument. This book on the other hand is a level headed, clear, compelling story and pretty thorough explanation for the reasons for Beckwith's conversion, and it is told without acrimony and without a meanness of spirit. That says something about the quality of Dr. Beckwith as a man. Beckwith knew that there are Eastern Orthodox in the group he was essentially forced to leave, and one can hear the hurt that Geissler's (and probably others') bigotry caused. After all, if people who believe in a Catholic view of ordination and the sacraments were allowed to stay in the ETS, why wasn't Geissler? The answer is simple: plain bigotry on the part of some in the evangelical establishment.

I read this book during an interesting time in my life. I had witnessed a small scandal on the part of a priest up-close (nothing sexual, just an abuse of power), and was considering the priesthood question very closely. When one spends years studying the issues that divide protestants and Catholics, one discovers something. There is really only one issue that divides these two Christian traditions: the nature of the priesthood.

It is not too great an oversimplification to admit that every protestant doctrine, from sola fide to sola scriptura, was developed by the reformers in response to abuses of power on the part of Catholic clerics. The reasons for the protestant doctrines are historical and rational. The reformers had the Bible as a source of doctrine (in that sense they were still Catholics) but they perceived in the priesthood a threat to independence, and an authority that was far too often abused. A theology and an exegetical system had to be developed that removed the traditional role of the priest as a vehicle for Christ's grace and allowed the believer to be saved without the interference of sacraments that far too often seemed to come with strings attached. It is again not too great an oversimplification to say that Luther provided the exegesis in support of this attack on the priesthood, and Calvin provided the first clear systematic theology doing the same.

Does one need sacramental confession in order to have sins forgiven? The protestant response must be "no," for to say yes would require the priesthood. Does one need the Eucharist in order to be saved? The protestant response must either be a highly nuanced "yes" or an outright "no" because to admit the Eucharist is to open the door for the priesthood. Can the Magesterium be an authoritative teacher? The protestant response must be "no" for to say yes would admit that the Holy Spirit leads clerics in a way that is different from the lay Christian believer.

Now, there are middle ground approaches to all these questions (see Anglicanism as one example) but essentially this admittedly simplified analysis holds water. Our differences are ultimately about the priesthood, and any reasonable and scholarly protestant or Catholic should admit this. If the traditional Church taught that ordination was a sacrament that was an efficacious sign of God's grace that left a permanent mark on the soul of the ordained in a way transforming him into something else: a person capable of acting "in persona Christi," then the protestants had to develop a exegetical system that attacked this understanding.

And I was sorely tempted to agree with them. I had reason to go look. One of the books I read was "Is Rome the True Church" by Geissler and, for balance, I also read this volume.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for me, the two volumes are worlds apart. Beckwith's story is humane and told with heart and charity. Geissler's foray into apologetics is amateurish and (given his scholarly background) unforgivably tendentious and simple minded.

In the end, after much soul searching over the course of a year, and a tremendous amount of reading, from these two volumes, to Michael Davies on the priesthood, to the Institutes by Calvin, to reading in the Summa, I came to the conclusion that I had to remain a Catholic, if an uncomfortable one. And I can relate to Dr. Beckwith's journey very well as a result; I am grateful for this compelling and charitable little book.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone, protestant or Catholic, interested in discovering why someone would travel to the Catholic faith from another Christian tradition. It is charitable, kind, an in no way a rejection of all things protestant. One thing that kept me away from becoming a protestant myself was the "witness" of some evangelicals, especially fundamentalists, who seem to have their whole identity wrapped up proclaiming a vicious anti-Catholic polemic. Perhaps it is just because I spent too much time online while searching, but it seems to me that for every Billy Graham there are five Jack Chicks... and that is a scary proposition.