On May 8th the Dallas Morning News ran an article (Section A, p. 6) about the man who until that time had been the current President of the 4,100 member Evangelical Theological Society, Francis “Frank” Beckwith. The article said he returned to his Catholic roots on April 29th. On Saturday, May 5th, he announced his conversion and his resignation as the ETS President.
The article said in part:
Dr. Beckwith was elected president of ETS for a one-year term beginning in November. But in January, at a friend’s suggestion, he began to read writings by the early church fathers.
Those convinced him that the Catholic view of “justification”– the way in which one gets right with God– is as valid “biblically and historically” as the Protestant view.
Beckwith gave his own account in his May 5th blog. Here is what he said about justification:
I became convinced…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.
I’ve been a member of ETS for 25 years and I don’t ever recall anything anywhere close to this. To my knowledge, not only has no ETS President resigned, I am unaware of anyone resigning from the executive committee.
This is also shocking in Texas Baptist circles since Dr. Beckwith is a tenured faculty member at Baylor University in Waco, TX, a Baptist General Conference of Texas school.
There have been hundreds of responses to Beckwith’s May 5 blog. This response, by a former Roman Catholic, caught my attention:
The biggest thing for me as a former RC is that you have gone back to a system that denies one becomes a child of God by faith alone. The Gospel of John plainly teaches this. You have denied the Gospel. How can you in good conscience do this after knowing the truth? It was not until I embraced this truth (by faith alone) that my ruined life (as a Catholic practicing the sacraments that helped nothing) was changed completely; bad habits started to drop off. My thinking and life was changed by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. No sacrament ever did this. –Posted by Steve, May 7, 2007.
Free Grace people should view this development with concern mixed with determination. Justification by faith plus works is making lots of inroads today. The need for us to be clear on the promise of irrevocable life/permanent justification by faith alone in Christ alone is more important now than ever.