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In November 2005, Professor Beckwith became the President-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, a professional organization of theologians. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law.
In May 2007 Professor Beckwith made public his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, which took place in late April 2007, and resigned as both President of the Evangelical Theological Society and member of the society, effective May 7, 2007.
Dr. Francis J. Beckwith is a philosopher, specializing in politics, jurisprudence, religion, and applied ethics.
He is the Associate Professor of Church-State Studies at Baylor University.
In June 2007 Dr. Beckwith will join Baylor's philosophy department where he will become Associate Professor of Philosophy. A Fellow and Faculty Affiliate in Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR), he served as Associate Director of Baylor's Institute of Church-State Studies from July 2003 until January 2007.
On November 17, 2006 Professor Beckwith became the President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), a position that has a one-year term. He is the 57th president of ETS, an academic society that has over 4,100 members.
Dr. Beckwith was raised Catholic but became an Evangelical Protestant in his youth. In May, 2007, it became public knowledge that Dr. Francis Beckwith had recently returned to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
His move was made public by James White on his Alpha & Omega Ministries blog:
Head of the Evangelical Theological Society Swims the Tiber (contra) James White, Alpha & Omega Ministries
This was followed by a post from Jimmy Akin:
Dr. Francis Beckwith Returns To Full Communion With The Church (pro) by Jimmy Akin, Catholic Answers Director
of Apologetics and Evangelization.
Predictably, the fur has already started flying. See, for example, this post -- and its related comments section -- at the Meandering Home blog.
On May 5, 2007, Dr. Beckwith confirmed and explained his return to the Catholic Church in a post on the Right Reason blog.
For an understanding of the reasons why this high-profile conversion is sending shockwaves through the Evangelical community, see:
WACO, Texas (BP)--Francis (Frank) Beckwith, a prominent professor of church-state studies and philosophy at Baylor University, has resigned as president of the Evangelical Theological Society, citing his return to the Roman Catholic Church.
Beckwith initially said he would remain an ETS member because he could "in good conscience, as a Catholic, affirm the ETS doctrinal statement." But a statement released by the ETS executive committee May 8 said that "after further prayer and reflection, Dr. Beckwith has voluntarily withdrawn his membership from the Society as well."
The executive committee said Beckwith's resignation and subsequent withdrawal from membership were "appropriate in light of the purposed and doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Theological Society" and in light of Beckwith's "wholehearted confessional agreement with the Roman Catholic Church." ETS is comprised of some 4,100 theologians, philosophers and ministers, but few -– if any -– are Catholic.
The executive committee also stated that the ETS, as a scholarly society, holds to the belief that "the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs." Similar language and other statements supporting scriptural authority are contained within the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, the document on biblical inspiration and authority adopted by the society's membership in 2006. The committee said that the Catholic Church's statements "from the Council of Trent to Vatican II set forth a more expansive view of verbal, infallible revelation."
"Specifically, it posits a larger canon of Scripture than that recognized by evangelical Protestants, including in its canon several writings from the Apocrypha," the statement from the ETS executive committee said. "It also extends the quality of infallibility to certain expressions of church dogma issued by the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church), as well as certain pronouncements of the pope, which are delivered ex cathedra, such as doctrines about the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary."
On those doctrines, evangelicals will not agree with Catholics, but Beckwith's departure from Protestantism may facilitate other opportunities to discuss Catholic theology. The statement from the ETS executive board said it encourages and welcomes dialogue on the matter in the future.
- Source: ETS pres. resigns, returns to Catholicism, Baptist Press, May 9, 2007
Douglas Groothuis, professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary commented on Francis Beckwith's explanation as follows:
This is a sad day for all true sons and daughters of the Protestant Reformation, for all who lived and died for its truths.
Having abandoned the distinctives of the Reformation (which are deeply rooted in Holy Scripture), you are embracing serious theological error. I wish I could say otherwise, but conscience-bound, I cannot.
By joining Rome, you are putting an institution above God; you are putting men (and I mean males) ahead of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ (See Galatians 1:6-11).
However, you are doing the right thing to resign from your position at ETS.
I have appreciated much of your writing over the years, but I lament what you have now done.
- Source: Doug Groothuis, comment posted on the Right Reason blog, May 5, 2007
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