Friday, May 04, 2007

Prominent Evangelical Philosopher and Ethicist Dr. Francis J. Beckwith Has Returned to the Catholic Church

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According to Bishop James White, this is the case, though no public indication had as yet been given when White made his announcement yesterday. Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin (who had some personal influence in the decision) has definitively confirmed this, and also made it known that White was the first to announce the decision publicly:
I recently learned of Dr. Beckwith's intention to pursue reconciliation. Apparently my own humble writings were of use to him in his journey, and he was kind enough to say so. In view of the sensitivity of the situation, however, I of course agreed to refrain from making the matter publicly known. He also was kind enough to let me know just before he went to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Last night I received a note from Dr. Beckwith indicating that the matter had become public, and so I would like to offer warm felicitations regarding his return to full communion with the Church. The source through which the matter was made public happened to be James White's blog . . .
I suspected that the inimitable Bishop White was up to something unsavory and unethical, and wrote last night:
It may be a cynical attempt to "out" Dr. Beckwith before he wants to announce such a thing himself, so as to catch him off guard and to prepare for the inevitable anti-Catholic idiocy onslaught that is sure to come if it is announced openly.
Sure enough . . . The venerable Right Reverend Bishop White wrote:

In any case, I received information today that Dr. Beckwith has, in fact, returned to the Roman Catholic communion (I saw "returned" only because it appears, from his biographical information, that he was raised in the Roman communion). Now, I have searched the web, including Dr. Beckwith's websites/blogs, and have not found any confirmation of this information. However, I have now received multiple, independent attestation to this fact.

I'm sure it won't be long before we see an affirmation or denial from Dr. Beckwith, especially now that White has (shall we say) graciously and voluntarily "moved the process along" a bit. White continues:

I would imagine we will, in time, be provided a fairly full apologia of his decision. At that time it would be highly appropriate to once again provide a biblical response.

And appropriate also to show where this response is inadequate . . . White continues in droningly typical fashion:

There are very few "new" reasons for conversion that have not been fully addressed in the past, and Rome's modern apologists have learned that it is never to their advantage to give air to the replies offered by the most careful of their critics.

Yes, of course. It is, however, odd and strange -- and I note with considerable regret and disappointment in the good bishop's intellectual and theological prowess --, that he very often falls prey to the very same thing that he excoriates. I have refuted his positions point-by-point, even recently, some five-six times and have yet to hear a word of reply: of his defense of his own positions. Funny, then, that he would whine about others not doing what he has not done with me almost all of the time we have "interacted" for twelve years. But that's neither here nor there. I merely note it in passing, as a fascinating matter of trivia.

Alas, in Bishop White's pontifical eyes, Dr. Beckwith has not only forsaken "the gospel" but (how melodramatic) indeed, truth itself:

In any case, as sad as it always is to read of someone abandoning the gospel for the false pretenses of Rome, it really does not surprise me when it happens. Why? Because we live in a day when the faithful are being tested as they were in Elijah's day. If you do not passionately love the truth, God is under no obligation to continue to allow you to possess it. And how many do we see in the post-evangelical world who are truly passionate about the truth of the gospel? Oh, folks may be very passionate about their particular cause, but there is a vast difference between being cause-passionate and being gospel-passionate. There is little difference between the zeal that consumes basketball fans this time of year and that which is created by a particular cultural "cause." But the gospel is different. It speaks of attributes of God's character that the natural man does not have the capacity to truly love. It strikes at the heart of man's arrogance, it removes, by its emphasis upon powerful, effective, sovereign grace, any ground of boasting in the man. But over time, if one is apathetic about the truth of the gospel, God may well bring judgment to bear in causing one to love a lie. And surely, anyone who has gazed in awe at the grandeur of the finished work of Christ in the light of the eternal decree of a holy and just God, who can then "trade that in" for the endless treadmill of Rome's sacramental system, the unfinished work of the Mass, and the specter of satispassio in purgatory, is one far beyond my comprehension and understanding.

Here are a few relevant comments from Dr. Beckwith, posted on his blog: Right Reason: a Weblog for Conservative Philosophers:

Dwayna, and many like her, embrace a sort of ahistorical pietistic form of Christianity. They really don't know the history of the church and would be shocked to discover that the ante-Nicene fathers are so Catholic.


I call what you describe "Evangelical cherry picking." Here's an example from my own experience.
My wife and I were attending an evangelical free church in which the pastor began to incorporate liturgical elements and spoke glowingly of the "great tradition." It was fine with us, until one Sunday he started to rag on free churches that did not yet ordain women. He said that these churches were bigoted, prejudiced, and mired in old-fashioned ways. In the middle of this tirade my wife turned to me and said, "So much for the `great tradition.'"
If one accepts a purely symbolic understanding of the sacraments--shaped by the nominalism and voluntarism of the late middle ages and passed on to us by many of our Protestant predecessors, IMHO--then one's incorporation of the "great tradition" by one's emergent or free church suggests that these practices are merely aesthetic and have a purely instrumental function. This is why emergent folks are enamored by postmodernism. They can "love" tradition without the burden of thinking it true.

Bishop White sidekick Jeff Downs asked if Dr. Beckwith has read the profound historically revisionist works of David T. King and William Webster, about sola Scriptura (first post / 2nd post). I've thoroughly refuted both men: Webster twice in minute detail, without a word of reply, and King recently, in two recent lengthy critiques (see my Anti-Catholicism page and look for their names): again, not one word in defense of his assertions.

David T. "I don't care about context!" King stated in one of these books, that the Church Fathers universally believed in sola Scriptura. This guy apparently lives in a permanent fantasy world: it's the quasi-Gnostic mentality that Jonathan Prejean has recently noted (with great insight) in these anti-Catholic champions. Dr. Beckwith, however, sees through the smokescreen:

I am familiar with, and have read, other writings by these two gentlemen on these subjects. Frankly, I don't find their arguments to be convincing.


Possibly the understatement of the century . . . But the century's still young; it might conceivably be topped. For example, one could state: "James White doesn't defend his stated opinions when they are critiqued at great length by Catholics." That would give the above assertion a run for its money as biggest understatement in this century. Beckwith continues:

I think there are conceptual issues that King and Webster don't address adequately (if at all): (1) do the fathers accept material sufficiency of scripture as well as the formal sufficiency, and how could we tell the difference? . . .


Indeed. I refuted -- just in the last few weeks -- King's assertions concerning these very sorts of things:

Refutation of David T. King Regarding St. John Chrysostom & St. Irenaeus as Alleged Sola Scriptura Advocates (+ Discussion)

Refutation of David T. King: Is Catholic Espousal of the Material Sufficiency of Scripture Inconsistent With Belief in the Assumption of Mary?
(+ Discussion)
King never "addressed" my reply at all, so Beckwith's charge rings entirely true to me: I have firsthand experience with these two sophists and historical revisionists.

For biographical material on Dr. Beckwith, see the lengthy Wikipedia article. Some excerpts:

Francis J. Beckwith (1960-) is an American Christian philosopher. He has a graduate degree in law, and is well-known within Evangelical Protestant Christianity as a scholar, debater, and lecturer. Beckwith is renowned for his advocacy in the areas of social ethics, legal philosophy, church-state issues, philosophy of religion, and the Christian countercult movement. He has published articles in a wide-range of academic journals. Currently, he is the associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and an associate professor of Church-State studies at Baylor University.

. . . Beckwith is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A. in Philosophy), Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim (MA in apologetics), Fordham University (Ph.D. and M.A. in philosophy) and the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis (Master of Juridical Studies).
Beckwith began his training as an academic Christian apologist in the early 1980s as he commenced graduate studies in apologetics at the Simon Greenleaf School of Law (later called Simon Greenleaf University and now merged with Trinity International University [Deerfield, Illinois], and operates under that name as its southern California campus). There he studied under noted Evangelicals such as John Warwick Montgomery and Charles Manske. He was also influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer.
. . . His doctoral studies in philosophy at Fordham University continued the pursuit of apologetic issues, though at Fordham his philosophical horizons were expanded by his study of Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and contemporary philosophy of science and his exposure to Reformed philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. His Ph.D. dissertation comprised an analysis of the sceptical argument of the Scottish empiricist philosopher David Hume concerning miracles. Part of his criticism of Hume's position (chapter 5) involved a discussion of legal reasoning, using technical legal criteria of proof, testimony, documentary evidences and so on in examining the question of how to assess evidence for miracles.
. . . A 2002-2003 Visiting Research Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions in the Politics Department at Princeton University, he has published articles in a wide-range of academic journals including "Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy," "Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy," "Journal of Law & Religion," "Ethics and Medicine," "International Philosophical Quarterly," "Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society," "San Diego Law Review," "Nevada Law Journal," "Public Affairs Quarterly," "American Journal of Jurisprudence," "Chapman Law Review," "Social Theory & Practice," "Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics," "Christian Bioethics," "Journal of Church & State," "Human Life Review," "Journal of Social Philosophy," "Journal of Libertarian Studies," "Journal of Medical Ethics," "Logos," "The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology," and "Philosophia Christi."
In November 2005, Professor Beckwith became the President-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, a professional organization of theologians with over 4,000 members. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law.
See also the biographical sketch on his website.

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