Friday night’s “Letter’s From Leavers” theme is taking a slight twist. It has been reported that Francis Beckwith has just?converted to Roman Catholicism. The details are?sketchy and Dr. Beckwith has yet to speak publicly about this, but is seems that the reports are true. This will come as a great shock and disappointment to many evangelicals. Francis Beckwith is currently an associate professor of theology at Baylor University (June 2007) and has written prolifically championing the evangelical faith and evangelical causes. His books include (w/ W. L. Craig, J. P. Moreland) To Every One An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2004);? (w/ G. P. Koukl) Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Baker, 1998); (w/ L. P. Pojman) The Abortion Controversy 25 Years After Roe v. Wade: A Reader, 2/e (Wadsworth, 1998). More importantly, Beckwith is the current president of Evangelical Theological Society.

I have been in conversations with Beckwith about appearing on Converse with Scholars to discuss the current state of social and moral issues such as abortion,?relativism,?and the relationship of church and state, so this news is of great interest to me.?

While I am somewhat shocked about this conversion,?I?think we need to be careful not to?prejudge to?rashly. This information has set the blogsphere aflame from both Protestants and Catholics. Protestants are ready to lynch Beckwith and Catholics are doing a victory dance at the “coming home” of a great former Protestant apologist. As I said before, we don’t know all the details about his conversion. While I am not a Roman Catholic and I have important issues with Catholicism that cannot be reconciled, I don’t know the reasons why he converted and I am willing to listen before I speak. Beckwith is a top scholar who knows his stuff. There are reasons why he converted.

If we fail to listen first, the result?may become?much more discouraging.?If we pull out the rope and lynch Dr. Beckwith, forgetting that this man loves Christ, defends the deity of Christ, holds to the historic essentials of the Christian faith,?contributes prolifically to?the defense of the Christian worldview in social issues, is a top notch scholar, and still proclaims (as far as I know) that?he is evangelical, we will create a barrier of dialog and ostracize a man?who has, at the very least, gained a right to speak. While, in the end,?I may not agree with or be comfortable with his conversion,?I am?not going to?feed him to the sharks just yet.?I am very appreciative of professing evangelicals such as Peter Kreeft who are also professing?Roman Catholics.?Maybe Beckwith is another Kreeft.?Kreeft?is a Roman Catholic,?yet when I listen to him speak about the?important issues of?the role of Scripture, the doctrine of Christ,?and the?grace of God, I have to force myself to find nuances in?his beliefs that distinguish it from mine. Kreeft has served as a mediating voice in the Catholic-Protestant dialog for years. His cross-over in the Veritas Forum has been valuable in forcing people all over the world to rethink the Christian worldview.

Again, and let me be emphatic, I am not saying that the issues that created the rift between Protestants and Roman Catholics in the sixteenth-century are not still important today or that we should turn a blind eye to them for the sake of ecumenical unity, but simply that we need to see that semper reformanda can take place. If we are always reforming, maybe this means that the relationship between Roman Catholics and Protestants can reform as well. But if we immediately lynch people like Beckwith, we are not inviting the necessary dialog that needs to take place so that change can occur.

In sum, while I am not encouraged by the conversion of Francis Beckwith, I am not yet discouraged by it either. Let us listen to what he has to say before we kick him out of evangelicalism.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    11 replies to "Walking Away from Protestantism: Francis Beckwith Converts to Catholicism"

    • YnottonY

      Hi Michael,

      The main thrust of your post seems to be a word of caution against prejudging Beckwith’s decision before he has explained himself. That’s certainly a valid concern to have and your advice should be heeded, in that respect.

      However, I could not help but notice the strong language your using to describe those who are expressing greater aversions to the report. For example, you say “Protestants are ready to lynch Beckwith.” Who are these protestants? You want to distinguish yourself from those who want to “pull out the rope and lynch” him, or “feed him to the sharks”. You’re distinguishing your stance from some who apparently want to “immediately lynch” the guy. It’s as if those who might react differently than you do not want to have “the necessary dialog.” It’s as if you want to distinguish yourself from the prejudging lynch mob on your right and the overly giddy Catholics on your left. Those sound like intimidating alternatives, to say the least. It seems that one should either adopt your position or pick a side on your Catholic left or lunatic fringe right. Do you think your language is fair to those who may be reacting to this situation differently than you are at the moment? If someone thinks, for example, that Beckwith is compromising on essential Christian doctrine, is it fair to say that they want to “kick him out of evangelicalism”? Or do they just think that maybe what is reported about him is antithetical to historic evangelical convictions? Thus, instead of expressing an eagerness to “kick him out”, they are expressing strong disapproval with the idea that he may have “walked out” himself?
      I don’t know any more about the situation than you do (in fact probably less), but I am concerned about the kind of intimidating language you’re using to describe those protestants who may be reacting differently than you are. In other words, if they think that his reported actions amount to a compromise of fundamentals, does it follow that they therefore want to “lynch” him, or “feed him to the sharks,” or maybe eagerly “kick him out”?
      If, in future disclosures, he came out and openly rejected/denied the justification by grace alone through faith alone principle, would that mean that you would “kick him out of evangelicalism”? Or would you maybe prefer to say that you would view that as incompatible with evangelical convictions, and hope that he would honestly acknowledge that himself in future dialogue and decisions?

    • C Michael Patton

      Your questions are fair. Thanks for taking the time to write them out. My qualification of those who respond differently than me is that they act differently in not listening to the details of his conversion before judging him unfairly. I am not sure that people can say at this point that Beckwith has compromised the fundamentals. There is not enough information.

      The reaction that we have to these situations says a lot about the confidence that we have in our faith. Knee jerk reactions are usually not well thought out and evidence more insecurity than a reliance upon the truth of our message and the sovereignty of God.

      People watch and learn by the way we react more than the message of our reaction.

    • YnottonY

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your response. I agree that there is not enough information, as far as I know, to determine if he has compromised on a fundamental doctrine. I just hope that what he says clarifies the basis for his decision. Unfortunately, given today’s ecumenical climate, one is generally safe in assuming that there may well be a studied ambiguity in the response. We shall see.

      I hope he has adequately considered the fact that when he is kneeling down in the mass during the event of transubstantiation, he is to worship and adore the bread/host as if it were Christ himself standing before him. I also wonder if he has considered what seems to be entailed by the doctrine of comcomitance. If the bread and the wine are both the BODY, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, then Christ has two bodies, at least. Moreover, if Christ is bodily present as the mass takes place all over the world, then I guess his body is ubiquitous. How does Trent, in that regard, comport with the Chalcedonian Formula? Hmm

    • JoanieD

      Francis Beckwith now has a long, thoughtful, loving post on the blog above, talking about his decision to return to Catholicism and his decision to no longer be the president of the ETS (but he will remain a member).

    • richards


      While I don’t agree with Catholic dogma (to the point that I would object to anyone converting to them), I appreciate the irenic tone you have offered your post. Even on Francis’ own blog, a prominent author and former CWS guest has offered a chastisement. This is surely in poor taste. If one of his peers wants to make a personal statement, it seems that a personal note is in order rather than a public flogging.

      Thanks for showing that we can disagree and still show Christian love.

    • C Michael Patton

      Well Richard, I did post on his blog as well. I don’t know if it will get approved. I may not have been as irenic as I would have liked either. 🙂

    • JoanieD

      I saw your post on his blog, Michael, and I thought you were very irenic.

      I don’t know what to say that I am, denomination-wise. I was brought up Catholic and fortunately, the first priest I knew, the nuns, the teachers all focused on the love of God, the love of Jesus. I think I can recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed and agree with all that is there. I like that there are so many “groups” within Catholicism that just about anyone could find some kind of group that suits their personality. The things I don’t like about Catholicism:

      1. Priests can’t marry
      2. Women cannot be priests
      3. The doctrine of the Eucharist is a bit…difficult.
      4. I don’t think Mary was forever a virgin. The Bible says she and Joseph did not become intimate UNTIL after the birth of Jesus. And I think the people referred to as his brothers and sisters were likely, in fact, his brothers and sisters, not cousins or step-siblings. (Though, it could be either way and it wouldn’t “bother” me any.)
      5. The Catholic church has some very brutal history which it saddens me to be “associated” with.
      6. The emphasis on Mary used to bother me some and the people today who see Mary in smoke stains, cheese sandwiches and the like really dismay me. But as time has gone along, I have come to have more of an understanding of the importance of Mary as the mother of Jesus. It used to sound very odd to me to hear her referred to as the “Mother of God.” Well, Jesus is God so she IS the mother of God, I guess we can say. What an amazing thing our God did in using a human’s cooperation in bringing about the coming of Jesus to the lost human beings!

      I DO like that the Catholic church now encourages people to read and study the Bible. I DO like that the Catholic church helps people all around the world, not just to understand theology, but to help the poor, the ill, the forgotten. I DO love many of the writings of both male and female Catholic mystics throughout history. I even love much of the music. When I attended Mass (and I haven’t been for years) I like the large amount of people (and I am not normally a person who likes to be around crowds.) I have been to numbers of Protestant churches and the many empty seats seemed odd to me. BUT…I have had the greatest sense of the presence of Jesus in a couple Protestant churches. (And I was a regular attendee at one of these churches during my search for a more personal relationship with God.) I like the emphasis in some Catholic areas on the scripture about “faith without works is dead.” I can SAY I believe in God and I believe Jesus is the Son of God, but if I then act without love, Jesus will say he never knew me.

      I never heard of Francis Beckwith before, but he sounds like a wonderful man and I wish him all the best. I know I am missing out on some things not being a part of a community church, but for a variety of reasons, I am kind of “on my own” with help from prayer, books, people like you online. I also am surrounded in my community by people who I know are “believers” and who are trying to do all they can to be faithful to God.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Joanie, I appreciate you comments. I too have these problems with the Catholic church, but the most serious of issues has to do with authority and justification. I might be able to deal with all the others, but these two are too important to set aside and politely disagree and remain in fellowship with the church. We have to choose our battles wisely, and these are two big ones.

      I am glad that your post worked this time without any troubles. You are now an approved” contributor! 😉

    • JoanieD

      A Calvinist explains the Roman Catholic meaning of “justification.” I think this is a good article and I agree with one of the people who posted on Frank Beckwith’s blog. It was a Nathan Rayner and he writes, “Christ did not call us to be Roman Catholic or Protestant. He called us to love one another and live in his love.”


    • A Morgan

      To YnottonY,

      Christ was able to multiply the loaves at the feeding of thousands, I would think that He could do it again, today, both spiritually and physically with his own body. In fact this episode of the feeding of thousands and multiplication of loaves is located in John’s gospel in Chapter 6, incidentally the same chapter where he speaks about the Eucharist. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” John 6:54 Coincidence? In God, there is no such thing.

    • [email protected]

      JoanieD – You added the word “AFTER” the Bible does not say that Joseph did not know Mary until AFTER she had given birth to Jesus. It says Joseph did not know Mary until she gave birth to Jesus. Meaning he followed the Angels command to not know her until she had Jesus. It doesn’t say anything about what happened after she gave birth. You are reading what you hold to be true into the statement. If the Apostles remained faithful UNTIL Jesus appeared to them again does that mean that after Jesus appeared to them they stopped having faith? No it does not. If I say I haven’t eaten until now does that mean I am eating as I am speaking? In Europe it is very common to say “I haven’t slept until now” meaning I haven’t slept at all. Also read John 6:66, Jesus disciples ALSO thought the Eucharist was a “difficult” teaching and MANY of them left. Remember Peter said where shall we go? Jesus told Peter that FLESH and blood had not revealed Jesus to him but the Father in Heaven. When Jesus said the FLESH is of no avail He wasn’t talking about HIS flesh he was talking about OURS. Flesh and blood cannot understand these things, only the spirit can understand them, it’s by faith we accept these “difficult” teachings. God Bless

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