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.