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The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) indicated that its members will discuss the role of tradition in Protestant theology after president Francis Beckwith rejoined the Roman Catholic Church and resigned on May 5. Beckwith, a philosophy professor at Baylor University, also surrendered his ETS membership. He originally hoped to retain membership, but changed his mind after considering contentious ETS debates, the most recent of which is over open theism. Beckwith said that two past ETS presidents told him he would still be welcome to join those discussions.

"Because I deeply desire a public conversation among Christians about the relationship between Evangelicalism and the Great Tradition," Beckwith wrote, "a public debate about my membership status, with all the rancor and stress that typically goes with such disputes, would preempt and poison that important conversation."

Beckwith grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, but departed as a teenager in the early 1970s through the influence of the Jesus Movement and Catholic charismatics. Beckwith said his perspective began to change over the last few months as he read Christian leaders from the early church. He said they showed him that "the early church is more Catholic than Protestant." Reading Roman Catholic theologians on justification convinced him that the Catholic view "has more explanatory power to account for both the biblical texts on justification [and] the church's historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries." Finally, Beckwith attributed his conversion to "clear direction" from the Lord. In late April, Beckwith agreed to sponsor his 16-year-old nephew, who will be confirmed in ...

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ETS Resignation Triggers Tradition Discussion
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May 2007

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