Francis Beckwith resigned on May 5 as president of the Evangelical Theological Society. One week earlier the Baylor University philosophy professor rejoined the Roman Catholic Church, his home until age 14. He spoke with Christianity Today editor David Neff about the reaction to his decision, theological misconceptions, and evangelical strengths and weaknesses.
What good things from the evangelical community will you take back with you to Roman Catholicism?
A number of things. First, I think of the evangelical emphasis on the importance of Scripture. Much of what I see in the Catholic Church is formed by my evangelical experience. When I recite, for instance, the Apostles' Creed, I think it's more of a cognitive experience for me than with people who have been Catholic for some time. Emphasis on the written word comes from my evangelical backgroundthat is, when I read these things, I'm really interested in what the text is saying, not just the mystical part, which is certainly also appropriate. For instance, after reading the Apostles' Creed, I turned to my wife and I said, "You know, there are only two proper names in the creedPontius Pilate and Virgin Mary. I don't know if anyone's ever noticed that."
I still consider myself an evangelical, but no longer a Protestant. I do think I have a better understanding of what sometimes the Catholic Church is trying to convey. Protestants often misunderstand. The issue of justification was key for me. The Catholic Church frames the Christian life as one in which you must exercise virtuenot because virtue saves you, but because that's the way God's grace gets manifested. As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed ...