Former Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) president Francis Beckwith's reversion to Rome in 2007 reignited perennial questions of how evangelicals should relate to Catholics. Namely, can a Roman Catholic credibly claim the evangelical label? Beckwith thinks so, and he has an ally in Beeson Divinity School dean Timothy George. Nevertheless, during their charitable dialogue George and Beckwith reiterated key differences on authority and how Christians are counted righteous before God. The Penner Foundation and Center for Applied Christian Ethics hosted the discussion at Wheaton College on September 3.
Familiar with speaking before evangelical audiences, Beckwith testified to an upbringing in a Catholic parish where he did not learn much about who Jesus claimed to be or what he came to do. His desire to follow Jesus led him to a Protestant church. After years of nurture and study among evangelicals, the philosopher ascended to the ETS presidency in 2006. Even after returning to his Roman Catholic roots, Beckwith contends he could sign the ETS doctrinal basis, which reads: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." He noted that someone could maintain ETS membership in good standing while holding any number of heresies, such as denying original sin. But as he learned during the controversy surrounding his reversion, Catholics are excluded.
"Apparently you can be a semi-Pelagian Nestorian in ETS," Beckwith said. "But Saints Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, and Thomas à Kempis are not welcome."
George responded by noting significant ...1