The president of the Evangelical Theological Society has converted to Roman Catholicism (see his blog entry here). I observe the following:
- Evangelical is just the kind of adjective that is in favor these days—it is void and without form. ETS's definition of Evangelicalism apparently (up to this point) has room within itself for denying the foreknowledge of God. Now, not just an Evangelical pew-sitter, not just a member of ETS, but the president of ETS has converted to Roman Catholicism. But the straying of a lone Evangelical is not the real issue here, so much as the fact that it is not a settled matter that he has strayed at all. Francis Beckwith apparently regards his Roman Catholicism as not being at odds with his status as an Evangelical. Indeed, other than for the public-relations issues that it might have caused, Beckwith thought it might be perfectly appropriate theologically for a Roman Catholic to lead the ETS. And according to Beckwith, it was not a foregone conclusion that others among ETS leadership would have any problem with his continuation as president under these circumstances. If "Evangelical" does not mean at least "not Roman Catholic", then what does it mean? And if the president of the ETS doesn't know what Evangelical means, then who does?
- Beckwith cites his desire for unity as a strong motivation in his decision. Ultimately, Evangelical Ecumenism must concede to broader forms of ecumenism, for if it is conceded that unity trumps doctrine, then no firm stopping place can be asserted successfully for long. Look carefully at what Beckwith has written in the aforementioned blog post about justification.
- Here's the perfect illustration of my differentiation between Roman Catholicism as cult (which I think it is not) vs. Roman Catholicism as false and apostate church (which I think it is). Had Beckwith joined the Mormons, I would conclude ipso facto that he is not a Christian. Having joined the Roman Catholics, I am prepared to do no more than to suspect that he has been educated beyond his intelligence and is in gross disobedience to Christ (Yes, to all of you scandalized by this statement, I am concluding that it is not Christ's will for anyone to be a Roman Catholic).
- All this at what was once the world's largest Baptist university (and is still my alma mater). Beckwith teaches church-state studies at Baylor. Let us pray that the Lord will not tell Helwys, Williams, Clarke, Backus, and Leland that a Roman Catholic is being paid by Baptist churches to lecture Baptists about the proper relationship between church and state!
- These observations illustrate why our mission boards and seminaries must strengthen their resolve to be Baptist (and to plant only Baptist congregations), not merely Evangelical. We must couple that resolve with a vigorous effort to make certain that we all know precisely what it means to be Baptist.