Saturday, May 12, 2007

Evangelical Converts (Back) To Roman Catholicism

From WashingtonPost:
The president of the Evangelical Theological Society, an association of 4,300 Protestant theologians, resigned this month because he has joined the Roman Catholic Church.
The man's name is Francis Beckwith from (Baptist-affiliated) Baylor U.

Beckwith was deeply impressed by the joint Lutheran-Catholic Declaration on Justification. Read it here. And as Beckwith sees it:
"At the end of the day, the reason for the Reformation was the debate over justification. If that is no longer an issue, I have to be Catholic," Beckwith said. "It seems to me that if there is not a very strong reason to be Protestant, then the default position should be to belong to the historic church."
Unfortunately other evangelicals do not agree. He has gotten an overwhelming amount of negative feedback. While Catholics and evangelicals have gotten very close on pro-life, sexual ethics in the US, there is still underneath the surface animosities, suspicions, and prejudices.

Like the following numbskull response:
"This is a sad day for all true sons and daughters of the Protestant Reformation, for all who lived and died for its truths," Douglas Groothuis, a professor at the evangelical Denver Seminary, said in a posting on Beckwith's own blog, adding sternly: " . . . you are embracing serious theological error."
Maybe the sons and daughters of the Reformation should be glad that rather than killing each other and living in separate worlds, the boundaries are now more fluid. Beckwith is right that the issue of justification is over (except for hardline pre-Vatican II Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants).

As Beckwith writes it was reading Ratzinger and noticing how "evangelical" he was that brought him back to the Roman Church. Beckwith was raised RC but had a born again experience during his teenage years (a common pattern).

Where Beckwith is wrong however and what the response from Groothius misses is that the issue that still remains on the Protestant/Catholic side is power.

The Reformers (from Luther on) leveled two major critiques at the Roman institution:
1. The Bible preached during the liturgy, as the central proclamation, and the priest as administering the sacrifice of Christ (not being sacrificers to an angry God) and the whole medieval economics-based theory of sins, purgatory, indulgences, and human effort.

This was also answered at Vatican II and in subsequent RC theology. The Reformers were right and while it sadly took 400 years to realize it, the Roman Catholic Church did.

2. Power. Specifically the identification of the Roman Church with Roman legal structures and medieval aristocratic social roles. Calling Cardinals "Princes", the Pope as a Vicar/Regent. The infallibility of said Vicar. The unaccountable and non-Biblical, non-traditional aggregation of power to the Bishop of Rome.

Number 2 has never been answered. After some vacillation by Paul VI, JPII clearly kept #1 (Reformed Theology) but would never ever allow anything or anyone to question #2. Benedict is completely in this mold. This is what Beckwith will find as he moves to the Roman Catholic Church. Not the theology but the power structures/decision making capacities.

It is #2 that stands in the way of the ecumenical movement and the only place Christianity must go---all of us back (at least Western Christians) back to the Papacy but under a different format. The Papacy alone can stand for Christianity in the world. For religious freedom, human rights, etc. The Orthodox are splintered among themselves and facing forms of militant Islam. Protestantism continues to break apart into a million different sub-sects.

The Reformation was supposed to be about a Reformed Catholicism. What happened of course was Reformed Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. This today is the sad state of the Body of Christ. What is needed is Reformed Catholicism. Not just theologically but institutionally.


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