Sunday, May 06, 2007

Improving hand-eye coordination in the body of Christ?

For the few of you who haven't heard yet, Francis Beckwith, philosopher, writer, and (now former) president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has converted to Catholicism (or, as one dear Catholic friend gleefully told me, "returned to the true Church" *grin*). Dr. Beckwith holds a great deal of influence and respect and the move has left a lot of evangelicals a bit shell-shocked.

I can understand that. My first thought when I came to Notre Dame and started learning more about Catholicism was "Hey--these guys aren't the crazy cult I've been told they are! We actually have a lot in common and are probably brothers and sisters in Christ!" But there is a lot of bad history, bad historical theology, misunderstanding, and distrust on both sides of the fence. Vatican II has done a lot to reconcile the two sides, but language still confuses the issue. Sometimes I will hear a Catholic definition of grace or forgiveness and the heresy alarms start going off in my head, but when I ask someone to describe what they mean, often they are just using different words to mean something very similar or identical to what I believe. A lot of Protestants will dismiss Dr. Beckwith as having "gone off the tracks." He already has received snarky comments from people urging him to read the Bible or think through this (What, you think he hasn't already!?), but I wonder if some other, more thoughtful Protestants will take a closer look at Catholicism and see if there's more (or less) to it than they thought. I'm not saying I hope there's wholesale conversion to Catholicism (to all you hopeful Catholics out there, no, I'm NOT converting *grin*), but I do think there is a lot both persuasions could gain from friendly dialog with fellow members of the (little c) catholic Church.

HT: Derek, inter alia


ryan said...

I read the link provided by Derek elsewhere, and have to admit being a bit unimpressed by his reasoning. Essentially, he says that both the Reformed and Roman positions on justification are defensible--something I might be willing to grant after a few beers--so he's going with the one that's in continuity with the early church for what amounts to apologetic reasons.


I'm not at all willing to grant that Rome is more in continuity with the early church than any other confessional tradition--Baptists are probably excluded here--as both the Reformed and Lutheran traditions are deeply interested in the early church, not to mention the church which Rome itself arguably broke away from: Eastern Orthodoxy.

Personally, I don't believe that the doctrine of justification is as big a dividing point as it is frequently made out to be--though many lay Catholics' conception of there is downright heretical. I'm far more bothered by their position on the Magisterium.

Carissa said...

I think you missed two important points he made. First, my reading of his reasoning regarding justification is that although he believes both the Reformed position and the Catholic position have substantial support from Scripture and Church tradition, he believes the Catholic position is the more correct - or the more likely to be correct - of the two.

I took his second point simply to be that he came to accept the authority of the Catholic Church. Personally, through discussion with friends - including you, to an extent - I've come to the conclusion that the main issue that determines whether or not one will join the Catholic Church is whether one accepts the Church's authority. Beckwith, I believe, came to the conclusion that he did accept the Church's authority, and therefore was led to return to the Catholic Church.

And lastly, I think your refusal to grant that Rome is more in continuity with the early church than the Protestant tradition is odd, to say the least. Although Lutherans and the multitude of Reformed groups may be "interested" in the early church, it is difficult how they can be said to be in greater continuity with the early church, given the great unpleasantness beginning in the 16th century which jettisoned a historical continuity with the early church. You could argue that the Reformed tradition has a closer theological/philosophical to the early church - I would disagree, but it makes more sense than to dispute the historical continuity. You could argue that the Eastern Orthodox church is in greater continuity with the early church, but (a) both the Catholic Church and the Reformed tradition flow out of Western Christianity, so it seems moot; and (b) regardless of the Eastern Church's continuity with the early church, there are comparatively very few practitioners of Orthodox Christianity left, so again, it is rapidly becoming moot.

Anonymous said...

"to all you hopeful Catholics out there, no, I'm NOT converting..."



Becca said...

Heh. You Catholics sure are smug sometimes.