Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does Justifcation Matter at ETS?

johnMark

Earlier this year Frank Beckwith stepped down as president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). His actions were the right thing to do as he returned to the Roman Catholic Church, IMO. But maybe I and others who agree with me were wrong. Upon reading CT's short q&a State of the Society with ETS's current acting president, Hassell Bullock, I can't help but wonder if it would really matter had Beckwith stayed in office.

When asked about the current debates on justification and the hopeful outcome.
Since the doctrine of justification was the "watchword" of the Reformation, and thus the one doctrine, perhaps above all others, by which Protestantism distinguishes itself from its Catholic and Orthodox communions, it is only wise that we should talk about it and try to understand why our understanding distinguishes us from other Christian brothers and sisters. <emphasis mine>

If the doctrine of justification doesn't matter so that the Gospel isn't affected in anyway and we're all brothers and sisters in Christ then why couldn't Beckwith stay? What difference would it really make?

As for discussing Beckwith's resignation. I think this further strengthens my questioning of his resignation.
The executive committee issued a statement that we considered to be honest and balanced. We wanted to respect Professor Beckwith, a brother in Christ, while lamenting his loss to our society and to Protestantism more generally.

If the doctrine of justification doesn't matter in the ETS then why not just admit it? It almost seems a smoke screen to say that he should have stepped down, but he's still our brother in Christ as the Gospel wasn't affected.

Mark

p.s. I am only using Beckwith as a real life example not meaning to single him out.

23 comments:

anon said...

"If the doctrine of justification doesn't matter in the ETS then why not just admit it?"

It might be that the Reformed / Calvinistic view is not universally held among Protestants or Christians in general. Had he moved more toward Wessley than Aquinas in his thinking, he might not have crossed the Tiber, yet still embraced justification that allows for works as part of faith. Would the same controversy boiled over? The real objection many have with Dr. Beckwith's conversion is rooted in loathing of Rome's claimed authoriy in general and the Papacy in particular. The real conflict is over Sola Scriptura.

Albert said...

The ETS clearly has gone liberal. I think now's the time for it to change its name from EVANGELICAL Theological Society to ECUMENICAL Theological Society. It seems that the EVANGEL doesn't matter anymore to its current president

Kevin said...

I think you're reading too much into Dr. Bullock's statement. There's no evidence that he, nor the ETS generally, is not committed to the Evangelical fundamentals of sola fide and sola scripture. How is calling Catholics "brothers and sisters in Christ" an indication that he is inferiorly committed to the gospel? Of course, not every Catholic is "in Christ" but neither is every Protestant, yet most Protestants (virtually all) would recognize that at least some Catholics are "in Christ" (i.e., in a saving relationship with Christ). Calvin and most of the mainstream Reformers would fully agree with me. This sort of sectarianism is unnecessary, and thankfully most Evangelical leaders and scholars recognize this.

anon said...

" Calvin and most of the mainstream Reformers would fully agree with me. This sort of sectarianism is unnecessary, and thankfully most Evangelical leaders and scholars recognize this."

Is this so? Have James Swan and the "Beggars All" gang have done the Reformation one better? Is this a Reformation of the Reformation?

Do they have the skinny on who are the saints and who are the ain'ts.

Albert said...

Kevin, I think johnMark is equivocally clear in this blog entry. I am not saying that all Roman Catholics are not Christians. You are right in saying that some of them are and that not all Protestants are Christians. The point is that the ETS president spoke as if no significant difference exists between the Roman Catholic and Protestant views on justification. Read

Kevin said...

The point is that the ETS president spoke as if no significant difference exists between the Roman Catholic and Protestant views on justification. Read

Albert,
Well, I just hope that I don't have you guys critiquing everything I say. My point is that we don't know what exactly Dr. Bullock believes on this issue (much less, the leaders and general constituency of ETS). We can't deduce from this one statement what you guys want to deduce. I know people with pretty firm notions of sola fide who would use brothers/sisters language in regard to Catholics.

Anonymous said...

"Albert,
Well, I just hope that I don't have you guys critiquing everything I say."

I'm even more thankfull they don't decide who is and who is not saved--or what is and is not scripture--or what is or is not salvation--or who is or is not a Christian--or what St James did or did not mean by "not by faith alone"--or... well you get the idea, even if they do not.

Anonymous said...

It it looks like James White at AOMIN is back to trying to get another round of the "Beckwith the Apostate" Chorus going again.

My question, in the Reformed mindset, what sin is there other than becoming a Catholic that the blood of Jesus does not cover?

Eternal security? Yeah, you believe it.

Albert said...

Kevin, I may be wrong but there is something I cannot accept in your comment. You mentioned, "I know people with pretty firm notions of sola fide who would use brothers/sisters language in regard to Catholics." Can you give any example of these people? I know for sure that James White, one with a pretty firm notion of sola fide, is NOT one of them.

Albert said...

Anonymous: My question, in the Reformed mindset, what sin is there other than becoming a Catholic that the blood of Jesus does not cover?

Eternal security? Yeah, you believe it.

Me: The blood of Jesus covers even the sin of unbelief. What you are presenting here is a misrepresentation. Reformed Evangelicals do affirm the security of the believer but not at the expense of perseverance. True Christians must and will persevere.

Carrie said...

Eternal security? Yeah, you believe it.

Anon,

In my mind there are 2 possible reasons for Beckwith's "conversion":

1. He is truly saved, but in some serious error/disobedience. I have a hard time understanding how this could happen to a true believer, but I cannot exclude it as a possibility.

2. He is not a true believer. He went out from us because he was not one of us.

So if Beckwith is a true believer, then he has eternal security despite his serious error. But since we can not know whether #1 or #2 is true, we must be careful not to call him a brother in Christ because his RC confession of faith is not a credible profession of faith.

Carrie said...

We can't deduce from this one statement what you guys want to deduce. I know people with pretty firm notions of sola fide who would use brothers/sisters language in regard to Catholics.

Perhaps those at ETS are calling him a brother in Christ b/c that is how they always knew him and it is hard to believe he may not be. The real question is whether ETS believes that RCism is a credible profession of faith - whether Rome does indeed possess a saving gospel. I say they do not, so even though there may be RCs who are true believers, they are so in spite of their profession of faith.

Now, just because some people who believe in sola fide would consider RCs as brothers/sisters in Christ doesn't make it the right thing to do. Nor does the fact that some professing Protestants may not be true believers mean that we should accept all that "call" themselves Christians.

anon said...

"Perhaps those at ETS are calling him a brother in Christ b/c that is how they always knew him and it is hard to believe he may not be. "

Did it EVER occur to you that they call him a Brother in Christ because they know him to be a Brother in Christ?

This is absurd!

anon said...

"1. He is truly saved, but in some serious error/disobedience. I have a hard time understanding how this could happen to a true believer, but I cannot exclude it as a possibility."

Carrie: here's a thought: You might be in "serious error."

The obvious evil of presumption and boastful (yes, boatful) pride at work in your assesment is astounding. How ironic, when you seem to weigh so much of your narrow view of justification on the phrase, "lest anyone should boast."

anon said...

"I know people with pretty firm notions of sola fide who would use brothers/sisters language in regard to Catholics." Can you give any example of these people? I know for sure that James White, one with a pretty firm notion of sola fide, is NOT one of them."

LOLROTFL!
Oh man, that's funny on so many levels. Well, we already know what Albert's test is for whether or not one has a "pretty firm" notion of sola fide! Thanks for the insigt into your mindset, Albert.

I can see it now:

Kevin: Well let's see there was Luther, Wessley... (followd by a list of some thousands of sola fide believers past and present who would consider at least some Catholics brothers and sisters in Christ).

Albert: Nope, he doesn't have a firm notion of sola fide... No, he doesn't have a firm notion... (x many thousands.)

Carrie said...

Did it EVER occur to you that they call him a Brother in Christ because they know him to be a Brother in Christ?

How would they KNOW that?

Aren't you the one casting stones at us for the strawman that we think we know who is saved?

Carrie said...

Carrie: here's a thought: You might be in "serious error."

I don't want to be in error, so please prove to me biblically that I am. If you cannot, I'll stay where I am.

The obvious evil of presumption and boastful (yes, boatful) pride at work in your assesment is astounding.

How are you any better?

If you feel you have some knowledge to share here that would help us all out, please share it. But if you are here simply to taunt (with the presumption that we are absolutely wrong) then you are no better.

If you would like to engage people in discussion then I suggest you actually formulate an argument with some sort of evidence. Or are empty insulting wisecracks a Catholic fruit?

anon said...

"If you feel you have some knowledge to share here that would help us all out, please share it. But if you are here simply to taunt (with the presumption that we are absolutely wrong) then you are no better."


No Carrie, I'm pointing out your amazing presumption that everyone else is absolutely wrong. You are positively dogmatic. Your coments about Dr. Beckwith's salvation is more telling than anything I've seen.

anon said...

"1. He is truly saved, but in some serious error/disobedience. I have a hard time understanding how this could happen to a true believer, but I cannot exclude it as a possibility.

2. He is not a true believer. He went out from us because he was not one of us.
"

If ever there was boasting in one's salvation, this is it. Remeber Jesus' descrition of the tax collector and the pharasee who each rayed in the synogog.

anon said...

"Did it EVER occur to you that they call him a Brother in Christ because they know him to be a Brother in Christ?

How would they KNOW that?

Aren't you the one casting stones at us for the strawman that we think we know who is saved?

------------------

But THEY obviously feel they do know--and they said so.

What astounig hypocracy: you bend over backwards to say that they must not really mean what they say or else they are confused, then I propose that perhaps they actually MEAN what they say, and now you suddenly don't want to say who is and is not "saved?" Give me a break.

You nearly shout from the rooftops that anyone calling any Catholic a brother in Christ must be either confused or unsaved then pretend to be offended when you're questioned whether they simply might have eant it? Then you accuse me of making "wisecracks?" Your standard in this, just as in what is holy or what is right seems to be.

I'll ask you again,
Did it EVER occur to you that they call him a Brother in Christ because they know him to be a Brother in Christ?
It is not a trick question.

anon said...

Everyone:

I'm sure anyone can see that I posted that last comment and many others in anger. I've been corrected by a fellow Christian on another blog. I should not be posting comments in anger. In fact I shouldn't even be reading this site, since I can't seem to do it without getting angry to some degree. It's been suggested to me that this is my problem and I have been wrong to make it yours.

Being anonymous makes it too easy to forget yourself. I guess it lso makes it easier for me to write an apology, but then that's all part of it I guess.

I'm sorry. I will not be coming back unless ad until I get my act together.

I apologize to Carrie, Rhology, Albert and any others I lashed out at. If you can forgive me, I'm thanksful.

Anonymous said...

"I apologize to Carrie, Rhology, Albert and any others I lashed out at. If you can forgive me, I'm thankful"

nicely done.

Kevin said...

Albert,

Of course James White would not use brothers/sisters in regard to Catholics. I was indicating Evangelicals in my circle of friends and acquaintances both in outside of my divinity school.