Frank Beckwith’s decision to become Roman Catholic has caused quite a stir. While we don’t now intend to respond to the particulars of Frank’s decision (you can read the details in Frank’s own words on his blog), we want to respond generally to the many questions we’re receiving about it.
We think Frank’s decision is theologically mistaken, and after talking to Frank personally (after the fact) at length we didn’t hear anything that would tempt us to reconsider our evaluation of Roman Catholic theology.
Though we were surprised by this move, it doesn't cause us to doubt Frank’s own status as a Christian and as a brother in the Lord. From what we understand, Frank is committed to defending “mere” Christianity, not, it seems, the particulars of Roman Catholic theology. In fact, Frank told us he still considers himself an evangelical. I’m sure that will not make sense to many, and it even raises questions for us, which I'm sure we'll discuss with Frank when we have an opportunity. But what it does express is that this decision is not meant to signal a change in Frank’s core theological convictions as a Christian.
Though we strongly disagree with his decision, Frank is our dear and beloved friend—and also a friend to Stand to Reason—and always will be.
Greg and Melinda
One major issue Frank's decision raises is the doctrine of justification. If you notice in his post in reference to this he said Roman Catholic theology "properly understood." When I spoke to him he said that he thinks most of the disagreement between Protestants and Roman Catholics is a different vocabulary rather than a very different doctrine. Now, he may be wrong, I may not agree with him, but that's what he thinks. My sense is that Frank still believes a doctrine of justification not inconsistent with the way Protestants would understand it (that's part of why he still considers himself evangelical), and he's worked it out to his satisfaction that Roman Catholic theology is similar enough so that he can embrace it. Now I'm reiterating what I understood him to say to me so I could be wrong in reporting. I'm not saying he's correct in his conclusions. Frank will explain himself as time goes on.
The doctrine of sola Scriptura is another major question raised. This is of concern to us, too. But note in his post that he still affirms the ETS statement of faith.
I know people are stunned by his decision and are looking for some kind of satisfying explanation. Hopefully, Frank will be able to offer that, but I'm not sure we'll be satisfied with the way Frank was able to satisfy his own questions in what was for him a very serious and significant decision-making process. As a friend and sister in Christ, right now I'm trying to understand his thinking and let him explain it. I'm sure we're going to have some lively discussions and still end up disagreeing.