Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Timothy George And Francis Beckwith On Being Evangelical And Catholic

Last Thursday, Timothy George and Francis Beckwith had a discussion at Wheaton College on the topic "Can You Be Catholic And Evangelical?". You can watch a video of it here. (I saw it linked at The Divine Conspiracy Blog.)

As such events often are, the discussion was too vague and too ecumenical. Timothy George made some good points, but mixed with an overly positive view of Roman Catholicism. He's better than most Evangelicals at recognizing the importance of, and arguing for, the patristic and medieval roots of Evangelicalism. But he underestimates the significance of the errors of Roman Catholicism and, therefore, doesn't take the implications of what he knows as far as he should.

Paul's discussion of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 came up. It was suggested that what Paul discusses in that passage is an understanding of the gospel that Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have in common. Both groups believe that Jesus died for our sins. Both groups believe that He rose from the dead. Etc. But Evangelicals and Catholics disagree significantly over what "died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3) means. As the book of Galatians illustrates, the adding of works to the gospel nullifies what Paul summarized in 1 Corinthians 15. As he puts it elsewhere in 1 Corinthians itself, the gospel involves the sufficiency of the crucified Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul defined that sufficiency in a way that made the inclusion of works as a means of attaining justification a denial of the sufficiency of Christ and His finished work. Any understanding of 1 Corinthians 15 that makes the Judaizers orthodox is problematic.

Early in the discussion, Beckwith made some comments about the beliefs of the early post-apostolic Christians, at one point saying that they were more Roman Catholic than Protestant. Given what Catholics have traditionally argued about the nature of the church and the history of their doctrines, including in some papal decrees and conciliar documents, a Catholic ought to make higher claims about church history than Beckwith did in this discussion.

Near the end, he raised the issue of the canon of scripture and made vague reference to our need for church authority in that context. In response to Beckwith's claims about church history in general, see here. On the canon in particular, see here.


  1. If you look up a Pastor Named Tony Bartolucci at Clarkson Community Church, he has been doing a series and writing a critque of Beckwith. I think you will find it very profitable.

  2. Here it it: http://www.tonybartolucci.com/sermons.htm
    I hope you all enjoy it!

  3. Jason, CT is reporting this event. The article even reports "When asked to define the gospel, however, Beckwith and George found common ground once more. "

  4. Back in the day a guy named Joseph A Morey ragged on the Catholic church hard, fast and furious. I see why. I wouldn't try for a minute to exalt the dogma's of the Pope to a scriptural status. I believe their treatment of the gospel is in itself "another" gospel.

    I just did a story on another of Catholicisms converts: Alex Jones.

    I personally can't understand Beckwith either, I thought he was more persuaded of scriptural authority. What is it the appearance of the service? I don't get it...