ETS Statement on Frank Beckwith's Conversion - May 8

Darrell L. Bock's picture

As many of you have heard Frank Beckwith has reassociated himself with the Roman Catholic Church. Frank is a good friend and we have discussed this over the last few days. It came as a surprise to us all. I wish him well, even as I am sure we will be discussing this in the weeks and months to come. I look forward to the interaction with him and others on this. I will have more to say on this later as I have been doing interviews on it over the last few days. For now, here is the letter from the Executive Committee of ETS regarding the situation.__________Statement of the ETS Executive Committee regardingDr. Frank Beckwith’s Resignation as ETS PresidentMay 8, 2007On May 5, 2007, Dr. Frank Beckwith resigned as President of the Evangelical Theological Society. This resignation has come as a result of his decision to be received into full communion in the Roman Catholic Church, which he did on April 29, 2007. Dr. Beckwith has informed the Executive Committee that this was a decision he came to “after much prayer, counsel, and consideration.” Subsequently, after further prayer and reflection, Dr. Beckwith has voluntarily withdrawn his membership from the Society as well.The members of the Executive Committee wish Dr. Beckwith well in his ongoing professional work. We have come to appreciate him as a scholar and a friend. On behalf of the Society, we want to express our gratitude for his work organizing and coordinating the 2006 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., with the theme, “Evangelicals in the Public Square.” No one, perhaps, appreciates how much labor is involved in such a task, except those who have undertaken it in the past, as is the case with most of the members of the Executive Committee. And so, we thank Dr. Beckwith for his service to the Society.At the same time, the Executive Committee recognizes Dr. Beckwith’s resignation as President and subsequent withdrawal from membership as appropriate in light of the purpose and doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Theological Society and in light of the requirements of wholehearted confessional agreement with the Roman Catholic Church.The work of the Evangelical Theological Society as a scholarly forum proceeds on the basis that “the Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” This affirmation, together with the statement on the Trinity, forms the basis for membership in the ETS to which all members annually subscribe in writing. Confessional Catholicism, as defined by the Roman Catholic Church’s declarations from the Council of Trent to Vatican II, sets forth a more expansive view of verbal, infallible revelation.Specifically, it posits a larger canon of Scripture than that recognized by evangelical Protestants, including in its canon several writings from the Apocrypha. It also extends the quality of infallibility to certain expressions of church dogma issued by the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church), as well as certain pronouncements of the pope, which are delivered ex cathedra, such as doctrines about the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary.We recognize the right of Roman Catholic theologians to do their theological work on the basis of all the authorities they consider to be revelatory and infallible, even as we wholeheartedly affirm the distinctive contribution and convictional necessity of the work of the Evangelical Theological Society on the basis of the “Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety” as “the Word of God written and . . . inerrant.”In recent years, Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have often labored together in common cause addressing some of the critical social and moral issues of our contemporary culture. We welcome this and fully expect it to continue. A number of publications have appeared comparing Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism. Certainly, the two traditions share many common Christian doctrines. However there are important theological differences as well. We expect that the events of these days will bring a renewed discussion of these matters. We welcome and encourage this as well. Finally, regarding the Presidency of ETS, Dr. Hassell Bullock, President-elect will also serve as acting President until the annual meeting at which time elections for the officers for 2008 will take place.We are grateful for Dr. Beckwith's past association with ETS, and we pray that God will continue to use his considerable gifts.C. Hassell Bullock, President-Elect(Wheaton College)Bruce A. Ware, Vice-President(The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)Edwin M. Yamauchi, At-large member(Miami University)Craig A. Blaising, At-large member(Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)Gregory K. Beale, At-large member(Wheaton College)David M. Howard, Jr., At-large member(Bethel Seminary)James A. Borland, Secretary-Treasurer(Liberty University)Andreas J. Köstenberger, JETS Editor(Southeastern Baptist Th 


I don't know Beckwith, but I find this fairly shocking. It seems a long way from being a Baylor professor. I did, however, read his Q&A at Christianity and found myself agreeing with some of his reasoning. One of his reasons seems to be a reaction to the "easy believism" of Protestantism. He talks about his protestant heritage not giving him enough incentive to live out the Christian life, whereas the Catholic church sees God's grace dispensed through our actions. I find that interesting in light of our discussions about the emerging church and their desire to be missional. Do you think this could serve as a "wake up call" for Evangelicalism?

Darrell L. Bock's picture


I think the reasons for this move are more complex. There is no doubt that Frank was focused in on justification based on his own statements. There is a desire to connect to historically rooted tradition by many, not just a faith that has an action component. The problem is, as I noted in my remarks to CT, that historically there is more to this discussion than merely justification, including how justification and the sacraments are linked in Roman Catholic tradition, not to mention the laundry list of other issues tied to the historic discussion, including Mariology, the Pope's authority, the role of authority of the Cardinals over church authority and teaching, and how to place the Council of Trent and Vatican II next to each other in terms of their approach to Protestants.

So there is a lot going on here, or at least, a lot that should be part of such a discussion. The function of Tradition early on in the church and its relationship to the Bible is also a key element in the equation, as well as, whether a commitment to catholicity equals an embrace of Roman Catholicism. How is that for starters!

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Darrell L. Bock's picture


Thank you for taking the time to write. I am no longer ont he ETS exec utive, but let me give you my take on this. The ETS is a society that has been identified as Protestant from its founding. No one would debate that statement. So the decision to open it up to Catholics is a decision the Society as a whole needs to make, not something an executive should or could do. This is precisely why Frank Beckwith's decision was the correct one. Now discussion, if the Society desires it, can take place without his particular situation being in the middle of that discussion.

May 21, 2007

Dear Darrell,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It has been many years since I sat in the classroom at DTS under your tutelage. During that time, I have had numerous opportunities to get somewhat updated on your work both at DTS and on a broader level.

This morning, as I was looking at information regarding another DTS graduate on the website, I came across your blog. As I surveyed the titles, I came across your blog on Dr. Beckwith's conversion to Roman Catholicism.

I realize that the nature of your public relationship with Dr. Beckwith and that of ETS with him is strictly professional and, for that reason, you must observe certain protocol in your official communication concerning him. On the other hand, I trust that, on a personal level, you were horrified by the news of his decision and did everything within your power to persuade him not to make such a decision.

After many years of ministry among and to Roman Catholics and even more years knowing the Lord and studying His word, I have come to the following conclusion: No one who trusts in Roman Catholicism to have a right relationship with the Lord (justification) can have a right relationship with Him. The Scriptures are clear that this accomplished by faith alone in the Lord and what He says. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-9) The apostle John himself, in the first century, witnessed supposed brethren doing what Dr. Beckwith has done and made these statements: "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:18,19) The entire epistle to the Hebrews is dedicated to persuading Jewish members of a certain fellowship to consider the implications of turning back to judaism as the basis of their relationship with the Lord. Time and again and in many different ways, he makes it clear that, if they do that, it is because they never knew the Lord and thus remain under the just condemnation of the Lord: "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29)

Can a person who attends Roman Catholic masses have a right relationship with the Lord resulting from being declared righteous on the basis of her/his faith in Christ? Again, based upon what we see in Scripture, we would have to say, "Yes". My wife and I continue to work with a woman who came to know the Lord, but because her husband refuses to allow her to attend a non-Catholic fellowship, she is forced to continue attending mass. She recognizes, however, that Roman Catholicism represents an evil, false belief system that enslaves people and destroys their lives. That is the key. Like all believers, the Lord has opened her eyes so that she sees the difference between good and evil, true and false. What's more, like all mature believers, she is growing in her capacity to discern such things. (Prov. 4:14-19; John 8:12; Heb. 5:12-14)

Based upon these observations and in application of the Scriptures, the questions is, "Why did Dr. Beckwith convert to Roman Catholicism?" If he did so because he believes that it is the true expression of Biblical faith, he is seriously deceived and, more importantly, he must examine his standing before the Lord. This is imperative in light of the grossly aberrant theological foundations of Roman Catholicism and its cruel tyranny over millions of people, both of which are obvious and plain to see for all who have come to know "the light of the world".

I hope that these comments have been constructive and have made a positive contribution to this discussion.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Sam Snodgrass

Dear Sam,

Anyone who knows Frank Beckwith or has read what he proffers knows that he is a man of inegrity and a man who loves our Lord Jesus Christ. Your judgment of him conveys the spiritual arrogance that is sadly so prevalent among Evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians.

I too am a former Evangelical who, by the providence of our Lord and the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, has discovered a rich, sacramental life of grace in the fullness of the Body of Christ which is not stymied by the hermeneutic of ignorance. I pray that someday your eyes will also be opened to all that Christ offers His people through His Church.

Until then, I suppose that I too will be consigned by you to hell's fire along with the likes of Frank Beckwith, Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, Thomas Howard, G.K. Chesterton, and John Henry Newman. And then, the day will indeed come (perhaps on the other side of eternity) when you will truly know that not only do we love and serve Christ (yes, the Christ of the Bible), but that through His mystical Body, we were enabled to love and serve Him even more! Jesus is who it's all about, Sam!

May the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with all grace and benediction.

His servant,
James K. Hamrick
Thurmont, Maryland

I am another who was reared as an evangelical southern Baptist, and converted to Catholic in 1974 at the age of 24.  It was the best decision of my life, and I have never regretted it.  It was the Bible that led to my conversion.  Non-Catholics tend to take parts of the Scriptures out of context and, in my opinion, if they are truly open to the Holy Spirit they would see that the Catholic Church IS the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.  I appreciate the love for Jesus Christ and the Word of God that born-again Christians do have, but at the same time, I urge them to listen to Scott Hahn, and you will learn more than you ever imagined.  I loved my Baptist church growing up, and I never understood the Catholic Church, but I am sure that Christ continues to weep tears of blood as He did in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed that the Church would be one body as He and the Father are one.  Look at the fragmented Church today.  How many denominations are there now?  Can you even count them all?  It is the enemy, satan, that loves this division in the Body of Christ.  I emplore you to come home to the one, holy, Catholic Church.  Listen to the testimonies of the many converts on EWTN's "Journey Home".  Get a copy of the Bible study "Genesis to Jesus" , "The Fourth Cup" & everything you can get your hands on by Scott Hahn, You will be shocked at how little you know about the Bible.  I challenge you to go directly to Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Michael Barber, Dr. Brandt Pitre, and other converts--Alex Jones, Tim Staples, Steve Wood, and listen with an open heart. The more I study the Bible (& I have never stopped all these years), the more I am convinced that it is the one true Church founded by Christ at the price of His blood.  Have you ever attended daily Mass?  Why not? You have nothing to lose & everything to gain.  Please visit or

James's nonsense is easily refuted by James White's for informed Reformed people that take the Bible seriously, unlike James or Beckwith, not knowing what Christ it is they worship, since as those who know true history know, the Church is ever erring and cannot be trusted, like those who follow her, so infantile they still need a mother (her or Mary) in adulthood, never growing up, having to have their thinking done for them, in flagrant contradiction to the apostles' criticisms and warnings in 1 Corinthians 3 & Hebrews 5 that are just as true of James as they are of the subjects of the letters.
Thank God for His undeserved grace and may He save us all from our lives usually comprised of at least hypocrisy and blasphemy, not discerning the Lord or His Body rightly, "catholics" and "protestants alike,
Russ Davis

With All Due Respect,

Some of the comments delivered by my Protestant brothers on this blog smack of “Podsnappery.” If you’re not familiar with the term, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Charles Dickens’ “Our Mutual Friend” where you will encounter Mr. Podsnap who has a very alarming way of fixating on one thing and dismissing everything else he doesn’t understand with one great sweep of his arm.

I would highly recommend to any adherents of Podsnappery, a thorough course in Church history. If you don’t like Catholicism today, then why not look back to our common roots. After all, whether Catholic or Protestant, we all sprang from the same Christ and the same early Church. Mr. Beckwith had the courage to delve into early Church history and---because he is an honest, conscientious, and courageous scholar---he came away realizing that he didn’t know everything after all and maybe there was something else he needed to consider---something that fifteen centuries of Christians believed was, indeed, the Truth.

As a final thought, kindly consider that, since we were all of One Faith (ie. catholic) in the early Church, it was Catholics---perhaps not called by that name, but certainly adhering to everything present-day Catholics hold as true---who chose the books of the Bible in the first place!

And let us not be so quick to relegate souls to hell. There are some things better left in the more capable and very merciful Hands of Jesus Christ. If not, I foresee major cases of apoplexy come Judgement Day.

Respectfully in Christ,

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