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Evangelical and Catholic

That is the title of the essay I published this morning in the online magazine, Inside Catholic. Here is how it begins:

On May 5, 2007, I resigned as president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), and two days later I resigned my membership, one I held for more than 20 years. I did so because I quickly realized -- after news of my April 29, 2007, public reception into the Catholic Church had spread like wildfire on the internet and in the media -- that there was no way that ETS could conduct business with my continued presence on the executive committee or its membership. In fact, soon after my resignation, two ETS members proposed extensive changes in the organization's doctrinal statement so that no one would ever question the indelible Protestant character of ETS. Although not supported by the ETS executive committee, their proposal will be voted on by the membership at this week's annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. These changes, if passed, would leave no doubt that ETS excludes all non-Protestants from its membership.

One may ask why I waited six days after my public reception into the Catholic Church to resign my ETS presidency, and eight days to resign my membership. I did so because I did not believe that the present ETS doctrinal statement is inconsistent with my Catholic beliefs. My resignations were motivated entirely by my desire not to cause needless offense to my brothers and sisters in Christ from whom I have learned so much in my over three decades in the Protestant world. Nevertheless, I still believe that the ETS doctrinal statement is broad enough to allow Catholic members. (In fact, I remain a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society [EPS], which has an identical doctrinal statement)

You can read the whole thing here.

(Cross-posted on Southern Appeal and Return to Rome)

Comments (5)

The attitude one has to the Apochrypa does not/should not either include or exclude one from being called a classical evangleical. The Augsburg Confession, Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, Thirty Nine Articles, and Westminster Cionfession all take a somewhat different position regarding the authority and appropriate use of the Apocrypha.

The doctrinal statement of the ETS and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy set forth the evangelical position over against the position of the neomodernists. Argueably a Roman Catholic could subscribe to a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Certainly the Church fathers did.

The issue that divides Roman Catholics and Evangelicals is not inerrancy but Sola Scriptura. The classical evangelical position is that the Bible is the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. Whatever is not read in the Bible or cannot be proven from the Holy Scripture can not be required of any man. Said another way, the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and of practice.
Post Vatican 1 Roman Catholics believe that the Bishop of Rome can under circumstances infallibly define faith and practice.

Roger Nicole probably thought that the affirmation of the Inerrancy of Scripture would exclude Roman Catholics. He probably also believed it would exclude Clark Pinnock with his view of open Theism and errant inerrancy.

I still have no idea why an evangelical would want to be a member of a Theological Society that includes open theists and other Pelagian heretics. The theological statement of the ETS is not adequate.

Professor Beckwith, in his aside about St. Augustine of Hippo, alluded to the real differnce between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics: This is Sola Fide. Evangelicals affirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of the mediatorial work of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness and substitutionary blood atonement are imputed to us as the only satisfaction of God's perfect justice. Evangelicals go on to say that justification does not depend upon any merit in the believer. Note, for evangelicals justification is mputed unto the Christian. Infusion of Christs righteousness is not the ground of justification for a classical Evangelical.

Had the Evangelical Theological Society had an adequate doctrinal statement open theists like Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock would have been excluded from their body. An adequate doctrinal statement would have also excluded Roman Catholics.

You cannot meaningfully or carefully affirm the inerrancy of Scripture without also defining what you mean by the word "Scripture." ETS does so in explicit terms: By "Scripture" it means the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. If that is not what one means by the word "Scripture," then one ought not to sign the doctrinal statement of the ETS. To do so under those conditions is to mangle its intended meaning, and, it seems to me, to do so purposely. I know how much some Catholics dislike it when other Catholics (and some Protestants) do that to RCC texts and teachings. I fully sympathize with them. That hermeneutical slight of hand is not intellectually honorable in either a protestant or a catholic context (just as it is not honorable in a judicial context where activist judges twist the Constitution in directions they know perfectly well are not compatible with the Founders' intent.)

The ETS definition does not include, and did not intend to include, the books of the apocrypha of or the Book of Mormon. (I am not equating the two, except in their exclusion from the ETS definition.) By the word "Scripture," Catholics and Mormons include books in addition to the 66 recognized by ETS. That is, they have a different definition for the word "Scripture." ETS does not affirm the inerrancy of things outside Scripture. Its statement affirms only the inspiration and inerrancy of those 66 books. No other books are in view or are included.

Sola scriptura is a different, though related, point. One could presumably believe that the apocrypha is a proper part of Scripture, or reject it from inclusion as Scripture, and yet still believe in Sola Scriptura. Again, it would depend upon how one employed the term "scriptura."

This is where I might have to concur with some aspect of Dr. Bauman's thoughts on the matter.

In my view, one cannot be both "Evangelical" (in the Protestant sense -- notwithstanding the likes of St. Francis & St. Dominic who preached with evangelical force in the traditional sense) and "Catholic", just as one cannot be (with all due respect to our Jewish elders) both a Jew & a Christian.

Such an attempt strikes me as a blatant compromise to both Protestantism & Catholicism by any attempt to a mixing of the two, which neither traditions would (or even should) want to accomodate as such an attempt would only bring about detriment to the integrity of each.

The problem, aristocles, is who in fact has the authority to issue this judgment. It seems to me that the ETS offers a particular understanding of what is an Evangelical in terms of its academic project. That is one sense of "evangelical." Another sense, you correctly point out, is to think of it in the Franciscan and Dominican traditions. Another is the Magisterial Reformation; and yet another is the restoration movement and the Second Great Awakening. And even another is the neo-Evangelical movement begun by Henry, Ockenga, etc.

It seems to me that the ETS sort of Evangelical is defined only by a certain understanding of Scripture coupled with the doctrine of the Trinity. Mike correctly points out that Scripture, as understood by the founders of ETS, meant 66 books of the Protestant Bible, even though they never defined it as such. I suspect they didn't because, as I noted in my article, prior to the Reformation there never existed a 66-book canon anywhere in the Christian world, and the Book of Mormon wasn't accepted either. So, if one holds to a sola scriptura view as normative for all of church history, then the church developed its theology with the wrong canon! Who wants to be on the side of that argument? So, better to leave the canon question mirky. This is the same reason why ETS does not address the question of the content of the 66 books. Does it include the older ending of Mark? The woman caught in adultery in John (which is not in the older manuscripts)? Or what about the interpolation of I John 5:7 (the famous, or infamous, Trinity passage). Again, better to keep it mirky.

Dr. Beckwith,

I'm not saying your reasoning here isn't sound -- just that if folks actually agreed with it, they would no longer be Protestant; they would be Catholic (even if dimly). ;^)

At any rate, I believe that is why, for the most part, you have met up with such resistance in the matter -- from both sides of the fence. Any semblance in the matter where folks may have to entertain thoughts of Rome even if vaguely endangers the very purpose & cause of Protestantism (as it would the Papist if he were to entertain thoughts largely of Protestant origin).

This is the cross you now bear; it's up to you now if you will carry it: Catholic or Protestant.

But if Newman could do it...

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