Friday, January 9, 2009

Frank Beckwith's new book

I found Frank Beckwith's new book, Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic, a gift from Frank (thank you!). I haven't read it yet, but I've glanced through it, and have found it a charming, well-argued and personal book. One thing that strikes me is how many evangelicals, like Frank, who come or return to the fullness of communion with the Catholic Church are so very gracious to their Protestant brethren, and so grateful what they have gained from their years as evangelical Protestants. The grace that led them to full communion, step by step, is palpable in this love and gratitude. I've suggested in an earlier post that one draws closer to non-Catholic Christians by becoming more faithful to the Catholic faith, and this seems to be a case of that. At the same time, the gracious love of Frank's non-Catholic friends also comes through.

Friendships between ecclesially and doctrinally divided Christians have of late been to me a particular case of the love by which one may know Christians. Division may lead to hatred, but division between people committed to Christ is also an opportunity for great love.

5 comments:

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Alex. BTW, if you haven't noticed yet, you are mentioned in note 3 for chapter 6 on page 140:

I owe this illustration to my colleague in the Baylor philosophy department,
Alexander Pruss.

Mattie said...

Division may lead to hatred, but division between people committed to Christ is also an opportunity for great love.

Of course, but what do you do when you feel that the doctrinal differences are severe enough to call into question their claim to be committed to Christ? This is a problem I often find myself with when I hang out with denominationally different Christians.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Mattie:

As a Catholic, I have yet to find myself in this position vis-a-vis any moderately conservative Christian. With respect to a liberal Christian, well, still, unless the person openly denies the Trinity and the Incarnation, or something like that, one should try to presume commitment.

Mattie said...

Well I suppose Open Theism (as you find it in evangelical circles) would count as a moderately conservative position, but when I think about how an open theist actually views God and his relation to the world, it seems so radically different from my own more traditional conception that I am led to doubt whether we can sensibly be said to worship the same God at all.

You mention denying the Trinity or the Incarnation, but it seems far too easy to be able to give lip service to these sorts of doctrines - look what the open theist says: "Of course God knows everything! It just that the future is logically impossible to know!".

The sort of criteria I think I would go for in assessing someone's claim to be a Christian would be a combination of

1) the religious picture suggested by their conception of God, and
2) their fruits (Matt 7:16), the degree to which you can see the likeness of Christ in them.

If someone falls short of these, then I feel it would be inappropriate for me to welcome them as a Christian. To do so would be to trivialize the differences between me and them, differences which are surely important.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Speaking autobiographically, while I take open theism to be heretical, I don't have trouble counting the open theist a Christian.

It's particularly easy to accept as a Christian the open theist who thinks that there are no contingent truths about how the future will be. For such an open theist may well believe that God knows all the truths. She just doesn't think there are as many truths as orthodoxy thinks there are.

On the other hand, the view that God knows all the knowable truths clearly doesn't do justice to omniscience. (And, besides, one can't really make sense of such a restriction.)