Prayers for Francis Beckwith Interview

Keep Francis Beckwith in your prayers this weekend. At 3 pm (Pacific Time) Sunday August 5th – Beckwith will be doing his first live radio interview with an Evangelical – his friend Greg Koukl who runs the ministry “Stand to Reason” – and the ministry’s radio show by the same name. It will be a two-hour interview. The two men co-wrote the book “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air,” so Koukl is certainly bound to be charitable. Nonetheless, ever since Beckwith’s conversion, Koukl has been commenting more on Catholic doctrine - often in more dismissive tones than he once did (though maybe I’m imagining this). Koukl was raised Catholic himself (though based on his comments, not very completely catechized).

You can find “Stand to Reason” on the web at www.str.org

For those in Southern California, the station is AM 740 KBRT, which broadcasts out of Catalina. You can generally hear it from L.A. down to San Diego. For natioinal listeners, you can easily find the radio show as a podcast on iTunes – the Sunday show is usually up by Tuesday.

Pray for Frank Beckwith, that he will be bold, clear-headed, and wise. Pray that ears will be open to hearing the truth, even truth that may feel uncomfortable. Pray for Greg Koukl too. He doesn’t know that much about Catholicism, but he knows ALL the anti-Catholic arguments, and he’s very smooth and sharp as a tack – probably one of the MOST intellectually-skilled evangelicals around today. Pray for a powerful out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.

Here is a link to the interview, which was posted last night on the STR website: strcast.org/podcast/weekly/080507.mp3

I would be interested in reading assessments of how it went. To be candid, I thought my performance was less than stellar.

Thank you for your prayers.

Take care,
Frank

Thank you for the link, Dr. Beckwith.

I’ll try to give an assessment if I get a chance to listen all the way through.

-Rob

P.S. Most of us have the opinion that oral debates are a poor format, so no worries! Speaking, “on one’s feet,” even figuratively, is difficult. No need to be down on yourself.

Well, Mr. Koukl had clearly thought about the intricacies of justification (in terms of Protestant-Catholic differences) more than you had. But as I write this I’m listening to the part of the interview where the caller asked you to summarize your view of the Gospel and you read the beginning of 1 Cor. 15. I think you hit the issue right on the head when you said that this is the Gospel and (by implication) a particular theory of justification is not.

I think Koukl had a good argument about indulgences contradicting your defense of Purgatory. This is one of my problems with Catholicism as well, and if I ever accept it it will probably just be a matter of obedience. I approach the whole issue of justification very differently from both of you because I come from a Wesleyan background. To me, Mr. Koukl’s insistence that our future sins are forgiven once we believe (irrespective of whether we repent of those sins when we commit them) was bizarre at best and horribly heretical at worst (perhaps I misunderstood him, though this is a common opinion in many evangelical and fundamentalist circles). However, it seems to me that the doctrine of indulgences reflects the same forensic misunderstanding of grace as does the classical Protestant understanding of salvation. I would argue that in fact the one comes from the other–Luther thought in “account-book” terms because he was taught to do so by late medieval Catholicism (being a nominalist didn’t help). I think the healthiest approach to Luther’s doctrine of justification is to see it as a way of getting all that account-book stuff off the table so that people aren’t trying to score points with God and can get on with the serious business of loving God and neighbor. As one Lutheran seminary student said to me: “In baptism I have been buried with Christ, so that I never have to think about myself again but can love with total abandon.” Unfortunately, it can also (as Newman pointed out, I believe) be a form of “faith in faith”: I believe I am saved because I believe I am saved. (Or, in the common Reformed understanding, it brings back a doctrine of works by the back door, one that often proves far more legalistic and repressive than the Catholic version: I know I am saved because I do good works, and if I slip up on good works maybe that means I’ve been a hypocrite all along and am actually predestined to be damned.) At best, I think it’s an unnecessarily convoluted way of putting things, and at worst it can be a cure that is worse than the disease (granting that there was a late medieval way of looking at salvation that was diseased).

However, if we are going to talk about merit being transferred from one person to another, then I think Koukl is right: the most Biblical way of speaking is to say that all Christ’s merit is transferred to us when we believe, and there’s an end of it. I think the only way indulgences are defensible is if they are rephrased in non-legal, non-financial terms. I think this is possible to do within a Catholic framework, but I should let you Catholics decide that!

I think you made some excellent points about Scripture and tradition. It is helpful in these discussions to cite Dei Verbum 2.10, which says that the magisterium is not above the Word of God but serves it. In other words, Koukl was wrong when he said that Catholicism holds the Church to be equal in authority to Scripture (if the “Church” is defined here as the Magisterium, that is). The Magisterium is clearly stated here to be the servant of the Word of God, which (as I read Dei Verbum) comes to us in two forms (rather than in two separate bodies of content–a point you made very well).

I have been wrestling with this stuff for twelve years, and still don’t know where I will end up. As you said, there is a lower threshold for someone like yourself: I was struck by your citation of the command to honor our parents, since that is the main reason I’m still a Protestant of sorts (the fact that I’m married to one also plays a role, as does, less honorably, the fact that I’d probably lose my job if I converted). I consider myself obligated to do my best to renew the Tradition within evangelical Protestantism (though I perch myself as far on the high-church end as I can get) as long as I can.

In Christ,

Edwin

Hi Dr. Beckwith,

I was listening from about 4:40 onward, then later heard all of it on the podcast.

I’m a new convert myself as of this Easter, and you have NO IDEA how encouraging it was to read of your reversion right after Easter. It was especially interesting to see how, after your reversion, suddenly the evangelical media “discovered” that “thousands of Evangelicals have made the journey to Rome,” whereas throughout my journey I only read of such conversions from Catholic sources.

I felt for you in the debate. I heard myself in your answers – I discovered early (as I’m sure you had before this weekend as well) that it’s REALLY hard for someone who’s not used to debating Protestant-Catholic issues to come off sounding convincing until they’ve done it quite a bit.

Here’s another factor that can actually be quite deceptive to the listener: often the very fact that I’ve wrestled and wrestled with a topic, and figured out every side of it, can actually lead to answers that sound confusing to the listener. In other words, great depth of thought can lead to answers that try to answer too much, and therefore don’t sound well-thought-out at all.

(By the way, that last comment was more a critique of myself than of you. And I certainly don’t have the theological background and knowledge you have).

A few thoughts:

Earlier in my journey I used to sort of dismiss certain Catholic apologists – their answers sounded too simplistic and not convincing to a Protestant. I still feel that way about a couple people – but I think I have more respect for them now. They’re a lot better at this than I am, and the reason they get a lot of air-time (and write articles) is because they’re effective.

One thing you said struck me, that you didn’t want to be a Catholic apologist. I completely resonate with that. I didn’t either (and I’m still not “out of the closet” with lots of people, other than family and my closest friends). In fact, I used to say, “you believe a Catholic CAN POSSIBLY be a Christian? Good, that’s the kind of Catholic I’M going to be.”

But I don’t know if we have a choice (about becoming Catholic apologists). What I’ve learned is that when a Protestant becomes a Catholic, that’s a scandal. If you’re right about your decision, they’re wrong in a big way. Cradle Catholics who never left can get smiles from Protestants, because many Protestants sort of assume, “well, it’s hard to leave family upbringing, and he probably doesn’t know any better.” But if you actually leave something to which you were committed to become Catholic, that’s a scandal. I think EVERY Protestant who becomes Catholic becomes a de facto Catholic apologist, whether he wants to or not – the very fact that he LEFT is an act of proclaiming the Catholic faith.

In addition to your feeling at that one point that you had been slightly blind-sided, I think Catholics are at a bit of a disadvantage when entering into these kinds of debates with Protestants. The disadvantage is that the Protestant (and I think this is strikingly true of Greg) assumes that Protestantism is the norm that Catholics add to. The new Catholic has come to realize that the faith of the 15th Century (and each of the previous centuries) was the norm, and Protestantism was the new kid on the block. So suddenly the Catholic is put on the defensive with “how do you justify this doctrine?,” when the very idea that it would HAVE to be justified because it’s not explicitly in the Bible is the doctrine that should FIRST be defended.

So I completely resonated with your response at one point, “you realize I didn’t come up with purgatory, right?” I don’t know if Greg caught the significance in that – he probably thought you were just putting the blame on Rome – but I took the subtext of your point to be, “why wouldn’t we defer to the Church’s authority?” A Catholic has a TOTALLY different attitude toward authority than a Protestant does.

Anyway, I’m SO glad you had the guts to go on the show, and I look forward to hearing more from you! Your comments on the STR blog (which I just read tonight) were superb!

Contarini Quote:

I think you made some excellent points about Scripture and tradition. It is helpful in these discussions to cite Dei Verbum 2.10, which says that the magisterium is not above the Word of God but serves it. In other words, Koukl was wrong when he said that Catholicism holds the Church to be equal in authority to Scripture (if the “Church” is defined here as the Magisterium, that is). The Magisterium is clearly stated here to be the servant of the Word of God, which (as I read Dei Verbum) comes to us in two forms (rather than in two separate bodies of content–a point you made very well).

Amen to this. I’ve never had any difficulty understanding that Jesus, who is the Word of God enfleshed, established His Church as a vehicle for us, the Body of Christ, to live in and through Him. In other words, the Church serves God, even if He, through Jesus, established it to serve us. The Church was mandated by Christ to be the pillar and preserver of God’s Truths as revealed to us, whether orally or in writing. The Magisterium serves Christ’s mandate, and serves us, the Church, the Body of Christ. I may not know how to articulate this teaching well, but it’s seemed so obviously clear – and simple – to me. So I’ve been befuddled through the years when my Protestant acquaintances have thrown about such words of contempt against the Catholic Church, including the accusion that Catholics think we share equal authority with God – how dare we to presume this. It’s usually to no avail when I’ve begun explaining “but we don’t presume this, because…”

I thank Dr. Beckwith for being up-front and public about his reversion to the Catholic faith. I will finish listening to the radio debate soon, but I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far. A guest is subject to the host’s control of the show – so thank you, Dr. Beckwith, for your courage to be under fire. May you be blessed in many ways as the Holy Spirit continues to use you for His important work.

Thanks - I’ll try to listen.

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