The executive committee of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) has released a statement noting Francis Beckwith’s resignation as President and as a member of the society. The release sets the Beckwith conversion in the context of a larger discussion about Roman Catholicism and evangelical identity. The statement reads:

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.

HT: Justin Taylor