Sunday, July 20, 2008

Evangelical Catholic?

Francis Beckwith, once a leading Evangelical theologian, returned to the Catholicism of his youth, and is about to publish Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. As a description of what an "Evangelical Catholic" is he suggests this at a site called "Be Doers of the Word." Several of the points are clearly unacceptable to Protestants, Evangelical or not, and, in fact, define significant and important differences between Catholics and Protestants. But the points I've selected below reaffirm some of what those of us who are committed to "mere Christianity" hold in common.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.

4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.
If I were composing point four, the words "and Sacrament" wouldn't be there, but the rest is unexceptionable, and there are other Protestants who would disagree with me about removing those words.

Update: In the post below I reference and excerpt Joseph Bottum's article in the current First Things. Something else he noted in that article:
There has emerged ... something we might call “Mere ­Religion.” A curious pattern grew in the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversies of the 1920s—a cross-denominational sympathy: the fellow feeling of people who, though their churches differ, nonetheless share a view of the world and a sense that they are all under attack from similar enemies. The pattern is worth marking, for it appeared not only in the 1920s but over and over again in the ensuing decades.

Indeed, it returned with a vengeance in our own post-Mainline age since the 1970s. You can see it today among the liberal managers of the old churches, and you can see it as well among conservative churchgoers, where the horizontal unity of Mere Religion cuts across denominations. Serious, believing Presbyterians, for example, now typically feel that they have more in common with serious, believing Catholics and evangelicals—with serious, believing Jews, for that matter—than they do, vertically, with the ­unserious, unorthodox members of their own ­denomination.
What is Evangelical Catholicism?

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