By now many of you will have read about Dr. Francis Beckwith’s return the Roman Catholic Church. The story has gained particular attention because Beckwith was currently serving as President of the Evangelical Theological Society. Beckwith said he planned to remain a member of ETS since he could still affirm the Society’s doctrinal statement. More recently Beckwith has decided to resign from the Society.
This has raised awareness about the amazing brevity of the ETS doctrinal statement. In 2001 I delivered a paper at the annual meeting of the ETS arguing that the doctrinal statement was inadequate, using as one example interviews with some prominent Catholic scholars who said they could sign the statement. A slightly adjusted version of the paper was later published in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 8.3 (Winter 2004): 74-81. Two blogs (Ref 21 & Justin Taylor) have recently pointed to this paper posted on my Union page.
The ETS Executive Committee has made a public statement on the situation which seems aimed in part to express why they think the Roman Catholic position cannot square with the ETS doctrinal statement. I appreciate the men on this committee and some are personal friends. However, their statement does not show any disagreement between Catholic theology and the ETS doctrinal statement. They stress that Catholics accept other sources of authority on par with Scripture. That is of course true, but the ETS doctrinal statement does not speak to that issue. It simply says that the Bible alone is the Word of God written. It does not say there are no other infallible sources of authority. It is surely true that the intention of the drafters of the ETS doctrinal statement meant to exclude the Catholic position, but they have failed to do so if you simply take the words as they stand. My purpose in bothering to point this out is the hope that ETS will be pushed to acknowledge the inadequacy of our current doctrinal statement so that the statement might be enhanced.
My paper makes a suggestion for one easy way to fix the doctrinal statement.