Dr. Michael Bauman of Hillsdale College has responded to my comments on the blog entry noted earlier. I provide my response here for the simple reason that once again we have an excellent example of why comboxes are antithetical to meaningful theological exchange. As soon as I posted the link to that blog discussion, Phil Porvaznik saddled up his donkey and meandered on over, dumping a pile of his tired, worn-out, “I will keep saying this, but run for the hills and never defend myself because I know I can’t” garbage into the thread, producing a flood of “go look at this link and I refuted White over here and look at this by this guy” stuff. Hence, it is simply not worth the effort for folks to try to fight their way through all the spam produced by the Porvazniks of the Internet. So I provide my reply here, a theological spam free zone:
As someone with a PhD in Historical Theology from a Catholic university, and as someone who taught both Roman Catholic and Protestant theology at that university, I can assure you that you do not dissent from Rome more than I do. But your (and my) dissent from Rome is not the issue when it comes to accusing Frank Beckwith of apostasy
Dear Dr. Bauman:
Oh, but I believe it is, unless you believe that one can profess fealty to Rome without professing fealty to her Gospel.
If Frank Beckwith once truly made a gospel profession wherein he embraced the absolute sufficiency of Christ to save outside of all human additions, eschewing Rome’s man-centeredness and proclaiming the sole glory of Christ in salvation, and then knowingly embraces Rome, how can this be anything other than an act of apostasy? How can one say “faith alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone” and then say “propitiatory Mass that never perfects, grace mediated through Mary, temporal punishments, purgatory, and satispassio”? Or to return to the Galatian context, what basis does anyone have to believe that one can say “faith alone in an all sufficient Christ” and “circumcision necessary to have true faith in Christ” at the same time without involving such a contradiction as to render words meaningless? What is it about the Galatian heresy that rendered its proponents anathema that is not present in the pantheon of Roman additions to the gospel? How many times does Rome have to say “no, no, faith alone is not sufficient, you need sacraments, you need the priesthood, you need indulgences, confessions, penances, and a never-perfecting re-presentation of Calvary” before she catches up with the Judaizers in Galatia?
Because apostasy is the rejection of one’s faith in Christ, and therefore a rejection of one’s Christianity, the issue of apostasy is whether or not Frank is a Christian. The issue is whether or not he has saving faith in Christ. If you’d like to know the answer to that question, then ask him. If you ask him if he is a sinner who deserves Hell, I suspect he will say “yes.” If you ask him if he has faith in Christ crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended, I suspect he will say “yes.” If you ask him if anyone can be redeemed apart from the saving work of God in Christ, I suspect he will say “no.” If you ask him if he has left his saving faith in Christ, I suspect he will say “no.” The only way to know if any of my suspicions above are correct is to let him speak for himself.
And if I ask if he believes the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice that does not perfect? If I ask him if he goes to a man who is identified in his ordination as an “alter Christus” to find sacramental forgiveness? Does he pray to Mary, and believe she was bodily assumed into heaven? Does he believe those dogmas are part of the gospel? Does he believe he will go through purgatory and undergo satispassio so as to be perfected before entering the presence of Christ?
Dr. Bauman, every single Judaizer in Galatia could have answered your questions above “correctly.” Yet, they were pronounced anathema by Paul. Why?
In other words, Frank Beckwith himself gets to make his own profession of faith, not you or I, and not anyone else on this blog.
Of course, but unless one is willing to make Christianity a matter of merely personal opinion, the issue of apostasy cannot be turned into a matter of personal predilection. Words have meaning. Scripture defines truth. Rome’s gospel remains contradictory to grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and if Dr. Beckwith once professed those things (and I have often noted I have yet to find a clear confession of those things on his part in his post-Rome but before going back to Rome period)and now professes faith in Rome’s teachings, which cannot but include the necessary negation of these beliefs through confession of such concepts as transubstantiation in the Mass, purgatory, etc., there is no other meaningful term for such a reversal than “apostasy,” is there?
If we Protestants can set aside the self-congratulatory and triumphalistic imposition of Reformed scholasticism and its competing theories of justification for just a moment, and let the man make his own testimony to faith in Christ in his own words, then I suppose that we can put an end to the scurrilous and baseless public denigration of a valued brother in Christ, a denigration that characterizes too many of the entries on this thread. But we’ll have to be quiet long enough to let him speak for himself about his faith. Hopefully that deferential, respectful, and teachable silence is not too stiff a challenge.
Frank Beckwith is not the Pope, Dr. Bauman. He does not get to define Rome. I know it is very popular to make everything about the individual today, but the fact is, he is the one using the phrase “full communion with Rome.” So, is it full, or partial, with the extent being dependent upon what he “feels” is appropriate? If you are in full communion with Rome, you believe her dogmas, do you not? Does Frank Beckwith confess the dogmatic necessity of the Immaculate Conception and the Bodily Assumption of Mary? Papal Infallibility? If he does not, that is wonderful! I hope he will tell the folks at Catholic Answers that. And Envoy Magazine. And mention it this weekend in talking with Scott Hahn. And I would encourage him to speak out against purgatory and indulgences and priests who call themselves “another Christ” and all that heresy that Rome has encrusted herself with. But I really don’t expect to see that happen, do you?
It comes down to his testimony in his words; not yours, not mine, not anyone else’s. It comes down to Frank’s profession of faith, not to your or my objections to Catholicism.
No sir, that’s just not the case. Frank Beckwith does not define Roman Catholicism. Rome gets to do that. If you truly believe that as long as a person says they are a Christian, it matters not what the substance of their profession is, then I must believe you find the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses good “brothers in Christ” as well? Why draw any lines at all? Maybe the Christian/Muslim woman up in the Northwest has it right?
I’m sorry, but that kind of thinking is muddled and confused. If you can’t tell the difference between “faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone to the glory of God alone” and Rome’s man-centered, peace-robbing, soul-destroying “gospel,” then God has not spoken, He has not even mumbled, and we are of all men most to be pitied.