Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is Francis Beckwith Saved?

Read the tentative answer, here. In the meantime, I'm singin' this with Bob Dylan:

Lyrics follow:


Saved
by Bob Dylan

I was blinded by the devil,
Born already ruined,
Stone-cold dead
As I stepped out of the womb.
By His grace I have been touched,
By His word I have been healed,
By His hand I've been delivered,
By His spirit I've been sealed.

I've been saved
By the blood of the lamb,
Saved
By the blood of the lamb,
Saved,
Saved,
And I'm so glad.
Yes, I'm so glad,
I'm so glad,
So glad,
I want to thank You, Lord,
I just want to thank You, Lord,
Thank You, Lord.

By His truth I can be upright,
By His strength I do endure,
By His power I've been lifted,
In His love I am secure.
He bought me with a price,
Freed me from the pit,
Full of emptiness and wrath
And the fire that burns in it.

I've been saved
By the blood of the lamb,
Saved
By the blood of the lamb,
Saved,
Saved,
And I'm so glad.
Yes, I'm so glad,
I'm so glad,
So glad,
I want to thank You, Lord,
I just want to thank You, Lord,
Thank You, Lord.

Nobody to rescue me,
Nobody would dare,
I was going down for the last time,
But by His mercy I've been spared.
Not by works,
But by faith in Him who called,
For so long I've been hindered,
For so long I've been stalled.

I've been saved
By the blood of the lamb,
Saved
By the blood of the lamb,
Saved,
Saved,
And I'm so glad.
Yes, I'm so glad, I'm so glad,
So glad, I want to thank You, Lord,
I just want to thank You, Lord,
Thank You, Lord.

Copyright ©1980 Special Rider Music

13 comments:

Blogahon said...

Dr. Beckwith.

We love you man! I was fortunate to hear you speak at 'The Summit' circa 1999 when I was just a high school senior. I believe your topic was about a culture of life. I remember it to this day.

Thanks for the all the work you do. I am glad that you are 'barely' saved!

Teri said...

Dr. Beckwith,

I am thankful for your testimony to being saved by a grace that is through faith..and it's a gift of Our Lord. I'm glad that you are back in the unity of the Holy Spirit and our faith!

Someone very wise once wrote:

"It sometimes happens that men who preach most vehemently about evil and the punishment of evil so that they seem to have practically nothing else on their minds except sin, are really unconscious haters of other men.
They think the world does not appreciate them, and this is their way of getting even.
The devil is not afraid to preach the "will of God" provided he can preach it "his way".

Dave Armstrong said...

I was informed of the thread and have written about it:

Anti-Catholic Protestant Apologist Jason Engwer Grants the Possibility That Catholic Convert Francis Beckwith Might be Saved

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/12/anti-catholic-protestant-apologist.html

Robert said...

Hello Francis (or Frank?), (part 1)

One of my mentors used to say when evaluating some claim: always consider the source. By that he meant that some people will criticize you for the wrong reasons for some agenda that they are pursuing, while others who truly care about you, may even criticize you but do so with your good in mind.

It has come to my attention that you have been unfairly attacked by Jason Engwer from Triablogue. Triablogue is one of the nastiest groups of professing Christians that I have ever seen. The Triablogers criticize everyone that does not hold their beliefs and their criticisms are full of belittling comments and personal attacks. The pride and lack of humility from these people is really sad. So it is no surprise that one of them would single you out and then question your salvation.

And who is he to do so?

Is he your pastor, priest, spouse or friend concerned about you?

No, he is someone who does not know you personally. He is not in the position to judge your heart and determine whether or not you are a saved person.

Sometimes we will need to make an evaluation of where we think a person is in their relationship with God for justifiable reasons (e.g. if we were marrying someone we would want to evaluate their relationship with God as believers are to marry believers, if we were choosing a pastor/church leader we would want to evaluate their relationship with God as we need to have regenerate persons in church leadership). Jason was not deciding whether you are saved or not with any of these things in mind.

I find his publically posting and questioning whether you are saved or not to be completely misguided and **reprehensible conduct**. It is this kind of behavior that causes unnecessary divisions in the church and between professing believers. Jason was not in the position to judge you, nor was he evaluating your spiritual status for justifiable reasons, his actions are not justified. He has no right to play God and evaluate and declare that you are saved or not saved. He was not making his comments for any of the reasons mentioned above. He was completely out of line to do what he did.

What he should do is offer you a public apology for his public attack.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Francis (or Frank?), (part 2),

I do extensive prison ministry in several states so I interact with chaplains and others who are Protestant and Catholic (and also Eastern Orthodox and Independents). What I have seen is that we all seem to get along just fine as long as we are not emphasizing our doctrinal distinctives and are focused primarily on getting the inmates into the bible for themselves. Because of my experience I tend to look not at what doctrinal tradition someone comes from, but instead what is their character like, and do they really care for the inmates and desire to see them saved and be fruitful disciples for Jesus Christ?

I share this with you because I get along quite well with other Christians from different traditions if I see that they exhibit Christian character, and have a love for Jesus, other believers and the lost.

Those are the things that really count.

Because of my experience and the need to cooperate with others, I do not go around questioning people’s salvation as our focus is upon getting the bible into the hearts and minds of the inmates. I have seen Catholics doing that, Protestants like myself doing that and others as well. Does this mean that I agree with everything that other theological traditions hold to? No. And yet I recognize that if the Christian character is there, the love for God and others is there, then that is what really counts.

I have heard you on occasion, read some of your writings, and I have the book which you co-wrote with Koukl (excellent book by the way). From what I have seen and heard you seem like a very nice guy with no major character defects nor are you denying any of the essentials of the faith (e.g. the deity of Christ, the Trinity). As far as I can tell your only “crime” in the minds of some, is that you changed from being a Protestant to becoming a Catholic. While I disagree with some Catholic doctrines, again I am much more concerned about whether or not you have a personal and saving relationship with Jesus, display Christian character and love the Lord and love his people (whether they be Catholics or Protestants or whatever) and love the lost desiring for them to be saved. I don’t know your heart and am not in the position to judge whether or not you are saved.

I believe that it is unfortunate that you have been unfairly attacked. But again consider the source.

Robert

Hodge said...

Wait, I'm confused. Maybe it's because I'm a Prot, but didn't he say that he thought that Frank was saved? I would think that RC's hearing a Prot say that an RC was saved despite what he thought was an unorthodox doctrine would make them ecstatic. Isn't this what every Protestant ecumenist believes (i.e., that RC's are saved because they are orthodox with an unorthodox view of justification)? Isn't this what RC's say of Prots (i.e., that they are saved because they are orthodox with an unorthodox view of justification)? Is the problem that Frank is being used as an example of an RC who is thought to be saved along these lines? I don't get it. Most Prots would wonder if former Prots who became RC's were saved. They would be curious because they want to know if the doctrinal shift matters soteriologically. I find the idea that no one should question Frank's heart to be a tenet of American pietism (i.e., salvation via good intentions). I don't think Frank personally is being attacked (how in the world is it attacking someone to say that their character and orthodoxy is such that they are probably saved according to what we see in Scripture?). Instead, it's a doctrinal question using Frank as an example. Granted, I personally would not have chosen to do this myself, and would have talked about this more generically (I do think it's a bit awkward); but I don't know if it should be taken as an insult when someone says that a person is probably not going to be damned by a shift in their soteriology. Can someone clarify for me? Maybe I am missing something.

Jason Engwer said...

Robert wrote:

"So it is no surprise that one of them would single you out and then question your salvation."

I was asked to comment on the subject, and, as I said at the opening of my post, I wanted "to help people understand some of the issues involved and to help them sort through those issues". Why did I think it would be helpful? Because making such judgments is common and is part of living the Christian life. We frequently try to discern people's character and motives in other areas of life, such as in evaluating political candidates or serving on a jury. You've accused me and others at Triablogue of "pride", "lack of humility", etc., and you go on to say that it's acceptable to make judgments about whether a potential spouse or church leader is a Christian. You may have used those examples because I cited them in the thread at Triablogue.

But I also cited other examples. Scripture tells us to discern between believers and unbelievers and to treat them accordingly. People often make judgments about the salvation of others in the context of evangelism. Surely you've heard other people make comments to the effect that they doubt that a particular person, such as a relative, is saved. They ask for prayers for that relative because of a perception that he isn't saved, and they don't do so because they're "proud" or to "attack" the person. Christians make such judgments frequently. We're regularly trying to discern the spiritual status of people around us, to judge what approach we should take toward them, how we might pray for them, how best to relate to them, etc. As long as we're judging by sound standards (John 7:24), avoiding errors such as carelessness and pride, there's nothing wrong with it. To say that such judgments are equivalent to "playing God" is ridiculous. You would have to ignore a lot of qualifiers I added to my comments in that thread to reach such a conclusion. It's true that we can't know as much about, say, a politician we've never met as we would know about a close friend, but we still relate to both men at some level. We would adjust our evaluations accordingly, which is what I did in my post. I specifically said that I'm limited by the fact that I'm not Francis Beckwith's father, spouse, or best friend.

You go on to give your own judgment, saying:

"From what I have seen and heard you seem like a very nice guy with no major character defects nor are you denying any of the essentials of the faith (e.g. the deity of Christ, the Trinity)."

Many Evangelicals, and I'm one of them, believe that justification through faith alone is an essential. And I've argued for that view, at Triablogue and elsewhere. If you disagree with that position, then you can argue against it, but don't expect me to be persuaded without an argument.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

"Many Evangelicals, and I'm one of them, believe that justification through faith alone is an essential."

Essential to what? Do you believe that a person must hold the correct belief about justification to be justified, or do you believe that a person is justified because God justified him in the correct way?

Suppose, for example, that I believe that potion X is arsenic while potion Y is not. That belief, it turns out is false. In fact, the reality is the opposite: X is non-arsenic (and cannot kill me) while Y is arsenic (and can kill me). However, because I'm confused for a moment, I mistakenly drink X thinking that it is really Y.

So, we know from experience that a person may be rescued by reality even if he holds a false belief about it.

Robert said...

Jason posts attempting to **rationalize** his actions. If he had done the right thing at the beginning there would be no need to now explain himself.

Jason writes:

“I was asked to comment on the subject, and, as I said at the opening of my post, I wanted "to help people understand some of the issues involved and to help them sort through those issues".

So if someone asks us to do the wrong thing, since they asked us to do it, then when we do it, it is not wrong? That sounds like the kind of excuse that little kids engage in: “he made me do it, it wasn’t my fault”!

Just because someone asks us to do something does not mean that we should do it. Jason had multiple options available to him.

Some points:

First, he could have simply chosen not to reply at all to the request. None of us is obligated to respond to everything said on a blog. In fact most of us due to time constraints choose when we respond and when we do not respond. Jason wasn’t obligated by some sort of duty or obligation to comment upon Frank’s spiritual state.

Second he could have declined. Instead of **PUBLICLY** posting his “evaluation” of Frank’s spiritual state he could have responded with something more appropriate such as: “well I don’t know whether he is saved or not and it is not my place to make that judgment. I don’t know him very well, I hope that he is saved.” That’s all Jason had to say. But instead Jason "goes the extra mile" and posts a very public “evaluation” which he is not in the place to make.

Third, not only did he not decline, he went and wrote a full blown public post in which he questioned Frank’s salvation. Did the Lord lead Jason to do that? I seriously doubt it. It appears that Jason wanted to **use** him as an “example”. His own “whipping boy” to be used at **his discretion**. Jason wasn’t concerned about Frank personally as another brother in Christ, or speaking to a friend, or attempting to help him. What Jason seems completely unconcerned about is the effect of this public posting on Frank. Jason is not concerned about **that** one bit, he is much more concerned about **using** Frank as his “example”.

Fourth, Jason is now attempting to rationalize his conduct when he should instead be apologizing. But Jason won’t apologize, he would have to admit that what he did was wrong, and he won’t do that. Instead Jason is attempting to rationalize his conduct. Apparently, Jason enjoys sitting in judgment over other people (that he really does not know) and deciding whether or not they are saved. That’s not part of my job description but apparently it is something that Jason feels he ought to be doing, something for the entire world to see. If Jason wanted to state his concerns about Catholicism, fine. He could have expressed his concerns and there would be no problem. But instead Jason singles out someone for his “evaluation” of whether or not they are saved when Jason is not in the place to make those kinds of judgments about Frank (and Jason did so in a very public manner). Now I could deal with Jason’s attempted rationalizations but what good would it do? It would just become arguing about **his excuses**. If Jason can’t see that what he did was wrong, that he could have (and should have) handled it differently then what else could be said?

Robert

Jason Engwer said...

Francis Beckwith wrote:

"Do you believe that a person must hold the correct belief about justification to be justified, or do you believe that a person is justified because God justified him in the correct way?"

The two aren't mutually exclusive. I assume the normative means of justification unless I have evidence that warrants concluding that there's an exception, such as evidence for infant salvation. God can make other exceptions without my knowing of it, but I'm addressing what I would conclude from the information available to me.

A good example to consider in this context is Cornelius. He seems to have been a sincere seeker of God (Acts 10:2, 10:4, 10:22, 10:35), yet he wasn't saved until he trusted in Christ in response to the preaching of Peter (10:44, 11:14, 11:18). He's an example of the principle Paul refers to in Acts 17:26-27. If a person is sincerely seeking God outside of the normative means God has established, which is justification through faith alone, and I have no evidence that the person is an exception to that norm, then I would assume that the Holy Spirit is at work in the person's life and will eventually lead him to salvation by the normal means. Nobody sincerely seeking God would go to Hell. At the same time, I wouldn't assume an exception to the normal means of justification unless I had evidence to that effect.

In the thread at Triablogue, I cited the tax collector of Luke 18 as an example of how God must be approached. The tax collector, if he lived in the Christian era of history, wouldn't have to be thinking about the doctrine of justification through faith alone or understand concepts like original sin and imputed righteousness as he approached God. But he would have to appeal entirely to the mercy of God, not partially to graceless works or gracious works that he thanks God for (Luke 18:11). The message of the gospel is Jesus Christ and His finished work (1 Corinthians 2:2, 15:1-4, Galatians 6:14), so to approach that message with an attempt to be justified even partially through other works implies a rejection of the message. There has to be some response from the sinner in order for a relationship to exist between the sinner and God. Faith keeps that response to a minimum, whereas justificatory works would be unnecessary and would detract from a focus on Christ and His work. Adding works changes the nature of faith, and it has implications for how concepts like the sufficiency of Christ's work are being defined.

The way that we approach God is of foundational importance. It was the issue Paul focused on in Galatians (3:2). (See, also, Romans 9:32.) The focus of the dispute wasn't on whether the manner in which we're justified is attributed to grace, but rather what that manner is. I think it's unlikely that many people living in the context of first-century Israel, with its high view of God and its low view of man, would have denied that we need God's grace or that faith in God is appropriate. The idea that Paul's enemies didn't even profess to need God's grace, or that they thought faith isn't needed, is highly dubious. It's more likely that they were trying to combine grace and faith with works, to which Paul would respond as he did in Romans 11:6 and Galatians 5:4. Paul cites Abraham in Genesis 15:6 as the paradigm case to illustrate his gospel, and all that Abraham does there is believe. When Paul condemns those who seek justification through works, he doesn't suggest any exemption for those who are sincere or who attribute the works to grace. Sincerity would suggest future salvation, as I explain above, but it doesn't give us reason to conclude that the person is justified already.

Jason Engwer said...

Robert wrote:

"So if someone asks us to do the wrong thing, since they asked us to do it, then when we do it, it is not wrong?"

I was responding to your comment about how I supposedly "singled out" Francis Beckwith. I didn't single him out. The person asking me the question did.

You write:

"But instead Jason 'goes the extra mile' and posts a very public 'evaluation' which he is not in the place to make."

And you've been posting your own evaluations of me and other people, including Francis Beckwith.

You have yet to prove that my discussion of Francis Beckwith's salvation is inappropriate. You make a lot of assertions, but without much supporting argumentation.

You write:

"Now I could deal with Jason’s attempted rationalizations but what good would it do?"

It would demonstrate that you have more than assertions to offer.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

"Adding works changes the nature of faith, and it has implications for how concepts like the sufficiency of Christ's work are being defined."

If "adding works changes the nature of faith," does that man that if someone with faith manifests works as a consequence of that faith, the nature of that faith changes? If it does for the better (in the sense that works are a natural consequence of saving faith), then works are a necessary condition for faith. (Not chronologically a precondition; rather logically a necessary condition, in the same sense that being female is a necessary condition for being a sister). The only other option is to say that works that follow faith diminishes faith. But I don't think you want to say that.

Thus, it seems to be the case that....

(A) if someone claims saving faith and shows no works, then it seems reasonable to say that the person is not saved.

On the other hand...

(B) if someone claims saving faith and shows works, then it is reasonable to say that the person is saved.

But the only difference between A and B is what each did and didn't do. Thus, according to a traditional Reformed view, works are "added" to faith if faith is authentic. But the Catholic, strangely enough, denies that account of justification. The Catholic does not believe that true faith requires an addition in order to be verified. Rather, for the Catholic true faith is manifested by God's grace working through the believer. (That is why we believe, like Paul, that no man should boast). Thus, for the Catholic, faith and works are like vocabulary and grammar; one is not an addition to the other. They are integrated parts of one organic whole called, in the first instance, "language," and in the second instance "the Christian life." Just as the Word was made flesh; grace is infused in our lives so that we can participate in the divine life of the Word.

Jason Engwer said...

Francis Beckwith wrote:

"If 'adding works changes the nature of faith,' does that man that if someone with faith manifests works as a consequence of that faith, the nature of that faith changes?"

Not in the manner I was addressing. I was referring to adding works as a means of justification, not adding them as a form of evidence of some other means (faith). When people look for evidence of a justification that's already occurred through faith alone, they aren't thereby suggesting that they have to work for justification. The work done for justification is perceived as completed and God's work alone. Even when a Catholic has been doing what he considers good works of faith for thirty or fifty years, even if he's persuaded that he has placed his faith in Christ, he still thinks that he's to continue working for justification.

You write:

"The Catholic does not believe that true faith requires an addition in order to be verified. Rather, for the Catholic true faith is manifested by God's grace working through the believer. (That is why we believe, like Paul, that no man should boast). Thus, for the Catholic, faith and works are like vocabulary and grammar; one is not an addition to the other. They are integrated parts of one organic whole called, in the first instance, 'language,' and in the second instance 'the Christian life.' Just as the Word was made flesh; grace is infused in our lives so that we can participate in the divine life of the Word."

Works are evidence of faith, but not the only evidence, and works don't always co-exist with faith. People do works of faith because they first have faith. The inner man moves the outer man to action. And we have the ability to discern whether we have faith, faith in God or faith in another person, for example. We often make a judgment about what we believe, whether to trust another person, or some other such thing before that belief or trust has been manifested outwardly. We assume our own faith in the process of deciding to do works that manifest that faith. If we couldn't discern faith apart from works, then how would we know that our works are works of faith? If two people give money to charity, one with faith in Christ and one without, along with other differences in their hearts, we don't limit our evaluation to a consideration of outward expressions. What happens in the heart is relevant as well.

A person can conclude that he has faith before that faith manifests itself in works. Works are evidence of faith, but they're later evidence and not the only evidence.

Scripture places the means of receiving justification in the heart (Acts 15:7-11, Romans 10:10), portraying people as receiving the Holy Spirit (the seal of adoption and justification) as they listen to the message of the gospel and believe (Acts 10:44-46, Galatians 3:2). Faith can be assumed in Biblical passages that discuss the good works of the regenerate, since faith precedes those works. But works can't be assumed in passages that mention faith, since faith can exist prior to works. Additional evidence would be needed before we assumed the presence of works in Biblical passages on justification that only mention faith. But scripture tells us that people are justified as soon as they believe, so the absence of works in so many relevant passages is accompanied by widespread denials that work is involved elsewhere. I discussed this issue further in my Triablogue thread that started this discussion, the one linked above. Dave Armstrong and I discussed some of the relevant concepts and Biblical passages, and anybody interested can read that exchange.