Monday, May 21, 2007

Swimming the Tiber

As you may or may not have heard, withint the past few weeks, two prominent evangelical philosophers have announced their reception into the Roman Catholic Church: Frank Beckwith, of Baylor, and Rob Koons, of U. Texas-Austin. You can read their personal statments on the matter here (Frank) and here (Rob).

What is going on here? While I personally do not begrudge them their decision, and do not consider their mortal souls in certain peril, the trend is alarming. For one thing, Beckwith was the current president of the Evangelical Theological Society! Of course he resigned upon his announcement, but there are few more visible positions in the evangelical world. Dr. Koons is also of special interest to me, since he recently came to my campus as part of an outreach effort. He even presented to the philosophy department -- on an argument for the existence of God, none the less! And just like Daniel, he emerged uneaten from the lion's den. I had officially dubbed him one of my "heroes."

So why the trend? There have been many who have crossed the Tiber, or even gone over to Eastern Orthodoxy. My theory is that there is something in us that longs for a continuity with the historical past. I certainly feel this. I sometimes daydream about moving to Charleston, SC, where my family history stretches back a few centuries. In the same way, we want to feel that our faith is the same as that of the church fathers and medieval saints. We want to write the names Augustine, Thomas and Francis into our ecclesiatical family tree, along with Luther, Calvin and Edwards.
The question is, does one have to travel the road to Rome in order to claim that heritage?


Blogger The Bearded said...

A friend of mine here thought it might be 1) in response to the alarming number of demoninations who aren't willing to create a statement of faith and 2) the social activism of the Catholic church.

To be certain, the vast majority of churches have worked in a list of core beliefs, but few have moved beyond that. My friend believes this is where the loss of connection occurs and where Catholicism emerges as an alternative to the Protestant movement; a church willing to say 'this is what we believe.'

On social activism, if you've read my blog of recent, you know this is a hot topic with me and I'll leave it at that.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous derek said...

Hey Chris, i have been tracking this trend as well. I have many thoughts, but for now let me just answer your question.

My answer is yes and no. I think that to claim greats like Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Aquinas we have to be constantly mindful of how their ecclesiology permeated their understanding of Salvation, sanctification, and so forth. No doctrine is an island. So in a sense, to fully claim them, i would say yes, you have to cross the Tiber. Protestants don't have the exact same faith as these ancient and medieval Catholic greats.

However, i think that if we are diligent to understand these guys on their own terms, "exegeting" their works so to speak, so can find ways to bring a lot of their own thoughts, devotional life, etc, into our own faith tradition. In that sense i would say no you don't to cross the Tiber to claim them, but you do if you want to claim all of them.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems these deep philosophical minds have stumbled upon a beautifull richness and fullness of faith.

12:16 AM  

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