Book Critique of Return to ROME by Dr. Francis J. Beckwith
Return to ROME
By Francis J. Beckwith
4 – No Direction Home
Pages 63-64: Because we like St. Luke’s and its Sunday service, I
became interested in studying more deeply the history of
Episcopalianism and its beliefs. When one of my Trinity Law School
colleagues, Myron Steeves, caught wind of this, he invited Frankie and
me to join him and his wife, Patty, one Sunday at St. James Episcopal
Church, in Newport Beach. Unlike St. Luke’s and its denomination, the
Reformed Episcopal Church, St. James was in full communion with the
Archbishop of Canterbury. We attended intermittently for several weeks
but soon found ourselves regular members. Until our move to Princeton
in July 2002, St. James was our home church. The church’s rector for
most of our time there was the Reverend (now Bishop) David Anderson. He
was instrumental in helping found the American Anglican Council (AAC),
a group of clergy, churches, and laymen within American Episcopalianism
that were fighting the church’s drift away from orthodoxy and into
theological liberalism. St. James in some ways was ground zero in the
fight for the soul of American Anglicanism. It was during this time
that my wife, Frankie, asked me: why aren’t we Catholic? For her, the
Anglican liturgy and solemnity of worship seemed nearly
indistinguishable from the Masses we attended with my family. Frankie
was also drawn by, and became quite interested in, the spirit of Christ
she observed in Pope John Paul II. I explained to her that although I
respected the Pope and considered his work as essential to displacing
the materialism and unbelief that had overtaken Europe (and seemed to
be gaining a foothold in America), I had too many theological problems
with Catholicism. My reasons included the Church’s views on
justification, the Eurcharist, and the papacy. She said, “I guess
you’re the theologian in the family. So I’ll trust your judgment.” (O
ye of too much faith!)
Note: Did Francis J. Beckwith misplace his faith in churches versus Jesus Christ?
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by
faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the
glory of God. Romans 5:1-2.
Pages 66-67: The Baylor president who had led the charge for the
implementation of this vision, Robert B. Sloan, had been influenced by
John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Idea of a University (1852), in which
Newman argued that if theology is knowledge, then a Christian
university should treat it no differently than it treats other
disciplines, such as chemistry, physics, English literature, or social
work. Thus, to think of theology as merely personal and private –
rising only slightly higher than matters of taste – excludes theology
from the realm of “knowledge” and thus means it is likely to be taken
less seriously than the other disciplines in the academy. The incoming
provost, David Lyle Jeffrey, who participated in my interview for the
position I was eventually offered, fully grasped this insight. He began
the interview with this question, “Frank, we know you believe the
Apostles’ Creed. But my question to you is this: are those who don’t
believe the Apostles’ Creed mistaken?” I thought to myself, “This guy
gets it.” The issue is not what I believe; the issue is whether I think
my beliefs are true. Too often Christians, even very devout ones,
believe either that the first entails the second or that the second is
not relevant to a fully integrated understanding of the Christian
faith. But in today’s relativistic age, embracing either option aids
and abets the enemies of the Gospel whether one intends to do so or
not. This is what Pope Benedict XVI meant by the “dictatorship of
relativism” in a homily he gave as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger soon after
the death of John Paul II. Baylor’s incoming provost knew what he was
Note: Enemies of the Gospel will never be converted outside of Jesus Christ.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,
and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things
on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of
His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by
wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh
through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach
in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and
steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you
heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I,
Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:19-23.
Note: Has Francis J. Beckwith used this gained knowledge to preach Jesus Christ?
Page 68: On September 22, 2006, Baylor University reversed its decision
and awarded me tenure. And only 16 months after winning my appeal (in
April 2008), I was promoted to full professor. In the academic world,
such a story is as unlikely as they come. For this reason, I am in awe
of, and humbled by, the gentle and unpredictable hand of providence
that has taken my wife and me by its grace through one improbable
scenario after another. Any success that I may have appeared to earn
hangs by a thin string dangling from an intricate tapestry over a fiery
abyss, whose creator is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb.
12:2 KJV). When it comes to the bonds of Christian friendship, Baylor
has been an embarrassment of riches for Frankie and me. In addition to
those already mentioned, there are many, many others whom we think of
as friends. And they consist of Catholics as well as Protestants from
virtually every denomination.
Note: Has Francis J. Beckwith considered losing it all for Jesus Christ?
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of
all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be
found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is
from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His
resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to
His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the
dead. Philippians 3:7-11.
Page 69: In June 2006 while Frankie and I were attending an academic
conference at a Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, we noticed that
my Baptist colleague Ralph C. Wood and his wife, Suzanne, were there as
well. They greeted us at one of the elevators and we exchanged
pleasantries. Ralph immediately noticed that something was wrong with
Frankie. He inquired about her state of mind and soul. She took him
aside and told him about the doubts she was experiencing about her
father’s posthumous fate. Ralph offered to Frankie a theological case
for why he believed that her father would not be condemned to eternal
separation from God. He told Frankie that her father’s initial desire
for full communion with the Catholic Church was an act of faith that
God would honor. The Church calls such an act “the baptism of desire.”
And given the Christian manner in which Joe had conducted his life
since that time, as someone seemingly touched by God’s grace, Ralph had
no doubt that Joe is destined for an eternity with his Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ. This gave Frankie much comfort.
Note: Should Christians be concerned about the living or the dead?
Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first
go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own
dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-60.
Page 71: About an hour later, my wife and I talked on the cell phone.
She told me about the vision that she had at St. Jerome’s that evening.
She told me that the images were vivid and the message was clear.
Seeing the deacon’s wife in the church parking lot heading for her car,
I stopped her and shared with her what my wife had just told me over
the phone. She again began to well up with tears and told me that above
the altar where the bread was blessed at her church is a huge mural of
the Last Supper, the same image seen in my wife’s vision. So, while my
wife had a vision of the Last Supper followed by vivid images of her
father that conveyed to her a clear message of his desire to become
Catholic, I had partaken of the bread that had been blessed under that
mural of the Last Supper, which was followed by the assurance of a
deacon’s wife that God would honor my father-in-law’s desire. I cannot
help but believe that this provides us with hope that there is truly a
communion of saints that includes my father-in-law.
Note: Christian saints will be alive and have confessed Jesus Christ publicly.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to
those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all
who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both
theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3.
Note: Has Francis J. Beckwith used this gained knowledge to preach Jesus Christ?
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX