Confused about Catholicism, Part 1

Editor’s note: this article first appeared in the Journal of Ministry & Theology, Fall 2008. Some of the content and footnotes are a bit dated now, but the state of confusion in evangelicalism has changed little and the article still speaks well to the issue today in 2010.

Part 1: the issue explored

One of the greatest shocks in the history of the Evangelical Theological Society occurred in May 2007 when the president of the organization, the respected Francis Beckwith, resigned his position and membership because he had become a Roman Catholic.1 Beckwith, currently Associate Professor of Philosophy and Church-Studies at Baylor University (traditionally a Baptist school), had left the Catholic church when he was fourteen years old and was now returning to his roots after many years in evangelical churches.

The official response from the ETS Executive Committee was cordial, thanking Beckwith for his past work for the society, but highlighting the necessity of a parting of the ways largely because “we wholeheartedly affirm the distinctive contribution and convictional necessity of the work of the Evangelical Theological Society on the basis of the ‘Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety’ as ‘the Word of God written and…inerrant.’”2 The response goes on to highlight that this distinction involves the use of a different Bible, the Catholic Bible which “posits a larger canon of Scripture than that recognized by evangelical Protestants.” Beckwith apparently affirmed that he could sign the ETS statement since it does not enumerate the particular books of its Bible (although its tradition does), but he decided not to pursue continuance with the society because it would have produced a major debate that could possibly hurt the organization.3

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Fighting the Bantam Roosters: Baptist Fundamentalism Still Grapples with Its Colorful Heritage

Ninety years ago we gave ourselves a name: Fundamentalists.

“We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the great fundamentals shall be called ‘Fundamentalists,’” wrote Curtis Lee Laws in the July 1, 1920 issue of the Watchman-Examiner, a Baptist newspaper with loose ties to the Northern Baptist Convention.

And 90 years later, we still discuss the implications of the Fundamentalist label. Back then, the issues seemed crystal clear: either you believed the Bible was true, or you didn’t. Simple to articulate and easy to defend, the idea of Fundamentalism was expressed as core doctrinal beliefs. Lines were drawn. Positions were staked. Ink was spilt, often.

But language is elastic, meaning is elusive, and sometimes words just wear out.

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"If [our definition of heresy] is unwatched, it turns into radical sectarianism. If it is unwatched in the other direction, it turns into pomomush."

Doug Wilson offers an interesting perspective on separation issues (“pomomush” = postmodernist mush) at Blog and Mablog

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Is Error in Doctrine Always Sin?

“If I feel that my friend is being sinful by teaching that we should baptize infants, I will want to go to great lengths to show him that he is sinning and to see him repent and correct his error. But if I believe that his belief in infant baptism is something less than sin, I can appreciate his conviction while not feeling the need to emphasize repentance and correction.”
Challies reflects on error that is sin and error that is just error.

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American Council of Christian Churches 2009 Resolutions, Part 1

Resolution on the Convention Theme—Taking Heed
Resolution 09-01

From its founding in 1941, the American Council of Christian Churches has dedicated itself to defending the fundamental truths of Gospel doctrine against Satanic attack and to promoting those truths in a world marked increasingly by apathy and even antipathy toward them. Sadly, the corrosive influence of weakness in the face of apostasy, as manifested in the so-called New Evangelicalism, has produced an appalling drift toward positions that have bargained away the hallmarks of the Gospel in exchange for wider acceptance and more popular acclaim.

The first decade of the 21st century has been a time of turning away from the separatist positions maintained not only by the early generations of Christian Fundamentalist leaders and those who benefited from their ministry but also by those who came before them, going all the way back to the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. The legacy of Billy Graham’s ecumenical evangelism and the NAE’s fascination with admitted advocates of universalism, such as Robert Schuller, have generated an atmosphere in which Joel Osteen and other purveyors of “evangelicalism lite” have been able to flourish.

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The Fundamentalist Challenge for the 21st Century: Do We Have a Future? Part 4

The following is a portion of a paper Dr. Straub read at the Bible Faculty Leadership Summit last summer (he also read a variation at the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory last May). It appears here with light editing. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. -Editor

So what of the future for fundamentalism? Is there hope? (cont.)

3. A more theological view of separation

Third, I think we need to work toward better approach to separation. Our practice is often weak and sloppy. This is because our thinking is weak and sloppy. We don’t read widely or think deeply about much of anything. Theological reflection is rare among us. We want simple answers to complex questions.

This sloppiness may be seen in the way we practice separation. It is often harsh and inconsistent. It lacks thoughtful reflection and purposeful expression. But we are not alone in our weak view of separation. I think evangelicals are also weak in this area. They actually do practice secondary separation but they do so inconsistently.

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Separation versus Limited Participation

Editor’s Note: This article accompanies FBFI Resolution 09-03 and is reprinted with permission from the May/June issue of FrontLine magazine.

Is There A Difference?


Pastor Robert Corso is facing a hard decision. Another Bible-believing pastor in his town has asked him to participate in a joint youth outreach emphasis. The difficulty is that Pastor Corso has some significant differences with the other church in terms of ministry philosophy and the practice of youth ministry. Although he does not wish to throw stones, he does not feel comfortable participating in the event. Pastor Corso is sure that some of his church members believe that he should publicly separate from the other church. Other members would see nothing wrong with participating, given that the gospel is more important than a church’s “parochial interests.”

Although there are times when a church must unequivocally separate itself from individuals and ministries, many times a pastor is faced with a situation like the one above. He does not believe that he has clear enough Scriptural warrant to publicly declare another ministry or minister to be “in sin,” but he does not think it prudent to involve himself too closely with that ministry or a particular project. The question is whether he has the leeway to limit his participation without officially separating from the other ministry. Are there such things as prudential limits on association that are different in nature from Biblical separation?

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