What does it mean to be evangelical? What does it mean to be Catholic? Can one consider oneself both simultaneously? Francis Beckwith has wrestled with these questions personally and professionally. He was baptized a Catholic, but his faith journey led him to Protestant evangelicalism. He became a philosophy professor at Baylor University and president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). In 2007, after much prayer, counsel, and consideration, Beckwith decided to return to the Roman Catholic church and step down as ETS president.
This provocative book details Beckwith’s journey, focusing on his internal dialogue between the Protestant theology he embraced for most of his adult life and Catholicism. He seeks to explain what prompted his decision and offers theological reflection on whether one can be evangelical and Roman Catholic, affirming his belief that one can be both.
St. Augustine famously said that the word ‘religion’ is derived from reeligere, to choose again, perhaps over and over in the sense of a reunion. Here is that reunion story once again. Frank Beckwith takes us through some of the most interesting religious and intellectual terrain of the post-1960s generation of American Catholics. Far from being a rebuke of Evangelical Protestants, who nourished him deeply, Beckwith’s ‘confession’ should be a wake-up call for Catholics.
—Russell Hittinger, William K. Warren Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Tulsa
I have known Frank Beckwith for 20 years, and he is deeply in love with and committed to Jesus Christ. He, an Evangelical Catholic, and I, an Evangelical Protestant, have important differences theologically. But there are also key areas of agreement between us. This book is an irenic, intimate look at one man’s journey of discipleship. But it is much more than that. I have always believed that Protestant/Catholic dialogue is important. The two camps must develop awareness and partnership about the things on which they agree, clarity about the things on which they disagree, and charity with discernment about both. This book is sure to advance that dialogue. I highly recommend it.
—J. P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology
Return to Rome is the story of Frank Beckwith’s homecoming. It’s a story told without a trace of flippancy or disdain. Frank’s love for the faith communities that have shaped his life is obvious; and it gives to his narrative a warmth and a grace that seems to me unique among contemporary conversion stories.
—Ronald K. Tacelli, associate professor of philosophy, Boston College
Frank Beckwith sketches vividly the sense of home that so many of us have found in the Catholic church. It is the one place where we can have it all, where we can be both evangelical and Catholic. Nothing is lost, but all the fullness is gained. Told with grace and wit, Frank Beckwith narrates life as it really is: a divine comedy. And he makes us all laugh with him as he tells a truly edifying story.
—Scott Hahn, professor of theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville
In struggling with the unwelcome appeal of the Catholic Church, Frank Beckwith gave every benefit to the thinking of his Protestant brothers and the long tradition that had formed him for so many years. The result is a careful and generous explanation of the arguments for his entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. His faith memoir will aid mutual understanding between Protestants and Catholics as well as explain why so many serious Evangelicals have found themselves (often unhappily) drawn to Rome.
—David Mills, executive editor, First Things
In 2007 Francis Beckwith, an esteemed scholar on ethical and political issues at Baylor University, after announcing that he had returned to the Roman Catholic Church, resigned as president of the Evangelical Theological Society. In this highly readable apologia pro vita sua, Frank reveals the reasons for his surprising spiritual odyssey.
—Edwin M. Yamauchi, emeritus professor of history, Miami University
Even if, like me, you are a confirmed, convinced, and conscientious Protestant, you have to say that Francis Beckwith’s Return to Rome is an interesting, intimate, and intellectually enlightening account of why he returned to the church of his baptism and his youth. Every good book faces obstacles, and I suspect that this good book will be no different. The denominationally contentious among us will read it, and attack it as Catholic apologetics, as inter-church proselytizing and warfare. It is not. Rather, it’s an account, a journey, a story, a memoir, a travelogue. It gives its reasons, to be sure, but it is not apologetics. It’s the rich, articulate, and memorable narrative about why one pilgrim decided to go home. Therein lies its value and its contribution. I, for one, have always been partial to pilgrims and their theological tales. This book is no exception.
—Michael Bauman, professor of theology and culture, Hillsdale College
Francis J. Beckwith is professor of philosophy and church-state studies, and codirector of the program in philosophical studies of religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice and To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview.