George vs. (?) Beckwith

by Sep 17, 2009ChurchLife, Theology

I found this video deeply disturbing and disappointing. I love the gospel, and to see it obscured by a former ETS president and the author of an excellent commentary on Galatians—of all books—was a painful frustration. In the discussion, held before an audience at Wheaton College, Timothy George, a Southern Baptist ecumenist, talks with Frances Beckwith, the ETS president who reverted to Roman Catholism three years ago.

In Galatians 2, Paul describes how he opposed Peter (yes, that Peter) publicly when merely by neglecting to eat with Gentiles he denied the universal scope of the gospel. What if Peter got on stage at the Jerusalem Council and had a friendly chat with a prominent Judaizer—being careful to emphasize all of the areas of agreement they share and chiding Paul for not maximizing those agreements? It’s safe to say that Paul’s reaction would be even more intense.

Of what were the Judaizers guilty? That’s a debated issue, but Paul’s comments in Galatians 2 happen to be the only place where the word Joudaize (ἰουδαΐζειν) is used in the NT. And in that context, their sins sound equivalent to that of Rome: they were adding accretions to the gospel. As George himself once said to Father Richard John Neuhaus, “You have the gospel with a surcharge.”

The gospel will cost you everything (Mt. 13:44-45) and nothing (Eph. 2:8–9); but it comes with no human-devised surcharge. No sacraments, no magisterium, no human intermediaries of any sort. Evangelicals and Catholics cannot get Together until these surcharges are dropped.

George wrote in his New American Commentary volume on Galatians,

No one should appeal to Paul’s example here as a pretext for disrupting the peace of any congregation or denomination over trivial theological issues or personality quirks. But neither should anyone take comfort in Peter’s dissembling action when we are really confronted with a situation that calls for a clear, uncompromising stand for the faith once delivered. (p. 179)

The current day calls for a clear, uncompromising stand on the faith that many evangelicals have lost and that the Catholic Church has overcharged for.

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