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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern "Apologia Pro Vita Sua", December 10, 2008
This review is from: Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (Paperback)
When Dr. Francis Beckwith announced that he was stepping down as President of the Evangelical Theological Society and returning to the Catholic Church of his youth, it caused quite a stir. Catholic and Evangelical blogs alike parsed every word and action of Dr. Beckwith, either rejoicing at his move or trying to divine the "real reason" behind his conversion. Now we can hear the full story in his book, "Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic."

As a former Evangelical who converted to Catholicism over 15 years ago, I was eagerly anticipating Dr. Beckwith's book. I was especially intrigued that he continues to consider himself both Evangelical and Catholic, designations I've retained as well. Then when I saw that two former professors of mine - Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, a prominent Evangelical, and Dr. Scott Hahn, a prominent Catholic convert - had both endorsed this book, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible.

I was not disappointed. It was difficult to put this book down: personal, humorous, and engaging, "Return to Rome" is a marvelous account of one man's journey back to the faith of his fathers. Nothing in the book is new when it comes to doctrinal debates, although Dr. Beckwith's erudite style admirably adds to the Protestant-Catholic discussion. The real value in this book comes from Dr. Beckwith's charitable attitude towards his non-Catholic brothers and sisters, and his continued admiration for (and attachment to) all that is true and right within Evangelicalism. The danger for the convert is that he rejects not only the errors of his past, but that he also rejects even those things that are good and beautiful about his former way of life. Dr. Beckwith does not fall into this trap. He recognizes that Evangelicalism's emphasis on an intimate relationship with Christ and its love of the Bible are the proper attitude of all Christians, and in becoming Catholic, he does not jettison these impulses but instead is able to more fully live them out.

I recommend this book as highly as possible for both Catholics and Protestants. Catholics will of course be encouraged that such a great mind has returned to the Church, but they also can learn a lot about the deep love their separated brethren have for the Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. Protestants can discover, in a non-polemical way, why it is that many of their intellectuals have joined the Catholic Church over the years. Any sincere Christian, regardless of their tradition, will be edified by the deep love this man has for the Lord, and will be supported in their own walk to serve Christ in a deeper way.
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Initial post: Nov 4, 2010 12:46:34 PM PDT
FYI says:
We read the book out loud, and initially the author seemed engaging, but I totally differ with this review. Sadly, this slim book was not particularly inspiring or spiritual. Beckwith describes a "proof-text" conversion that could have occurred anytime he went to a library and read historical theology. As well, there are an astonishing number of typos, as in: "my mother - a vivacious reader" p. 32; does he not mean voracious? They may sound similar, but the meanings are quite different. Here's another: "two days latter I resigned" p. 118. In long-winded discussions on justification, the author fails to elaborate the historical problems with the Catholic Church at the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation. He describes some of the failings of the post Vatican II Church, but does not reveal the condition of the current Church. The book reads like a rushed apology/argument with his ex-ETS peers, rather than what it actually feels like from the inside out to change, grow, or evolve in faith. Did his wife Frankie go through RCIA? Do they have children? If so, what about them? Did he attend Mass with his grandmother? The guy actually brags that during college, his grandmother still cleaned his room for him, and "she said, You know, Lincoln freed the slaves." I answered, But not the Italian ones" p. 52. Again, a revealing look at the lack of maturity here, the author remains proud enough of his quip to share it with us.

None of this journey feels real, it's all a head case. Where is Jesus is all this? By the end of the book, the self-involved writer still does not get the Eucharist: "Although many Catholics acquire a deeper walk with God through the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, I have found confession to be the place in which I experience the gratuitous charity of our Lord at its fullest" p. 129. Well, in confession, he can talk about himself at least. Beckwith never states much about his relationship with Jesus. Why did Beckwith really move away from Protestantism? This is just another Boomer-lite narcissist indulgence: Beckwith actually believes that his remaining in ETS would have "produced fissures in the growing collaboration and fellowship between Catholics and Protestants in the United Stated and abroad" p. 118. Oh really? A worldwide fissure because of one hot-house academic revert? I don't think so.
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