The Great Tradition and GKC

Francis Beckwith’s resignation as a leading Evangelical theologian is chronicled here among other places.

The thing that interests me most about this event is that some Evangelical theologians are recognizing that they must discuss ‘the Great Tradition’. If they want to remain Protestants they had better watch their step. What C.S.Lewis said about atheists applies to them. He said, “A young man who wants to be remain an atheist must be very careful about his choice of reading.” He went on to explain how his unsuspecting reading of George MacDonald and G.K.Chesterton ‘baptised his imagination’ and opened him up to the truths of Christianity.

Likewise, if he wants to remain an Evangelical, he must be careful in his reading. Should a well read and thoughtful Evangelical begin reading ‘The Great Tradition’ he must, by definition, read Catholic authors. If he wants to explore the teaching and spirituality of the early church he will be reading the apostolic fathers, and the great theologians and spiritual writers of Catholicism. If he is a good Evangelical who loves the Lord he will recognize kindred spirits. He will be attracted. He will find a depth and beauty to all that he already believes–a depth and beauty he longed for, but did not know existed. Then he will want more, and before long he will realize that he already agrees with more about Catholicism than he thought he did, and that he agrees with more than he disagrees with. Furthermore, he will soon start thinking that there must be more to it than theology.

If he has still not run away he will begin to explore the spiritual writers of the church, will begin to explore the lectionary, the church year, the liturgy, the social teaching of the church, the moral theoloy and the live of the saints. He will discover that he has entered a large mansion–a veritable treasure house of the Christian faith. Then he will start to look again at those things he disagrees with and start asking himself, “If there is so much else here that is so precious, so profound, so attractive, so real and ancient and beautiful and true, could it be that I was wrong about the things I disagree with?”

G.K.Chesterton summed it up, “When a man starts being fair to the Catholic faith it is not long before he is attracted to it.”
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  • “John Cardinal Henry Newman “… to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.””

  • Jessica

    Thank you for putting it so well! This is exactly what led me from being protestant into the Catholic Church. I spent four years reading my way in! Chesterton and Newman will do it every time…they lead you straight back to the early church, and then you’re sunk. The truth is not what you thought (as a protestant), and you have a choice to make. Following Jesus into his Church means being … surprise, surpise, … Catholic! – Happily received this past Easter!

  • I knew nothing of Francis Beckwith until I read of his reversion. I had the opportunity to read his reasons and his gracious comments on the Right Reason website. It was interesting to note the decency, honesty and charity of his comments. Compare that to vitriol heaped upon him ( and Catholics generally)by James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. All the charm, accuracy, decency and charity of a Jack Chick tract.

  • By your fruits you shall know them. I have never met one Catholic who is as virulently anti-Protestant as most Protestants are instinctively anti-Catholic