Francis J. Beckwith

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Francis J. Beckwith
Born1960 (age 59–60)
Main interests
Christian philosophy, Christian apologetics, ethics, applied ethics, legal philosophy

Francis J. "Frank" Beckwith (born 1960) is an American philosopher, professor, scholar, speaker, writer, and lecturer. He is currently Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Program on Philosophical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) at Baylor University, and he was formerly Associate Director of Baylor's J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies.[1] Beckwith works in the areas of social ethics, applied ethics, legal philosophy, and the philosophy of religion.

Beckwith has defended the pro-life position on abortion[2] and the constitutional permissibility of the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.[3] Beckwith is a former fellow at the Discovery Institute,[4] the "hub of the intelligent design movement,"[5] and a former member of the advisory board for the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center.[6] In 2007, he converted to Catholicism from Protestant evangelicalism.[7]

Education and career[edit]

Beckwith was born in New York City. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A. in Philosophy), Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim (M.A. in apologetics), Fordham University (Ph.D. and M.A. in philosophy) and the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis (Master of Juridical Studies).[8]

A condensed version of Beckwith's 1984 M.A. thesis on the Bahá'í Faith was published by Bethany House in 1985.

Other social ethics questions to which he has contributed include the influence of relativism on public culture,[9] affirmative action and discrimination, same-sex marriage, bioethics generally (including cloning), and the interpretation of constitutional issues as they touch on religious liberty and practices, such as the inclusion of intelligent design in public school science curricula.

Beckwith has held academic appointments at Whittier College (1996–1997) and Trinity International University (1997–2002).[10]

In November 2005, Beckwith became the president-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, a professional organization of theologians. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law.

In May 2007 Professor Beckwith made public his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, which took place in late April 2007, and he resigned as both President of the Evangelical Theological Society and member of the society, effective May 7, 2007.[7]

As of late 2007, he is a fellow at The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD);[11] and a professor at Baylor's Institute for the Studies of Religion (ISR).[12]

In 2016-17, Beckwith was Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado Boulder's Center for Western Civilization, Thought & Policy.[13][14]

In 2018, Beckwith was president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association.[15]

He currently resides with his wife in Texas.

Intelligent design and Discovery Institute[edit]

Beckwith denies being an intelligent design advocate and claims that his interests lie in the legal and cultural questions raised by the movement.[16] Beckwith has stated that although he is sympathetic to the intelligent design movement, he thinks it mistakenly accepts "the modern idea that an Enlightenment view of science is the paradigm of knowledge."[17] Critics of intelligent design, such as Barbara Forrest, consider Beckwith a proponent.[18] The Thomas More Law Center, which defended the pro-ID Dover Area School District in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover litigation, considered him enough of a proponent to ask him to testify as an expert witness in the case, but he declined.[19] Beckwith often speaks on the legal permissibility of teaching intelligent design in public school science classes, arguing that it is legally permissible and arguing against the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that intelligent design is essentially religious in nature, a form of creationism, and thus its teaching as science in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He provided much of the legal reasoning and justification behind the claim of the Discovery Institute that intelligent design is not a religious belief and maintains that the religious motives of the policy's supporters, which he says the judge in the case relied on, should have no bearing on assessing the constitutionality of the policy, since a motive is a belief and the federal courts have, in other contexts, forbidden the government's assessing of beliefs.[20][21] Beckwith is closely tied to the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns, both from his arguments and writings being often repeated and promoted by the Discovery Institute[22] and by receiving support from the Institute during his tenure controversy.[23][24][25][26] Beckwith endorsed fellow Discovery Institute Fellow Richard Weikart's controversial book, From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany.[27] However, Beckwith writes of his unease, in a post for the Biologos Foundation, with intelligent design theory because of his commitment to classical Christian philosophy:

"I had begun to better appreciate why some Christian philosophers (mostly Catholic ones), all influenced by St. Thomas Aquinas, never jumped on the ID bandwagon.... I had not properly thought through the implications of ID for a Christian philosophy of nature. For this reason, I am now convinced that my initial and growing unease with the Behe/Dembski arguments arose precisely because my Thomist philosophy could not accommodate them.... During that time I was beginning to think more critically of the Behe/Dembski arguments as I brought Thomist philosophy to bear on them."[28]


In 2003, shortly after his appointment as associate director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, 29 members of the Dawson family called on Baylor University to remove Beckwith as associate director.[29] In a letter the Dawson family members questioned the appointment of Beckwith, accusing him of holding church-state positions contrary to the strong stand for separation advocated by Dawson: "We are troubled because Dr. Beckwith is a fellow of the Discovery Institute. The activities of this organization are widely recognized in the academic community as engaging in political activities that contravene the fundamental principle of the separation of church and state for which J.M. Dawson stood....

"The Discovery Institute works to get the concept called 'intelligent design' into the science curriculum of public school textbooks, claiming that intelligent design is a scientific, not a religious, concept. In our judgment and in the judgment of the scientific community, this is a ruse for getting a religious notion into the public schools--clearly a violation of the separation of church and state."[30]

According to a March 31, 2006 BPNews article, Beckwith stated that he was following an appeals process to have the decision reversed.[31] In early September 2006, stories concerning the reasons for Beckwith's denial of tenure and the political intrigue behind it were published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.[32] On September 22, 2006, Beckwith won his appeal and was tenured by Baylor University. The Discovery Institute, where Beckwith served as a Fellow, lobbied extensively on his behalf during the controversy,[23][24][25][26] comparing him to others connected to the Institute who have alleged academic or employment discrimination for their advocacy of intelligent design such as Richard Sternberg and his peer review controversy.[23] Beckwith also received support from an opponent of intelligent design, Ed Brayton, on his blog Dispatches from the Culture War.[33]


Francis J. Beckwith in libraries (WorldCat catalog)

  • Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010)
  • Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview with William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, eds. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
  • Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003).
  • Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy editor, 2nd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002).
  • The New Mormon Challenge with Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, eds. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
  • The Abortion Controversy 25 Years After Roe v. Wade: A Reader 2nd ed. with Louis Pojman, eds. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998).
  • Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air with Gregory Koukl, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).
  • Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination? with Todd E. Jones, eds. (Amherst: Prometheus, 1997).
  • See the gods fall: Four Rivals to Christianity with Stephen E. Parrish, (Joplin: College Press, 1997).
  • Are You Politically Correct?: Debating America's Cultural Standards with Michael E. Bauman, eds. (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1993).
  • Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993).
  • The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis with Stephen E. Parrish, (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1991).
  • David Hume's Argument Against Miracles: A Critical Analysis (Lanham: University Press of America, 1989).
  • Bahá'í (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985).


  1. ^ "Francis J. Beckwith". Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Bio-ethics Philosopher and Evangelical President Francis Beckwith Joins Catholic Church - Accessed December 15, 2007
  3. ^ Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith Archived 2006-09-21 at the Wayback Machine - Accessed December 15, 2007
  4. ^ National Review Online - What would Reagan do? - Accessed December 15, 2007
  5. ^ British Centre for Science Education - Truth In Science Material - Accessed December 15, 2007
  6. ^ Corrections and Comments to statements made about the IDEA Center in Creationism's Trojan Horse IDEA Center staff. Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness.
  7. ^ a b Francis J. Beckwith. "My Return to the Catholic Church". Archived from the original on December 13, 2010. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  8. ^ UNLV Magazine - Winter 2005 - Class notes - Accessed October 16, 2007
  9. ^ Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air Archived 2011-05-19 at the Wayback Machine - Accessed December 16, 2007
  10. ^ A Guide to Christian Resources on the Internet - Francis Beckwith: A Contribution to Apologetics - Accessed December 16, 2007
  11. ^ Meet Francis J. Beckwith Archived 2005-04-04 at the Wayback Machine, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity
  12. ^ Francis J. Beckwith Archived 2006-09-18 at the Wayback Machine, Baylor University
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Past Presidents". American Catholic Philosophical Association. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  16. ^ Letter to the Editor Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, Francis J. Beckwith, Academe, May June 2005
  17. ^ Francis Beckwith (10 November 2008). "The Truth About me and Intelligent Design". What's Wrong with the World. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  18. ^ Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design, Creationism And The Constitution Archived 2006-10-10 at the Wayback Machine, Matthew J. Brauer, Barbara Forrest, Steven G. Gey, Washington University Law Quarterly, Volume 83, Number 1, 2005. (PDF file)
  19. ^ ID Debate at Harvard Law School: Wexler vs. Beckwith, report by observer "Hiero5ant," posted to Talk.Origins Newsgroup, April 19, 2005.
  20. ^ Faith factors don’t negate Intelligent Design, prof says Archived 2006-02-15 at the Wayback Machine, Marilyn Stewart. Baptist Press, February 13, 2006
  21. ^ The Court of Disbelief, The Constitution's Article VI Religious Test Prohibition and the Judiciary's Religious Motive Analysis Archived 2010-08-16 at the Wayback Machine Francis Beckwith. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Winter/Spring 2006.
  22. ^ Article database listing for Francis J. Beckwith, Discovery Institute
  23. ^ a b c Scandal Brewing at Baylor University? Denial of Tenure to Francis Beckwith Raises Serious Questions about Fairness and Academic Freedom John West. Discovery Institute's, March 28, 2006
  24. ^ a b Baylor University in the Hot Seat John West Discovery Institute's, March 28, 2006
  25. ^ a b Pressure on Baylor University Building to Right the Wrong Done to Dr. Beckwith Robert Crowther. Discovery Institute's, April 5, 2006
  26. ^ a b New Disclosures in Baylor Tenure Scandal John West. Discovery Institute's, September 5, 2006
  27. ^ From Darwin To Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism In Germany
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ Wedging Creationism into the Academy Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch. Acadame, January–February 2005. American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
  30. ^ Dawson family protests Beckwith's appointment to Baylor institute Marv Knox. Baptist Standard. September 19. 2003.
  31. ^ "Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith" Archived 2006-09-21 at the Wayback Machine by Erin Roach, article dated March 31, 2006, from Accessed September 1, 2006.
  32. ^ Baylor Professors Criticize Denial of Tenure to Conservative Colleague, Chronicle of Higher Education
  33. ^ Beckwith Tenure Denial Reversed Archived 2008-04-18 at the Wayback Machine, Dispatches from the Culture War, Scienceblogs

Other relevant sources[edit]

  • Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity (Colorado Springs: NAV Press, 2001), pp. 214–217.

External links[edit]