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John Henry Cardinal Newmans Account of Theological and Ecclesiological Unity and Development, Assessed Within A Reformed Theological System

A Dissertation Presented For the Degree of Master of Theology in Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen

Albert L. Shepherd V B.A. Christian Studies: Biblical Languages Union University


Albert Shepherd, 2011. All Rights Reserved.

To my parents


John Henry Cardinal Newmans Account of Theological and Ecclesiological Unity and Development, Assessed Within A Reformed Theological System ________________________________ Table of Contents

The Aims and Boundaries of the Dissertation Challenges and Obstacles

1 1 3 6
7 9 10 14 15 17 19


What Is the Idea?
The Idea and Its Aspects Broadly Defined The Central Aspect or Idea The Idea, Inspiration, and Infallibility The Idea and the Patristics

How Is the Idea Received?

Premodern, Modern, or Postmodern? Newmans Concerns The Illative Sense


The Seven Tests of Legitimate Developments
The Tests as Antecedent Probabilities Preservation of Type Continuity of Principles Power of Assimilation Logical Sequence Anticipation of Its Future Conservative Action Upon Its Past Chronic Vigour

27 28 32 33 37 37 38 39


Newman and Reformed Theology: Examples of Similitude The Illative Sense and Notable Dissimilarities Doctrinal Development and Sanctification Conclusion

40 41 43 48 53


Introduction The Aims and Boundaries of the Dissertation The aim of this dissertation is two-fold: to assess John Henry Cardinal Newmans theory on the development of Christian doctrine, and to determine through this assessment whether the theory can be helpfully acclimated in a Reformed Calvinistic Protestant theological framework in order to potentially answer concerns about doctrinal certainty, an externally fractured ecclesia, and traditional identity.1 This assessment will be undertaken through an examination of the theorys theological and philosophical substructure, as well as a comparison of these doctrines and principles to those of Reformed theology. Newmans expression of the theory is strictly Roman Catholic, intended to provide some measure of response to the charge that, throughout Christian history, popes have at times contradicted other popes, and councils have at times contradicted councils.2 However, the underlying basic problem of theological inconsistency throughout Christian history is not uniquely Roman Catholic. How can any Protestant Christian proclaim before the world that there is one universal body of Christ when that body is at least externally fractured into a multiplicity of denominations and confessions? Which theological tradition may claim to be the right and true tradition, or is it even possible to trace one pure tradition throughout ecclesiological history? It seems that the provision of a response to these questions could be greatly helped by an account of how doctrine develops through history and the implications of
By Reformed I am referring to certain traditions within Protestantism, and not Protestantism as a whole. Among the theologians to be compared with Newman are John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, and Louis Berkhof. I have selected these theologians because they are both prominent in the Reformed tradition and enable me to provide clear and accessible examples of notable similarities and differences between the two theological frameworks. John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Notre Dame, US-IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), 6.
2 1

this account for ecclesiology. One of [the Essays] weaknesses is the espousal of a concept of the unity of the church which cannot acknowledge ecclesial reality in any denomination other than the Roman catholic church.3 Newman, writing pre-Vatican II, clearly believes extra ecclesiam nulla salus in the sense that Roman Catholicism alone is the true ecclesia.4 He would not call Protestants brothers as the Cathechism of the Catholic Church now does.5 Newman is not concerned with interdenominational dtente but with affirming and defending the theological unity of his particular tradition. Newman seeks not a solution to the way things are, but a cogent explanation for the way things are. Similarly, this dissertation is concerned with the difficulty of affirming the theological unity of the Church amidst its external imbroglio, albeit on a larger scale than Newman was willing to consider. Might Newmans solution prove to be valuable functioning as an answer to Reformed Protestant concerns about theological consistency and history? The assessment and use of Newmans theory to address these questions and concerns has the potential benefit of being helpful both to scholars interested in matters of ecumenical dialogue and to scholars who are uninterested in these matters but nonetheless interested in providing a cogent account for doctrinal disunity.

Nicholas Lash, Newman on Development: The Search for an Explanation in History (London: Sheed and Ward, 1975), 15.
4 5

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 181-182. Catechism of the Catholic Church, question 818, (Ligouri, MO: Ligouri Publications, 1994), 216.

Challenges And Obstacles A systematic assessment of Newmans theory of doctrinal development faces a number of obstacles, the chief being that Newman does not tend to share all the interests and concerns of a systematic theologian. Newman clearly believes in a dogmatic system, but the Essay is not expressed systematically.6 Ian Ker states, Newman never regarded himself as a professional theologian and although he was clearly no systematic theologian, he is without doubt one of the great theological geniuses in the history of Christianity.7 In the Essay itself, despite the misleadingly positive form of Newmans argumentation, Newman seems less concerned with constructing a doctrinal basis for development than he is with negatively arguing against various criticisms of Roman Catholicism. 8 Newmans aim in writing the Essay was apologetic, but the apology does not claim to be a demonstration.9 The apologetic drive of the Essay is primarily directed against the modernist and liberal scholars of the day. Newman appears to have little interest in responding to Protestantism, which he tends to brush aside with brief, undefended remarks.10 He begins with a strong conviction that Roman Catholicism is in the right and that Christian history belongs to Roman Catholicism alone. Newman regards the spirit of Liberalism as the characteristic of the destined Antichrist . . . the spirit of lawlessness came in with the Reformation, and

John Henry Newman, The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine, in Newmans University Sermons (London: S.P.C.K., 1970), 335. Ian Ker, The Genius of John Henry Newman: Selections from his Writings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 175.
8 9 7

Lash, Newman on Development, 41. Ibid., 10. Example: J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 7-8.


Liberalism is its offspring.11 The apologetic tone of the Essay and Newmans chosen arguments (e.g. antecedent probability) leaves him open to a wide range of criticisms, at least on a cursory reading. Newman is a controversialist, and writes accordingly.12 His argumentation is often disproportioned and inconsistent due to its reactionary, polemical nature. The result is that Newmans theological and philosophical statements are often either contradictory or only apparently contradictory, and much careful attention to the ebb and flow of his arguments is required to discern between the two. Newmans writings are said to be characterized by a series of complicated contradictions which grew in many cases directly out of the complexity of Newmans background and situation.13 Not only his theology but his identity was shaped by controversy, and his Apologia Pro Vita Sua is a monument to this fact. The force of his religious journey shapes his writings: Newmans own language and arguments are complex and display inner doubts hidden within his frequently sweeping assertions.14 Newman often seems to show hesitance, self-doubt, and theological humility even in strongly argumentative writings and passages. Newman . . . is never more eloquent than when developing criticisms of his own position.15

11 12

John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Pomona Press, 2008), 200.

Frank M. Turner, John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion, (London: Yale University Press, 2002), 23; see also Lash, Newman on Development, 7. Martha McMackin Garland, Newman in His Own Day, in The Idea of a University, ed. Frank M. Turner (London: Yale University Press, 1996), 265. Sara Castro-Klarn, The Paradox of Self in The Idea of a University, in The Idea of a University, ed. Frank M. Turner (London: Yale University Press, 1996), 318.
15 14 13

Anthony Kenny, Newman and Victorian Doubt, New Blackfriars 92, iss. 1038 (March 2011), 160.

In short, Newmans writings are as complex as the man who wrote them. Anyone who wishes to interpret or critique Newmans theories and theology must therefore do so with great care and attention to the warp and woof of his writings. Although there are inconsistencies in Newmans thought which are worthy of criticism, not everything that appears prima facie to be an inconsistency is truly so in reality. To read Newman rightly, we must view matters charitably through his perspective, because so often in reading Newman, it is insufficient to rest on the surface of the text.16


Lash, Newman on Development, 47.

Chapter 1 Ideas and Impressions

Before doctrine develops in the Church, it must be received in some form by the Church. Thus, a theory of development requires an account of this initial reception in regards to its form, character, and effects. Such an account must attend to various questions of systematic theology, including revelation, creaturely reception, epistemology, ecclesiology, and the archetypal and ectypal sides of divine truth and knowledge, inter alia. Newmans account has a Roman Catholic theological system as its ballast; whether or not the influence of this system allows Newmans account to be amenable to reception into a Reformed Protestant system is a question with which this dissertation is concerned. Newman frequently calls this initial deposit of revealed truth the central idea of Christianity or less specifically the idea; I shall follow his terminology in this chapter for the purpose of discussion. Worthy of note is the continuing presence of the Christian Idea throughout its development. For Newman, the Christian Idea is not relevant only to discussions of the incunabula of tradition, but is carried throughout Christian history and lives on still today. The Christian Idea, being immutable, is present at developments beginning, middle, and end. The Christian Idea quoad se does not develop, change, or progress, and yet the language of doctrinal development cannot wholly be avoided: In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.17 Newman accordingly, throughout his writings on development, describes the Christian Idea as a living idea.18


J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 40.

A non-exhaustive selection of examples: J. H. Newman, Theory of Developments, 316; Essay on the Development, 36, 186.


What Is the Idea? The Idea and Its Aspects Broadly Defined The Christian Idea is Christianity. One aspect of Revelation must not be allowed to exclude or to obscure another; and Christianity is dogmatical, devotional, practical all at once; it is esoteric and exoteric; it is indulgent and strict; it is light and dark; it is love, and it is fear.19 In short, the Christian Idea is a multifaceted diamond, glittering with a wide range of aspects, paradoxes, and tensions. How does Newman define idea? He uses the term in two correlative categories, viz., as a judgment and as an objective reality. In terms of the former category, Newman states that reason and personal judgment may lead to an erroneous idea, i.e. one not objectively true.20 Gnosticism is provided as an example.21 Newmans discussions of instinctive judgment, presuppositions, and the illative sense deal with the temporal, ectypal, oft-subjective intellectual conclusions of man, and yet, throughout his writings, he deals also with the idea as an objective, immutable, ever-present reality. The result, as further discussion will no doubt make apparent, is a palpable epistemic tension between the human mind shaping the idea (judgment / interpretation / expression) and the idea shaping the human mind (an objective realitys lasting effect). The Christian Idea as objective reality comes to human beings as one idea. Christianity

19 20

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 36.

J. H. Newman, The Nature of Faith in Relation to Reason, in Newmans University Sermons (London: S.P.C.K., 1970), 206-207.

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 34.

is not a multiplicity of ideas.22 The expansive oneness of the Christian Idea is directly tied to its origin in and relationship to the oneness and infinite nature of God Himself. The idea is one and is impressed upon human beings as one, yet it is so complex that this vision of an object cannot be thought about all at once: As God is one, so the impression which He gives us of Himself is one; it is not a thing of parts; it is not a system; nor is it anything imperfect and needing a counterpart. . . Creeds and dogmas live in the one idea which they are designed to express, and which alone is substantive; and are necessary, because the human mind cannot reflect upon that idea except piecemeal, cannot use it in its oneness and entireness, or without resolving it into a series of aspects and relations.23 Just as material objects may only be viewed by an individual from one perspective or angle at any given time, so also complex ideas can only be contemplated by one aspect at a time. We may observe a chair in a room from a certain angle and recognize that it is one chair without having seen every aspect of the chair in close detail. The Christian Idea, far larger than a chair, can never be explored in all its aspects and intricacies by any one individual. It is a limitless frontier. Newman says of Scripture and divine revelation: Scripture [has] a structure so unsystematic and various, and a style so figurative and indirect, that no one would presume at first sight to say what is in it and what is not. . . to the end of our lives and to the end of the Church, it must be an unexplored and unsubdued land, with heights and valleys, forests and streams, on the right and left of our path and close about us, full of concealed wonders and choice treasures. Of no doctrine whatever, which does not actually contradict what has been delivered, can it be peremptorily asserted that it is not in Scripture; of no reader, whatever be his study of it, can it be said that he has mastered every doctrine which it contains.24 Such a description is characterized by the sense of wonder that Newman felt was the

Although for convenience it may at times be necessary to refer to a complex idea as such: J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 35.
23 24


Ibid., 53. Ibid., 71.

appropriate response to great ideas involving realms of mystery, and that he felt was crucial for any good student of theology.25

The Central Aspect or Idea Newman admits the possibility that, among the multiplicity of Christianitys aspects, one particular aspect might be defined as the leading or central aspect of Christianity, either because of the aspects inherent importance or simply for the sake of convenient theological expression. The doctrine he suggests as a possibility is the Incarnation, which is closely tied to sacramentalism, ecclesial hierarchy, and asceticism.26 Though his initial suggestion is fleeting and not defended, his presupposed doctrinal emphasis on the Incarnation influences the whole of his writings. It is featured as the antecedent doctrine in his examples of developments.27 With characteristic eloquence, Newman speaks of the development of the Christian Idea in Incarnational language: Christianity differs from other religions and philosophies in what is superadded to earth from heaven; not in kind, but in origin; not in its nature, but in its personal characteristics; being informed and quickened by what is more than intellect, by a divine spirit. It is externally what the Apostle calls an earthen vessel, being the religion of men. And, considered as such, it grows in wisdom and stature; but the powers which it wields, and the words which proceed out of its mouth, attest its miraculous nativity.28 In this single passage, many of the critically important characteristics of Newmans theory of development are succinctly presented to the reader. Developments human reception and

Gerard Loughlin, The Wonder of Newmans Education, New Blackfriars vol. 92, iss. 1038 (March

2011), 227.
26 27 28

Newman, Essay on the Development, 36, 324-326. Ibid., 93-94. Ibid., 57.

character (religion of men), its paradoxical mutability and immutability (grows in wisdom and stature), and its self-authentication and authority (miraculous nativity). Here the paradoxes of Newmans developmental theory are identified with the paradoxes of Christology. Development is to some degree, much like Christs Incarnation, a mystery.29 In short, the Incarnation as a doctrine is influential throughout Newmans theory. The doctrine holds a high place in Newmans personal theology, possibly due to Patristic influences on his thought: Newmans own theological reasoning was closer to the Alexandrian tradition, which is centered on the Divine Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, and on his union with a human nature that he made his own as the instrument of salvation.30

The Idea, Inspiration, and Infallibility Before moving to a discussion of the reception and development of the Christian Idea, we should first grasp its original character. In what form does the Christian Idea arrive, and what is the extent to which it is explicit and comprehensive? When Newman speaks of the Christian Idea as revealed, he generally speaks in postapostolic terms. For example, in the Essay on Development he is insouciant towards matters of reception in regards to the inspiration of Scripture and its authors.31 He is more interested in the ecclesial reception of this inspired revelation. The time at length came, when its recipients ceased to be inspired; and on these recipients the revealed truths would fall, as in
Ashley H. Hall, The development of doctrine: a Lutheran examination, Pro Ecclesia 16, no. 3 (2007): 276.
30 29

Uwe Michael Lang, Newman and the Fathers of the Church, New Blackfriars 92, iss. 1038 (March

2011), 151.

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 56-57.


other cases, at first vaguely and generally, though in spirit and in truth, and would afterwards be completed by developments.32 Note the descriptors used and suggested: vague, general, and incomplete. Scripture is full of mysteries which are partially incomprehensible and unknown, and imply a partial manifestation, or a representation by economy.33 Great questions exist in the subject-matter of which Scripture treats, which Scripture does not solve; questions too so real, so practical, that they must be answered.34 Furthermore, Newman speaks of possible defect or inchoateness in Scriptures doctrines, and states that Scripture needs completion.35 Such statements as these, prima facie, might make a Reformed Protestant with a high view of Scriptural authority uneasy. Indeed, these statements even make some Roman Catholic scholars uneasy: Insofar as Newman is contending for the infallibility of the Catholic Church and arguing that the Book needs an interpreter, he is, of course, right . . . but insofar as the Essay seeks to break the holy indissoluble bond between Holy Writ and Holy Church and to give to the latter an infallibility independent of Apostolic Scripture and tradition, we cannot go with it.36 Yet Newman does not intend to break the indissoluble bond, and it is dubious whether one can say he even does so unintentionally. Newman addresses this issue explicitly
32 33 34 35 36

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 57. Ibid., 59. Ibid., 60. Ibid., 62.

Anthony A. Stephenson, Cardinal Newman and the development of doctrine, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 3, no. 3 (1966): 480-481.


in response to Protestant polemics against Roman Catholicism: Accordingly, the common complaint of Protestants against the Church of Rome is, not simply that she has added to the primitive or the Scriptural doctrine, (for this they do themselves,) but that she contradicts it, and moreover imposes her additions as fundamental truths under sanction of an anathema.37 Every Christian tradition makes doctrinal additions based on perceived indications or implications in revealed truth, e.g., many Protestants believe in paedobaptism, a doctrine nowhere explicitly expressed in Scripture.38 That addition is viewed as acceptable precisely because it is understood to be consistent with and implicit within Scriptures teaching. Newman agrees that of course the Church has no authority to make doctrinal additions that contradict Scripture. To this extent, it would seem Reformed Protestants could agree with Newman. Calvin, discussing doctrinal development, states similarly: [Roman Catholics] say that infant baptism has arisen not so much from a clear mandate of Scripture as from a decree of the church. Yet it would be a very poor refuge if, to defend infant baptism, we were compelled to flee to the mere authority of the church!39 Newman believes, unlike Calvin and other Reformed Protestants, that the Church infallibly asseverates doctrine and interprets Scripture. He understands ecclesial infallibility to mean that the superintendence of the providentissimus Deus over doctrinal history prevents the Church from falling into error. This preventative character of ecclesial infallibility distinguishes it from the positive, affirmative character of Scriptural inspiration. The Churchs infallibility is in its nature and mode <cause> a divine assistentia, not in any sense
37 38 39

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 58. Ibid., 59.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion IV.xvii.16., ed. John T. McNeill (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1165.


an inspiration.40 Francis A. Sullivan explains: Precisely because infallibility is not inspiration, Newman insisted that it did not dispense the pope or bishops from the task of consultation and deliberation when they undertook the weighty responsibility of defining a dogma of faith.41 The extent and dominion of ecclesial and papal infallibility was a subject of debate amongst Roman Catholics in propinquity to Vatican I, and Newman was no exception. In private writings and letters he expresses his views. I say, that the subject matter of infallibility is only that which the Oracle of infallibility declares to be in the depositum. It is in no sense at any time a new revelation, unless in the sense of subjective to Catholics here or there.42 Newmans understanding is that nothing is added by the infallible ecclesia to the depositum fidei. The Church may adjudicate or animadvert on matters not closely related to the depositum fidei with an authority that commands obedience, but such decisions are nevertheless fallible.43 This is consistent with Newmans perspectivist concept of the Christian Idea as wholly present in revelation but too large and mysterious to be understood in every detail of its aspects. Newman paradoxically declares that divine revelation is the revelation of a mystery: No revelation can be complete and systematic, from the weakness of the human intellect; so far as it is not such, it is mysterious. . . a Revelation is a religious doctrine viewed on its illuminated side; a Mystery is the selfsame doctrine viewed on the side
John Henry Newman, The Infallibility of the Church and the Dogmatic Power of the Pope, 1866, in The Theological Papers of John Henry Newman on Biblical Inspiration and on Infallibility, ed. J. Derek Holmes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 143. Francis A. Sullivan, Newman on Infallibility, in Newman After a Hundred Years, ed. Ian Ker and Alan G. Hill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 427.
42 43 41 40

J. H. Newman, The Infallibility of the Church, 106. Sullivan, Newman on Infallibility, 442-443.


unilluminated. Thus Religious Truth is neither light nor darkness, but both together; it is like the dim view of a country seen in the twilight, with forms half extricated from the darkness, with broken lines, and isolated masses.44 The Church has no power to add to this twilight country, but does have the power to infallibly illumine it over the passage of time. Scripture is not a systematic text, but rather sacramental, according to Newman. Signs and symbols give a wide but unspecific panoramic view of large parts of the revealed countryside. Allegoresis, intuition, the weighing of probabilities, and other factors play into how the Church illumines and receives this revelation.

The Idea and the Patristics Here the influence of the Patristics upon Newmans thought is again palpable. Many of the statements cited above, for example, are consistent with Augustine of Hippos writings on epistemology and theology. Augustine is aware of the limitations of human thought: God can be thought about more truly than he can be talked about, and he is more truly than he can be thought about.45 He argues that ideas about God which cannot be entirely grasped by human understanding can still be held by faith, until he shines in our minds.46 Furthermore, it is clear that for Saint Augustine, the Bible is essentially the writing of the mysteries, and its books are the books of the sacraments.47 Such a summary could accurately describe Newmans view of divine revelation as well. As noted earlier, his view of
John Henry Newman, On the Introduction of Rationalistic Principles Into Revealed Religion, in The Genius of John Henry Newman: Selections From His Writings, ed. Ian Ker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 184; Newman, Essay on the Development, 86 87. Augustine, The Trinity (De Trinitate) VII.3, tr. Edmund Hill (New York: New York City Press, 1991), 224-225.
46 47



Ibid., VII.4, 232. Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, Volume II: The Four Senses of Scripture (Edinburgh: T&T Clark,

2000), 20.


Scripture is one of paradoxical revealed mysteries and unexplored regions. One should not be surprised to find, then, that Newman speaks approvingly regarding Augustines allegorical hermeneutic.48 In the Fathers, Newman saw authentic interpreters of scripture and they taught him to read the Bible in and with the church.49 Newman desires to uphold this locus of receptivity, in and with the Church, while still addressing the Enlightenment zeitgeist of critical individual self consciousness. The Christian Idea is enormous and mysterious. How is it to be received by the Church layperson? How is it to be believed?

How Is The Idea Received? Premodern, Modern, or Postmodern? Perhaps the most abstruse element of Newmans theory and overall thought is his understanding of the human beings reception and interpretation of divine revealed truth. His pondering on this subject is replete throughout his writings, defending his conversion to Roman Catholicism in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, describing the early stages of development in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, defining his understanding of a theological education in his Idea of a University, and rising to a crescendo in a fuller expression in his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. Due to this part of his theological thought he has been variously labeled: Newman the skeptic, the liberal, the subjectivist, the perspectivist, the existentialist, the empiricist, the premodern, the modern, the postmodern. In some of these labels there is a quantity of truth, while others are misinterpretations of his
Newman, Preliminary Remarks on the Problem of Inspiration, 1861, in The Theological Papers of John Henry Newman on Biblical Inspiration and on Infallibility, ed. J. Derek Holmes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 24.
49 48

Lang, Newman and the Fathers, 149.


thought. The latter three labels seem entirely at odds with one another. The rationale behind each is readily made perspicuous, however. Newman is called premodern due to his love for the Patristics and their profound influence on his life and thought.50 Newman never completely abandoned the view that the primitive church possessed a degree of sanctity never again attained in its subsequent history.51 Newman is called modern due to the self-critical, experience-based qualities of his understanding of creaturely receptivity, expressed in a way that combined a Platonic intuitionism with a mild philosophical skepticism.52 Just as Newman was influenced by the Church Fathers, so also he was no doubt influenced by the modernism characteristic of the Oxford milieu during his time there.53 The tug-of-war between these influences on Newmans intellectual life is perceptible in his writings and their reception. Orthodox Scholastics in the wake of the Modernist crisis claimed it. . . Modernists themselves were no less enthusiastic in its praise.54 Perhaps this tension of influences is most to blame for the perception that certain tendencies in Newmans thought are postmodern. If postmodernism is the realization that all
50 51

de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis II, 12.

Lash, Newman on Development, 62. Lashs statement appears inaccurate in reference to the Essay (see J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 40) but Lashs statement does accurately describe Newmans thought in other places: Newman, The Religion of the Day, in The Genius of John Henry Newman, 140-141; Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (Elbiron Classics, 2007), 372. Louis Dupr, The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (London: Yale University Press, 2004), 299.
53 54 52

Garland, Newman in His Own Day, 270.

Aidan Nichols Op, From Newman to Congar: The Idea of Doctrinal Development from the Victorians to the Second Vatican Council (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1990), 57.


forms of life - including the most rationalistic - depend upon an always prior belief, then Newman can be classified as postmodern.55 His perspectivism, awareness of the limits of language, and awareness of the limits of Reason all seem presciently postmodern to some degree. In the end, however, it is perhaps best to say that Newmans thought defies any one philosophical classification. His thinking is unique, and interpreting him too heavily in light of one movement or another runs the risk of misinterpreting him all together. He was a man caught between philosophical movements, being both anachronistic and visionary, and praised and critiqued on all sides. We shall see where his thought aligns and veers away from these movements in the following assessment.

Newmans Concerns In order to properly understand Newmans views on the creaturely reception of the revealed Christian Idea, we must understand his concerns. As noted in the introductory material, Newmans concern is largely apologetic. This apologetic focus is rooted in Newmans personal interest in questions of doubt and certainty in the Christian life. These questions have a pastoral and ecclesial register. How may Christians trust with certainty the doctrines of the Church if even popes disagree? How may the Christian layperson profess faith with certainty in a complex doctrine like the Trinity or the Incarnation when even the most learned theologians struggle to understand divine mysteries? How does fides quaerens intellectum play out in Church life? Newman is trying to deal with the following problem: if apprehension is a necessary

Gerard Loughlin, To Live and Die Upon a Dogma: Newman and Post/Modern Faith, New Blackfriars 84, iss. 986 (April 2003), 184.


condition of belief, how can simple (or even learned) Christians believe some of the complex and obscure teachings of the church that Roman Catholics are required to believe?56 Apprehension, according to Newman, is an interpretation of the terms of a proposition, often involving some understanding of the propositions predicate (and possibly, but not necessarily, its subject).57 Newman even states that it is possible to apprehend without understanding.58 If this is the case, the question becomes: what exactly are the necessary preconditions for faith, and how does one grow afterwards? Newman writes under the conviction that his day is marked by an overemphasis on the capabilities of Reason to enable a person to arrive at certainty concerning any given proposition. He feels that it is erroneous to think that someone can argumentatively persuade another person to accept conclusions which no logic can reach.59 This error, Newman believes, is rooted in the teachings of the Reformation, which emphasized religious private judgment and created a philosophical environment in which the authority of the Church and / or the authority of conscience were variously undermined, resulting in an epistemological authority vacuum that had to be filled by Reason.60 This Reason, independent as it is from the Church, is wayward. Newman does believe that Reason has a place in the intellectual life of the believer:

Jay Newman, The Mental Philosophy of John Henry Newman (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986), 43.
57 58 59 60

J. H. Newman, Grammar of Assent, 12. Ibid., 15. Ibid., 355.

John Henry Newman, The Usurpations of Reason, in Newmans University Sermons (London: S.P.C.K., 1970), 69;


Exercises of Reason are either external, or at least only ministrative, to religious inquiry and knowledge: accidental to them, not of their essence; useful in their place, but not necessary.61 Furthermore, logic is the organization of thought, and, as being such, is a security for the faithfulness of intellectual developments.62 In the end, however, faith and assent are rooted not in Reason, but in something Newman terms the Illative Sense.

The Illative Sense Newmans illative sense, a semblance of Aristotelian phronesis, is a power of judging about truth and error in concrete matters, and furthermore, determines what science cannot determine, the limit of converging probabilities, and the reasons sufficient for a proof.63 Elsewhere Newman gives it a different name: spiritual discernment.64 It is perhaps also comparable to what Augustine termed inner illumination or the inner spring.65 It is a foolishness to the wise, who think that all truth can be apprehended by their Reason alone.66 It is the activity by which even a small child may be able to profess faith in doctrines beyond his understanding.67 It is an activity based upon presuppositions and (in a good sense of the

61 62 63 64

J. H. Newman, Usurpations, 67. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 189. J. H. Newman, Grammar of Assent, 346-347. J. H. Newman, Usurpations, 55.

Augustine, On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manichees II:5(4), in On Genesis, tr. Edmund Hill (New York: New City Press, 2002), 74-75. John Henry Newman, Faith and Reason Contrasted as Habits of Mind, in Newmans University Sermons (London: S.P.C.K., 1970), 180.
67 66

Ibid., 184.


word) prejudices.68 According to Newman, the illative sense is that faculty of the mind which decides that an unqualified assent may be given to a proposition in cases where the grounds for the assent are only vaguely and implicitly present to the mind.69 Newman calls these grounds for assent antecedent probabilities. These probabilities are subjective in character, present to the mind of a particular person because of various factors, including upbringing, preconceived notions, prejudices, culture, society, and spiritual temperament. A redeemed mind and a sinfully corrupted mind will utilize the illative sense and reach antithetical judgments.70 Human beings cannot do without presuppositions, or a view, which they may use to either consciously or subconsciously make judgments. When man cannot get a truth for his presuppositions, he will put up with an illusion in its place.71 Newman explains that a man is responsible for his faith, because he is responsible for his likings and dislikings, his hopes and his opinions, on all of which his faith depends and since man is under the effects of original sin, he requires the aid of supernatural grace to overcome his sinfully skewed inclinations.72 Founded upon both a presciently postmodern understanding of the limitations of language and an anachronistically Patristic view of the sacramental nature of words and things, Newmans illative sense expresses mans capability to see (and believe) through a glass darkly. Newman discusses the notion of antecedent probabilities throughout his writings, and
68 69

Ibid., 187.

Edward P.J Corbett, A Comparison of John Locke and John Henry Newman on the Rhetoric of Assent, Rhetoric Review 1, no. 1 (Sep. 1982), 47.
70 71 72

J. H. Newman, Habits of Mind, 191. John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University (London: Yale University Press, 1996), 61. J. H. Newman, Habits of Mind, 192-193.


early on notes the criticism that such a dependence upon probabilities in intellectual decisions could lead to skepticism.73 Newman maintains that Scripture is not to be thought of as probably true, but as absolutely certain knowledge, certain in a sense in which nothing else can be certain, because it comes from Him who neither can deceive nor be deceived.74 Scriptures trustworthiness is grounded in Gods trustworthiness.75 Whether persons can be reasoned into believing this certainty is another matter. The way our minds operate, according to Newman, is a process of judging an accumulation of probabilities, deciding whether this accumulation is sufficient for our conviction (the level of sufficiency may, as noted above, vary from person to person), and then believing the related proposition because prudence dictates for us to do so. This is the law of our being in religious matters as well as secular.76 A person gets into a new automobile without typically dwelling on the idea that the vehicle might explode or that the brakes might fail. He does not sit and reason with himself over whether this is likely to happen, but rather drives down the road to the grocery. In Newmans eyes, this is how the human mind operates. We put faith in things all the time because we must because we are creatures that have a relationship of dependency upon other creatures and our surroundings. We make decisions about things without knowing every detail and aspect of that thing, because we are finite and dependant, and prudence calls us to act. For
73 74 75

J. H. Newman, Apologia, 48. J. H. Newman, Grammar of Assent, 382.

Though he affirms the inherent credibility of Gods Word, Scripture, and ecclesial authority, Newman consistently places the source of human certainty in the illative sense, leading to potential tensions and inconsistencies in his thought which shall be explored in the final chapter of this dissertation.

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 115.


Newman, this is the opposite of skepticism. The skeptic would wish to examine every detail in order to be certain. The skeptic is one who would deliberately refuse to form a judgment upon the most momentous of all subjects. . . content to pass through life in ignorance.77 Newman argues that we should rather trust and obey. The illative sense operates in the context of a community. For Newman, it is not a mere individual operation extracted from the ecclesia. On the contrary, the authority and infallibility of the Church is viewed by Newman as being one of the most powerful antecedent probabilities in the Christian Ideas favor.78 Furthermore, he speaks of ideas as arresting the mind of communities, and the effect of this reception causing a general agitation of thought, and an action of mind upon mind.79 Thus, the reception and development of ideas happens not only in the minds of individuals, but also and especially in a community context. The two loci, the individual level and the community level, interpenetrate and influence one another. The cogito reflections of the Grammar tend to towards a transcendental intersubjective solipsism. The ego exists, not the ego as a tabula rasa, but an ego with a moral and aesthetic sense, and with a foundational understanding of a world and community as present to him in all its fullness. . . The ego is never experienced in solitude but in a co-presence with God, knowledge of whom is necessarily linked to a living community.80 It is within the context of the Church that the Christian Idea is encountered and developed. The development of doctrine is thus not merely started by an impression, but is continued by

John Henry Newman, Wisdom As Contrasted With Faith and With Bigotry, in Newmans University Sermons (London: S.P.C.K., 1970), 289.
78 79


J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 81. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 37. See also J. H. Newman, Theory of Developments,

316. Ono Paul Ekeh, Newmans Cogito: John Henry Newmans Phenomenological Meditations on First Philosophy, The Heythrop Journal 52, no. 1 (Jan. 2011), 101.


impressions influencing other impressions, persons influencing other persons, and at times the clash and conflict of impressions. The convergence of a wide variety of perspectives results in a richer and fuller development of expression: What to one man is magnanimity, to another is romance, and pride to a third, and pretence to a fourth, while to a fifth it is simply unintelligible; and yet there is a certain analogy in their separate testimonies, which conveys to us what the thing is like and what it is not like.81 A persons thoughts may not be able to express in words the fullness of the reality that their mind affirms, and yet they may nonetheless believe this reality to be certainly true on the basis these antecedent probabilities. The churchgoer may experience eternal truths in the signs and symbols of liturgical worship, e.g. encountering the doctrine of the Trinity at ones baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This encounter with the truth leaves an impression on the Imagination.82 The person then seeks to learn how to express this truth, in spite of the limitations of language. The impression begins the process that is doctrinal development. Newman provides Mary as an example of the proper, righteous reception of divine truth: She does not think it enough to accept, she dwells upon it; not enough to possess, she uses it; not enough to assent, she develops it; not indeed reasoning first, and believing afterwards, with Zacharias, yet first believing without reasoning, next from love and reverence, reasoning after believing. And thus she symbolizes to us, not only the faith of the unlearned, but of the doctors of the Church also, who have to investigate, and weigh, and define, as well as to profess the Gospel; to draw the line between truth and heresy; to anticipate or remedy the various aberrations of wrong reason; to combat

81 82

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 224. J. H. Newman, Theory of Developments, 329.


pride and recklessness with their own arms; and thus to triumph over the sophist and the innovator.83 For Newman, the order of things is certainly faith first and seeking understanding afterwards. Certainty in faith may be further solidified and confirmed by subsequent reasoning, but it is first established by a compelling experiential impression. Persons are compelled at times subconsciously, making instant judgments on the basis of an accumulation of antecedent probabilities judgments that they may not even be aware of at the time. These impressions and judgments are then proven to be real and trustworthy by the nature of what happens afterward. Ideas are used, developed, and studied an idea that works in the real world is a fact; if it does not, it remains a mere (and useless) idea.84 It is in and through this process of development that the Christian Idea continues to move towards fuller and more perfect expression.

83 84

J. H. Newman, Theory of Developments, 313-314.

Matthew Ramsay, Ex Umbris: Newmans New Evangelization, New Blackfriars, doi:10.1111/j.1741-2005.2011.01451.x (accessed July 17, 2011), 12.


Chapter 2 The Development of Doctrines

In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change.85 Divine, eternal, archetypal knowledge is changeless, because God Himself is immutable. Yet the human, temporal, ectypal reception of this truth, Newman argues, is different. It results in the development of doctrine: The mind which is habituated to the thought of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, naturally turns with a devout curiosity to the contemplation of the object of its adoration, and begins to form statements concerning it, before it knows whither, or how far, it will be carried. One proposition necessarily leads to another, and a second to a third; then some limitation is required; and the combination of these opposites occasions some fresh evolutions from the original idea, which indeed can never be said to be entirely exhausted. This process is its development, and results in a series, or rather body, of dogmatic statements, till what was an impression on the Imagination has become a system or creed in the Reason. . . creeds and dogmas live in the one idea which they are designed to express, and which alone is substantive.86 This is clearly not a development of the idea itself, but a development of its expression. A few salient points may be observed in the above citation as an introduction to Newmans theory. First, proper development occurs within the Church and within minds habituated to the consideration of divine things. The type of curiosity cultivated by this habituation is not hubris but is devout. Thus, this devout contemplation occurs in the loci of and from the results of spiritual growth and maturation. Second, there is a continuity of expression, a line of evolution, with two results: 1) The development / evolution is never entirely exhausted, i.e. never complete because, as previously noted, the Christian Idea is too immense and intricate to ever be said to have been

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 40. Ibid., 52-53.



fully explored in all of its aspects; 2) The development / evolution does reach some form of completion, i.e. it produces creeds and dogma which, though they do not explicate every aspect of the Christian Idea, nevertheless certainly profess some aspect of it. Correct doctrines are not so incomplete as to be doubted. In some sense there can be said to be two levels of development: the macro level (development of the Idea from impression to expression) and the micro level (development of the expression through, as Nicholas Lash puts it, elaboration and expansion).87 Christian doctrine, as originally taught, admits of true and important developments. . . granting that certain large developments of it are true, they must surely be accredited as true.88 Expression is limited and incomplete to some extent, but is not thereby futile or trivial. Reflection will afterward be able to show that the various points are related to one another in such a way as to form a consistent pattern.89 True doctrines do indeed come from true developments. They are not exhaustive, but are still accurate. Newman believes that, with these principles and distinctions in mind, he may speak of specific developments as complete, at least as regards general acceptance and accurate understanding.90 To more fully understand what constitutes a true and proper development of Christian doctrine in Newmans theory, it is helpful to give attention to Newmans seven tests of true development. Surprisingly, few of the many studies of Newmans Essay have brought

87 88 89

Lash, Newman on Development, 78. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 79-80.

Jan Hendrick Walgrave, Unfolding Revelation: The Nature of Doctrinal Development (London: Hutchinson & Co, 1972), 307.

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 126.


sustained reflection to bear on its seven tests or notes.91 This is surprising because these tests are the crescendo of Newmans argument in the Essay in defense of Roman Catholic tradition, and comprise around three fourths of the book. These tests propose in detail key characteristics of doctrinal development.

The Seven Tests of Legitimate Development The Tests as Antecedent Probabilities Owen Chadwick calls Newmans proposition of the seven tests half-hearted.92 Newman early on in the Essay writes concerning the tests: Tests, it is true, for ascertaining the correctness of developments in general may be drawn out. . . but they are insufficient for the guidance of individuals in the case of so large and complicated a problem as Christianity, though they may aid our inquiries and support our conclusions in particular points. They are of a scientific and controversial, not of a practical character, and are instruments rather than warrants of right decisions. Moreover, they rather serve as answers to objections brought against the actual decisions of authority, than are proofs of the correctness of those decisions.93 This is not half-hearted on Newmans part, but rather an attempt to preemptively prevent misunderstandings of his theory. The tests are not practical. They are not guidelines providing a method for the development of doctrine. Newman holds that development occurs naturally and organically in the Church.94 It cannot be mechanically forced. The purpose of the tests is rather the same as the purpose of the Essay itself. Newman seeks to establish strong

Gerard H. McCarren, Development of Doctrine, in The Cambridge Companion to John Henry Newman, ed. by Ian Ker and Terrence Merrigan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 127.
92 93 94


Owen Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 155. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 78. Ibid., 92, 195-196.


antecedent probabilities for the concept that doctrinal development does indeed occur in the life of the Church, and thereby to negatively dismantle criticisms of ecclesial authority by positively upholding the probability of developments.95 Newman feels the force of the potential critique that what I have called developments in the Roman Church are nothing more or less than what used to be called her corruptions and so it becomes necessary in consequence to assign certain characteristics of faithful developments, which none but faithful developments have.96 This is the aim of the proposal of the seven tests of true doctrinal development.

Preservation of Type The first test, preservation of type, is concerned with the aforementioned principle that the Christian illative sense and sound theological reasoning must occur within the context of the Church, a community. If, then, the general characteristic or type of a person or a community remains constant through the course of time, it is a sign that their guiding idea has not been corrupted in the process. . . in modern times the characteristic features of the ancient Church that [Newman] considered to be the test of genuine Christianity were to be found in the Church of Rome.97 A few descriptive points (among numerous possibilities) of this general characteristic are given in the Essay. Among them is the observation that Christianity, at its beginning and

95 96 97

J.H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 120. Ibid., 170. Walgrave, Unfolding Revelation, 312.


throughout its history, has been regarded as vana et demens superstitio.98 Newman delineates the unique characteristics of Christianity by noting various pagan criticisms of perceived abnormalities within the Christian faith, as well as by noting Christian reactions to persecution. The Church that remains a strange superstition in the eyes of the unbelieving world is the Church that first came forth from its Divine Author.99 Indeed, it remains that Church even if externally it has changed appearance. Maintaining that this unity of type, characteristic as it is of faithful developments, must not be pressed to the extent of denying all variation, Newman provides as a natural, organic example the butterfly, which develops from larvae-form into a remarkably new appearance while nonetheless retaining the same internal harmony.100 A doctrinal example is the Holy Trinity, which is a development of the monotheism of the Old Testament. The statement of the baptismal rite (in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit) appears radically different from the Hebraic Shema. Yet Newman argues, citing Petavius, that the Trinity upholds the doctrine of the Unity and Simplicity of God.101 This test is not unsound, but its overall helpfulness seems limited. First, the test seems so broad and ambiguous that, even when one does not attempt to practically apply it, uncertainty remains as to what the test really indicates. Newmans examples of preservation of type are so various that the test seems to dissolve into an inexplicable, undefined spiritual connection between early and later dogma. Other examples Newman gives are of New
98 99

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 225. Ibid., 246-247. Ibid., 173. Ibid., 174.

100 101


Testament fulfillments of Old Testament revelations (e.g. the Gospel fulfilling the Law).102 Yet surely the Churchs study and expression of revelation is not identical with the New Testaments provision of new, fulfilling revelation. If it is, then Newmans theory is inherently contradictory, for as previously noted he maintains that the Church provides no new revelation via development. Anthony A. Stephenson also criticizes this element of Newmans thought, stating that Newman misses the point that to fulfil is to bring to perfection in a way that makes further perfecting impossible and unnecessary.103 These are not the only problems that appear to arise. Newman seems to desire to maintain that a doctrine may greatly externally change but remain internally consistent, yet one of the few examples he provides of this sort of thing, apart from his organic analogies and Old Testament / New Testament examples, is the notion that Calvinism has changed into Unitarianism. And while he asserts that this is not a corruption of Calvinism, he hesitates also to call it a development.104 What is it, then? How can Unitarianism possibly be said to be the preservation of the type of Calvinism? I believe that Newmans statements on Calvinism here, viewed in light of the long history he provides of the secular worlds opinion of the Church, resolves some of the potential confusion surrounding this test. Newman is arguing first and foremost for the preservation of type within the Church, that is, that there has been a true Church, marked by certain characteristics, since its founding in the apostolic age. The preservation of type in doctrinal developments is founded upon this principle of the preservation of the true Church

102 103 104

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 177. Stephenson, Development of Doctrine, 472. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 175.


and its authority. True developments come from the true, authoritative Church. It is thereby no real digression when Newman interrupts his history of the secular worlds view of the Church to provide an argument both against the Protestants Private Judgment and in defense of the Church as Catholic.105 The unity of type between Calvinism and Unitarianism, in Newmans view, is the principle of Private Judgment.106 Unity of type therefore is an ecclesiastical characteristic or principle that applies first to the Church as a body and second, by consequence, to whatever doctrines that Church professes and develops. Newmans examples based in New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament are more difficult to explain. One possibility that may resolve some of the tension is that Newman views post-apostolic doctrinal developments not as fulfillments in and of themselves, but as expressions of the fulfillments that came in Christ. These expressions arise over time and so might have been implicitly present within New Testament revelation but not comprehended by the Early Church at first. Peters hesitance to eat unclean animals could be an example of this lack of cognizance of certain New Testament fulfillments of the Old.107 This explanation does not solve all the potential inconsistencies of Newmans fulfillment analogies, however, it is important to maintain that Newman did not believe that doctrinal development provides new revelation or progress.

105 106 107

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 235. Ibid., 181. Ibid., 176.


Continuity of Principles The second test, the continuity of principles or presuppositions, refers to a particular sort of antecedent probability, influencing the operation of the illative sense in individuals and communities. Principles are the motive forces at work within an individual or a society . . . deeply implanted attitudes and convictions.108 Newman admits that at times doctrines and principles are difficult to distinguish. The difference between the two sometimes merely exists in the mode of viewing them; and what is a doctrine in one philosophy is a principle in another.109 Newman immediately afterward gives the example of Arminianism / Pelagianism, which makes personal responsibility a principle around which its theology is constructed, in contrast to other theological systems which declare personal responsibility to simply be a doctrine. In a particular theological system, doctrines may change, but first principles do not.110 In other words, principles are the large, central concepts or doctrines which theologians presuppose at the outset and organize their systems around. A principle of biblical theology might be the continuity of the covenants / testaments. Some Protestant systematic theologies may begin with the doctrine of revelation / Scripture as a prolegomenous principle. Principles are popularly said to develope when they are but exemplified; thus the various sects of Protestantism, unconnected as they are with each other, are called developments of the principle of Private Judgment, of which really they are but applications

108 109 110

Lash, Newman on Development, 107. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 179. Ibid., 178.


and results.111 Again, Newman contrasts Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, attempting to show (as with the first test) that Roman Catholicism is the proper development of the early Church, remaining faithful in its type and principles. Newman gives a number of examples of Christian principles, including dogma (i.e. that supernatural truth is revealed and expressed), faith (i.e. that supernatural truth is received in a certain way), and theology (i.e. fides quaerens intellectum). He furthermore states that the concept that doctrine may develop is in itself a principle.112 In short, principles appear to be, for Newman, not exhaustively explored doctrines, but rather presuppositions and regulating concepts. The community that retains the principles of the Early Church is the modern true Church, and Newman believes that this faithful community is Roman Catholicism.

Power of Assimilation Despite all that he has said through the first two tests, Newman must account for changes between the early church age and modern Roman Catholicism. Doctrines and views which relate to man are not placed in a void, but in the crowded world, and make way for themselves by interpenetration, and develope by absorption.113 This means that a healthy, living idea can incorporate into its synthesis all elements of truth, whatever may be their philosophical context or origin.114 Plants draw nutrients from the soil around them, yet remain plants. So

111 112 113 114

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 181. Ibid., 326. Ibid., 186. Walgrave, Unfolding Revelation, 313.


also the Christian Idea draws from the world around it, assimilating without inherently changing. Newman, in contrast to Adolf Von Harnack and his search for the essence of Christianity, wishes to celebrate Christianitys adoption of external truths into its fold. Newman gives examples of these assimilations, among them being holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons. . . sacerdotal vestments. . . the ring in marriage. . . all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.115 Elsewhere, Newman asserts that much of the terminology in the Gospel of John was an assimilation of Platonism and Gnosticism, and Sabellius failed theology of the Trinity was perfected in the writings of St. Augustine.116 To further explain his intent, Newman propounds his views on perceived similarities between Christianity and pagan religions: A great portion of what is generally received as Christian truth is, in its rudiments or in its separate parts, to be found in heathen philosophies and religions. . . the doctrine of the Divine Word is Platonic; the doctrine of the Incarnation is Indian; of a divine kingdom is Judaic; of Angels and demons is Magian. . . these things are in Christianity, and therefore not heathen. . . what man is among the brute creatures, such is the Church among the schools of the world.117 Newman seems to be suggesting that Christianity is able to assimilate these heathen truths because they are not really heathen, i.e. they belong to Christianity because all truth comes from the Triune God. In this case, assimilation would be the adoption of heathen forms of expression in light of a Christian reinterpretation. An example would be the Apostle Johns adoption of the term lovgoV to describe the Second Person of the Godhead to a Hellenistic

115 116 117

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 373. Ibid., 365. Ibid., 380-381.


audience. The term is given new meaning by Johns theological usage. However, prima facie Newmans analogies for assimilation do not consistently seem to describe a reinterpretative endeavor, instead presenting a more organic concept of intussusception. George A. Lindbeck suggests that these organic analogies differentiate Newmans view of assimilation from that of assimilation by interpretation.118 Newman also describes this assimilation as a violent takeover, reminiscent of the Israelites plundering Egypt, taking truths from paganism and proclaiming them to now belong to the people of God.119 These analogies are perhaps helpful in reference to what many would consider adiaphora, like holidays and certain liturgical practices. Newman refers to such developments as sacramental assimilations, which is consonant with a view of assimilation as a reinterpretation of imagery or expression. He lists Johns use of lovgoV amongst dogmatic assimilations yet this is undoubtedly, as noted above, a reinterpretation of expression as well. Yet Newmans examples are not limited to matters of Christian freedom, but include as well distinct and central dogmas of the faith. Surely there is nothing more than (at best) surface-level similarities between the Hindu concept of incarnation and the Christian doctrine. Newman speaks of such pagan concepts as if they actually bear truth, rather than being expressions suitable for Christian reinterpretation. This seems counter to how Scripture speaks of pagan religions. The pivotal moment when the idol of Dagon declares truth is not in the days when it is worshiped as a god, but when it bows down before the Ark of the Covenant. Dagon, if he was a spiritual being, was a creature, and his idol was by creatures created, while

George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1984), 138.

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 359.


YHWH is the uncreated Creator, both transcendent and immanent. Pagan religions with pantheistic, anthropomorphic deities (or, conversely, far-removed deistic gods) do not come close to testifying to YHWH. Newman describes false religions and heresies here not as sinful suppressions of revealed truth but as erroneous systems that merely lack certain elements of truth. Furthermore, he states that true religion is the summit and perfection of false religions; it combines in one whatever there is of good and true separately remaining in each.120 There may be some legitimacy to concerns that Newmans language here is too syncretistic. He notes that Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfill.121 But Christs statement was a reference to the Judaic / Mosaic Law, not to outside religions. Concerns about Newmans statements here might have been diminished if he had instead taken what seems to be the Pauline perspective on false religiosity. Paul calls pagan religions works of futility created in darkened understanding, which is ignorance born out of hardness of heart.122 Christians by contrast are renewed in their minds, putting off the old self and putting on the new self. Rebellious sinners are not, as Newman describes them, naked persons in need of clothing, but are rather persons who must remove corrupt and dirty garments and put on Christ. Newman says true conversion is ever of a positive, not a negative character, a statement that does not seem to correspond to Pauls negative condemnation of paganism.123
120 121 122 123

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 200-201. Ibid., 201. Ephesians 4:17-25. Quotations from the English Standard Version. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 201.


Logical Sequence The fourth test of true development is logical. This does not mean that all development is the produce of a process of reasoning, but only means that true developments, after they have occurred, prove themselves to be logically sound and cogent.124 Newman in this section of the Essay simply reiterates what has been said before, that logical reasoning and dogmatic systematization follow after faith and the illative sense, rather than vice versa.

Anticipation of Its Future In Newmans view, there is a sacramental dimension to theological vocabulary, an element of anticipation of further understanding and fruition in the terms of classical hermeneutics, an anagogical, not merely allegorical, character.125 Expressions of the Christian Idea point forward to further developments. While, as noted at the beginning of this chapter, certain doctrines reach a point of completion, a study of the developments of those doctrines will reveal that their end was foreshadowed at their beginning. Newman gives a number of examples, one of which is that the necessity of doctrines of pardon, penance, and purgatory is foreshadowed in the sacrament of baptism.126 Baptism is, in Newmans Roman Catholic view, a once for all sacrament for the remission of sins, yet some people even after their baptism commit sin. How were these post-baptismal sins to be dealt with? A Roman Catholic hamartiology of post-baptismal sins had to develop to answer this question; the necessity of this development was implicit from the outset.
124 125

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 190-191.

Rowan Williams, Newmans Arians and the Question of Method in Doctrinal History, in Newman After a Hundred Years, ed. Ian Ker and Alan G. Hill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 266.

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 384-393.


Interestingly, Newman mentions in his discussion of the third test, assimilative power, that the doctrines even of the heretical bodies are indices and anticipations of the mind of the Church. . . heresies in every age may be taken as the measure of the existing state of thought in the Church, and of the movement of her theology; they determine in what way the current is setting, and the rate at which it flows.127 Such a concept is exemplified even in Newmans observations about Early Church theologians: If we limit our view of the teaching of the Fathers by what they expressly state, St. Ignatius may be considered as a Patripassian, St. Justin arianizes, and St. Hippolytus is a Photinian.128 This observation, coupled with the third test, again presents the possibility that true doctrines may develop from heresies. This is consistent with Newmans previously noted view that heresies and false religions need positive completion.

Conservative Action Upon Its Past The sixth note or test of doctrinal development is that true developments bear conservative or preservative action upon their past. The basic point is that heresies and corruptions contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has developed before them.129 True development, by contrast, is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds.130 Prima facie this might seem to be a hybrid restatement of the first two tests, but
127 128 129 130

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 362. Ibid., 17. Ibid., 199. Ibid., 200.


Newmans examples clarify what he intends to convey. Newman discusses the development that is the veneration of Mary as qeotovkoV.131 The question with which he is concerned is whether this practice obscures the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. In other words, does the development prove itself to be an obstacle to and a distraction from accepted doctrine? Newman argues that rather than obscuring the divine glory of her Son, Roman Catholic doctrines concerning Mary uphold Trinitarian and Christological truths.132

Chronic Vigour The final test or note of true developments is that of chronic vigour. True developments endure. A heresy or corruption runs itself out quickly, and ends in death; on the other hand, if it lasts, it fails in vigour and passes into decay.133 Arguably, Protestantism has not run out quickly (or at all). Regarding vigour, Newman defines it with terms such as energy, persuasiveness, progress [!], and life.134 Protestantism could arguably be said to possess these as well. As true as the observation of this test may be regarding developments, one must wonder if it sharply distinguishes developments from perceived corruptions as well as Newman seems to think that it does.

131 132 133 134

J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 426. Ibid., 436. Ibid., 437. Ibid., 438.


Chapter 3 The Reformed Response

One of [the Essays] weaknesses is the espousal of a concept of the unity of the church which cannot acknowledge ecclesial reality in any denomination other than the Roman catholic church.135 Newman outlines some compelling concepts about doctrinal development in his writings but does not apply his theories in depth to any denomination other than his own. When he does on occasion apply the developmental theory to Protestantism, it is in a negative sense, showing Protestantism to be (in Newmans view) a corruption of true Christianity. As noted in the introduction, Newman was a man of his time, writing pre-Vatican II, and so interdenominational dtente was not an issue on his intellectual radar. Whether his theory could be adopted in a Reformed Calvinistic system does not seem to be a matter he had considered at any great depth, as he had already decided that Calvinism was a corrupt system of doctrines. However, aspects of his concerns and views bear some measure of similarity to the concerns and views of certain Reformed theologians. What follows will be a comparison of the similarities and differences between these two theological frameworks and then an assessment of Newmans theory from a Reformed perspective. A number of points shall be drawn from this comparison, but if these points were to be summed up in one comparative theme, it would be that Newmans views on the reception and development of the Christian Idea are more emphatically natural in character, while Reformed theological views on the same subjects place more emphasis on redemption and sanctification.


Lash, Newman on Development, 15.


Newman and Reformed Theology: Examples of Similitude Newmans writings on faith and reason are similar in many respects to Reformed theological writings on the same subjects. Both reconsider the roles that reason and logic play in the formation of faith. Both show pastoral concern for the uneducated layperson in the pew. Both emphasize the importance of the Church as the communal locus in which the reception of revelation occurs. Both understand the immensity of divine truth, the struggles of human language to express it, and the limitations of finite man. For example, John Calvin speaks of faith as knowledge. Yet when he does so he defines this knowledge as assurance, not comprehension: While [faith] is persuaded of what it does not grasp, by the very certainty of its persuasion it understands more than if it perceived anything human by its own capacity. Paul, therefore, beautifully describes it as the power to comprehend . . . what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. [Eph. 3:18-19] He means that what our mind embraces by faith is in every way infinite, and that this kind of knowledge is far more lofty than all understanding. . . [Believers] are more strengthened by the persuasion of divine truth than instructed by rational proof. . . Those things which we know through faith are nonetheless absent from us and go unseen. From this we conclude that the knowledge of faith consists in assurance rather than in comprehension.136 Here Calvin professes that faith has a certainty that surpasses that of understanding. Faith operates not according to the worlds standards or criteria of certainty but in response to the love of God revealed in Christ. Closer to Newmans day, Abraham Kuyper reacts to a perceived modern philosophical overemphasis on rationality. He too emphasizes the impact presuppositions have upon judgment and reasoning.137 Kuyper writes that to have faith in the Word, Scripture must not
136 137

Calvin, Institutes, III.ii.14, 559-560. Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980),



grasp us in our critical thought, but in the life of the soul.138 Faith proceeds not from reason but from a spiritual reality. The creaturely reception of Revelation takes place in the loci of a special community: Christ, as the Head of the Body, is the general subject of restored humanity; and the knowledge of God is not only complete in him, but from him it descends to individual believers.139 Yet the theologia unionis of believers is a human knowledge of God, i.e. a knowledge as complete as the measure of human capacity will allow, but nevertheless ever bound to this measure. Our eye can only take in light to a limited degree of intensity.140 Kuyper, like Newman, shows a pastoral concern for young children and those simple in faith, emphatically stating: Our salvation depends solely upon Gods work in us, and not upon our testimony; and the little child with stammering lips, but wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, will precede these vain scribes into the Kingdom of Heaven. . . and yet the Gospel does not condone shallowness, neither does it approve mere twaddle.141 Even the simple-minded small child who understands not the deep things of theology has real faith in Christ, but real faith creates life and growth in heart and mind. These are a few select examples to establish a precedent for similarities between Newmans thought and Reformed theology. Now that the similarities have been noted, we shall turn to various key differences.

Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (New Century Books, 2010), Kindle Electronic Edition, locations 1874-1875.
139 140 141


Kuyper, Sacred Theology, 286. Ibid., 287. Kuyper, Holy Spirit, loc. 4265-4269.


The Illative Sense and Notable Dissimilarities Newmans view centers around the natural intuitive judgment capabilities of the human being, operating in response to religious truths. This intuitive judgment or illative sense, as noted in the previous chapters, is an integral and central part of Newmans philosophy of faith and certainty, as well as of the development of Christian doctrine (which flows from the various external expressions of the internal impressions of the objective, immutable Christian Idea upon subjective, intuitive minds). The natural illative sense as the source of faith is distinct in certain ways from Reformed theological teachings on faith and certainty. Newman blurs the distinction between phenomenology and epistemology, alternately treating certitude as a purely subjective act and an awareness of objective truth.142 This insightful and accurate critique from Jay Newman points to what might be called the natural character of Newmans epistemology. Newmans epistemology is structured around a natural human phenomenon, phronesis. He explains the origin of faith in the individual by turning to the human beings natural intuitive judgments which are based on presuppositions and antecedent probabilities. As noted in the first chapter, Newman regards the use of the illative judgment in religious matters to be much the same as its use in everyday, commonplace practical matters. This is the law of our being in religious matters as well as secular.143 Newman argues epistemologically that man may have certainty in the accumulation of antecedent probabilities because this naturally occurs all the time phenomenologically in everyday life. Calling it native good sense, Newman asserts that the illative sense

142 143

Jay Newman, Mental Philosophy, 127. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 115.


legitimately trusts itself.144 Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof believes in a concept similar to Newmans illative sense. Describing faith, Berkhof writes: [Faith] is frequently used to denote the positive knowledge that does not rest on external evidence nor on logical demonstration, but on an immediate and direct insight. In that sense it can ever be said to be fundamental to all the sciences. Intuitive knowledge and immediate insight occupy an important place in human life. There is not a single field of endeavor, nor a single phase of life in which we can get along without it.145 Were Berkhof to stop there and say no more, we might legitimately conclude that his understanding of the relationship between religious faith, intuitive knowledge, and everyday human life was the same in every respect as the relationships noted above in Newmans view. Yet on the specific question of religious faith, the Reformed view shows itself to be quite distinct from Newmans. Newmans view of religious faith is what Louis Berkhof calls a characteristically Roman Catholic fides humana.146 Such faith is based on intellectual truths and persuasion, even if it be intuitive in nature rather than a process of conscious reasoning. This sort of faith is involved in every area of life and is fundamental to all the sciences (as noted above) but it is not faith in the religious or Christian sense, according to Berkhof. He writes: While the faith we exercise in connection with the external world, for instance with respect to the reliability of our senses, the pertinency of the laws of thought, and so on, rests on our own inner observation, Christian faith is directed to that which is invisible and cannot be observed, Heb. 11:1. Faith in the religious sense is distinguished from that in the sense of immediate
144 145

J. H. Newman, Grammar of Assent, 357.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 181. See also Kuyper, Sacred Theology, 125, 131.

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 170-171.


certainty in this that it rests on the insight of others rather than on our own. . . it rests on the testimony and promises of God.147 Berkhofs concept of true Christian faith is not that of an intuitive judgment that the human mind freely makes based on antecedent probabilities, but rather is that of a principium cognoscendi internum (faith) which is renewed in fallen human beings by Gods grace alone (sola gratia). Revelation has a reconciliatory character, and itself gives birth to the response.148 He argues that faith is grounded in the testimonium spiritus sancti. The [Holy] Spirit renews the sinner, not only in his being, but also in his consciousness. He removes the spiritual darkness of the understanding and illumines the heart, so that the glory of God in Christ is clearly seen.149 Berkhof cites approvingly Calvins Institutes: Therefore, illumined by [the Holy Spirits] power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone elses judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men.150 Both Calvin and Berkhof here set religious faith apart from natural intuition and natural faith. The illative sense is broken in a postlapsarian world due to the noetic effects of original sin, and only the grace of God through the testimony of the Holy Spirit working through the preaching of Holy Scripture can bring human beings to certainty of faith in the truth of the Gospel.
147 148 149 150

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 182. Ibid., 182. Ibid., 183. Calvin, Institutes, I.vii.5, 80. See also Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 185.


Newman indeed makes the philosophical move that Berkhof is disagreeing with. His understanding of faith is indeed what Berkhof denotes as the Roman Catholic fides humana (and Newman himself eventually utilizes that term). Newman explicitly and undeniably sets forth this view when he describes human faith and its capabilities: even unaided by divine grace, human faith may assent with certainty to the credibilitas of divine truth, and thus firmly believe the Christian Idea.151 This credibilitas is that of the infallible ecclesia: For Newman, one of the primary roles of scripture was to confirm the supremacy of the church which he referred to as the pillar and ground of truth.152 Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck disapprovingly describes this concept of faith as one that . . . remains an activity of the mind. It exists in the acceptance of and agreement with Gods truth as contained in Scripture and tradition, on the basis of the inerrant authority of the church. That is why faith is not sufficient for salvation, for the reception of saving grace. Faith is only one of the preparations for baptism, in which grace is conveyed, and it must be completed by love and good works.153 Newmans illative sense is indeed preparatory, leading human beings to the Church. Such a natural view of faith is incompatible with a Reformed theological framework, and so it seems that Newmans illative sense, a large aspect of his theory of the development of doctrine, cannot be acclimated into a Reformed system wholesale. Furthermore, a certain ironic inconsistency in Newmans thought may be recognized via this comparison. Newman criticizes Protestant theologians for their embracement of a

John Henry Newman, Papers of 1853 on the Certainty of Faith, in The Theological Papers of John Henry Newman on Faith and Certainty, ed. J. Derek Holmes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 36-38. Drew Phillip Morgan, Hermeneutical Aspects of John Henry Newmans Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Horizons 16, no. 2 (Sept. 1989): 231. Herman Bavinck, Essays on Religion, Science, and Society, ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 25-26.
153 152



theological principle that he terms Private Judgment. However, his understanding of the illative sense is ultimately phenomenologically and epistemologically just as much a view of Private Judgment. Indeed, Newmans individualistic, personalist epistemology creates certain uncomfortable inconsistencies in his thought, which he appears to struggle with throughout his life. His views on individual intellectual freedom clash with his ultramontanistic views: Newmans position is a complicated one. He seems to inhibit critical freedom of thought, yet he eventually appeals to it. As with so many of the issues he raises, Newman tries to have it both ways on the question of freedom of inquiry.154 Though, as noted in the first chapter, Newman was careful to emphasize that the Christians illative sense is obliged to operate in obedience to the infallible authority of the Church, the tension in his thought was nevertheless influential in that it opened the door for the undermining of papal authority. George Tyrell found in Newmans stress on the ultimate inviolability and responsibility of the individuals conscience, space for a legitimate resistance to forms of church governance that had little respect for the governed.155 This tension / inconsistency in Newmans thought is further evident in the theory proper. It is to the question of development that we now shall turn.

154 155

Castro-Klarn, Paradox of Self, 332. Loughlin, To Live and Die, 183.


Doctrinal Development and Sanctification Newman, as noted in the previous two chapters, describes development as the operation of mind upon mind, perspective upon perspective, and expression upon expression. People express impressions in different ways depending on their background, culture, upbringing, presuppositions, etc. In the community of the Church a variety of impressions and expressions influence one another, and from this interpenetrating influence and discussion arise complete expressions of doctrine. This view of the Church prima facie seems similar to what Kuyper and others describe as the free multiformity of the Church a combination of subjective intellectual freedom and expression according to the backgrounds and gifts of individual believers (and congregations), coupled with an organic unity of the Church on the whole as the Body of Christ.156 Berkhof, in terms reminiscent of Newmans organic analogies, states: The multiformity of Churches, so characteristic of Protestantism, in so far as it resulted from the providential guidance of God and in a legitimate way, arose in the most natural manner, and is quite in harmony with the law of differentiation, according to which an organism in its development evolves from the homogenous to the heterogenous. It is quite possible that the inherent riches of the organism of the Church find better and fuller expression in the present variety of Churches than they would in a single external organization.157 The Church thus ideally manifests unity and diversity in harmony. Yet of course Newmans view is ultimately not one of multiformity, despite the perspectivist and subjectivist tendencies of his view of the illative sense and freedom of
Abraham Kuyper, It Shall Not Be So Among You, in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 127.
157 156

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 573-574.


conscience. In Newmans system not all intellectual judgment is equal. Rather, Newmans theory involves a hierarchical positioning of authoritative voices.158 What ensues is the picture of a tensive ecclesial environment where a multiformity of expressions may organically arise from the original impression of the Christian Idea, but also where ultramontane authority imposes a uniformity of expression upon the whole in the form of finalized infallible doctrines. Newman himself seems to acknowledge this tension when he describes Roman Catholicism as a continuous picture of Authority and Private Judgment alternately advancing and retreating as the ebb and flow of the tide.159 Kuyper argues against this imposed uniformity and bases his argument again in the Reformed view of the testimonium spiritus sancti: In the Church of Rome, even at the present day, the bons catholiques are most closely confined in the fetters of the clerus . . . only in churches which take their stand in Calvinism do we find that spiritual independence which enables the believer to oppose, if need be, and for Gods sake, even the most powerful office-bearer in his church. . . only where all priestly intervention disappears, where Gods sovereign election from all eternity binds the inward soul directly to God Himself, and where the ray of divine light enters straightway into the depth of our heart only there does religion, in its most absolute sense, gain its ideal realization.160 This is not to say that the Church is not authoritative in the Reformed view, but rather that its authority is not absolute. The illative judgments and reasonings of the pope are just as natural and prone to error as those of any other man. This leads into the next substantial difference between Newmans theory and Reformed conceptions of theological development. That is, the Reformed conception of

158 159 160

Morgan, Hermeneutical Aspects, 235. J. H. Newman, Apologia, 249. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1931), 49.


theological development is related to and analogous to the process of sanctification. The Church is One, Catholic, and Holy. It is holy in the sense that Christ sanctifies and cleanses it so that it daily progresses toward a perfection not yet attained.161 Note the ascription of the notion of progress to the Church as a whole. This progress applies to the Churchs growth in understanding the truth of divine revelation as well: Our conscious insight into the truth is deeper than that of the preceding centuries. Semper excelsior! Ever higher! Research into holy things may never cease. . . and in the development of the consciousness of the Church concerning its treasure of truth, the Holy Spirit has a special work, and he who denies it leaves the Church to petrify and is blind for the word of the Lord.162 This insight into the truth is a growing in the knowledge of Scripture, involving a constant process of reformation and theological correction. Bavinck calls theological development continuing reformation.163 The type of progress that characterizes doctrinal development is not evolution but sanctification; not additions to or alterations of Scripture but rather the movement towards a perfect, glorified human knowledge of God. It is a process of renewing the mind. Newman does not speak of development as a process of sanctification in his Essay. His view of the ecclesia is one of an over-realized eschatology, in which incorrigible ultramontane authority is already glorified and perfect, unable to fall into error. This is apparent, for example, when Newman, describing developments conservative action upon its past, states that a true development corroborates, not corrects.164 While Reformed theologians would be


John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967),

162 163 164

Kuyper, Holy Spirit, loc. 3431-3434. Bavinck, Essays, 50. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 200.


sure to state that the Church universal will never fully apostasize or fall away, they would nonetheless admit the reality of periods of backsliding and corruption. Sanctification is not always movement forward in sprint; sometimes stumbling occurs, resulting in chastisement. The glorified state, however, is one of complete freedom from sin and error infallibility. This utter and absolute freedom of ultramontane authority is exemplified in Newmans belief that the Church may assimilate a wide variety of concepts and practices from the outside world without any danger of ecclesial corruption. This power of assimilation is frightening to Kuyper: The world corrupted the [Roman Catholic] Church, and by its dominion over the world the Church proved an obstacle to every free development of its life.165 The problems with Newmans concept of the power of assimilation were noted in the second chapter, and again, these problems were based in an underemphasis of spiritual realities and an overemphasis on the purity of the Churchs natural abilities. This ultramontane freedom is also exemplified in Newmans view that certain theological mysteries may be answered for practical purposes. Scripture is insufficient in how it addresses certain matters of doctrine, so ultramontane authority must clear up the ambiguity. For example, Newman is willing to allow that the Church may explore and infallibly asseverate on the issue of the intermediate state.166 Calvin, by contrast, is averse to the contemplation of such a mysterious quodlibet.167 The Reformed view of development has the advantage of being primarily theologically

165 166 167

Kuyper, Lectures, 29. J. H. Newman, Essay on the Development, 388-393.

Cornelius P. Venema, Calvins Doctrine of the Last Things, in A Theological Guide to Calvins Institutes: Essays and Analysis, ed. David W. Hall and Peter A. Lillback (Phillipsburg, NJ-US: P&R Publishing, 2008), 453.


based, rather than Newmans view, which is primarily phenomenologically based. Throughout the Essay, Newman provides antecedent probabilities for the fact that development does occur, in the form of historical examples. The occurring phenomena of development itself, more so than the characteristics of the Church, is the proof of development. Newman assumes that the Church is infallible from the outset, notes how the Churchs doctrines have developed, and because the Roman Catholic Church cannot possibly erroneously develop doctrines he thereby draws the characteristics of true development from these historical examples. The argument is very nearly viciously circular, and would be entirely if certain theological foundations were not also mentioned (albeit briefly in comparison to the historical examples). As noted in the first chapter, Newman uses the Incarnation as an analogy for development, claiming that the Churchs expressions of the Christian Idea grow in wisdom and stature. The analogy is problematic, however (though consistent with Newmans views). The Incarnate Christ grew in wisdom and stature without error, backsliding, or sin. He was perfect throughout his human life and ministry. Newman is applying this same perfect growth to the Church by analogy. Such views are potentially perilous, as T. F. Torrance writes: Behind it all lies the notion of the Church as an extending or prolonging of the Incarnation, and sometimes, as in certain Roman expositions, there even lurks the heretical idea of the reincarnation of Christ in the Church through the Spirit regarded as the soul of the Church.168 Newmans views do not deserve to be taken as the latter, but his views indeed seem to be in line with the former.


T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood: A Theology of Ordained Ministry (New York: T&T Clark, 1993),



Conclusion Through this comparison three main things may by this point be evident: 1) Newmans views, despite similarities of concerns and other prima facie similarities, cannot be consistently or helpfully acclimated within a Reformed theological system; 2) Newmans views emphasize phenomenological realities like the illative sense and historical developments, while underemphasizing or ignoring key spiritual aspects of the reception of revelation and the development of doctrine, such as the roles that the Holy Spirit, regeneration, redemption, and sanctification play in these issues; 3) Newmans lopsided emphases create tensions and potential inconsistencies in his thought. Newmans writings on the illative sense and the development of doctrine are often insightful and brilliant, but the fact that these views largely underemphasize or ignore the crucial reconciliatory / redemptive aspects of revelation in favor of infallible, perfect ecclesial authority is unfortunate. What of the external fragmentation of the Church? Does the Reformed view of development as sanctification provide a satisfying explanation for this? Berkhof thinks so: In answer to this it may be said that some divisions, such as those caused by differences of locality or of language, are perfectly compatible with the unity of the Church; but that others, such as those which originate in doctrinal perversions or sacramental abuses, do really impair that unity. The former result from the providential guidance of God, but the latter are due to the influence of sin . . . and therefore the Church will have to strive for the ideal of overcoming these.169 The Church has internal unity and struggles to find external unity. Sinful divisions must be overcome by constant theological and doctrinal sanctification. Other differences may simply be according to the varying gifts of the Churches, and so such differences are beautiful.


Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 573.


Ultimately, the answer to the problem of a fragmented Church is not imposed uniformity, but multiformity in union with Christ.



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