The Spirit of the Oxford Movement

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/09/29 at 1:11 AM

The Spirit of the Oxford Movement

Excerpt from book review. 

Historian Christopher Dawson’s brief overview of the OM’s first seven or eight years is masterly. It rewards repeated reading. First written a hundred years after the Oxford Movement began, THE SPIRIT OF THE OXFORD MOVEMENT was almost unique in its day for flagging three facts.

The first fact is that the driving, almost demonic, force behind the Movement was the young Richard Hurrell Froude. Froude was the most gifted person whom John Henry Newman had ever met. Froude’s unceasing nagging had the effect, over time, of removing every last one of John Henry Newman’s inherited Protestant detestation of the Papacy. Without Froude, said Dawson, one could not have predicted that Newman would become a Roman Catholic Cardinal.

The second fact which Dawson convincingly and virtually uniquely among historians sketches is the impact of Calvinist theology on the young Newman. This theology John Henry imbibed from his Low Church Evangelistic parents and later at school from one or more teachers and from his reading in church history. Till the end of his days Newman, undisputed leader of the OM, firmly embraced Catholic views first learned under Calvinist auspices: the Majesty of God, the Incarnation and Predestination of the saints. As today’s Baptists and Presbyterians become aware of Newman’s abiding albeit critical Calvinism, they may join those Anglican/Episcopalians and Roman Catholics who see in the writings of Cardinal Newman a way to stitch up shattered Christian dogmatic unity.

Thirdly, Dawson illustrates at work within the microcosm of the soul and conscience of Newman an evolution which Newman presented in THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. There Newman argued that the one true form of orthodox Christianity, led by the Holy Spirit, will absorb all that is good in the world and cultures around it: Platonism, Aristotelianism, Protestantism, while rejecting what is untrue or harmful. Newman also believed that God gives each human person from birth the wherewithal to find Him, to transcend the limitations of his or her particular family or time in history, to respond to God’s voice echoing in conscience and to find the true religion or at least move in its direction under guidance from the Holy Spirit.



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