June 15, 2010

The Mystery of Newman

Riveting read in Portsmouth Review concerning John Henry Newman, likely soon to be known as St. John Henry Newman:
He holds that we are kept from truth not only by error, but also by truth. This sounds paradoxical in the abstract, but it is quite undeniable considered in the concrete. Some truths can get in the way of our recognition of other truths; some can seem to exclude others. Heresy has sometimes been defined as not an outright error, but rather someone truth that is played off other equally certain truths. Thus Newman teaches that the fullness of Christian truth involves the union of apparent opposites; as he says in one place, "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."
Newman anticipates some of [the modern] reserve about scholastic philosophical theology when he says of the traditional demonstrations for the existence of God that they "do not warm me and enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice." For all of his zeal for doctrinal truth, Newman was a great friend of religious experience..
And when the historical sciences began to develop and to be applied to Scripture and revelation, Newman remained calmer than most of his friends. He was not scandalized to learn more than previous generations of Christians had known about the human side of revelation, and about the ways in which God had subjected His revelation to natural laws of growth and development. It did not trouble his faith, which continued to discern the hand of God in history. He did not see why revelation should not have both its human and divine aspect, seeing that it comes from the God who created man by infusing a spirit into the dust of the earth.
When ancient Hebrews looked at the rainbow, they saw God's promise that there would not be another flood. Would that we saw a rainbow with the same appreciation. But we have something far greater - Christ Himself in the Eucharist!

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