John Henry Newman - Theologian


Around 1830, Newman developed a distinction between natural religion and revealed religion. Revealed religion is the Judeo-Christian revelation which finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Natural religion refers to the knowledge of God and divine things that has been acquired outside the Judeo-Christian revelation. For Newman, this knowledge of God is not the result of unaided reason but of reason aided by grace, and so he speaks of natural religion as containing a revelation, even though it is an incomplete revelation.

Newman's view of natural religion gives rise to passages in his writings in which he appears to sympathise with a broader theology. Both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, he put forward the notion of a universal revelation. As an Anglican, Newman subscribed to this notion in various works, among them the 1830 University Sermon entitled "The Influence of Natural and Revealed Religion Respectively", the 1833 poem "Heathenism", and the book The Arians of the Fourth Century, also 1833, where he admits that there was "something true and divinely revealed in every religion". As a Catholic, he included the idea in A Grammar of Assent: "As far as we know, there never was a time when...revelation was not a revelation continuous and systematic, with distinct representatives and an orderly succession."

Newman held that "freedom from symbols and articles is abstractedly the highest state of Christian communion", but was "the peculiar privilege of the primitive Church." In 1877 he allowed that "in a religion that embraces large and separate classes of adherents there always is of necessity to a certain extent an exoteric and an esoteric doctrine."

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