Intro.: “Cardinal Newman: Q & A in Theology, Church History, & Conversion”

Intro.: “Cardinal Newman: Q & A in Theology, Church History, & Conversion” May 23, 2015
Newman32

[public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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(5-23-15)

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Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in a letter dated 10 February 1869:
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I am not a theologian. A theologian is one who has mastered theology – who can say how many opinions there are on every point, what authors have taken which, and which is the best – who can discriminate exactly between proposition and proposition, argument and argument, who can pronounce which are safe, which allowable, which dangerous – who can trace the history of doctrines in successive centuries, and apply the principles of former times to the conditions of the present. This it is to be a theologian – this and a hundred things besides – which I am not, and never shall be.
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He stated “I am not a theologian” many times in his letters. He often qualified any theological instruction he gave, making sure to note that it was not cast in stone, and subject to correction by the Church or credentialed theologians. In the above, strict “academic” or “scholarly” sense, indeed he was not a theologian. Yet in another broader (and in my opinion, far more important) sense, he certainly was one.

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Whether Newman was a theologian or not, he wrote exquisitely on theology. The very fact that he was seeking to write (especially in his personal letters) on a popular, non-technical level, makes his work in this regard so important. In effect, he becomes a catechist, and in part, an apologist, in these informal remarks in his voluminous correspondence.

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Scholars – for the most part – write to and for other scholars, whereas the goal of Catholic catechists, apologists, and evangelists is to reach the masses (and Catholics) with the joyous good news of the glorious fullness of the Catholic Christian faith.
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Furthermore, in Cardinal Newman’s writing we find (always and everywhere) extraordinary prose almost unequaled in its eloquence: a feast of 19th century English style. Lastly – of supreme relevance and importance – we encounter a saintly (as of this writing, beatified) man, who will most likely one day be canonized as a saint. I personally firmly believe that he will also be honored as a Doctor of the Church in due course.
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This is the third book of Newman quotations that I have compiled. I do so partly out of obligation for the central role that he played in my own spiritual and theological odyssey, but primarily to widen the availability of his lesser-known writings, and to share his profound thought and insights with as wide an audience as possible.
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My present goal (and what makes this book different from the previous two) is to create almost a “systematic theology” from Cardinal Newman. By use of categories, I have sought to arrange his thoughts in such a way that they can be accessed all the more quickly.
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Cardinal Newman (as one can see in the Table of Contents) covered a very wide range of topics in his correspondence. I have sought to collect the “cream” of his theological thoughts therein. As such, this volume might be regarded as Newman’s “catch-all” book, in which he deals with many theological subjects; very unlike most of his books, which are devoted to a single topic.
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May you enjoy this treasure-trove of wonderful theology, as well as Newman’s ruminations on Church history and the complexities of the conversion process. In conversion, often theology, Church history, personal experience, and apologetics are all merged together. No one exemplified this mixture and the process of conversion more than Blessed Cardinal Newman.
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Thus, this volume may be of particular usefulness for possible converts, as well as Catholics seeking to revive an uncertain or tentative personal Catholic faith. In these fabulous quotations, in any event, there is much precious treasure for anyone who loves theology and God, Who is at the center of it.
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