John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was English, an Evangelical, founder of the Oxford Movement, and a great theologian.
John Henry Newman was born in London in 1801. In grade school and high school, he read great books. At age 15, he had a life-changing conversion experience and became an Evangelical Christian.
Newman studied at Trinity College in Oxford. He was ordained as a priest in the Anglican church. He served in a parish for two years. He was also involved in a group that debated issues.
Later, he was elected Provost of Oriel.
The death of his sister Mary prompted him to read the Church Fathers.
With a friend, Newman toured southern Europe. He liked Italy but considered the Roman Catholic religion to be polytheistic, degrading and idolatrous.
Back in Oxford, troubled by what he felt was national apostasy, in 1833, Newman started a new project that came to be known as the Oxford Movement.
They members wanted to return some Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals to the Church of England. He fed the movement by publishing his many tracts.
By the mid-1830s, Newman was known nationally.
It was during this era of his life that Newman published his 13 Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification (1938). In it, he maps out an alternative to the competing claims of justification by faith vs. justification by works. Read more »
Newman’s Oxford Movement reached the peak of its influence by 1839.
By 1841, he considered the Anglicans to no longer be apostolic. He withdrew, in 1842, and lived with a small band of his followers.
Newman was received into the Catholic church in 1845. It cost him dearly, as his relationships with his family and friends were broken, and the Oxford Movement became polarized toward him.
In 1846, he was ordained a Catholic priest. Then he went to Rome, where Pope Pius XI awarded him a degree as a Doctor of Divinity. Then he returned to England and served in a variety of ministries.
In those days there were fierce political machinations by the Catholic church to re-establish its dominance over England.
Similarly, there were fierce political machinations by the English against the machinations of the Catholic church.
In this difficult setting, Newman gave a series of nine public lectures on the position of Catholics in England.
In 1854, Newman became rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.
In his subsequent years, Newman continued publishing.
He was uneasy about the formal Catholic definition of Papal Infallibility, which was a product of the First Vatican Council in 1869-1870.
He believed the timing of such a pronouncement was inopportune. He wrote his own bishop that the decision had been pushed through in an insolent and aggressive fashion.
Pope Leo XIII named Newman a Cardinal in 1879. For that reason, Catholics often refer to him as John Henry Cardinal Newman.
He passed away in 1890.
The Catholic church proclaimed him “venerable” in 1991, and “beatified” him in 2010. And canonized him a saint in 2019.
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