Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Newman's Conversion Story in His Own Words (Brief)

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[See also the Spanish version]

About the middle of June (1839) I began to study and master the history of the Monophysites (1) . . . It was during this course of reading that for the first time a doubt came upon me of the tenableness of Anglicanism . . . In the middle of the fifth century, I found . . . Christendom of the 16th and the 19th centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The church of the Via Media (2) was in the position of the Oriental communion, Rome was where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians (3) . . . It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers (4), which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon (5); difficult to condemn the Popes of the 16th century, without condemning the Popes of the 5th. The drama of religion, and the combat and truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now . . . The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting civil power, and never agreeing together. (6)

In the summer of 1841 . . . my trouble returned on me. The ghost had come a second time. In the Arian
(7) History I found the very same phenomenon, in a far bolder shape, which I had found in the Monophysite . . . I saw clearly, that in the history of Arianism, the pure Arians were the Protestants, the semi-Arians (8) were the Anglicans, and that Rome now was what it was. The truth lay, not with the Via Media, but in what was called "the extreme party." (9)

Whereas the Creeds tell us that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, I could not prove that the Anglican communion was an integral part of the one Church, on the ground of its being Apostolic or Catholic, without reasoning in favour of what are commonly called the Roman corruptions; and I could not defend our separation from Rome without using arguments prejudicial to those great doctrines concerning our Lord, which are the very foundation of the Christian religion. (10)

Dec. 24, 1841 . . . There is indefinitely more in the Fathers against our own state of alienation from Christendom than against the Tridentine Decrees. (11)

For two years I was . . . in a state of serious doubt . . . I could not go to Rome, while I thought what I did of the devotions she sanctioned to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. (12)

The fact of the operation from first to last of that principle of development is an argument in favour of Roman and Primitive Christianity. (13)

Who can determine when it is, that the scales in the balance of opinion begin to turn, and what was a greater probability in behalf of a belief becomes a positive doubt against it? (14)

I had been deceived greatly once; how could I be sure that I was not deceived a second time? . . . I determined to write an Essay on Doctrinal Development; and then, if, at the end of it, my convictions in favour of the Roman Church were not weaker, to make up my mind to seek admission into her fold . . . Before I got to the end, I resolved to be received . . . (15)

From the time that I became a Catholic (16) . . . I . . . have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never have had one doubt . . . It was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption." (17)

1. Monophysitism: A heresy of the 5th century holding that Christ had a Divine Nature alone (the orthodox view is that He had Divine and Human Natures).
2. Via Media: The view that Anglicanism is intermediate between Catholicism and Protestantism, and is a "branch" of the universal Catholic Church..
3. Eutychianism: An extreme form of Monophysitism which denied that the manhood of Christ was consubstantial with ours.
4. Tridentine Fathers: Referring to the Bishops at the Council of Trent (1545-63).
5. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 condemned the Monophysites.
6. Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1956 (originally 1864), pp.217-218.
7. Arianism: A heresy of the 4th century which held that Jesus was created and not eternally God the Son.
8. Semi-Arianism: A group between orthodoxy and Arianism, but closer to orthodoxy.
9. Newman, ibid., pp.238-9.
10. Ibid., p.248.
11. Ibid., p.255.
12. Ibid., pp.275-6.
13. Ibid., pp.286-7.
14. Ibid., p.300.
15. Ibid., pp.309-310,313.
16. Newman had converted 19 years before this work was written (in 1864).
17. Newman, ibid., p.317.

Compiled by Dave Armstrong in 1991.

1 comment:

Rayver said...

Thank you for posting this Dave. It is very interesting.