This essay examines the complementarity between Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864), which provided an autobiographical account of his conversions, and his Grammar of Assent (1870), which described three types of inference—formal, natural, informal—that provide three paradigms for different types of religious conversion.
Newman sought a via media—a middle ground—between “evidentialists,” who considered reason supreme and so disparaged faith, and “existentialists,” who wanted to create a fortress of faith impenetrable to reason. Examining the way people actually think, Newman identified three types of inference that lead people to make decisions. This inferential process, which is operative in the decisions of every day life, serves as a paradigm for understanding how the human mind—particularly the illative sense—operates in religious matters; accordingly, Newman presents faith as (...) a personal and reasonable inference. (shrink)
Newman was a prolific writer, but one who usually wrote on “call”; sometimes these calls were unexpected, but at other times they were a pastoral responsibility. Such was the case with his sermons, which exhibit four characteristics: biblically based, theologically grounded, circumstantially relevant, and spiritually insightful. As such, his sermons still appeal to readers today.
What is the reason for the continued interest in Newman’s theology? This article’s reply that Newman was a contextual theologian is based on a consideration of three questions:Was Newman a theologian? What was the context of his theology? What are the reasons for Newman’s theological longevity?