Newman for Protestants

From the October 2015 Print Edition

I discovered John Henry Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua on a rainy morning in Cambridge in 1994. I was a twenty-seven-year-old junior professor of medieval and Reformation theology at the University of Nottingham, and I happened to be in town for a day or two of study. I had taken shelter from the English weather in a bookshop when I saw a copy of the Apologia on a shelf. This, I decided, was the day on which my Protestant prejudices against the erstwhile most dangerous man in England would be confirmed. So that afternoon I sat by the fireside in the senior guest room at St. John’s and read the book from start to finish—not because I wanted to learn from Newman, but because I wanted to hate him.But on that damp day in Cambridge, the story of Newman’s spiritual life gave me no cause to denounce him. I was gripped by the language and absorbed by the dogmas. Here was a man who had asked many of the questions that pressed on me as a young Christian and academic. I could not put the book down. Decades later, I still keep it close at hand and reread favorite passages. I own various critical editions. I have it on my Kindle. Continue Reading »