Saturday, November 20, 2010

Englishmen and Pelagianism

I bought a book at Fatima Shrine in Lewiston, New York, called 'Lead Kindly Light' which is a daily devotional featuring the works of the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. What I've found is a funny paradox.

He has an almost Pelagian approach to Christian life which seems to come from his Anglicanism and that period, and when he becomes Catholic, an Augustinian approach to spirituality.

I think it's because as an Anglican he was trying so hard to come near Roman Catholic soteriology and to avoid Luther at all costs (read his Anglican work on Justification - Richard Hooker would burn him at the stake), that he goes WAY beyond Augustine and espouses a semi-pelagian fusion of the orders of grace and nature.

As a Roman Catholic who has walked in the footsteps of Newman I find the most important distinction between us and Protestantism is this (and I think they'd agree):

In late Luther and especially in Calvin we see salvation as an act removed from the individual entirely. Salvation becomes something that happened, not something that happens. Which led to the anti-sacramentalism and double predestination of the Reformed Tradition (moreso Beza and Zwingli's faults than Calvin). Thus grace is declared to be a disposition in God, not an infusion, we have not received "grace upon grace" as St. John teaches, we have received "grace". period/full stop. (or we have not)

Roman Catholic teaching has no problem with what Ratzinger/Papa Benny calls the "in nobis (In us) nature of salvation. For this we need baptism to wash our souls, Holy Communion to nourish us spiritually, and reconciliation to rid sin from our souls.

Christ has died, but he has also risen, and therefore `let us walk in the newness of life` as the apostolic exhortation goes (Rom. 6:4). And thank God Anglo-Catholicism and Confessional Lutheranism retain a great deal of this understanding.

Tonight at mass, Fr. Peter used a great example. He told a story of a woman whose son died and donated his heart to a Methodist preacher, she asked the man if she could put her head next to his chest and hear her son`s heart beating. For our spiritual father, this was an image of the kingship and salvation of Christ. That our sinful hearts are transplanted with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and as Christ beats within us, others can hear it.

In any case, there`s my random thoughts on this week. (Deo Gratias I got confession and Eucharist tonight). So watch out for Bl. Newman`s early soteriology, he is a brilliant historian and patrologist though, just not the best on spirituality I`ve found.

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