In the Long Vacation of 1839, this position began to fall apart for him.
As he studied the Monophysite Controversy, he believed that he "saw
himself in the mirror." One of the key questions of that historic
debate in the Patristic Church was the stress on catholicity as both
orthodoxy and unity. He encountered the same issue in Augustine's writings
against the Donatists, and later in his study of the Arians. Newman began
to seriously wonder if his own theology was corrupt on this point, even
though he continued to hold out hope for the Church of England and still
held a number of objections to Roman practice. He decides to test the 39
Articles to see if they will stand up to an Anglo-Catholic confession, and
he considers resigning, though Keble talks him out of it. He also reasons
that the example of the seventeenth-century Anglican divines is worth
holding and that his own stand against nineteenth-century rationalism is
worth continuing. Eventually, however, "three blows" shatter his
- The Arian example pushes Newman to see that his
own position is like that of the semi-Arians, while the Protestants
are true Arians. The Via Media will not hold.
- The Bishops formal charges against him for three
years wear him down and call into question his place in the Anglican
- The Jerusalem Bishopric affair undercuts his own
sense of the Anglican Church as a "branch" of the universal
Catholic Church since it violates diocesan rights of churches already
in existence there and attempts intercommunion.
- How does each position know what is true? Where
do they put their trust?
- In each position, how do you bring about reform?
- Why do each think the other has committed the
- Why does Newman begin to doubt his position?
- Why would the three blows be so shattering for
Chapter IV.1--Sickness Unto Death
Chapter IV is the longest of the chapters, and
Newman divides it into two portions that examine separate, if overlapping,
stages of his move from growing doubt to eventual certainty. Section 1
focuses more on his ineffective attempts to find a new position to replace
the Via Media and his state of mind once he leaves parish work to
retire to Littleton.
Position I. The Via Media is completely
shattered by the Jerusalem Bishopric.
Position II. He tries to argue that while the
Anglican Church lacks catholicity, it still has the Note of Spiritual
Life. In particular, he holds that the orthodox beliefs of the people
influence the state of the church, but the reaction to Tract 90, not
only by the bishops, but by the public at large forces him to realize
that this position does not hold water either.
Position III. He next considers the state of the
Anglican Church to be like Israel once divided from Judah. She does not
have the temple, but she is in covenant or at the very least
experiencing an extraordinary means of grace from God. However, the
bishops descent into heretical positions eventually robs Newman of this
Newman still holds onto hope for the COE, even as
the second strain in the Oxford Movement leaves him bewildered. He
withdraws from parish work and preaching to Littleton, but he finds that
he will not be left alone by the press. To further explain his state of
mind, he includes seven letters from Littleton (142-144), his answer to
Faber's accusation that he is a concealed Romanist, and several letters to
Catholics from 1841-1843 (149-153). These last ones include his
reflections on private judgment vs. conscience and his view that
Liberalism is an anti-Christ.
- Try to put yourself imaginatively in Newman's
place: What would it feel like to go through this period of doubt and
- How does his shift of focus and changing position
mirror his view of how minds work?
- What role do the letters serve in his defense of