31 October 2007

A Tale of Two Englishmen

I believe it was John Henry Newman who said that to discover history is to cease to be a Protestant.

What is utterly ironic is that at roughly the same time, it was Cardinal Manning (likewise an Englishman) who insisted that we must overcome history by dogma.

Newman believed that history was all on the side of the Roman Church; Manning knew it wasn't.  I bring it up because Josh over at Cruising Down the Coast of High Barabee has raised an interesting point about the study of the fathers.  The beauty of being a Lutheran and reading them is that one doesn't have to front load them with infallibility or assume that they MUST mean exactly what one's Church at the moment insists that they always DID mean.  We can actually hear what they say!  We are free to hear them because we happen to agree with Thomas Aquinas - some words from the Summa I posted back in June, but they're worth repeating:

Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."--Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8


Past Elder said...

I add again my favourite quote from Aquinas: The sole way to overcome an adversary of divine truth is from the authority of Scripture (contra gentiles, book one, chapter nine) and adds that arguments can be made for divine truth but these should be only for the help they may be to those who already believe, lest unbelievers think we believe on such flimsy arguments!

Past Elder said...

Re Cardinal Manning, he as Newman was a convert from Anglicanism.

His like will not be found to-day. Unlike Newman, he was all for the promulgation of papal infallibility, but/and also unlike Newman, he was a great voice for the modern (and I don't mean post-conciliar) social doctrine of the RCC culminating in Leo XIII's Rerum novarum (1891) which though co-opted by left and right alike "baptises" neither capitalism nor socialism.

It's said a picture of his wife (yes wife, he was a widower) was on him at his death.

Also unlike Newman.