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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The name of Cardinal Newman is often invoked in discussions of our current Anglican church struggles, and rightly so. Whether we agree with him or not, the Church of England has never had a more penetrating and profound critic, and his is a voice that must still be heard.
The Rev. Benjamin King, a young English priest and newly hired professor of church history at Sewanee, has in his first book listened to Newman’s voice with meticulous care, and so has given us crucial tools to hear the old cardinal with fresh ears. His book, Newman and the Alexandrian Fathers, is a carefully argued and closely researched examination of how Newman’s reading of patristic sources changed throughout his career, showing both how his reading of the fathers changed his life as well as how events in his life changed the way he read the fathers.
As King argues, Newman’s reading of the Church fathers has influenced our own readings in deep ways, and seeing how Newman’s judgments and interpretive paradigms remain with us is crucial for anyone seeking either to read the fathers for themselves or to understand the shape of patristic studies.
Although King’s book, as a strict work of history, does not venture very far into the waters of ecclesiastical controversy, its implications are clear enough. We today, much like Newman, are asking questions to do with whether and how doctrine develops, and where the authorities for such development might be found. Newman saw, as no one before him had, that such questions cannot be answered apart from a careful and theological study of the history of doctrine itself. King’s fine book has to do with the history of Newman’s quest for answers to these questions, and as such it is a superb guide to better understanding the questions that Newman still poses to us today.
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