"CHRISTIAN INSTINCT" IN THE THOUGHT OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN: FAITH, TRADITION, AND AUTHORITY

LYNN ANNE FEIDER, Marquette University

Abstract

Newman investigates Christian instinct historically in works dealing with the early Christological controversies where Christian truth was upheld more by the simple faithful than by hierarchy and theologians. Newman's ideal is a conspiratio of faithful, hierarchy, and theologians, but in these situations the latter two faltered and the Christian instinct of the faithful helped discern the orthodox faith. His notion of Christian instinct is based on the primacy of conscience, whose principal note is its theonomic character. Conscience is a universal human existential, a moral sense, but primarily a magisterial sense of duty. Newman grounds his argument for the existence of God on conscience, and it provides the foundation for natural religion as well as for Christian instinct. Obedience to the promptings of conscience lead to its becoming a primary guide not only for growth in sanctity, but also in truth. Several items interact in Newman's theology of development: the notion of the Christian "idea" which develops (sometimes this is a very rich notion; other times seemingly chiefly a set of transmitted doctrines); the nature of the recipient of the idea (tradition as a mode of reception, not just dogmas transmitted); the absolute necessity for time for the development of great ideas; and the role of the Holy Spirit (as making the "impression" of the Christian "idea" on the mind of the Church--or even being that idea--as well as communicating the faculty of receiving that idea). These factors all come into play in a dual model of doctrinal development derived from Newman. The first model is the "normative" one--one which allows the long period of time for Christian instinct and theological deliberation to mull over an idea, frequently with spur to further more specific reflection provided by the challenge of a particular heresy--a process which allows ideas to attain their "normal shape". The second model is the "compensatory" one--where a doctrine which is defined prematurely (as Newman considered to be happeining with the doctrine of papal infallibility at Vatican I, and might be considered the case with the Marian dogmas as well) must go through a compensatory process of investigation, interpretation and development after the definition.

Recommended Citation

LYNN ANNE FEIDER, ""CHRISTIAN INSTINCT" IN THE THOUGHT OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN: FAITH, TRADITION, AND AUTHORITY" (January 1, 1985). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI8526783.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8526783

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