The Mind of the Oxford Movement

The Mind of the Oxford Movement

The Mind of the Oxford Movement

The Mind of the Oxford Movement

Excerpt

In a library of modern religious thought, no apology will be needed for the inclusion of illustrations from the thought of the Oxford Movement. That movement was of decisive importance to the religion of the English, and not only to the Church of England, not only within the Church of England to the "high church group" which gave birth to the movement, nurtured it, and was transformed by it.

Of decisive importance to the religion of the English -- no doubt, not to their philosophy, perhaps not so markedly to their apprehension of Christian doctrine. The mind of the Oxford Movement is not a mind which can be best studied or examined by asking for its philosophical conclusions (if any); even though at least two of its principal thinkers had the training and the makings of a philosopher. Nor can it best be studied or examined by asking for a list of its doctrinal propositions -- for example, by observing that its leaders at first suspected the doctrine that saints should be invoked in prayer. As well might we seek to comprehend John Wesley by asking what he thought of the theories of Locke and Berkeley, or by setting forth his hostility to Calvinistic doctrines as the key to understanding his whole work. Like its predecessor the Evangelical Movement, it was more a movement of the heart than of the head. If the generalization be allowed, it was primarily concerned with the law of prayer, and only secondarily with the law of belief. It was aware that creed and prayer are inseparable. It was not concerned for religious "experience" while being unconcerned about religious language -- on the contrary, it was earnestly dogmatic. But the movement, though dogmatic, was not dogmatic simply because it possessed or shared a particular theory of dogma. It always saw dogma in relation to worship, to the numinous, to the movement of the heart, to the conscience and the moral need, to the immediate experience of the hidden hand of God -- so that without this attention to worship or the moral need, dogma could not be apprehended rightly. The Creed was creed -- the truth; not a noise of words to evoke prayer. But it . . .

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