Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Newman's Treatment of Luther in the Lectures on Justification

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Newman's Treatment of Luther in the Lectures on Justification

Article excerpt

PRECIS

The decision taken by the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America at its August, 1998, Churchwide Assembly to reject the revision of the Concordat of Agreement, whose purpose was to achieve full communion between the E.L.C.A. and the Episcopal Church, represents a setback for the "Porvoo process." Some measure of historical consciousness, however, will help those concerned about ecumenism to realize that the Porvoo Declaration remains a major hermeneutical breakthrough. In order to contextualize this important ecumenical agreement by showing that we have indeed "come a long way," notwithstanding the American defeat, we will return to the nineteenth century, to Oriel College in Oxford and to the Lectures on Justification by John Henry Newman. In this series of lectures and the subsequent book Newman tried to delineate a via media position on justification for Anglicans between that of the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. He also discussed Luther's position on the question. This essay will show how Newman's hermeneutics were unfair to Luther's own point of view on justification. His citations of Luther's texts, partial and misleading, were standard for the Oxford movement from the time of Hurrell Froude. The position taken here is that Newman's treatment of Luther was more an intra-Anglican argument with the Evangelicals in his own church than an argument with Luther or the Lutherans. The continuation of the process began with the Porvoo Declaration indicates that both Anglicans and Lutherans are now in dialogue and, to some extent at least, in communion again.

Introduction

The August 14-20, 1998, Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America brought both good and bad news for those involved in the ecumenical movement. The good news was that the gathering agreed to a process of unification with several Reformed churches. The bad news was that the issue of the historic episcopate led the assembly delegates to reject the revised Concordat of Agreement, whose purpose was to achieve full communion between the E.L.C.A. and the Episcopal Church.

This is a setback for the "Porvoo process." Those concerned about the future of ecumenism might take heart in the realization that the Porvoo Declaration of 1996, an agreement between Lutheran churches in the Nordic and Baltic countries and the Anglican churches of Great Britain and Ireland, represents a major hermeneutical breakthrough. Arriving for the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the "Porvoo bishops" were fulsome in their positive estimation of the process with which they were involved. "The establishment of the Porvoo Communion is one of the most important steps of this century," said Archbishop John Vikstrom of Turku and Finland. Bishop John Hind of Gibraltar said that the Declaration was not so much a theological development as a "hermeneutical breakthrough of an enormous kind." [1] Hind's comment indicates his historical consciousness of the complex history of the relations between Anglicans and Lutherans.

In order to contextualize the hermeneutical breakthrough achieved with "Porvoo" and almost attained by the Concordat of Agreement in the U.S.A., this essay will return to a key moment in the relationship between Anglicans and Protestants, namely the Oxford Movement in England between 1833 and 1845. Within the confines of a single essay and the context of the "Porvoo Agreement" we will limit this discussion to the series of lectures delivered by John Henry Newman at Oriel College of Oxford University in 1837 and published as Lectures on Justification in the following year. A hypothesis will be tendered as to the biographical factors that led Newman to treat Luther and his writings in the way he did and, in particular, for the ellipses that a close reading of his Luther citations can discover. Unlike those of the Porvoo Declaration, Newman's hermeneutics were unfair to Luther's own position on the question of justification. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.