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Newman's Treatment of Luther in the Lectures on Justification - by John C. Perry


by John F. Perry


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.


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. His citations of Luther's texts, partial and misleading,
were standard for the Oxford Movement since the Hadleigh Conference of 1833 and the writing of Hurrell Froude. The hypothesis of this essay is
that Newman's treatment of Luther had more to do with an intra-Anglican argument with the Evangelicals in his own church than it did with Luther or the Lutherans.

The process of moving beyond polemics into the hermeneutics of Luther
depends on earlier work, such as that of Karl Holl, [2] Gerhard Ebeling,
[3] and James S. Preus, [4] which has prepared the way for the "Porvoo
phase" in the ecumenical movement.

I. Newman's Lectures on Justification

Newman's Lectures on (the Doctrine of) Justification is a book much less
well known than the Apologia, the Grammar of Assent, or The Idea of a
University. For a number of reasons it deserves to be ranked among the
most important of his theological writings.

Newman himself considered it to be a key to the via media theological
position that he and the others involved with the Oxford Movement were
attempting to construct. In the Lectures Newman established a dialectical position on justification between the errors of Protestantism and the distortions of Roman Catholicism. [5] "Nothing I have done," Newman wrote to his sister, Harriett, Mrs. Thomas Mozley, on January 9, 1838, "has given me such anxious thought and so much time and labour." [6] The Lectures represent Newman's attempt to construct an Anglican doctrine of justification based upon the theology of the later Caroline divines such as Bishop George Bull and Jeremy Taylor in the period of English ecclesiastical history [7] after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

At the time it was published, Newman's book was respected by the
theological community even though it was primarily intended for ordinary Anglicans. [8] Among those who appreciated the Lectures was German historian Johann Joseph Ignaz Von Dollinger, who, it was reported, "always spoke of Newman's Justification as the greatest masterpiece of theology that England had produced in a hundred years." [9]

From the point of view of Newman studies the Lectures offer us a clear
indication prior to his publication of Tract 90 in 1841 of the orientation
of his thought in the direction of Roman Catholicism. A reader has the
distinct impression that it is Luther and the Protestants, rather than
such Roman Catholics as Albert Pighius, Roberto Bellarmine, and Gabriel Vasquez, who were the real subjects of Newman's criticism. An indication of this lies in the fact that, after he became a Roman Catholic, Newman republished the Lectures, adding only a few footnotes and other minor revisions by way of correction of his original text. [10]

A. Historiography

Newman was attempting to construct a dialectical position on justification for Anglicans located midway between the Protestant and Roman Catholic viewpoints. If one pole of this dialectic were in error, then the theological structure of the via media would collapse. There is an emerging consensus that Newman in the Lectures misunderstood and
misrepresented Luther's position on justification. Luther's thought was a
theological "blind spot" for Newman. [11] Due to his visceral hostility to
Anglican Evangelicals in his own day, he was unable to evaluate correctly Luther's "thesis," which led to the Oxford Movement's "synthesis" of the via media.

An examination of Newman's treatment of Luther in his Lectures is an
exercise in historiography. It is an attempt to understand how, in one
limited area, Newman wrote history. What is proposed is that he, like any other historian, studied Luther and his writings within a definite horizon [12] of thought and values. This horizon was made up of the particular concerns and questions that originally brought him to want to study Luther, as well as the presuppositions that were operative in his thinking about him.

B. Newman's Evangelical Background

Newman disliked Luther [13] because he had played a part in creating the doctrines of the evangelical Protestants of the nineteenth century.
Crucial to an understanding of how Newman treated Luther in the Lectures is the evangelical background of Newman's own life. The word "evangelical" can mean different things to different people. As it will be used here, it refers to a widespread movement arising in the early eighteenth century within the Protestant Christian world. [14]

A good definition is provided by Peter Toon as follows:

An Evangelical Anglican has a strong attachment to the Protestantism of
the national Church with its Articles of Religion and Prayer Book. He
believes that the Bible is authoritative in matters of faith and conduct
and is to be read individually and in the home as well as in church. He
emphasises the doctrine of justification by faith but with good works and
a specific (holy) life-style as the proof of true faith. He claims to
enjoy a personal relationship with God through Christ, the origins of
which are usually traced not to sacramental grace but to a conversion
experience. And he sees the primary task of the Church in terms of
evangelism or missions and so emphasises preaching at home and abroad.

Put differently, evangelicalism placed great stress on the human component of faith consisting in the experiential aspect of a Christian's encounter with Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. As compared to the tradition it was reacting against, evangelicalism emphasized conversion rather than baptism as the instrument of entrance into the church, the scriptures rather than tradition or church authority as the primary locus of revealed truth, receiving the "Word" through prayer and preaching rather than through the sacraments, and the doctrine that "faith alone," not good works, is the sole way we can be saved. Original sin was central in evangelical preaching, complemented always by the doctrine of the atonement by God in Christ.

Newman's own conversion to Christianity took place within the context of this evangelical movement. In his Apologia he simply, yet movingly,
described this crucial event: "When I was fifteen (in the autumn of 1816) a great change of thought took place in me." [16] He then described the influence on him of the sermons and conversation of the Rev. Walter Mayers (1790-1828), an evangelical teacher of classics in his school at Ealing, and of certain books, "all of the school of Calvin."

Newman was elected a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, on April 12, 1822.

It was at this point in his life that he came under the influence of Dr.
E. B. Pusey whom he revered and who embodied so many of his evangelical values, while refusing to espouse any particular party or camp within Anglicanism. [17] It was with him that he argued about the questions raised concerning justification after he read Sumner's Apostolical Preaching, which he finished on August 24, 1824. [18] Newman argued in favor of "imputed righteousness" and a separation of regeneration from baptism; Pusey opposed these positions. On January 13, 1825, Newman indicated in his diary that he had finally made up his mind on the question and had changed his evangelical theology of justification. [19]

With his acceptance of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, a new
theological horizon opened up for Newman, and his relationship changed
with fellow members of certain evangelical religious societies to which he had formerly belonged. His loss of the post of secretary of the Church Missionary Society had to do with his stubborn insistence that the organization should disown certain evangelical sermons preached on behalf of their collections. Newman introduced 254 amendments to their annual report as part of this unsuccessful effort. [20]

C. Historical Context of the Publication of Newman's Lectures

The same doctrinal dispute between Newman and the evangelicals provided the immediate historical context of the Lectures on Justification. In 1834 an Anglican, the Rev. J. J. Hornby, had edited the letters and papers of an Irish Anglican layman, Alexander Knox, titled Remains. In the first volume, an 1810 essay by Knox on justification caused a stir because he had interpreted Article XI of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a way similar to that of Bull. For Knox (and Bull) justification was neither simply forensic nor without moral content. [21] The Rev. George Stanley Faber (1773-1854), an Evangelical, provoked by Hornby's having published Knox's essay, wrote a rebuttal of the suspiciously "Roman" doctrines contained in it. After it was published, Newman sent author's copies of his Lectures to both Hornby and Faber. [22]

The second volume of the Tracts for the Times for 1834-35, published by "Members of the University of Oxford," included an "Advertisement" and three tracts written and signed by Pusey. These three tracts were numbered 67, 68, and 69 and were titled "Scriptural Views of Holy Baptism as Established by the Consent of the Ancient Church and Contrasted with the Systems of Modern Schools." They represent a long, thorough, and scholarly defense of baptismal regeneration. Although it was assumed that Pusey had written the three tracts, the advertisement appearing before Tract No. 47 in the same volume was unsigned. In reviewing this volume a writer for the Anglican evangelical journal, the Christian Observer, presumed that Pusey had also written the advertisement and reacted with shock to the notion expressed in it of administering the eucharist to infants or to the dying and apparently insensible. [23] The Christian Observer made a personal attack on Pusey, ending with the question, "Will any approver of the
Oxford Tracts answer in print?"

Newman answered the Christian Observer's challenge. He planned a
three-part response. On January 11, 1837, he defended Pusey's argument that baptismal regeneration, as opposed to sanctification by the Holy Spirit, was a gift peculiar to the Second Testament and was not given before the coming of Christ. The second part of his reply was dated March 3, 1837, and began with a complaint to the editor of the Observer, Samuel Wilks, about the way he had printed the first part of his text and demanded the following: "... what I send, I hope to see inserted without mutilation ..." [24] Newman then simply denied that Pusey had written the advertisement to the second volume of the tracts and, therefore, the offensive words concerning the possibility of administering the Lord's Supper to infants and to the dying and apparently insensible. [25] He then demanded to know what it was in Pusey's tract that offended against the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Homilies. Before he went on to the third part of his letter, which would treat of justification, he demanded: "Now, then, state definitely what Dr. Pusey's opinions are, for which he ought to give up his Professorship; and state also, why, that is, what statements of our Church his own oppose." The letter was not continued any further "partly on account of the very unsatisfactory mode in which the above was printed in the pages of the Magazine, and partly because the challenge ... had not been met." [26] Instead, Newman delivered his lectures on justification in Adam de Brome's chapel at St. Mary's, Oxford, in the spring of 1837, which he then published in the following year. They are considered by some to be the most important single contribution of the
Oxford Movement. [27]

II. Newman Treatment of Luther in the Lectures

The antecedent difficulty with Newman's treatment of Luther in the
Lectures on Justification is that he may not have been fair to the
Reformer. Luther was the key to Newman's theory concerning the
degeneration of Protestantism. The strict adherence to Luther's teaching
on justification was, according to Newman, an important source of disunity within the Anglican Church. This is because the Anglican understanding of justification is different from both Luther on the left of the dialectic and Roman Catholicism on the right; it belongs to its own via media.

For Newman, Luther was the first Protestant, and it was with him that he
carried on an intensive and extended argument. Newman's evidence for his own position vis-a-vis this Reformer was derived from his research into Luther's own writings, especially his 1531 Commentary on Galatians.

Newman's treatment of Luther has at least as much to do with a controversy within the Anglicanism of his own day as with Luther's comprehensive doctrine of salvation. Luther was the first Protestant, and his teaching was the intellectual birthplace of the nineteenth-century Anglican Evangelicals. Concluding his treatment of the teaching of Luther and popular Protestantism on justification, Newman said: "I have tried to delineate it fair1y," [28] but he judged that it was "an utter perversion of the truth." [29] Newman was convinced that the theology in his own day, which took literally the Reformer's dictum that justification is by faith alone as its "leading idea," [30] necessarily had "a flaw in its leading principle" [31] and was consequently forced into a "false position" [32] on Christianity.

Newman's basic interest in studying Luther was to discover what the
Reformer meant when he said that justification is by faith alone and to
explain how the Anglican Church understood this watchword of the
Reformation. The primary source for the Anglican interpretation of the
sola fide doctrine is the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Newman agreed
with Luther and the 11th Article that justification means being "counted
righteous before God." Thus, "in logical order, or exactness of idea,
Almighty God justifies before He sanctifies; or that, in rigid propriety
of language, justification is counting righteous, not making." [33]
However, the 13th Article adds a more Catholic color to the Anglican
position, for it makes justification equivalent to "the grace of Christ
and the inspiration of His Spirit." [34] Therefore, Newman could concur
with St. Augustine and other Fathers of the church in understanding it
actually to consist in sanctification. By "threading a theological needle"
in this way, Newman struggled to undo the error in Luther's teaching and yet remain faithful to the Thirty-Nine Articles. This is the essence of
the via media.

If Newman could understand the meaning of the term itself in the way
Luther did, he could not agree with him that justification is by faith
alone. Perhaps the most central primary text of Luther for Newman's
understanding and disagreement with the "German Reformer" was the
following one from the 1531 Commentary on Galatians: "Sola fides, non
fides formata charitate, justificat: fides justificat sine et ante
charitatem." [35] This is what he called Luther's "paradox." Although
Newman understood Luther to have associated faith closely with trust in
Christ as one's Savior, [36] he found that the Reformer had refused any
association of faith with charity. This, Newman argued, was intellectually

In fact, Luther rarely used the phrase "sola fide" that is attributed so
commonly to him. Where he does use it, he refers to "fides Christi," so
that it is part of his Christology. What Luther wanted to insist upon was
the real and saving presence of Christ in the believer brought about by
the activity of the Holy Spirit and not the "fiduciary apprehension of the
benefits of Christ." [37]

Because he had misunderstood Luther, Newman rejected what he thought was
the Reformer's position on both philosophical and theological grounds.
"Luther's doctrine, now so popular, that justifying faith is trust, comes
first, justifies by itself, and then gives birth to all graces, is not
tenable; -- such a faith cannot exist, and if it could, would not
justify." [38] This "false position" [39] makes for a shadowy and unreal
theology, "which has a flaw in its leading principle"; this gives "a
character of vagueness and equivocation to the whole system built upon
it." [40]

III. Newman's Treatment of Luther Viewed in Relation to the Major
Commentary on Galatians (1531-35)

In the footnotes and text of the Lectures Newman referred to three primary sources of Luther: his Libellus, [41] his Freedom of a Christian, [42] and the major Commentary on Galatians. Since the great majority of his citations come from the Commentary, including all those in the main body of his text, it seems logical to conclude that this work was the most important source for Newman's understanding of Luther on the doctrine of justification. His understanding and presentation of Luther's own writings derive from the characteristic ethos and ecclesiology of the Oxford Movement and its via media.

A. Justifying Faith as Trust in Luther's Commentary

Newman interpreted Luther's doctrine to be that justifying faith was trust
but that it included no other virtue:

Luther's doctrine, now so popular, that justifying faith is trust, comes
first, justifies by itself, and then gives birth to all graces, is not
tenable; -- such a faith cannot exist, and if it could, would not justify.
For, as faith cannot exist except in this or that mind, so it cannot be as
much as trust, without being also hope, nor hope without having some
portion of love. [43]

Newman's riposte was that justifying faith "cannot be as much as trust
without being also hope ...," but he then vitiated this point made against
Luther by citing as evidence for the argument a Latin text from Luther's
Commentary that made faith and hope inseparable. Beside the word "hope" in the text cited above Newman inserted this footnote: "Luther and Calvin both virtually grant that faith and hope are inseparable or parts of one thing, though Luther, and perhaps Calvin deny this of love." To provide evidence for this last assertion Newman then quoted from the last part of Luther's Commentary:

In fact, therefore, faith and hope are scarcely distinguishable; and yet
there is some difference between them....just as in the political realm
prudence is vain without fortitude, so in theology faith is nothing
without hope, because hope endures and lasts in the midst of evils and
conquers them. And, on the other hand, just as fortitude without prudence is rashness, so hope without faith is presumptuousness about the Spirit
... [44]

Because this footnote actually contradicted the assertion that Luther's
doctrine defined faith as trust, it seems fair to conclude that this
definition of justifying faith does not pertain, in Newman's
understanding, to Luther's doctrine itself, but to a nineteenth-century
interpretation of it, that is to say, to "Luther's doctrine now so
popular." The context from which Newman took this citation is remarkable because it was here that Luther actually attempted to distinguish faith as it is from hope to which latter virtue he accorded a traditional understanding. In other contexts of the Commentary, especially when faith was compared with love, Luther tended to give this virtue some of the characteristics of the "fiduciary apprehension of the benefits of Christ" as discussed by Newman. [45] But, in the context of the footnote under discussion, faith relates to the intellect and has to do with instruction and defense against error and heresy. What is clear from Newman's reference to Luther and from its context is that faith does not, in fact, justify alone, but needs hope in order for it to be sustained in time of temptation. [46] In the second half of his footnote Newman said that Luther separated faith from love. This is the real point of dispute between Luther and Newman.

B. Luther's Paradox

Luther emphatically shut out the virtue of love from the office of
justification, which belongs to faith alone. [47] The real difference
between Newman and Luther did not consist in the question of how we
receive our justification, for they both agreed that it is by faith, [48]
but, rather, in the question of how it lives in us and is sustained in us
once we have been justified. Newman understood Luther to say that it is
not sustained, nor does it live in us through love or obedience to the Law but by faith alone. [49] This is what Newman refers to as Luther's
"paradox." [50]

It was Newman's contention that, toward the end of his life, Luther
renounced his "paradox." [51] The evidence for this claim was tenuous.
[52] Luther's paradox" influenced how Newman used Luther's Commentary in his own Lectures. Although he left Luther's text intact in his footnotes, Newman carefully removed this "paradox" from anything he quoted from Luther in the actual text of his book.

C. Newman's Manipulation of Luther's Text

In addition to the footnotes, Newman made two citations from Luther's
Commentary in the main body of his Lectures. He used these quotations in order to support his own case against the extreme Protestants of the
Anglican Church. The reason why he used Luther in this way was that he considered that only scripture itself would carry greater weight among his opponents. [53]

In the last lecture in his book, "On Preaching the Gospel," Newman argued that the emphasis in contemporary evangelical preaching on the subjective experience of conversion was an abuse that tended to direct the congregation to concentrate more on themselves than on Christ. In order to make this point, Newman introduced a quotation from the Commentary on Galatians, discussing the text, "Yet not I" (Newman's emphasis), "but Christ liveth in me," [54] with the condescending phrase, "Even Luther ...," [55] Newman's citation then reads: "'Here,' says he, 'the Apostle clearly shows how he lives; and he teaches what Christian righteousness is, viz. that with which Christ lives in us, not that which is in our own person. And so when we treat of Christian righteousness, we must altogether put away our person......"' [56] Newman added six dots, indicating to his reader that he was leaving out part of Luther's text. It comes as no surprise to observe what it is he was leaving out, namely Luther's "paradox": "For if I pay attention to the person or speak of the person, then, whether intentionally or unintentionally on my part, the person becomes a doer of works who is subject to the Law. But here Christ and my conscience must become one body, so that nothing remains in my sight but Christ, crucified and risen." [57]

Newman then continued to quote Luther, after having passed over this part of the text:

...... If I look at myself only, Christ being excluded, it is over with
me. For then immediately the thought comes across me, "Christ is in
heaven, thou upon earth, how wilt thou now come to Him?" I will live
spiritually, and do as the Law demands, and so as to enter into life.

Here reflecting on myself, or what it ought to be, also what I ought to do, I let go Christ from my eyes, who is my sale righteousness and life. [58]

Once again a series of dots indicates a break in Luther's text.
Presumably, what has been left out by Newman would be included in the
"etc. etc." at the end of his footnote. This is what Newman has omitted:
"Once He is lost, there is no aid or counsel; but certain despair and
perdition must follow. This is an extremely common evil; for such is human misery that in temptation or death we immediately put Christ aside and pay attention to our own life and deeds. Unless we are raised here by faith we perish."

Newman then went on quoting his text from Luther: "We should accustom ourselves, turning from ourselves, in such distress of conscience, from the Law and works, which only force us to reflect on ourselves, simply to turn our eyes to the Brazen Serpent, Christ fixed to the Cross, on whom fixing our earnest gaze we maybe sure that He is our righteousness and life." [59] Although only a single dot follows the end of Newman's citation, Luther actually finished his sentence with these words: "and care nothing about the threats and terrors of the Law, sin, death, wrath, and the judgement of God." [60]

Would it not seem clear that Newman tried to "sterilize" Luther's text
from his opinions about the Law and works that he found objectionable and that Newman also quoted Luther out of context? While Luther might have agreed with Newman's opinion with regard to evangelical preaching in the nineteenth century, had he lived then, what he was actually writing about in the text Newman quoted is the "temptation" we have to trust in our own works-righteousness rather than in our salvation through Christ, a recurring theme in Luther's Commentary on Galatians.[61]

The second text from Luther's Commentary of which Newman made use appears at the end of his lecture dealing with the proper role of sacred
ordinances, such as the rite of baptism, and of good works in
justification. Newman employed Luther here to corroborate his own position that, since "[j]ustification comes through the sacraments; is received by faith; consists in God's inward presence; and lives in obedience," [62] good works can properly be said to justify us. [63] In other words, Newman used Luther in order to defend the Roman Catholic teaching that a Christian can truly cooperate with God in his or her own salvation. Newman was aware that this was a somewhat unusual position for Luther to take.

Nevertheless, he used the text because "he will be found to corroborate by his testimony what has been said; not willingly as the extract itself
shows, but in consequence of the stress of texts urged against him. I take him, then, for what he says, not for what he does not say." [64]

Newman then quoted some of Luther's comments on Gal. 3:10:

"It is usual with us," he says, "to view faith sometimes apart from its
work, sometimes with it. For as an artist speaks variously of his
materials, and a gardener of a tree, as in bearing or not, so also the
Holy Ghost speaks variously in Scripture concerning faith; at one time of what may be called abstract faith, faith as such: at another of concrete faith, faith in composition or embodied. Faith as such, or abstract, is meant, when Scripture speaks of justification, as such, or of the justified. (Vid. Rom. and Gal.). But when it speaks of rewards and works, then it speaks of faith in composition, concrete or embodied. For
instance: 'Faith which worketh by love;' 'This do and thou shalt live;'
'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;' 'Whoso doeth these things shall live in them;' 'Cease to do evil, learn to do well.' In these and similar texts, which occur without number, in which mention is made of doing, believing doings are always meant; as, when it says, 'This do and thou shalt live,' it means, 'First see that thou are believing, that thy reason is right and thy will good, that thou hast faith in Christ; that being secured, work.'" Then he proceeds: -- "How is it wonderful, that to that embodied faith that is, faith working, as was Abel's, in other words, to believing works, are annexed merits and rewards? Why should not Scripture speak thus variously of faith, considering it so speaks even of Christ, God and man; sometimes of His entire Person, sometimes one or other of His two natures, the Divine or human? When it speaks of one or
other of these, it speaks of Christ in the abstract; when of the Divine
made one with the human in one Person, of Christ as if in composition and
incarnate. There is a well-known rule in the Schools concerning the
'communicatio idiomatum,' when the attributes of His divinity are ascribed
to his humanity, as is frequent in Scripture; for instance, in Luke ii the
Angel calls the infant born of the Virgin Mary, 'the Saviour' of men, and
'the Lord' both of Angels and men, and in the preceding chapter, 'the Son
of God.' Hence I may say with literal truth, That Infant who is lying in a
manger and in the Virgin's bosom, created heaven and earth, and is the
Lord of Angels. .... As it is truly said, Jesus the Son of Mary created
all things, so is justification ascribed to faith incarnate or to
believing deeds." [65]

On the face of it, the analogy between the hypostatic union of the human
and divine natures in the Person of Christ and human cooperation in the
divine work of justification afford the perfect ground for a rapprochement
between Luther and Newman. Although the potential for an agreement existed
in Luther's use of this analogy, Newman misread the Reformer in claiming
from this text that he actually held a Catholic position on good works.
The difficulty of Newman's reading Luther in this way is that he did not
follow through with the "communication of idioms" in order to attribute
theandric value to Christ's human deed and, therefore, to attribute a role
for a Christian's good works in the divine work of his or her salvation.

This is made clear by the fact that, after saying, "The Infant lying in
the lap of His mother created heaven and earth, and is the Lord of the
angels," Luther went on to say:

I am indeed speaking about a man here. But "man" in this proposition is
obviously a new word and, as the sophists themselves say, stands for the
divinity; that is, this God who became man created all things. Here
creation is attributed solely to the divinity, since the humanity does not
create. Nevertheless, it is said correctly that "the man created," because
the divinity, which alone creates, is incarnate with the humanity, and
therefore the humanity participates in the attributes of both predicates.
Thus it is said: "This man Jesus led Israel out of Egypt, struck down the
Pharaoh, and did all things that belong to God." Here everything is being
attributed to the man on account of the divinity.

Therefore when Scripture says (Dan. 4:27): "Redeem your sins by showing
mercy" or (Luke 10:28) "Do this, and you will live," it is necessary to
see first of all what this "doing" is. For in these passages, as I have
said, Scripture is speaking about faith in the concrete rather than in the
abstract, in a composite sense rather than in a bare or simple sense.
Therefore the meaning of the passage, "Do this, and you will live," is
"You will live on account of this faithful 'doing'; this 'doing' will give
you life solely on account of faith." Thus justification belongs to faith
alone, just as creation belongs to the divinity. [66]

Immediately following these words is a final sentence by Luther that was
quoted by Newman: "As it is truly said, Jesus the Son of Mary created all
things, so is justification ascribed to faith incarnate or to believing
deeds." Within their context these words mean something very different
from what Newman would have led us to believe. With regard to Luther's
writings, Newman claimed to be following hermeneutics in a straightforward
way: "I take him, then, for what he says, not for what he does not say."
It is clear from what Newman chose to leave Out from Luther's text that he
has opted for what we might today call a hermeneutics of "deconstruction"
in Luther scholarship, for Luther actually said precisely the opposite of
what Newman claimed he was saying. With regard to the relationship between
faith and good works, Luther actually said in the text cited by Newman
that concrete or embodied faith never exists alone but is always united to
the Divine Person of the Word and that justification belongs only to a
bstract faith, never to concrete faith. [67] This was actually quite clear
to Newman because earlier in his book he had cited a text to this effect
from the Commentary. [68]

D. Newman's Deconstruction of Luther

Newman's deconstruction [69] of Luther was quite deliberate. He used
Luther against Luther and the Protestants in his Lectures on Justification
in the sense that he deliberately omitted any mention of Luther's
"paradox" in the texts under discussion and that he made Luther say
something very different from what he had intended. This was not
dishonesty on Newman's part. Dishonesty was not congruent with his
character as we know it nor with his distinguished academic career. Newman
did not begin reading Luther's Commentary on Galatians without
presuppositions, nor did he read it with an "empty head." [70] Newman was
reading and making use of Luther's work within the specific context of the
aims and objectives of the Oxford Movement and its via media.

After noting the mutilation of one of the Luther passages discussed above,
Alister McGrath, in the second volume of his Iustitia Dei, raised the same
problem: "We are thus confronted with two possibilities. Either Newman
encountered this passage at second hand, already in its mutilated form; or
else he deliberately chose to omit a section on account of its evident
significance. We incline towards the former." [71] The position of the
present study inclines toward the latter possibility and claims that
Newman was involved in a deconstruction of Luther and the Protestants of
his own day. The particular hermeneutics that Newman used in applying
Luther's Commentary on Galatians to his own Lectures on Justification came
from an ethos with regard to the Reformer cultivated within the context of
the Oxford Movement.

The age of the Oxford Movement is over. It is to be hoped that the
bilateral dialogue between the Lutherans and Anglicans that has resulted
in the Porvoo Declaration has ushered in a new hermeneutical methodology.
The example of Newman's treatment of Luther in the Lectures on
Justification illustrates why all the effort to achieve this agreement has
been important and worthwhile.

John F. Perry, S.J. (Roman Catholic), has been an assistant professor of
religious studies at St. Paul's College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, since 1998,
following three years in a similar position at St. Augustine's Seminary of
the Toronto School of Theology. Ordained a deacon in 1974 and a priest in
1975 in Ontario, he took his final vows in the Jesuit order in 1983 in
Bhutan. He lectured at St. Joseph's College in India (1969-70); was an
educator in the mostly Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan (1971-72, 1980-87); and
has lectured on moral and ethical issues throughout Canada in college,
hospital, and parish settings. He has also served parishes in Winnipeg and
Toronto. Since 1994 he has been editor of Ultimate Reality and Meaning. He
holds a B.A from the University of Guelph (ON); an M.Div. and M.Th. from
St. Mary's University, Halifax; and a Th.D. (1992) from Regis College of
the University of Toronto. His articles have appeared in URAM, Theological
Studies, and Perspective; his occasional articles and reviews, in the
Canadian Catholic Review, Religion and the Arts, and Studies in Religion.
He and Dean Bryan Hillis (Luther College, University of Regina) are
principal investigators for an interfaith, cross-cultural project
concerning Canadian religious beliefs around end-of-life issues.

(1.) Anglican Church News Service (LC044), July 24, 1998.

(2.) Karl Holl, "Luthers Bedeutung fur den Fortschritt der
Auslegunskunst," in his Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Kirchengeschichte, I:
Luther, 4th and 5th eds. (Tilbingen: Mohr, 1927; repr., Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1965).

(3.) Gerhard Ebeling, "Die Anfange von Luthers Hermeneutik," Zeitschrift
fur Theologie und Kirche, vol. 48, no. 2 (1951), pp. 172-230; idem, "The
New Hermeneutics and the Early Luther," Theology Today 21 (April, 1964):

(4.) James S. Preus, From Shadow to Promise: Old Testament Interpretation
from Augustine to the Young Luther (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1969).

(5.) Marvin O'Connell, The Oxford Conspirators: A History of the Oxford
Movement, 1833-1845 (London: Macmillan, 1969). For a general background on
the status question is, the following books are helpful: Thomas L.
Sheridan, Newman on Justification (New York: Alba House, 1967); Peter
Toon, Evangelical Theology, 1833-1356: A Response to Tractarianism
(Atlanta, GA.: John Knox Press, 1979); and P. B. Nockles, The Oxford
Movement in Context (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

(6.) Gerard Tracey, ed., The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman,
vol. 6: January 1837 to December 1838 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), p.
186; cf. Henry Chadwick, "The Lectures on Justification," in Ian Ker and
Alan G. Hill, eds., Newman after a Hundred Years (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1990), p. 291.

(7.) Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine
of Justification, vol. 2: From 1500 to the Present Day (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 110-111, 130-134. Kenneth Parker
has raised questions about Newman's first-hand knowledge of the Caroline
Divines and their tradition; see his "Newman's Individualistic Use of the
Caroline Divines in the Via Media," in Gerard Magill, ed., Discourse and
Context: An Interdisciplinary Study of John Henry Newman (Carbondale and
Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993), pp. 33-42.

(8.) Apart from its long and detailed "Appendix," it is not a systematic
or technical treatise. Its style is sometimes that of a lecture and at
other times reminds the reader of a sermon; cf. Chadwick, "Lectures," p.
289. In fact, it is mainly a work in biblical theology; see Toon,
Evangelical Theology, p. 150.

(9.) Robrecht Boudens, ed. and notes, Alfred Plummer: Conversations with
Dr. Dollinger: 1870-1890 (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1985), p. 254.

(10.) In the "Advertisement" to the 3rd ed. of the Lectures on the
Doctrine of Justification, Newman said: "Unless the Author held in
substance in 1874 what he published in 1838, he would not at this time be
reprinting what he wrote as an Anglican; certainly not with so little
added by way of safeguard" (John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Doctrine of
Justification [Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1966 (1st ed., 1838;
3rd ed., 1874; 7th ed.: London: Longmans Green and Co., 1897)1, p. ix;
hereafter, L.J.).

(11.) Gordon Rupp, The Righteouseness of God (London: Hodder and
Stoughton, 1953), p.4.

(12.) I understand this word as Bernard J. F. Lonergan used it in Method
in Theology (New York: Herder & Herder and Seabury Press, 1972).

(13.) John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Being a History
of His Religious Opinions, ed. Martin J. Svaglic (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1967), p. 35.

(14.) See Geoffrey Best, Evangelicalism and the Victorians: The Victorian
Crisis of Faith, ed. A. Symondson (London: SPCK, 1970), pp. 37-56; Yngve
Brilioth, Three Lectures on Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement
(London: Oxford University Press, 1934).

(15.) Toon, Evangelical Theology, p. 5.

(16.) Newman, Apologia, p. 17.

(17.) John Henry Newman, Autobiographical Writings, ed. and intro. Henry
Tristram (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1957), p. 191.

(18.) Ibid., pp. 202-203.

(19.) Ibid., p. 78.

(20.) T. C. F. Stunt, "John Henry Newman and the Evangelicals," Journal of
Ecclesiastical History 21 (January, 1970): 66-71.

(21.) Chadwick, "Lectures," p. 292; McGrath, in Iustitia Dei, vol. 2, P.
122, wrongly stated that Newman was the editor of this volume.

(22.) Chadwick, "Lectures," pp. 292-293. Faber eventually wrote a rebuttal
of Newman, stating that he "mixes up together wholesome food and rank
poison, the sound doctrine of the Church of England and the pernicious
dogmas of the Church of Rome" (George Stanley Faber, The Primitive
Doctrine of Justification Investigated Relatively to the Definitions of
the Church of Rome and the Church of England, 2nd ed., [1839], p. 427).

(23.) "Letter Addressed to a Magazine on Behalf of Dr. Pusey's Tracts on
Holy Baptism" (1837), in John Henry Newman, The Via Media of the Anglican
Church, vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1891), pp. 150-154.

(24.) Ibid., p. 169.

(25.) Ibid., p. 172.

(26.) Ibid., p. 194 (emphasis in original). Dr. Pusey held a position at
Oxford that was bestowed on the incumbent at the behest of the Anglican

(27.) McGrath considers them to be "easily the most significant
theological writing to emerge from the Oxford Movement" (McGrath, Iustitia
Dei, vol.2, p. 122).

(28.) L.J., p. 5.

(29.) Ibid., p. 60.

(30.) Ibid., p. 282.

(31.) Ibid., p. 264.

(32.) Ibid., p. 263.

(33.) Ibid., p. 65; Newman's emphasis.

(34.) Ibid.; Newman's emphasis.

(35.) Ibid., p. 343n. This text seems to be the same as Martin Luthers
Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger,
1883-), 40:1, 239, 31-240, 1, 2 (hereafter, W.A.), although the Latin in
the Weimar Edition is slightly different from Newman's quotation: "Et
concludendum cum Paulo: Sola fide, non fide formata charitate justificat
... Haec fides sine et ante charitatem justificat." McGrath took this as
evidence that Newman was using a secondary and inaccurate (Latin) source
for Luther's writings (McGrath, Iustitia Dei, vol. 2, p. 129).

(36.) L.J., p. 257.

(37.) McGrath, Iustitia Dei, vol. 2, p. 126. The irony, as McGrath pointed
out, is that Newman's notion of justification's consisting in the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer and Luther's theology were

(38.) L.J., p. 256.

(39.) Ibid., p. 263.

(40.) Ibid., p. 264.

(41.) Ibid., p. 19. It is uncertain to what "little book" of Luther Newman
is referring here. Newman's reference simply reads: "Luther. Libell. ad
Ed. August." It may refer to Luther's "Marginal Notes" on Augustine's
writings, the Randbemerkungen zu Augustini opuscula (1509), which is found
in W.A. 7, 39ff.

(42.) L.J., pp. 29,215.

(43.) Ibid., pp. 256-257.

(44.) Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6, vol. 27 in Luther's
Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House,
1964), p. 23. In his footnote Newman cited Luther in Latin; cf., W.A.
40:2, 20-21, 27, 28, 31.

(45.) See, e.g., W.A. 40:1, 229, 18-19.

(46.) W.A. 40: 2, 24, 13-15.

(47.) Ibid., 40:1, 240, 17-25.

(48.) L.J., p. 278.

(49.) In another footnote he quoted the Reformer to this effect: "Non enim
dicit [Paulus], Charitas est efficax, sed, Fides est efficax; non,
Charitas operatur, sed, Fides operatur. Charitatem vero facit fidei velut
instrumentum, per quod operatur.... Illa charitas, vet sequential opera,
nec informant meam fidem, nec ornant; sed fides mea informat et ornat
charitatem" (ibid., pp. 9-10).

(50.) Ibid., p. 78; 215, n. 2; 343n.

(51.) Ibid., p. 60n.

(52.) Newman referred to the fourth Bampton Lecture by Richard Laurence,
the Archbishop of Cashel, in which Laurence was discussing not
justification but the question of free will; cf. An Attempt to illustrate
Those Articles of the Church of England which the Calvinists Improperly
Consider as Calvinistical, Eight Sermons Preached before the University of
Oxford in the Year MDCCIV, at the Lecture Founded by J. Bampton, M.A., new
ed. (Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter for J. Parker and F. C. and J.
Rivington, 1820), p. 93.

(53.) L.J., pp. 113, 275.

(54.) Ibid., p.332.

(55.) Ibid., p.331.

(56.) Ibid., p.332.

(57.) It should be noted that this first omission is included in its Latin
original as found in Newman's footnote: W.A. 40:1, 282, 19-22; Lectures on
Galatians, 1534, Chapters 1-4, vol. 26 in Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav
Pelikan (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1963), p. 166 (hereafter, L.W. 26).

(58.) WA 40:1, 282,19-22; L.W. 26, p. 166; Newman's emphasis.

(59.) L.J., p. 332; Newman's emphasis.

(60.) WA 40:1, 283, 13-14; L.W. 26, p. 166.

(61.) E.g., W.A. 40:1, 128, 32ff.; L.W 26, pp. 63ff.; W.A. 40:1, 322,
15-17; L.W. 26, p. 197; W.A. 40:1, 345, 31ff.; L.W. 26, pp. 215-216; W.A.
40:1, 369, l3ff.; L.W. 26, p. 233.

(62.) L.J., p. 278; Newman's emphasis.

(63.) Ibid., p. 274.

(64.) Ibid., p. 300.

(65.) Ibid., pp. 300-301.

(66.) W.A. 40:1, 416, 10ff.; L.W. 26, pp. 265-266.

(67.) In confirmation of this, see W. A. 40:1, 417, 25-418; L. W. 26, pp.

(68.) L. J., p. 28; W. A. 40:1, 50, 25ff.; L. W. 26, pp. 11-12.

(69.) Obviously, to speak of "deconstruction" with regard to Newman is
anachronistic. However, Newman's freedom to make Luther say what he
believed was the truth for the sake of the evangelical Anglicans in his
own day deserves a description; "deconstruction" will serve as a
meaningful term.

(70.) Lonergan, Method in Theology, p. 223.

(71.) McGrath, Iustitia Dei, vol. 2, p. 129.


Publication Information: Article Title: Newman's Treatment of Luther in
the Lectures on Justification. Contributors: John F. Perry - author.
Journal Title: Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: 303.

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