Faith in Christ through the Spirit’s illuminating work, and not anything merely our own, is the great thing. The true sorrow of doctrinal corruption consists in its undermining our ability to relate to Jesus Christ in the full rich way to which he calls us, which involves not pride in our own knowledge but rather cruciform humility, through which the Church manifests the love of the crucified Christ for the world. (370)
Matthew Levering’s Newman on Doctrinal Corruption navigates St. John Henry Newman’s responses to five separate challenges directed against the Catholic Church, which are embodied by five individuals: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Richard Hurrell Froude (1803-1836), Francis Newman (1805-1897), Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), and Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890). Levering structures the book in five comparative chapters, each situating one respective figure alongside excerpts from Newman and his writings, and the book is organized chronologically.
When Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine is situated within the grander scheme of his writings, one finds, as Levering points out, that “He [Newman] is always open to seeing further and more profoundly thanks to the insights of others who disagree with him” (368). Furthermore, Newman “as a Catholic believer” embraces “what he has received ‘concerning the word of life’ (1 John 1:1)” (368). Levering demonstrates the importance of Newman’s theory of doctrinal development in our present day, and he is self-aware of his own location within our historical moment: “I am writing as a constructive theologian immersed in today’s crisis of doctrine” (6). Levering’s project is deeply relevant to our own time––the church was then and is constantly navigating questions of doctrinal validity. Levering’s book is a must-read for Newman scholars and those concerned with the integrity of their faith.
Matthew Levering. Newman on Doctrinal Corruption. Word on Fire Academic, 2022. Hardcover $34.95 USD. ISBN: 9781685780302.
Savannah Spratt is a fourth-year English and Philosophy student at Duquesne University. She is interning at the National Institute for Newman Studies in her final semester and plans to pursue law after graduation.