Friday, February 23, 2018

Newman and History: An Interview

Francis Phillips, the book reviewer for The Catholic Herald, interviews Edward Short, author of Newman and History. She's reading the book and I am too. She asks Mr. Short about the first chapter in his bis book, "Newman, Gibbon, and God's Particular Providence":

For Newman, in Short’s eyes, “History is also the register of man’s need for salvation”. He reminds me that in his opening chapter he contends “that a good deal of history after Gibbon is flawed because it is based on the conviction that history, properly understood, can make no allowance for the providential. What I endeavour to show in that chapter is that leaving the providential out of any account of the rise of Christianity inevitably leads to bad, uncritical, ahistorical history because it produces a view of Christianity that is essentially unaccountable.”

He warms to his theme: “If the faith of the martyrs in the supernatural reality of God’s plan for our salvation does not account for the rise of Christianity, what does account for it? To say, as Gibbon says, that credulity and fanaticism and the chicane of bishops accounts for the unprecedented spread of the Christian religion is nonsense.”

Short reflects, “Gibbon may have convinced himself, in his trifling, derisive way, that history is often “little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind”. Yet what Newman shows is that, on the contrary, history is the register of man’s need for God’s salvation – indeed, his hope in that salvation. This is why Newman’s history is always so full of prayer.”

Phillips asks Short about what he admires about Blessed John Henry Newman and why he writes about him:

I am curious to know what aspect of Newman’s personality does the author most admire. Short thinks this a difficult question, telling me he is a great admirer of the man “especially his integrity. It is his integrity after all that gives him not only his wisdom but his holiness. For me”, he continues, “it is the saint in the man that commands most respect, his constant unwavering care for the cure of souls, his solicitude for the spiritual wellbeing of his fellows, the quality of his caritas. In his quiet, eminently English, self-deprecatory way, Newman was indeed a saint and one reads him not only to understand but to try to emulate that holiness.”

Is this why Short has written three books on Newman? He says wryly, “On the face of it, my writing at all might seem a quixotic undertaking. After all, I am neither an academic nor a popular author. The only reason I continue to write about Newman is that in order to write about him I must read him fairly closely and he is a delight to read. Then again, there is so much to learn from Newman. He is so charming, so witty and so companionable.”

Please read the rest there.

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