Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Book Review, Part II: John Henry Newman on Truth and Its Counterfeits

As I noted in my first post, I'm continuing my review of Professor Reinhard Hutter's new book from the Catholic University of America Press, John Henry Newman on Truth and Its Counterfeits: A Guide for Our Times. I thought it would be just too long a post otherwise, especially since I am including a detailed table of contents, including the subheads from each chapter. In my post on Saturday, April 18, I offered my comments on the Prologue, Chapter 1 on Conscience and Its Counterfeits, and Chapter 2 on Faith and Its Counterfeits, so now I'll pick up with comments on Chapters 3 and 4 and the Epilogue and then offer my overall review and comments on this book.

I like the cover of the book: the designer has adapted a photograph of Newman the National Institute for Newman Studies identifies as being taken  in 1888 (and published in a book titled Cardinal Newman by William Barry). The photograph may have been flopped (Newman is facing left in the NINS portrait) and color has been added subtly to his face and hair and to the outer garment Newman is wearing (red). That is also the portrait of Newman that Scepter Publishers and I selected for the cover of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation with Newman facing Henry VIII, although their designer cropped it differently and left it in black and white:

It is also the portrait chosen by Oxford University Press for the 2019 reissued edition of Father Ian Ker's great biography of Newman, with different color choices (red for his cassock and zucchetto):

But enough about the cover: on to the rest of contents!

Chapter 3. The Development of Doctrine and Its Counterfeits
*Development of Doctrine: The Voice of the Magisterium
*How Is an Authentic Development of Doctrine to be Discerned?
*Newman's Seven Notes of an Authentic Development of Doctrine
*A Test Case of Authentic Development of Doctrine: "Dignitatis Humanae"
*Conclusion: Two Counterfeits of the Authentic Development of Doctrine
*Appendix: Francisco Marin-Sola's Thomist Reception of Newman

Hutter begins this chapter (pp. 130-131) with a great explication of Newman's famous sentence, "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant" as he concludes that the history Newman is speaking of is salvation history, the "unfolding truth of the divine Word" which the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, continuously passes on. Thus "to be deep in history in this precise sense of salvation history means to be deep in the [Catholic] Church."

Hutter then examines "the voice of the recent magisterium to ascertain its teaching on the development of doctrine", citing Dei Filius from the First Vatican Council and Dei Verbum from the Second, reviews Newman's seven notes from the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and then provides a test case.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this chapter is how Professor Hutter submits his argument to Father Ian Ker's chapter 2, "The Hermeneutic of Change in Continuity" in Newman on Vatican II in developing his test case of whether or not the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, is an authentic development of doctrine. I think it's worth quoting his footnote in which he says he abstains "from the academic temptation to be original" and "rather gratefully" relies "on Ker's astute analysis and argumentation" because it "strikes [him] as just right" (note 36, page 146). Then Hutter goes on to use pages 65-71 of Father Ker's book, demonstrating how Dignitatis Humanae, magisterially affirmed at the Second Vatican Council, passes the test of Newman's seven notes of true development of doctrine--which is not a matter of private judgment or sovereign self-determination. He also comments on the dangers of both ecclesial antiquarianism and presentism: neither a static past nor a progressive future fulfill the Church's mandate to teach the Gospel and hand on the Tradition. Hutter brings in a connection to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Appendix to this chapter as he explores the work of Dom Francisco Marin-Sola, OP, and his work on the development of Christian doctrine in The Homogeneous Evolution of Catholic Dogma, a neglected work.

Chapter 4. The University and Its Counterfeit
*University Education and (Natural) Theology as a Science
*The Indispensability of (Natural) Theology for University Education
*Becoming a Master of the Twofold "Logos", Thought and Word
*A Pragmatic Postscript
*Appendix: Metaphysics and Natural Theology

I have been reading and studying Newman's The Idea of a University since I first discovered Newman in 1979 while attending Wichita State University as sophomore pursuing a B.A. in English Language and Literature, knowing then that I could not receive the fullness of a liberal arts, university education at that institution as it was willing and able to instruct me. As a few of the students at the Newman Center who were enrolled in the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and I realized, we were going to have to seek other sources for that fullness of education, unfortunately rather unsystematically.

Based upon his extensive experience at colleges and universities as a student and professor, Hutter also has a great respect for the idea and ideal Newman presents in these lectures while knowing that many of those institutions he's familiar with have not achieved the goals of a fully integrated university education. He calls most of the colleges and universities that exist today "polytechnical" institutions, without a unity of purpose beyond the sports team and making money. He mocks derisively those colleges who add a few master degree programs so they may claim the title university without approaching universal knowledge at all! They become polytechnical, hyperpluralistic institutions on a smaller scale.

Once again fulfilling his thesis that Newman is "A Guide for Our Times", Hutter demonstrates how Newman anticipated the decline of university education since he saw signs of great errors based upon private judgment and the sovereign subject: "authority, tradition, habit, moral instinct, and the divine influences" were being rejected in the nineteenth century; "patience of thought, and depth and consistency of view" were mocked, while "free discussion and fallible judgment [were] prized as the birthright of each individual." Newman knew he was already fighting a battle he might lose when he founded the Catholic University of Ireland in Dublin (although he lost it for a different reason) as a bulwark against the secularized, liberalized, utilitarian university of his own time. Newman traced that polytechnical ideal to Francis Bacon, using higher education for material and social desires, not the fulfillment the human person through understanding his relationship to his Creator through natural theology and a philosophical habit of mind. That's why Theology must be a subject at a true university, not "religious studies", "the Bible as literature" or a survey course on world religions.

Newman saw that "the human being was being eliminated as a subject worthy of study"; Hutter sees now that we have "transhumanist outlook" as the liberal eugenicists today demand the freedom to design human beings, changing or enhancing "properties of one's own nature (intelligence, gender, emotions, body features, etc) with the assistance of biotechnology."

One of passages that affected me most, as I reflected on my incomplete education, was Hutter's substantial quotation of the Trappist monk Dom Eugene Boylan's This Tremendous Lover. In 1946 Boylan "made a keen observation about an emerging problem in the intellectual life that has only escalated since then": the use of imagination instead of abstract, metaphysical thought, substituting what might be for what is; non-being for Being. Boylan identified the results as false substitutions are made in thought and discourse:
  • sentiment in principle for [instead of] argument
  • particular for the general in argument
  • metaphor in place of reality
  • opinion for certainty
  • prejudice for judgment
  • quantity for quality
  • matter for the ultimate reality
Even though I attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools, I received--in the late sixties and seventies--an education based on imagination and not abstract, metaphysical thought. Combined with the weak catechesis of that era, I might quote Paul Simon to say that "it's a wonder I can think at all"! except that I did discover John Henry Newman in 1979--receiving some good orientation and guidance--and did study the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the early nineties, married a good man, made good friends, and kept reading and studying Newman's life and works, thank God.

Epilogue: A Newmanian Theological Journey into the Catholic Church
*Moral Theology
*Justification, Church, and Eucharist
*Encountering Mother Church

The epilogue is Hutter's conversion story from Lutheranism to Catholicism. In the context of the book, it demonstrates how he recognized that even teaching morality in a Lutheran seminary led him to base his instructor on his own private judgment and as a sovereign subject. There was no authority to guide him or his students or even his ecclesial community--not even Martin Luther himself! Even believing in the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion could not result in any reverence for the matter of Holy Communion, as crumbs and bits of the Body of Christ were treated like mere bread, unless the pastor of a certain parish cared. Hutter notes the great influence of Pope St. John Paul II's encyclicals, Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae, and Ecclesia de Eucharistia. It's a great conversion story and a fitting end to the book as it demonstrates again Newman's influence today.

Selected Bibliography
Index of Names
General Index

The bibliography is excellent, and the footnotes, as I mentioned, are important to read. I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the influence of Newman's teachings and writings on conscience, faith, ecclesiology and the Church's magisterium, and the idea of a university. I enjoyed and benefited from "hearing" Professor Hutter's voice of reason and experience throughout his discussion of these important subjects. It's a book I've had a hard time putting down even after I read the last word.

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