What determines real Christian doctrine? How have the primary tenets of Christian theology come out of biblical texts that do not explicitly provide for such conclusions? John Henry Newman wrestled with these questions for much of his adult life. In his Essay, Newman provides seven tests by which the development of an idea may be legitimized. Through this process he concludes that there has never been any innovation in Christian theology, only development and clarification to accommodate the needs of a specific era.
The quality of his literary style is so successful that it succeeds in escaping definition. The quality of his logic is that of a long but passionate patience, which waits until he has fixed all corners of an iron trap. But the quality of his moral comment on the age remains what I have said: a protest of the rationality of religion as against the increasing irrationality of mere Victorian comfort and compromise.
The philosophical and theological thought and the spirituality of Cardinal Newman, so deeply rooted in and enriched by Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers, still retain their particular originality and value.
—Pope John Paul II
Newman placed the key in our hand to build historical thought into theology, or much more, he taught us to think historically in theology and so to recognize the identity of faith in all developments.
—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
John Henry Newman (February 21, 1801 – August 11, 1890) was a priest and Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. His father was a banker and his mother's family was French Huguenot. Newman was raised in a strict Calvinist home and received his primary education at the famous Ealing School. John Henry Newman graduated from Trinity College, Oxford in 1821 and was elected to a fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford in the following year. On June 13, 1824 he was ordained into the Anglican priesthood. From the early 1830's until 1845, Newman was a leading figure in the Oxford Movement, a group of Anglican priests and scholars from Oxford who sought to restore the rites of the Anglican church to their Apostolic roots in the Early Church. Between 1842 and 1845, during a time of solitude and the completion of Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman underwent a process conversion to Roman Catholicism. Newman also published the Oxford Conservative Journal during this time period as a platform for retracting any negative remarks he previously assailed towards the Roman Church.
He was officially received into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845. The conversion of John Henry Newman to Catholicism was the result of a life's long struggle to reconcile the historic faith handed down from the Apostles with his own Anglican tradition. Frustrated with the errors inherent in both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, Newman abandoned his search for the via media (or, middle way) of Anglicanism and converted to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1848, Newman founded the Birmingham Oratory at Maryvale and began ministering to the Catholic population of the city. In 1851, the Bishops of Ireland elected to start a Catholic university in Dublin and they appointed Newman to be the founder and first rector of the institution. Maintaining his ministry at the Birmingham Oratory, Newman established what would become University College, Dublin. His Idea of a University was prepared for founding faculty of the university at Dublin. On May 12, 1879 Pope Leo XIII appointed Newman to the college of Cardinals. John Henry Cardinal Newman died on August 11, 1890. Cardinal Newman is currently under consideration by the Vatican for sainthood.