Oxford Movement: reference to Cardinall Newman

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      The Oxford movement was the most dramatic and far-reaching religious impulse of the Victorian era. It is also known as the Tractarian movement. It was largely responsible for the powerful Anglo-Catholicism. Just as Oxford in the 1730s had been the nurturer or Wesley and evangelicalism, so in the 1830s the university produced another religious revival. The Oxford movement reacted to the Irish Church Bill of 1833 which was considered a monstrous threat against the rise of political power that exerted great pressure on the Established Church of its opponents.


The beginning of the Oxford movement was ascribed by Newman to Keble's sermon National Apostasy in 1833.
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      The Anglican clergy feared that there would be much interference of the Parliament in the affairs of the Church. The "Higher Criticism" of German origin, particularly of David Strauss's Das Laben Jestt in its cold dissection of Christian scriptures challenged the very basis of orthodox faith. The Oxford movement was directed to vindicate the infallibility of the Bible and emphasise the organic (i.e. Catholic) nature of the Christian Church. The movement was also a reaction against the liberalism and utilitarianism of the day and the materialistic science of the ninteenth century.


      The beginning of the Oxford movement was ascribed by Newman to Keble's sermon National Apostasy in 1833. Keble denounced the Irish Church as "direct disavowal of the sovereignty of God". Later in the same year Keble, Newman and a few others began the publication of Tracts for the Times which insisted that the Established Church was notan institution created by the state but the "local presence and organ" of the Church Catholic and Apostalic, set up from the beginning.


      John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was swayed to conservative religion by Keble and R. H. Froude: and as Vicar of St. Mary's the University Church of Oxford, from 1828 he exerted increasing influence for clerical traditionalism. He was drawn to Catholicism, but he denounced Roman Catholicism. He wrote the famous hymn, Lend, Kindly Light dedicating himself to a religious task as yet imperfectly perceived. His best devotional lyrics are found in Lyra Apostolica (1836). In the pulpit and through his writings of about a third of the Tracts for the Times (1833-1841) he developed as the major spokesman, for Anglo-Catholicism. His Anglo-Catholicism is expressed in his Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church (1837) and Oxford University Sermons (1845). Newman was converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845 and in his Essays of the Development of a Christian Doctrine (1845) he proclaimed that Roman Catholicism was the true lineal continuation of primitive Christianity. The idea of a University was his most popular work. His other works are Sermons Preached on Various Occasions (1857) and Apologia Provita Sua. The latter details the author's journey of religious search from childhood evengelicalism to Roman Catholic conversion in 1845. He also wrote The Dream of Gerontius (1865) and An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.


      Newman, the most important personality of the Oxford Movement is also its most conspicuous writer. He dreamt of a free and powerful Church and aspired to a return to the spirit of the Middle Ages. His prose work is purely theological and intellectual. Yet it moved the readers to a great extent because of the persuasive quality of the style. He used an extraordinarily simple prose, supple, distinguished and essentially aristocratic, and deeply imbued with the culture of Oxford.

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