Further Notes on a Common Faith – Newman


In my recent post on a Common Faith, I offered a concatenation of quotes from the Fathers, East and West, on the doctrine of salvation as union with God (divinization or theosis). It included as well, both Luther and Calvin. I commented at the time that with some little research surely we could add Newman to that number. Considering that he was one of the 19th century’s greatest scholars on St. Athanasius, I knew I was right. Today I offer fruit of my small search:

It would seem, moreover, as I have said, that [Christ’] has done so by ascending to the Father; that his ascent bodily is his descent spiritually; that his taking our nature up to God, is the descent of God into us; that he has truly, though in an unknown sense, taken us to God, or brought down God to us, according as we view it. Thus, when St. Paul says that our life is hid with Christ in God, we may suppose him to intimate that our principle of existence is no longer a mortal, earthly principle, such as Adam’s after his fall, but that we are baptized and hidden anew in God’s glory, in that Shekinah of light and purity which we lost when Adam fell – that we are new-created, transformed, spiritualized, glorified in the Divine Nature – that through the participation  of Christ, we receive, as through a channel, the true presence of God within and without us, imbuing us with sanctity and immortality. (Quoted in Keating, p. 22 – the original is from Newman’s Lectures on Justification, lecture 9.)

More evidence that there is indeed a common faith, to be found in the early Fathers of the Church. Such a common faith, shed of later speculations about how many forms of grace there are (there is but one) or other “epicycles” of scholastic theology, is a watershed of truth, both seamless with the gospels and the apostolic canon, and proclaiming a faith that is indeed, or should be, the common faith of Christendom. That this common faith of Christendom, also happens to be the living faith of the Orthodox Church is not a moment for triumphalism, but a moment for thanksgiving on the part of all. That we need not become theological miners, searching for hidden truth in caves long dormant, but that we may become theological partners in the sharing and appropriation of the common faith of the Fathers, which is none other than the Apostolic faith, is a moment of joy and an occasion for thanksgiving to the good God who has kept us all for such a time.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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9 responses to “Further Notes on a Common Faith – Newman”

  1. Dave Whalen Avatar

    Yes, Father, Being a Roman Catholic and seeing all the mess the Western Church is in right now (doctrinally), the West needs to return to the 7 ecumenical Councils and the whole teaching of the Fathers.
    When this is done Roman Catholics like myself see that truly the East and West were one in Ancient times.
    May it happen in our days!

    St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom,
    Ora pro nobis!

  2. artisticmisfit Avatar

    Thanks for this. More and more I am realizing a heretic, well more like having it shoved down my throat, that a heretic is one who has radical ideas, not necessarily an Anglican, or an Episcopalian, or a Reformed. The Orthodox church probably does not perceive Newman as a heretic, but I am sure it perceives Spong as a heretic. In fact one can live a totally immoral sinful lifestyle, but, if they tout the party line, they are considered a true believer and worthy of praise.

  3. fatherstephen Avatar

    The Orthodox Church perceives Newman as a Roman Catholic.

  4. artisticmisfit Avatar

    It chrismates Roman Catholics into the Church, in other words, they are perceived as heretics, officially, by the church, at least according to some church letters by some bishops. All that is over my head and I am not getting involved, but I also can’t refrain myself from commenting on it.

  5. fatherstephen Avatar

    Generally the term used for Roman Catholics would be that they are in schism (schismatics). Heresy gets used too easily by some. I like to reserve it for fairly specific meanings, partly because it is an offensive word that can be avoided where another word is sufficient. Schism and heresy are not the same thing. There would be certain errors held by the Roman Catholic Church which the Orthodox certainly reject, though whether those errors rise to the level of a formal heresy is debateable. Generally, most mainstream Orthodox writings in the 20th century have not used the language of heresy to describe the character of Christians who are not united to the Orthodox faith. On the other hand there are Christians outside of Orthodoxy who clearly hold heretic views and are, indeed, heretics. But those would be specific cases and not a term genrally used to describe Protestants and Catholics.

    Receiving someone into the Church by Chrismation does not mean that the Church holds them to be heretics. Generally it means it holds them to be schismatics of some form or other.

  6. artisticmisfit Avatar

    Forgive me Father, I need to point something out to you in email out of discretion, and then perhaps we can address it again in public.

  7. optina Avatar

    Funny Newman should come up. I was just listening to an EWTN audio interview on Newman and recalling the Oxford movement and his personal movement out of Anglicanism and into the Catholic church. One is left wondering what his choice might have been if the Orthodox were a stronger presence in England in his day. Certainly, a great deal of what drove him to Catholicism would equally apply to Orthodoxy. I was privileged to take a graduate course with a Newman scholar and spend some quality time in his “Apologia”. What a great writer and thinker and man of principle. Virtually everything he wrote is available for free online and he is a writer worth spending some time with if for no other reason than to admire his prose.

  8. AR Avatar

    When you first put up your “common faith” post, Father Stephen, I wanted to add a quote by Jonathan Edwards and I’ve just found it.

    “Not only does the sun shine in the saints, but they also become little suns, partaking of the nature of the fountain of their light.” – Jonathan Edwards, from “The Religious Affections, from Part III, Section VII.”

    I think this is a very important point you are making in regard to the consequences of inherited schisms, building bridges to Orthodoxy, and the impulse of Orthodox truth being alive in other places where our Lord is confessed.

    It strikes me that because Orthodox Christianity is always dealing with realities too big for human nature as presently possessed by most of us, it rarely tries to get too technical, especially about states of being and knowing that are passing away.

    Just wanted to put in my Amen. Thanks, as always.

  9. […] evident. (See Fr. Stephen Freeman’s excellent posts which relate to this both here, here, and here.) It is the various Western liturgies and chant repertoires which are, even from an Orthodox point […]

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