Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"there are no two opinions so contrary to each other, but some form of words may be found vague enough to comprehend them both."

"how idle is it to suppose that to demand assent to a form of words which happens to be scriptural, is on that account sufficient to effect an unanimity in thought and action!  If the Church would be vigorous and influential, it must be decided and plain-spoken in its doctrine, and must regard its faith rather as a character of mind than as a notion.  To attempt comprehensions of opinion, amiable as the motive frequently is, is to mistake arrangements of words, which have no existence except on paper, for habits which are realities; and ingenious generalizations of discordant sentiments for that practical agreement which alone can lead to cooperation.  We may indeed artificially classify light and darkness under one term or formula; but nature has her own fixed courses, and unites mankind by the sympathy of moral character, not by these forced resemblances which the imagination singles out at pleasure even in the most promiscuous collection of materials.  However plausible may be the veil thus thrown over heterogeneous doctrines, the flimsy artifice is discomposed so soon as the principles beneath it are called upon to move and act.  Nor are those attempted comprehensions innocent; for, it being the interest of our enemies to weaken the Church, they have always gained a point, when they have put upon us words for things, and persuaded us to fraternize with those who, differing from us in essentials, nevertheless happen, in the excursive range of opinion, somewhere to intersect that path of faith, which centres in supreme and zealous devotion to the service of God."
     "Let it be granted, then, as indisputable, that there are no two opinions so contrary to each other, but some form of words may be found vague enough to comprehend them both.  The Pantheist will admit that there is a God, and the Humanitarian that Christ is God, if they are suffered to say so without explanation.  But if this be so, it becomes the duty, as well as the evident policy of the Church, to interrogate them, before admitting them to her fellowship.  If the Church be the pillar and ground of the truth, and bound to contend for the preservation of the faith once delivered to it; if we are answerable as ministers of Christ for the formation of one, and one only, character in the heart of man; and if the Scriptures are given us, as a means indeed towards that end, but inadequate to the office of interpreting themselves, except to such as live under the same Divine Influence which inspired them, and which is expressly sent down upon us that we may interpret them,—then, it is evidently our duty piously and solemnly to promulgate it in such form as is best suited, as far as it goes, to exclude the pride and unbelief of the world."

     John Henry Newman, The Arians of the fourth century II.i, "On the principle of theformation and imposition of creeds" (5th ed. (London:  Pickering and Co., 1883 [1833]), 147-148).  I was put on to this by Robert Royal, “Beautiful, moving, and divisive,” The Catholic thing, Friday, April 8, 2016.  The 1833 edition is worded somewhat differently.

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