Monday, June 05, 2006

The little matter of Truth and Opinion

Profound apologies to all my regular readers. Over the last week or so, it must have appeared as if I had disappeared from the blogosphere for a bit. (I just had to add “blogosphere” to my spell checker; get with it, Microsoft!). Well, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is over, and so is my trip with Cathy, Maddy and Mia up country to visit my family and hometown for my godson and nephew’s (Lutheran) confirmation. It was a very significant occasion to be in the church where I was baptised (in 1966) and confirmed (1979) and received my first Eucharist as a Lutheran. Same font, still there, now set at the door in good traditional catholic style rather than up the front in traditional Lutheran style. It had water in it, which was nice (my family were able to use the water to cross themselves as we left the church—as did my nephew’s Catholic grandmother), and burning candles floating in the water, which was a little “cutesy” (I note that Microsoft had that one in its spellchecker).

So here I am with a quotation from John Henry Newman which I had wanted to post after hearing it on an EWTN broadcast recently:

In his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman said that “liberals” variously believe:

  • that truth and falsehood in religion are but matter of opinion;

  • that one doctrine is as good as another;

  • that the Governor of the world does not intend that we should gain the truth;

  • that there is no truth;

  • that we are not more acceptable to God by believing this than by believing that;

  • that no one is answerable for his opinions;

  • that they are a matter of necessity or accident;

  • that it is enough if we sincerely hold what we profess;

  • that our merit lies in seeking, not in possessing;

  • that it is a duty to follow what seems to be true, without a fear lest it should not be true;

  • that it may be a gain to succeed, and can be no harm to fail;

  • that we may take up and lay down opinions at pleasure;

  • that belief belongs to the mere intellect, not to the heart also;

  • that we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of Faith, and need no other guide.

I don’t know about 19th Century liberals, but given that Newman wrote this 150 years ago, I find it remarkable that I have encountered in recent weeks one or the other of these exact same ideas expressed by such a variety of people as a leading Anglican archdeacon and my own devout Lutheran mother.

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