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John Henry Newman on Natural Religion


John Henry Newman on Natural Religion A supplemental consideration to C. S. Lewis s We Have Cause to be Uneasy from Mere Christianity. Who is John Henry Newman? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: John Henry Newman on Natural Religion

John Henry Newman on Natural Religion
  • A supplemental consideration to
  • C. S. Lewiss We Have Cause to be Uneasy from
    Mere Christianity.

Who is John Henry Newman?
  • Born 1801, attended Trinity College, Oxford.
  • Entered ministry in the Church of England.
  • Received into the Catholic Church at age 45.
  • Was made a cardinal, shortly before his death at
    age 89.

Newman discusses natural religion in the
Grammar of Assent.
  • In this book, he explored the elements of
    religious conversion, e.g. What allows one to
    submit ones will in faith?
  • Among these elements, he identified natural
    religion that is, our natural knowledge of our
    duties to God.

Before Revealed Religion comes Natural
  • That there is a Being (or beings) that have made
    man, and to whom he owes obedience.
  • That disobedience to this Being is sin, and
    merits retributive punishment.
  • That there are ways to atone (make up) for sin,
    e.g. sacrifice of ones goods.
  • That this Being reveals Himself, and listens to
    the prayers of men.

Newman identifies three sources of natural
  • Our own minds (conscience)
  • Voice of mankind (cultural beliefs and rituals)
  • Course of nature (providence)

Through conscience we know that there is a God
from whom we receive the moral law.
The god Marduk giving the law to Hammurabi,
Moses receiving the Law from God, Ancient Hebrew
Through conscience we know God first as a
lawgiver, then as a judge.
Judgment of Soul, Ancient Egypt
Traditional religion shows its dark side
outward bad news first.
  • It is founded on the sense of sin.
  • Its many varieties all proclaim or imply that man
    is in a degraded, servile condition.
  • It demands expiation, reconciliation, and some
    great change of nature.

Traditional religions emphasize mans impurity,
his need for cleansing.
Initiation into the Eleusian Mysteries, Ancient
Ritual purification in Ganges by Hindus
Central to natural religion is a priesthood that
intercedes for the people.
  • The priest belongs to an elect group.
  • He prays as a mediator for the people.
  • Most importantly, he offers sacrifice in
    atonement for sins.

Sacrifice characterizes religions around the
world and throughout history.
Ancient Egyptians preparing to sacrifice an ox.
Ancient Greeks sacrificing a pig
Sacrifice is an act of atonement, making up for
  • Atonement implies the substitution of something
    offered, or some personal suffering, for a
    penalty which would otherwise be exacted.
  • All nations, cultures and periods of history have
    ritual forms of atonement and expiation.

Hebrew priest offering a holocaust in the Temple
By contrast, civilized religion is more
  • This is not an organic development with natural
    religion, but a break.
  • It leaves behind all notions of sin and guilt
    it is wholly artificial.

Nature gives a mixed message it offers
blessings, but suffering as well!
Natural religion has a bright side as well as a
dark side.
  • Religion offers hope of benefits from the gods.
  • Sacrifice and atonement imply that the gods can
    be appeased.
  • Prayer implies that they listen to our petitions.

Ancient Romans praying to the household gods.
When Paul preached to the pagans, he said that
God had made Himself known to them through
providence of nature. (Acts. 17)
Revelation is a blessing of natural religion
the gods reveal themselves.
Disciple being lead by Thoth (Ancient Egypt)
Angels appear to Abraham (Ancient Hebrew)
What is natural religion?
  • The natural knowledge we have of our duties to
    divine authority.
  • Possible to us without Revelation.
  • Indeed, prepares men for it.
  • Even in Christians, it cannot be separated from
    their Christianity.