by Avery Dulles SJ
(Continuum, 2002, 176pp, $34.95. Available from AD Books)
This study of the greatest Catholic of the 19th century English-speaking world, John Henry Newman, is written by one of the greatest theologians of the 20th, Avery Dulles.
The parallels do not end there.
At the age of 78, long after he became the most celebrated Anglican to convert to the Catholic faith, Newman was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.
Avery Dulles grew up a Presbyterian, became a Catholic at university, then a Jesuit, and later, one of America's leading theologians. He was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, at the age of 82.
He continues to be a prolific author and controversialist, as well as a Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University.
John Henry Newman has been the subject of many excellent biographies.
This book, one of a series on outstanding Christian thinkers, is principally a discussion of Newman's ideas and, particularly, his relevance to contemporary religious questions.
After a brief account of Newman's life, Dulles plunges into an exposition of Newman's ideas on questions such as faith and reason, the Church as an organ of revelation, the role of the theologian, the proofs of Christianity (drawing from Newman's masterful Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, as well as his other writings), Newman's view of the Church and, finally, an appraisal of Newman's influence on the Church in the 20th century, particularly on Vatican II.
With all these themes, Dulles' approach is to summarise Newman's position (or positions, as Newman sometimes changed his mind), then sympathetically examine its contemporary relevance. On some issues, including Newman's sympathy for an Established Church and his critique of rationalism, Dulles gently disagrees with the great Englishman.
Newman is the work of a great mind, and will be treasured by all those who have been touched by the life and works of John Henry Newman.