7, Engraving of Newman by Henry MacLean, based on a portrait by George Richmond

In the sermon “Human Responsibility” John Henry Newman deals with the question: “Does God choose to send some people to heaven and others to hell? And if so, do people have any say in the matter?” He opens with Jesus’ words, “To sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.” Matt. xx. 23.

John Henry Newman notes: “The Father’s foreknowledge and design are announced, not His choice. ‘Whom He did foreknow, them He did predestinate.’” He prepares the reward, and confers it, but upon whom? No answer is given us, unless it is conveyed in the words which follow, upon the humble:Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

The answer to this question for Newman lies in Jesus’ words at the Last Judgment. The reward is for those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and clothe the naked. Jesus will tell these “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

These passages indicate for us the role of human freedom and responsibility in man’s salvation. Newman holds that in primitive Christianity it was believed that God’s grace was necessary to believe and to obey God in everything, from first to last. At the same time it was held that the human mind had from first to last the power to resist grace, and thus the ultimate determination about its salvation or condemnation.

In examining the question, Newman thought that Augustine’s views of predestination were mistaken, most likely because Augustine’s thoughts on the subject were still developing. For Newman, the error lies in the thought that “ … it is God and Christ with whom the ultimate decision concerning the individual’s state depends….” Newman acknowledged that it was a great mystery that one man believes and another rejects the Gospel, and notes that “ … men of reasoning, subtle, and restless minds, have within them a temptation to inquisitiveness; they cannot acquiesce in the limits of God’s revelation….”

God does not have a secret election decreeing life for one and damnation for another. Augustine believed that God predestines all for salvation, and does not predestine anyone for damnation. The thought of the bishop of Hippo was expressed at the Council of Quiercy as follows: “ … the fact that some are saved is a gift of the one who saves; the fact that some perish is the merit of those who perish.” (DS 623). In other words, he did not hold a dual predestination. What he did emphasize was the gratuitous predilection of God and in contrast to the Pelagians man’s absolute need of God’s grace for salvation.

Without denying Augustine’s notion of grace, Newman correctly interprets key passages such as Phil 1:6 in which the promise of perseverance — “He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;”— as general in nature and do not discard man’s responsibility. He also argues that Phil 2:13: “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” does not deny that man can reject God just as a sick person may reject the medicine of a physician.

Newman rightly states: “In truth, the two doctrines of the sovereign and overruling power of Divine grace, and man’s power of resistance, need not at all interfere with each other. They lie in different provinces, and are (as it were) incommensurables. Thus St. Paul evidently accounted them; else he could not have introduced the text in question with the exhortation, ‘Work out’ or accomplish ‘your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh’ or acts ‘in you.’ So far was he from thinking man’s distinct working inconsistent with God’s continual aiding, that he assigns the knowledge of the latter as an encouragement to the former.” In sum, man must work in securing his salvation. We are responsible before God.

Newman comments on other significant passages such as one from the sixth chapter of St. John. “There are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him… Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, unless it were given unto him of My Father.” Newman adds: “ … in the plain meaning of the words, God’s foreknowledge of the issue of free will in individuals is made compatible (though the manner how is not told us) with electing grace.” “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate.” God made us free, and his knowledge of the future does not take away our freedom.

The future Anglican convert wished to distinguish between the promise of salvation and man’s acceptance, God’s election, and man’s faithfulness. His thinking is in keeping with the Catholic doctrine that there are two essential elements in the notion of predestination: God’s infallible foreknowledge ([praescientia) and his immutable decree of eternal happiness. In addition, God does not predetermine the human will. Man must freely respond to the saving grace offered by God. Newman was trying to refute an exaggerated doctrine of predestination in the 19th century which did not respect the mystery of human freedom and responsibility.  Newman would agree with Augustine’s summary of this doctrine found in “The Confessions”: “God who made us without us cannot save us without our cooperation.” 


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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

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I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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