Survival of the Catholic Idea in Anglicanism III

III. Reason, New Hearts, and Newman

The Non-Jurors had been for the most part high church men in the following of Andrewes and Laud. This meant that while they were monarchists and nationalists, they were also often men of more than ordinary spiritual depth. Their departure, one might say, averaged down the spiritual zeal of the Church of England, and into the arid land thus revealed by the receding waters of devotion moved the deists.

The deist theory assumed that there was a superior natural religion evident to all mankind of which faith in Jesus Christ was a narrow specification. This stood the great tradition, which from Justin to Thomas had held that Christ as the truth, intimations and insights native to Christ’s religion being found scattered throughout the world of nature and of men. The Christian mysteries were for the great tradition descriptive of reality in its highest term, never unreasonable but always more than reasonable. For deists the Trinity and the Incarnation were superstitions, a word that came to more and more to describe any Christian who believed in the supernatural and especially Catholics. Thus the eighteenth century, building on the tradition of Pierre Charon will see philosophic campaigns against superstition by David Hume and Immanuel Kant, with Kant’s work titled Religion within the Limits of Pure Reason emblematic of the movement.

Perhaps at its heart what Deism represented was the failure of the idea of logos or reason that had permeated Christian civilization for fifteen centuries, an idea represented by John 1:1-14 which describes Logos a the light lightening every man and simultaneously the living pattern through things were made. This logos or reason by its nature made the universe intelligible through a kind if illumination of everything by the divine Word who was at the same time incarnate in Jesus and at the heart of the created order, including Aristotle’s’ nous or insight, his episteme or ability of think rationally, and practical reason. Reason was now often simply instrumental, the tool of a race of clever animals. The older idea had died slowly, having been represented in the Golden Age by the Cambridge Platonists, men like Henry More and Benjamin Whichcote, , among whom the memorable slogan held that the spirit of man was the candle of the Lord. This tradition lingered on the philosophy of George Berkeley (1685-1753), a great favorite of C. S. Lewis, who believed, in a kind of fatal complementarity with the materialism of Hume and Locke, that thought constitutes reality.

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