Under judgment: The possibility of damnation in the thought of John Henry Newman

David P Deavel, Fordham University


Newman scholars have often too neatly dichotomized the Anglican Newman, whose preaching and spirituality are filled with fear of judgments and threats of hell, and the Catholic Newman, who is motivated by and exudes a serene sense of the love of God. The dissertation argues that while the fierceness of the final judgment and the possibility of damnation are potent aspects of Newman's spiritual teaching and thought throughout his career, they are ameliorated by his changing beliefs with respect to ecclesiology, anthropology, the wideness of God's mercy, and a greater breadth in his notion of revelation. Chapter one locates more precisely the Evangelical sources of Newman's lifelong themes of the necessity of holiness and the difficulty of attaining heaven in his childhood and first conversion. It shows how wrestling with the possibility of damnation, particularly for small children who die, that he began to abandon Evangelical theology. Chapter two argues that Newman's Anglican severity was motivated by a greater understanding of the indwelling presence of the Trinity in the life of the believer. This understanding, affecting his teaching on justification, sacramental theology, and ecclesiology make his preaching and teaching more severe and more hopeful. Advances in his thought on revelation allow him to be more hopeful for those outside the Church. Chapter three argues, against Frank Turner, that Newman's entry into the Roman Catholic Church was motivated by his desire for final salvation and consistent with the theological developments identified in chapter two. Chapters four through six unpack Newman's Catholic teaching on the nature of eternal punishment, his understanding of eternity and possible mitigations of eternal punishment, his defense of it as a part of the Church's dogmatic teaching, and the necessity of preaching it as such. They also show his consistent preaching of the greater danger to those with more gifts, especially Catholics. These chapters also examine his approach to the possibility of salvation for non- Catholic Christians and non-Christians, showing how Newman's understanding of the possibility of widespread invincible ignorance ignited his later ecumenical impulses Finally, they show that Newman's spirituality reached a balance of severe and hopeful traits.

Subject Area

Religious history|Theology|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Deavel, David P, "Under judgment: The possibility of damnation in the thought of John Henry Newman" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3452806.