An Evangelical Adrift
The Making of John Henry Newman’s Theology
- ISBN: 9780813235585
- Published By: Catholic University of America Press
- Published: January 2023
An Evangelical Adrift is a theological biography of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) that reconstructs the most formative period in his development: the years between his teenage conversion to evangelicalism in 1816 and the beginning of the Tractarian Movement in 1833. By the early 1830s, Newman had explicitly rejected much of the theology he espoused in the late 1810s and early 1820s, and developed a highly original, deeply personal, and quite radical alternative, whose fundamental notions continued to shape his thought in later life. To date, there is neither a historically accurate nor a theologically sophisticated account of this change: the period in which it occurred is neglected, its significance is overlooked, its nature and content are misrepresented, and its scope is narrowed.
Besides being modelled on Newman’s own brief treatment of the period in his autobiographical Apologia pro vita sua (1864), later scholarly accounts are burdened by a persistent assumption that Newman’s catholic sensibility and anti-liberal convictions were constants throughout his life. This assumption was problematized by Frank Turner’s revisionist biography of the Anglican Newman (2002) and the ensuing debate about its reception. Zuijdwegt argues that Turner rightly identified evangelicalism as a key polemical target of the Anglican Newman, but stretched his argument too far by reducing Newman’s self-proclaimed lifelong battle against liberalism as a much later gloss on this earlier history.
The present study offers a compelling alternative to both mainline and revisionist interpretations. Based on detailed historical and theological analysis of the whole range of primary sources (including much neglected published and unpublished material), it meticulously reconstructs Newman’s youthful adoption of, gradual departure from, and theological alternative to evangelicalism. Against most mainline studies, it argues that this was a fundamental transformation, affecting nearly every aspect of Newman’s theology. Against Turner and other revisionists, it argues that this change was the product of careful and consistent theological reasoning and reflection, and that anti-liberalism was just as integral to it as anti-evangelicalism.