Volume 94, Issue 1, Winter 2020
The Philosophical Legacy of John Henry Newman
Newman on Natural and Revealed Religion
This essay reflects on Newman’s famous analyses of natural and revealed religion and their relation in the tenth and final chapter of the Grammar of Assent. There are two lines of reflection, the first internalist, the second externalist. On the first front, the essay draws attention to how conscience plays a foundational role in Newman’s discussion of natural religion and how it helps to distinguish it from the “religion of civilization,” which Newman considers to be a rationalist substitute for the real religion. If natural religion is structurally grounded in conscience, it is historically illustrated in paganism and primitive religions to the extent to which these come to light in the modern age. Crucially, natural religion has significant content that is endorsed and recalibrated in revealed religion. It uncovers God as Judge and discloses humanity both to be under judgment and hoping for reconciliation through a mediator. The second and more externalist line of reflection draws attention to how Bishop Joseph Butler’s classic Analogy of Religion (1736) provides the basic frame for Newman’s reflection on natural and revealed religion and their relation.