- Paperback: 364 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 28, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521587190
- ISBN-13: 978-0521587198
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,683,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford Movement in Context
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"...a well-written and readable account of the High Church movement that should be read by anyone interested in the political and religious dimensions of Hanoverian and Victorian England." Robert D. Cornwall, American Historical Review
"Nockles's work serves well to augment our understanding of a critical turn in the course of the church of England and is a welcome addition to the study of Victorian Christianity." Ellen K. Wondra, Journal of Religion
This book offers a radical reassessment of the significance of the Oxford Movement and of its leaders, Newman, Keble, and Pusey, by setting them in the context of the Anglican High Church tradition of the preceding 70 years. No other study offers such a comprehensive treatment of the historical and theological context in which the Tractarians operated.
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The Oxford Movement was born out of a desire to save the Church of England as an institution, but it was also typified by a love for the Middle Ages and a desire to undo the Reformation and indulge in the romance of the Middle Ages, gothic cathedrals, an age when the Church ruled supreme before the de-formation wrought by Henry VIII's "Reformation," and an unusually high reverence for Christian antiquity. Much of the movement was indeed new, but there were also a great many precedents and Nockles is keen to point them out.
The author delves into the primary sources - ones often difficult for most to access - demonstrating the historical continuity between the Oxford Movement of 1833 - 1845 and its theological predecessors and precedents in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Special attention is given to the old High Church party of the 1700s that continued to flourish alongside the Oxford Movement itself, and that continued to exist inside the Church of England until it petered out in the late 1800s. Nockles's point being that the Oxford Movement was not a complete novelty, but rather that something of the spirit of the Caroline Divines of the seventeenth century lived on in the old High Churh party of the eighteenth century. Nockles produces a tremendous amount of evidence based on literary correspondence. His work is almost certainly an original contribution to our understanding of the Oxford Movement as a whole. For instance, there are parallels between the Tractarians of the Oxford Movement and the most respected of the old High Churchmen in the early part of the 19th century, such as Van Mildert and Jones of Nayland. They too evinced a high view of Christian antiquity, as well as a high view of the eucharist (being receptionists in the spirit of Cranmer and Hooker) and the sacrament of baptism (they believed in baptismal regeneration). Unlike the Tractarians, however, the old High Churchmen would also have upheld the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith. It would have been at this point that many an old High Churchman would have differed with the men of the Oxford Movement and would have considered them traitors for turning their back on Protestantism. It was thus at this point that the old High Church party would have sought alliances with Low Church Evangelicals who typically possessed almost no interest in Christian antiquity, but who were keen on the doctrine of justification. And so alliances vacillated as sometimes old High Churchmen would nod in approval of the Tractarians' fondness for tradition and Christian antiquity and at other times sharp disapproval would have been forthcoming. Ultimately such alleged censures led to John Henry Newman defecting and converting to Roman Catholicism.
A high reverence for antiquity was not invented by the Tractarians, nor was all sense of continuity with the ancient Church, its sacraments, doctrines, catholicity and apostolicity lost after the Caroline divines of the 1600s. But the Oxford men wanted more and so as they searched for precedent among earlier Anglican divines they also ended up forcing earlier divines to "say" more than they actually said regarding certain catholic doctrines.
And so famous divines such as John Bramhall and Henry Hammond, though both quite Anglican and quite "catholic" were not catholic enough for the Tractarians as their words appeared in the famous Tracts for the Times. Earlier divines were content with the Elizabethan Settlement of Jewel and Hooker, but the Tractarians wanted to make the Church of England truly catholic, yet not Roman. The answers, however, for such a form of Anglicanism were not to be found in earlier divines and so Newman finally gave up the quest for a via media and went to Rome. It was left for Keble to some degree and for Pusey to chart the future course of the Oxford Movement inside the Church of England.
Nockles discusses the theology of the Oxford movment and its continuities with earlier Anglican divines in chapters dealing with the Tractarian approach to spirituality, their claim to apostolicity, their understanding of the sacraments, and the movement's view of ancient tradition and how such themes developed within the historic and theological context of the Church of England between the mid 1700s and the early 1800s.
This is a fascinating read and a much needed corrective to those who make too much or too little of the Oxford Movement's place in English church history.
Nockles' book is not a primer on the Oxford Movement. Rather, it is about the context of the Oxford Movement, especially the broader, pre-existing High Church party of the Church of England within which the Movement was incubated and eventually grew to become distinct from.
Indeed, Nockles presumes the reader knows a good deal about the Oxford Movement but less about Old High Churchmanship, which does not attract as much limelight. In sum, the point of the book is facilitate a better understanding and evaluation of the Oxford Movement by putting it in its actual historical context.
I recommend this book to those who have some knowledge of the topic already and are looking for a book that goes into detail. This is definately not an introduction to the topic; if you are looking for an introduction I recommend starting with a differant book and picking this one up later.