Ian Ker, Ph.D., the world’s leading scholar on John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), explored Newman’s contributions in philosophy, theology and education during a Nov. 9 lecture in Duane Library on the Rose Hill campus. Ker, professor of theology at Oxford University, has written 20 books on Cardinal Newman, including the definitive biography, John Henry Newman: a Biography (Oxford University Press, 1988).
Throughout his lecture, titled “Why Newman Matters,” Ker highlighted how Newman’s teachings influenced not only modern-day Christianity but higher education as well.
Newman, one of the most notable converts to Christianity in history, was an Anglican priest and leading figure in the Church of England prior to his conversion to Catholicism in 1845. His essays, including the Development of Christian Doctrine, are considered definitive scholarly works in historical theology and ecclesiology.
“Newman redefined rationality,” said Ker. “He lectured that religious beliefs must be rational but at the same time, [those beliefs] must enlarge rationality.”
Newman was a vocal proponent of interpretation and academic study of church doctrine, and while Newman was both an idealist and a visionary, he was also a “very pragmatic theologian,” said Ker.
“[Newman’s] was a holistic understanding of the mind,” said Ker. “Development of the whole mind and learning to think for oneself were what was most important. He emphasized the study of literature, history, math and science.”
Prior to his lecture, Ker was presented with a Sapientia et Doctrina medallion, which is given to individuals who are uniquely qualified to lead the University in a discussion of wisdom and learning. Fordham University’s motto, Sapientia et Doctrina (Wisdom and Learning), emphasizes rigorous scholarship and embraces a community of men and women committed to exploring the life of the mind.