A New Oxford Movement -- By: Henry A. Stimson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 064:253 (Jan 1907)
Article: A New Oxford Movement
Author: Henry A. Stimson


A New Oxford Movement

Rev. Henry A. Stimson

Some fifty years ago, a religious movement which bore the name of Oxford, powerfully affected the English-speaking world. While theological, it was mainly ecclesiastical in form. It aimed to reestablish both the church and theology in their historical connection. It strongly affected theological thinking, and exerted an influence which gave to what is called Anglican churchmanship a direction and an impulse which are still controlling. That outside the Episcopal communion it has been sharply antagonized, and has done not a little to consolidate the opposing forces which have become so powerful in the growth and unity of English dissent, does not detract from its historic importance.

To-day, after a period in which the Higher Criticism has come to the front and demanded for the time almost exclusive attention, Christian thought both in this country and in England is turning back to the fundamental questions of theology, and beginning to occupy itself with what may be called the philosophy of religion. In the psychological line Professor James’s book on “The Philosophy of Religious Experience” is characteristic of the movement in one direction, and is the most widely read of the serious books of the day. In the line of pure philosophical thinking the movement finds again a powerful exponent in Oxford in the person of J. R. Illingworth, known as the Bampton Lecturer of 1904. His recent book on the “Divine Immanence “has already gone through

five editions, and by reason of its clearness, its simplicity, and the power with which it puts its propositions, is sure to have a wide influence. It already stands in the midst of a group of books along similar lines by new and vigorous writers, both Scotch and English. It is quite worth while, therefore, to give an outline of its argument. It is vitally constructive, as well as effectively controversial. I do this as largely as possible in his own words.

It grapples at once with the old problem of the distinction between matter and spirit, which it points out as being identical with the distinction between body and soul, which dates from the primitive philosophy. However we may regard spirit and matter,—whether as totally different things, or as different aspects of the same thing,—we know them only in combination. The material world outside us presents itself only through our senses, so affecting the mind, and in turn, so far as our knowledge of it goes, being affected by the mind. To know it, means simply to bring it into relation to our mind. When we turn to spirit the case is the same, for that, as we know it, is always connected with matter: we cannot think, we cannot be conscious, without a ...

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