Oxford movement, Tractarian movement and its importance

Oxford movement is also known as the Tractarian movement. It originated in July 1833 as a result of a sermon by John Keble on the subject of national apostasy; a sermon against the Latitudinarian and Erastian attitudes of the time. Men who shared Keble’s views supported him, and in 1833 there appeared the first of the famous Tracts for the Times (1833–41), 24 of which were written by Newman, who edited the entire series. Those who supported the Tracts were known as Tractarians who asserted the doctrinal authority of the catholic church to be absolute, and by “catholic” they understood that which was faithful to the teaching of the early and undivided church. They believed the Church of England to be such a catholic church.

The Oxford Movement posed deep and far-reaching questions about the relationship between Church and State, the Catholic heritage of the Church of England, and the Church’s social responsibility, especially in the new industrial society.

The most notable figures in the movement were John Henry Newman, Richard Hurrell Froude, and Edward Pusey. The main object was to revive the position and role of the Church of England and to re-emphasize its sacramental and divine mission. Ironically, in the course of this reforming effort, doctrines akin to those of Roman Catholicism were adopted.

The movement caused a very considerable disturbance and involved several leading literary figures – especially Charles Kingsley and Matthew Arnold. Kingsley attacked Newman and the latter replied in Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), a major work in English literature.

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