An Evangelical Adrift is a theological biography of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) that reconstructs the most formative period in his development: the years between his teenage conversion to evangelicalism in 1816 and the beginning of the Tractarian Movement in 1833. By the early 1830s, Newman had explicitly rejected much of the theology he espoused in the late 1810s and early 1820s, and developed a highly original, deeply personal, and quite radical alternative, whose fundamental notions continued to shape his thought in later life. To date, there is neither a historically accurate nor a theologically sophisticated account of this change: the period in which it occurred is neglected, its significance is overlooked, its nature and content are misrepresented, and its scope is narrowed.
Besides being modelled on Newman’s own brief treatment of the period in his autobiographical Apologia pro vita sua (1864), later scholarly accounts are burdened by a persistent assumption that Newman’s catholic sensibility and anti-liberal convictions were constants throughout his life. This assumption was problematized by Frank Turner’s revisionist biography of the Anglican Newman (2002) and the ensuing debate about its reception. Zuijdwegt argues that Turner rightly identified evangelicalism as a key polemical target of the Anglican Newman, but stretched his argument too far by reducing Newman’s self-proclaimed lifelong battle against liberalism as a much later gloss on this earlier history.
The present study offers a compelling alternative to both mainline and revisionist interpretations. Based on detailed historical and theological analysis of the whole range of primary sources (including much neglected published and unpublished material), it meticulously reconstructs Newman’s youthful adoption of, gradual departure from, and theological alternative to evangelicalism. Against most mainline studies, it argues that this was a fundamental transformation, affecting nearly every aspect of Newman’s theology. Against Turner and other revisionists, it argues that this change was the product of careful and consistent theological reasoning and reflection, and that anti-liberalism was just as integral to it as anti-evangelicalism.
"A real gem... An Evangelical Adrift will make a significant contribution to the field, most notably, for the originality of its thesis. Zuijdwegt's work will receive a great deal of attention among Newman scholars, but also be engaged by those who are writing on nineteenth-century history more broadly."~Ryan "Bud" Marr, Mercy College of Health Sciences
"In this groundbreaking and highly original book, Zuijdwegt proves that something new can be said about Newman. Moving beyond the partisanship of so much recent scholarship, he offers the first comprehensive account of the young Newman before the beginnings of Tractarianism. Drawing on virtually all the extant original sources and refusing to read Newman in terms of a process of gradual development, he offers a brilliant study of Newman’s anti-liberalism set in the contingencies of history rather than the piety of hagiography."~Mark D Chapman, University of Oxford
"This is the richest work of Newman biography I have ever read. With extraordinary subtlety and focused erudition, it gets to the heart of Newman during his most formative years. Professor Zuijdwegt's study bears not only magnificent biographical fruits but also equally important theological fruits, as we discover how Newman's insistence upon the dogmatic principle and the deposit of faith revolves precisely around his commitment to mystery and to God as a Person. A tour de force in every sense!"~Matthew Levering, James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
"In An Evangelical Adrift, Geertjan Zuijdwegt has not only made a highly original, subtle, and stimulating contribution to the crowded field of Newman studies but has reshaped our understanding of the nature and content of Newman’s well known lifelong religious journey and theological development. In particular he solves the puzzle of how and why Newman appeared to move so quickly from evangelicalism to Tractarianism He achieves this end by focusing on and creatively analysing and utilising several neglected and often surprisingly overlooked primary sources for the early evangelical phase of Newman’s life. Although Newman’s adolescent evangelical conversion is widely recognised as a landmark experience in his personal religious journey, his early evangelical period, is primarily considered merely in terms of Newman’s personal religiosity and disciplines rather than his theology or as a basis or launching pad for later theological developments. By filling in this lacuna in Newman studies, Zuijdwegt transforms our understanding of Newman’s whole religious trajectory journey through its later phases of liberalism (Zuigwegt insists that for Newman there was only ever a ‘drift towards liberalism’), high church Anglicanism and the Oxford Movement and ultimately into the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church. This book is transformative for Newman studies and represents a triumph of scholarly achievement and deserves a wide readership."~Peter Nockles, University of Manchester
"Offers a meticulous description of Newman’s "most formative years", which Zuijdwegt identifies as the decade and a half between Newman’s first religious conversion at age 15 (1816) and the dawn of the Oxford Movement (1832). With painstaking detail and a close examination of unpublished primary sources, Zuijdwegt accounts for the evolution of Newman’s theological principles, from his adoption of an evangelical theology, through his drift towards liberalism, to his adscription to High Church theology, which ultimately led him to Roman Catholicism in 1845, thirteen years after Zuijdwegt’s account concludes."~Catholic Books Review