The Alignment of Romanticism and Roman Catholicism

“An older nostalgic [Cardinal] Newman thought that the characteristic attitudes of the Oxford divines were encouraged by the romantic in contemporary literature. He selected the poetry of Wordsworth and the novels of Walter Scott. Historians followed Newman in declaring the romantics to be part-cause of the Oxford Movement. … Religious men wanted poetry of heart in their hymns, sacramental sensibility in their worship, recovery of symbolism in art and architecture.

(The Victorian Church by Owen Chadwick - Part 1, p.174)

England apostatised through Romanticism. It was a suitable portal because it did not appear to be a religion. Most people did not even know the term - they just became obsessively interested in literature, art, music and architecture. Once their interest was captured, the English became very jealous over their right to enjoy the Arts. Ultimately, in 1870, they fought the clergy over the right of the people to have a concert in a cathedral rather than a sermon. The people won and there was no turning back.

For Easter, one English Church had all congregants put an old rag on a cross and take away a new rag

For Easter, one English Church had all congregants put an old rag on a cross and take away a new rag

A veneer of Christianity has been added on top of the Romanticism of England, but it is such a thin veneer that if it is challenged by a simple argument starting with the words, “But the Bible says …” then the challenger is regarded as a bigot and filled with hate; for today, if we love God more than we love men, then are motives are twisted and we are told that we hate men.

Therein lies the truth of Romanticism. It perverted the Arts from the crafts that they had been before and each of them suffered. But of far more importance is where Romanticism led the ordinary English man and woman. Romanticism functioned as a snare to separate people from Christian truth to a sufficient degree that they would prefer heresy, humanism or atheism. It does not matter which label applies, for all are deviations from what God requires and all that matters is that men should be kept from receiving the Gospel.

The strain of overt Romanticism in the Oxford Movement, under the leadership of the aforementioned Newman, is very interesting and yet not surprising. They were just early exponents of the type of Christianity all too common today in England and the USA. Christianity has become an adorned and artistic creature. We need good production values. We need coaxing by colourful memes and evocative, fantastical scenery. We need props in services. We need to see beautiful people living immaculate lives, whilst telling us that they are a sinner just like us. We need to believe in heaven on earth. We need heroes - for that is the key to Romanticism, striving after and worshipping a human saviour, a mortal prophet, a musical priest. It could be someone we see every Sunday on a stage. It could be someone we follow online. It could be someone we read.

Frank Schaeffer is a sad example of someone who was taught Christian truth and was also taught a love of Art, and when he had to be consistent, he left Christian truth behind and made Art a vessel for his anti-Christian propaganda:

“If there were no “holy books” how much easier it would be to believe in God! An oral tradition and a rich liturgical expression of divinity lovingly shared in a faith community are much more convincing than words on a page. The images I see from the Hubble telescope do more to suggest a loving creative God besotted by beauty than most Bible passages.”

(Why I am an Atheist who believes in God by Frank Schaeffer, p.96)

In other words, Frank Schaeffer would like God to enter into his universe and be a Romantic too. Like all religious rebels, he extrapolates from his own behaviour in order to define the attributes of God and, finding the Lord God Almighty less than satisfactory, he ends up becoming a god to himself. Except that man is not God; the Bible is true; and because of the subtle allure of Romanticism, many people are sleep-walking.

Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.

Psalm 9. 19-20