John Henry Newman was a 19th century academic who wished to bring back Christian culture to a more Catholic way of worship and belief. His autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, was meant as a rebuttal to the attacks of Charles Kingsley upon the Catholic church. Charles Kingsley, on the other hand, was a clergyman who was a supporter of evolution, and attacked Newman’s beliefs on Christianity as being deceitful. This led to the Kingsley-Newman controversy which created a battleground as to what dictated Christian culture.
One of the big topics that was addressed in this paper was Christian culture and the individual’s role within it. While Kingsley hated the phrase “muscular” Christianity, he agreed with many of its tenets. Among these were the idea that you could have a spiritual life and still be sexually active, physically active, and present in your community. You could maintain your individuality and remain an island unto yourself while still showing reverence to the Lord. In fact, taking pleasure in your body and the bodies of others, giving in to your impulses, was thought to be a “sign of constitutional harmony” to Kingsley.
On the other side of the coin, Newman wished to maintain a sacrificial, pious and withholding view of humanity that fits in with Catholic ideas of repentance and celibacy. According to Newman, in order to worship God properly you have to keep your body pure and chaste. He valued the idea of the group in lieu of individuality, that human beings were unitary by nature, a collective.
Newman’s structure of being involved humans having three parts. The first is the spirit, wherein a person must have knowledge about absolute kindness, and be able to have a mindset of generosity and piety toward God. Next is the mind, where you must use self-development and education to keep your mind active and healthy. Finally, you have the body, which is the source of your physical power and health. Among these three tenets, the biggest priority for people according to Newman is having a strong body, which is ruled by a self-educated mind and a pure spirit.
Kingsley’s structure is slightly different, human beings being made only of two parts – the body and the soul. While the body description remains the same, the ideas behind the soul tend to meld Newman’s notions of mind and spirit together into a cohesive whole. According to Kingsley, a person has to be well rounded despite their education. Your body and your soul have to be as well developed as possible, and you have to do the best that you can do.
Newman and Kingsley’s understanding of the nature of the body for spiritual health are different, but have some interesting similarities. The soul is synonymous with the spirit first and foremost – Kingsley did not place as high a priority on the mind as Newman did. The soul and body are meant to work together in a spirit of cooperation and partnership, inspiring each other to create a cohesive and spiritual being. Newman, on the other hand, placed great value on education and self-improvement of the mind, making the whole person more well-rounded and have a closer relationship to God. Both authors, however, believe the soul and the spirit supplement the body and make it stronger, respectively.
Kingsley placed a high priority on the development of the body, and he cited sport as a wonderful method to accomplish this task. It would help strengthen the body as well as develop strong character in a person, which speaks to the soul component of human beings that Kingsley thought was important. According to Haley, “the body is an expression of spirit, and therefore the obedience to healthy impulse is a sign of constitutional harmony; the state of health is a knowledge of the laws of nature and a compliance with these laws; and heroism is a life of action made possible by observing the laws of health.” (Haley pp. 111-112) What this means is that a healthy, active body will be more in tune with nature and what it is capable of – within these confines, the person can operate more confidently and not get themselves into situations they cannot handle. In that way, they are heroic, as sport and other physical activity will prepare them for even more active situations.
Both Newman and Kingsley carry their own unique beliefs on what constitutes a quality individual, especially in regards to the body. While they both place an importance on being physically healthy, Kingsley makes much more of a concentrated point about it, showcasing how vital an active lifestyle can be. If you were to adopt an ideology based on these two authors that focused more on the physical, you would subscribe to Kingsley’s interpretation. A healthy body means a healthy soul, and the use of sport and exercise to improve oneself is foremost on Kingsley’s list of priorities.
Newman, on the other hand, focused more on intellectualism, exercising the mind and forming a more intelligent, reasoned individual. Separating mind and spirit for him was important – the mind was more worldly and logical, while the spirit formed the connection to God. The body, while crucial, was a secondary concern. An individual would take this approach if they did not see the same importance to complete physical fitness as Kingsley did, preferring to become a scholarly figure.
Haley, B. (1978). Types of Healthy Christianity: Newman Kingsley. The Healthy Body and
Victorian Culture. Boston: Harvard University Press .