THE ORIEL SCHOOL
It has often happened in the history of the English universities that a given college has become, through its body of tutors and students, through its common-room talk and literary work, the centre, for the time, of a movement of thought which gives leadership to the college. In this manner it has been customary to speak of the group of men who, before the rise of the Oxford Movement, gathered at Oriel College, as the Oriel School. Newman and Keble were both Oriel tutors. The Oriel men were of distinctly liberal tendency. There were men of note among them. There was Whately, Archbishop of Dublin after 1831, and Copleston, from whom both Keble and Newman owned that they learned much. There was Arnold, subsequently Headmaster of Rugby. There was Hampden, Professor of Divinity after 1836. The school was called from its liberalism the Noetic school. Whether this epithet contained more of satire or of complacency it is difficult to say. These men arrested attention and filled some of the older academic and ecclesiastical heads with alarm. Without disrespect one may say that it is difficult now to understand the commotion which they made. Arnold had a truly beautiful character. What he might have done as Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Oxford was never revealed, for he died in 1842. Whately, viewed as a noetic, appears commonplace.
Perhaps the only one of the group upon whom we need dwell was Hampden. In his Bampton Lectures of 1832, under the title of The Scholastic Philosophy considered in its Relation to Christian Theology, he assailed what had long been the very bulwark of traditionalism. His idea was to show how the vast fabric of scholastic theology had grown up, particularly what contributions had been made to it in the Middle Age. The traditional dogma is a structure reared upon the logical terminology of the patristic and mediaeval schools. It has little foundation in Scripture and no response in the religious consciousness. We have here the application, within set limits, of the thesis which Harnack in our own time has applied in a universal way. Hampden’s opponents were not wrong in saying that his method would dissolve, not merely that particular system of theology, but all creeds and theologies whatsoever. Patristic, mediaeval Catholic theology and scholastic Protestantism, no less, would go down before it. A pamphlet attributed to Newman, published in 1836, precipitated a discussion which, for bitterness, has rarely been surpassed in the melancholy history of theological dispute. The excitement went to almost unheard of lengths. In the controversy the Archbishop, Dr. Howley, made but a poor figure. The Duke of Wellington did not add to his fame. Wilberforce and Newman never cleared themselves of the suspicion of indirectness. This was, however, after the opening of the Oxford Movement.