“Men of narrow minds, far from confessing ignorance and maintaining Truth mainly as a duty, profess … to understand the subjects which they take up and the principles which they apply to them. They do not see difficulties. They consider that they hold their doctrines, whatever they are, at least as much upon Reason as upon faith; and they expect to be able to argue others into a belief in them … They consider that the premisses with which they start just prove the conclusions which they draw, and nothing else. They think that their own views are exactly fitted to solve all the facts which are to be accounted for…. They conceive that they profess just the truth which makes all things easy. They have their one idea or their favorite notion, which occurs to them on every occasion. They have their one or two topics, which they are continually obtruding, with a sort of pedantry, being unable to discuss, in a natural unconstrained way, or to let their thoughts take their course, in the confidence that they will come safe home at the last…. They have stiffened in one position, as limbs of the body subjected to confinement … They have already parceled out to their own satisfaction the whole world of knowledge; they have drawn their lines, and formed their classes.”
John Henry Newman, Fifteen Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford (University Sermons), 3rd edn., Sermon XIV. 41-42, pp. 305-7.
Mark A. McIntosh, from whose excellent new book Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Blackwell, 2008) I lift these lines, comments: “Newman’s acidly comical description suggests personal acquaintance with such types of persons - as well, perhaps, as the recognition, which we surely all share, of an uncomfortable (and not quite escapable) sense of describing oneself. Perhaps the chief symptom noted here is a kind of hectoring sureness, laboring uneasily with an unconscious feeling that everything must be kept in order just so, lest the whole edifice of faith begin to totter” (p. 53).