Balthasar and Rahner on the Theology of Nature and Grace (photocopy)

Paradox and/or Supernatural Existential

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

"Ultimately, Balthasar judges that the drama of divine and human freedom is not sufficiently guaranteed by the anticipation of grace in transcendental subjectivity."

Dramatic perspective and transcendental perspective


The Balthasarian conception of finite freedom as a paradox leans on the Thomist delineation of esse. This notion of esse as "similitudo divinae bonitatis" allows us, according to Balthasar, to distinguish more radically than ever before between the finite being possessing its own act of being (fleeting, fluid, oscillating between its infinite Source and its finite end) and God as its transcendent cause, infinitely elevated above all worldly beings, truly the "Wholly Other."1

On the historical and speculative plane, Balthasar rejects, with Przywara and Siewerth,2 the anthropocentric interpretation of the Thomist esse conveyed by the transcendental school.3 According to Balthasar, "when they interpret the 'excessus' of which St. Thomas speaks as the dynamism of the ontological affirmation, Maréchal and Rahner fail to render full justice to the texts, and in particular miss the Thomist understanding of esse."4 By them, esse is thematized in a more or less Kantian fashion as the "condition of possibility of finite, categorical knowledge," as the infinite horizon of the subjective dynamism of the spirit. Human subjectivity is constituted a priori by the anticipation of esse, which confers on it the dynamic structure of auto-transcendence towards the absolute mystery.


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