Spring 2011

Introduction: The Ascension and Pentecost

William L. Portier, in “Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology and the Triumph of Maurice Blondel,” situates Blondel’s thought in the context of key debates and developments within twentieth-century Catholic theology from the modernist crisis through John Paul II’s Fides et ratio. Chiefly through the writings of Henri de Lubac, Blondel’s thought exercised a subterranean influence on Catholic thought. In the words of de Lubac, Blondel’s thought was “the main impulse” for Latin theology’s “return to a more authentic tradition.”

According to Pope John Paul II, “at the root of Maurice Blondel’s philosophy, there is a sharp perception of the drama of the separation between faith and reason and the intrepid will to overcome this separation as contrary to the nature of things. The philosopher of Aix is thus an eminent representative of Christian philosophy.” [1] Oliva Blanchette, in “Why We Need Maurice Blondel,” presents Blondel’s enduring contribution to the Christian philosophy debate. Blanchette shows how Blondel “was a Catholic who needed philosophy, and a philosopher who needed Catholicism as a supernatural religion beyond the power of reason to investigate. He saw that it was necessary in philosophy to raise the question of a supernatural religion, even if it cannot be answered within the scope of philosophy or of reason alone.”

The issue continues with the publication, for the first time in English, of the introduction, “On the Need for a Philosophy of the Christian Spirit,” to Maurice Blondel’s important essay, The Philosophical Exigencies of Christian Religion. According to Blondel, “the proper and truly unique mark of Christianity is the coincidence of historical reality and of dogmatic truth.” Blondel contrasts the authentic Christian spirit with pragmatism: “William James cites as a dogma quite lacking in any philosophical interest, and hence absolutely indifferent in his view, the Trinity or again the Resurrection. But what a profound illusion that is! Through a really penetrating analysis of thought in ourselves and of the life of our spirit, we are led to discover that the very mystery of our intelligence has its origin in this supreme mystery of unity in Trinity, and that the history of the world, from the fiat lux all the way to the consummation of the heavenly City, is set in motion, is oriented by what Christian theology and philosophy have said of the creative design: omnia intendunt assimilari Deo. To bring all that out radically is therefore to tie nature and man back to their roots and to make them bear their true fruit, which is final union with God.”

The issue concludes with a letter from John Paul II commemorating the centenary of the publication of Maurice Blondel’s seminal book L’Action. According to John Paul II, “Blondel’s originality lies in the fact that he understands human action in all its dimensions, individual, social, moral, and religious, and that he shows us how these different aspects are intimately interconnected. It follows that, in acting, every human being unveils the powers of his being and of his interior life as a profound bond with his Creator.” Reflecting on the drama of human action, Blondel was able to rediscover the “marvelous harmony between nature and grace, between reason and faith.”                              □