The Unity and Mission of the Church: Communio at 50 Years

From Extrinsicism to a World That Denies Both Nature and Grace: A Polyphonic Analysis of Secularism

Tracey Rowland

An animating idea of Communio

One of the earliest ideas animating Communio scholarship was Maurice Blondel’s critique of extrinsicism—the intellectual habit of decoupling concepts that ought to be held in tension. Henri de Lubac used Blondel’s critique to explain how theologians themselves contributed to the secularization of Western culture. As John Milbank, in his First Stanton Lecture, presented the theory, “Philosophy had become autonomous, not because pipe-smoking men in tweed had rebelled against men in clerical gowns, but because the men in clerical gowns had opened up that space for their own peculiar religious reasons.” Consistent with this historical reading, amplified in the theology of Blondel and de Lubac, a hallmark of Communio theology is its opposition to the so-called “bastard dualisms” created by a sharp separation of nature and grace, faith and reason, history and ontology, body and soul. In contrast, a nondualistic relational mode of thinking is the frame through which scholars in the Communio circles analyze social pathologies. At the same time, the relational approach to these critical couplets supplies the building blocks for a theology of culture. Over the past half-century, the attention given by Communio scholars to the moves on the chessboard that have polarized the foundational couplets of Christian anthropology, or canceled them altogether, has deepened our understanding of secularism.


To read this article in its entirety, please download the free PDF available above or buy this issue.