Henri de Lubac’s Catholicism at 70 Years

Henri de Lubac on Nature and Grace: A Note on Some Recent Contributions to the Debate

Nicholas J. Healy Jr.

“Our natural desire for God entails a renunciation both of self-sufficiency and of demand. To want a gratuitous friendship is also to want to be surprised, and so to refuse to know in advance the actual shape of that gratuity.”

A number of recent publications have brought new life to the debate surrounding Henri de Lubac’s writings on nature and grace.1 At issue in this seemingly “academic” question is the novelty and gratuity of Jesus Christ in relation to creation. Embedded in the question of how Christ’s novelty relates to the order of creation is a set of further issues concerning the relationship between the Church and the world, the relationship between theology and philosophy, the ecclesial and cosmological significance of the Eucharist, and the meaning of the universality of Christ’s saving mission. For some, de Lubac’s account of these matters represents a recovery of the breadth and depth of the authentic Catholic tradition, a renewal of the vision of Christian humanism that unites patristic and high medieval thought and that informed the documents of the Second Vatican Council. For others, de Lubac’s writings on nature and grace represent a “distortion of the Thomist legacy” that has “influenced for the worse a large percentage of Catholic theologians and philosophers trained since the Second World War” and “contributed to the destabilization of Catholic theology.”2 Because de Lubac and his interlocutors both claim to be faithfully interpreting Thomas Aquinas, much of the debate has focused on the meaning of texts in Aquinas on the desiderium naturale visionis dei as well as related texts on the “twofold beatitude” proper to human nature.

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