Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Senior Thesis (Continued)

In his article on Henri de Lubac’s Surnatural, Fr. Guy Mansini, O.S.B brings to the surface the Neo-Platonic axiom of emanation, which undergirds de Lubac’s thought, claiming that through this axiom, de Lubac continues to maintain significance because of the “perennial availability and attractiveness of the Neoplatonist picture of the world.”[1] In the end, this review looks to point to the contrary axiom of a proportionate end in Neo-Scholasticism that necessarily pits the two sides against each other. This will be accomplished by means of an evaluation of Mansini’s critique of what he sees as de Lubac’s third strategy to save the gratuity of grace. This strategy as Mansini thinks is contrary to Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Humani Generis, but, as will be shown, this is not the case.

The third strategy of de Lubac, as Mansini explains, “is to understand the gift of the natural desire by analogy with the gift of creation itself.”[2] This is to say that there is no prior being which receives “the ordination to the vision of God…there is no daylight between nature and finality.”[3] Thus, our finality, telos, cannot be superadded, since it defines our very nature. And this finality is gratuitous because our end is gifted to us simultaneously with our being, esse. De Lubac sums this up nicely, I think, describing our creation as a threefold gift: “the fact of the creation of a spiritual being [esse], the supernatural finality [telos] imprinted upon that being’s nature, and finally the offer [gratuitous grace] presented to his free choice to share in the divine life.”[4]

Mansini makes two basic objections to this strategy, which very much hinge on the same principle. The first is based on the idea that since finality defines a being’s nature, then that being would not be himself if he did not have that end. As Mansini represents de Lubac: “If I cannot be what I am without the innate desire to see God [man’s telos], if I cannot be placed in being without this, an innate desire, then it becomes unthinkable that God will frustrate it.”[5] The problem, as Mansini sees it, is the second ‘if’ clause, which excludes the possibility that ‘I’ or any man, can be created without being called to a supernatural end, thus pitting de Lubac against Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, whom condemns those who exclude the possible creation of a rational creature not called to the beatific vision.[6] Yet, this critique seems to fall short, since although it is true that I cannot be what I am without this supernatural telos, it does not follow that I could not have been created otherwise. In other words, “I cannot be placed in being without this”[7] telos, because “in the world God actually created,”[8] I do have this desire. This is distinct from the possible or hypothetical way in which God could have created us. Yet as has been revealed to us through Christ and the sacramental life of the Church, we understand that God has called his creation to this vision. This distinction puts de Lubac in line with the Pope, for as de Lubac sees it, the Pope’s teaching helps us to see what would have been possible for God in His creation.[9]

In Mansini’s more “strict” second argument, he distinguishes between our ‘who’ and our ‘what’, our person and our nature. As he states: “Who we are is something dramatically constituted…But what we are—that is another question. What we are…is the same, whether we are called to grace and glory or not.”[10] Again, Mansini uses this to conclude that the dogmatic issue of Humani Generis is, therefore, solved, since the deification of our ‘what’, the becoming our ‘who’, “does not make us no longer men.”[11] Yet, again, this claim seems to be misguided. I do not see de Lubac disagreeing with Mansini’s distinction between our person and nature. It is as stated. Yet the actual created world admits of no priority in time with the distinction, since the ordination of man to his supernatural end would be not only simultaneous with, but in the very same act of man’s creation. “Deification [then] does not make us no longer men”[12] because man has a nature, as creature, made in the image and likeness of God, that is fitted for this participation in His divine wisdom. In fact, God continually actuates our nature through gratuitous grace, deifying our nature and making us true men. Thus God does not replace our nature by ordaining men to the vision of Himself, He fulfills it. This would be in a way Thomas’ grace building on and perfecting nature. De Lubac, as I see it, escapes Mansini’s accusation because our rational nature does not demand deification, but rather God in the act of creating each and every rational creature chooses to imprint upon their nature a call to the vision of Himself as a gift, when He could have done otherwise. In a way, therefore, we have a divine nature, although not a divinized nature. In addition, our nature is not merely “open to the supernatural possession of God”, but fitted to it, being structurally created for it.[13] Putting the distinction of person and nature in relation to de Lubac’s threefold gift, our person is that “offer [gratuitous grace] presented to his free choice to share in the divine life,” and our nature is that “supernatural finality imprinted upon that being’s nature.”[14]

Healy wonderfully pinpoints this difficulty when, representing the Neo-Scholastics, he says: “Although nature [telos] may be ‘open’ to receiving a higher end, this higher supernatural end is first given with the second gift of deifying grace [gratuitous grace].”[15] For de Lubac, the point is that the telos, which is that supernatural end, “comes with” the esse, the gift of our being. One might say, therefore, that the difference between Mansini and de Lubac is whether or not the telos comes with the first gift that of esse, or the third gift gratuitous grace. Healy says that this association of the second gift with the third, as in the Neo-Scholastics, is due to the premise that “the final end of nature must be proportionate to nature,” the Aristotelian axiom.[16] One might also conclude, and I do not think Mansini would disagree here, that this association of the second gift with the first gift is connected to the Platonic axiom of emanation.[17] Thus, the divide has been shown: Plato or Aristotle, emanation or a proportionate end—both axioms taken from non-Christian worldviews.



[1] Mansini O.S.B., Guy. “The Abiding Theological Significance of Henri de Lubac’s Surnatural (The Thomist 73.4, 2009), 609.

[2] Ibid 604.

[3] Ibid 604.

[4] De Lubac S.J., Henri. The Mystery of the Supernatural. Trans. Rosemary Sheed. (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998), 81.

[5] Mansini, Surnatural, 606.

[6]See Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, 26: “Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.”

[7] Mansini, Surnatural, 606.

[8] Healy, Nicholas J. “Henri de Lubac on Nature and Grace: a Note on Some Recent Contributions to the Debate” (Communio 35, Winter 2008), 552; In this passage, Healy implements, following de Lubac, the distinction between actual and hypothetical creation, which I employ throughout the article.

[9] See Ibid, 552; It is my prerogative here to extend this possibility—to create rational creature not called to the beatific vision—to not only a “would have been”, but to a continued possibility. It seems to me that in order to stay most true to the Pope’s statement, one must hold that this possibility is still an actual possibility, for if the possibility is merely from the creation of the first rational creatures, the angles, then this possibility does not actually exist as a possibility for God now, i.e. God now owes it to rational creatures to call them to the beatific vision. In fact, if God ordained through the creation of the first rational creature that all rational creatures be ordained to the vision of himself, then God did and does not actually have the possibility to create other rational creatures such as man in a different way. It is not clear in the Healy article whether or not this possibility actually exists for God or not, for his syntax does not exclude the possibility, but, I believe, it needs to be said outright.

[10] Mansini, Surnatural, 606-607.

[11] See Ibid 607; It seems that Mansini is pointing here to the perfection of nature, rather than its destruction, or its absence, as Mansini might see de Lubac, making our nature simply divine (see Ibid 609). Yet as will be shown, de Lubac is in no way making this move.

[12] Ibid 607.

[13] Ibid 613.

[14] Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural, 81;

[15] Healy, Henri de Lubac, 551.

[16] Ibid 551.

[17] See Mansini, Surnatural, 609.

Participated Theonomy

What is freedom? We clamor for its protection at the drop of a hat, but what is it for which we are fighting? Drawing a nice distinction between heteronomy and autonomy, Kant gives us a way to define freedom. Heteronomy is man “as he belongs to the world of sense, subject to the laws of nature” and autonomy is man “as he belongs to the intelligible world subject to laws which, independent of nature, are not empirical but are founded only on reason.”[1] Freedom, then, being ultimate autonomy and separation from determining causes of the world of sense, is man’s creation of a law for and from himself through the ultimate autonomy of the will. This is opposed to an “alien-law” (heteronomy), or a law from without, to which man is subjected, rendering him not free, but determined by outside forces. This dichotomy lends itself to a radical individualism, a trait that is very prevalent in the American mind. But is this trait good? Is this idea of freedom correct? Or even better said, is this dichotomy the only option before us?

Often described parochially in terms of positive and negative freedom, that is, freedom from and freedom too—freedom from this effect, and freedom to do this act—might I suggest another preposition to follow the word freedom: “in”—freedom in something. What is that something? Simply put, the truth, God and his infinite wisdom. Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor describes this idea in terms of participated theonomy: the participation of man in God’s divine wisdom to which he is fitted as a rational creature and the receiver of divine revelation.[2] In some ways, this idea subsumes into itself the dichotomy Kant draws, for theonomy is both a law from without, and a law from within, dwelling in and spring up from man as received and gifted.

It is not clear that this can be easily demonstrated, but some have claimed freedom to be a self-evident truth and man to be endowed with such truths by his creator. Could this be freedom as gift, as inherent in nature, as participation in truth?


[1] The Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Section III, p. 452

[2] See sec. 40 of Pope John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor. 1993

Friday, October 1, 2010

Senior Thesis: First Article

This being my senior year, I am embarking upon what will be my magnum opus, that is, my Senior Thesis. This yearlong project is supposed to test and manifest my ability to engage in academic discourse at a high level, i.e. can I run with the big guys. Although I do not begin to write my thesis until next semester, this semester entails much research and analysis. This is the first of many papers I will write this semester evaluating those resources that I might potentially use for my thesis.

For clarification, my thesis topic is over the classic discussion over the relationship between nature and grace as presented by Henry de Lubac, a French theologian. De Lubac’s theology was very influential in Vatican II and the 20th century. In some respects, this debate has long since been over, but has flared up again in the recent years. If you do not understand some aspects, particularly terms, do not feel bad, and please feel free to ask. I am still learning as well.

The Autonomy of nature is creaturely dependence on the Creator”[1]

In the article “Henri de Lubac on Nature and Grace: a note on some recent contributions to the debate”, Dr. Nicholas J. Healy addresses three essential questions: (1) has there been an “over extension of the principle that the ‘end of nature must be proportionate to nature’”; (2) “is there a supernatural finality imprinted on our nature, prior to grace”; and (3) has de Lubac interpreted St. Thomas Aquinas’ texts correctly?[2] Due to brevity and interest, this assessment will merely cover what are seen as two shortcomings in the explication of the first thesis, ending with a question on the nature of ontology in light of Healy’s arguments.

Looking to the first thesis, Healy upholds the gratuity of grace through the recognition of the “twofold gift”: “What we have received in order to be,” (esse) and “what we received in order to be holy,” (grace).[3] This means that man has a natural desire to see God (only attainable through “deifying grace”), to whom he is fitted to receive by his creation in the image and likeness of God.[4] Healy more openly describes this under the title of the “capax Dei” which “is not yet grace, but defines our nature itself as a non-anticipating readiness for God’s gracious and unmerited self-communication in Christ.”[5] Healy concludes this section with a discussion of man qua creature, saying that the existence of pura natura directly undermines creation ex-nihilo, since it appears to make irrelevant the creation or gift of our very being.[6] It is here that I believe Healy missed out on a key point: that on which this Aristotelian axiom is predicated, namely, an eternal world. It appears that Aristotle’s axiom as “a final end in its own order”[7] only holds up in this non-Christian worldview. This axiom can still hold ground in a world created ex-nihilo, yet only as “an imperfect ‘beatitude,’ terrestrial and temporal, immanent to the world itself.”[8] Much more could be said here in conjunction with Healy’s statement: “Christ reveals the original purpose and meaning of creation itself—reveals…the nature of nature.”[9] In this way, Christ gives an end to all ends, a telos to all teloi.

This recognition of esse as gift allows Healy to maintain our single and final end as the beatific vision, stating that “just as created essence has no prior claim to God’s bestowal of esse—since it does not exist prior to that bestowal—the natural desire to see God…does not constitute a ‘demand’ or an ‘anticipation’ of grace.”[10] Rather, our natural desire is “ a receptive readiness” hidden in the depths of our very being. Healy develops this further, but it seems that an opportunity was missed here to root the theory in the concrete through an analogy. Thus, I wish to supply one.

Take the case of a child and his relation to his parents, or better yet a child and his relation to his father—rhetorical overtones should be noted. The father, in a way, gives to his child the very gift of being through the act of creation. The child receives this gift and begins immediately to “demand” the charity of his father. In fact, he cannot survive without it. It could be said that the care of the father is necessary to the fulfillment of the child’s end, for in this case the child cannot even maintain its very lively hood, let alone some kind of natural happiness. In addition, society recognizes this “right” of the child, creating such things as Child Protective Services. Yet, this “right” in no way challenges the praiseworthiness or the gratuity of the father’s love for his son. Although an imperfect image as all images are, the truth and proper understanding of autonomy is expressed. As Healy states: “Our natural desire for God entails a renunciation both of self-sufficiency and of demand…happiness [is] only in the context of a friendship that is gratuitous.”[11] Relating back to the analogy, the child must give up absolute autonomy, for it is the very reality of his situation, and he must also stop demanding, since he must realize the very gift of his existence. Is this latter part not the very goal of parenting? This, then, is the plight of man that his end is beyond his capacity to fulfill and thus looked for in another.[12] “Self-sufficiency” and “demand” are replaced with “receptivity” and “gratitude” as exemplified by Mary, and sought after through the offering of Christ, our “friend” through whom we may reach fulfillment in the Father.[13] Although Healy shows the validity of aid from other sources such as friends in the attainment of an end, even using Aristotle to do so, he does not explicitly tie the concept to Christ. Christ is that friend on whose merit we attain the fulfillment of our nature by our cooperation in grace. “For what we do by means of our friends, is done, in a sense, by ourselves” (Nicomachean Ethics, vi, 13).[14] Much more could be said here.

Having said of all of this to bolster Healy, there seems to be one great oversight in the article, that is, the treatment of ontology. As Hütter is quoted, there is an “intrinsic ontological openness” of the first gift, esse, to its reordering by the second gift, grace, to man’s supernatural perfection.[15] In this, the neo-scholastic model, it is clear what is meant by an ontological change incurred in such sacraments as baptism, that is, a “higher supernatural end…given with the second gift of deifying grace.”[16] It remains to be seen, however, what these sacraments as ontological changes mean, if “human nature itself has only one final end” that is hidden in the depths of our natural desire to see God. Are these sacraments merely this revelation of light into the darkened places of our being or is it the reconstitution of our very being?


[1] Nicholas J. Healy, “Henri de Lubac on Nature and Grace: a note on some recent contribution to the debate,” Communio 35 (Winter 2008): 535-64; 563

[2] Ibid 537

[3] Ibid 540, citing Augustine, De Trinitate, V, 15.

[4] Cf. Ibid 541

[5] Ibid 542

[6] Ibid 546

[7] Ibid 551

[8] Ibid 554; citing de Lubac, “Duplex hominis beatitudo,” 603

[9] Ibid 545;

[10] Ibid 547

[11] Ibid 548

[12] Cf. Ibid 561; citing Aquinas ST I, q. 62, a. 4.

[13] Cf. Ibid 561-62

[14] Cf. Ibid 547-48.

[15] Cf. Ibid 549; citing “Desiderium Naturale,” 102-03

[16] Ibid 551

David Hume and Benjamin Franklin

Continuing my journal on the Philosophy of Ethics, I make a turn into the world of David Hume, a Scottish Philosopher from the 18th century, who died the same year that the American Colonies declared independence, 1776. In many ways, Mr. Hume expands the thoughts of John Locke, the famous political theorist to whom much of America’s founders attested. These small but all too significant connections to American history are somewhat the point of this short reflection. Please, enjoy

Having made an artful reflection on Mr. Mill’s Utilitarianism, I wish to take a different approach with Mr. Hume. For, I have happened upon a most interesting connection, which I wish to investigate thoroughly.

Through the first few sections of the Enquiry, Mr. Hume outlines two “social virtues”: benevolence and justice, which seem to derive their purpose from utility or “beneficial tendencies.” Mr. Hume uses the first to demonstrate that utility does play “a part of their merit.” And in the second, Mr. Hume reveals how certain states of society have no use for justice, and so justice is, therefore, “suspended, in such a pressing emergence[s].” It is apparent then that these virtues are void of any objective reality. Indeed, Mr. Hume has subjected them to something he sees as far greater, the free market. Mr. Hume’s love of property is no secret, yet the idea becomes apparent in his discussion on “Luxury” in which he claims that luxury does not corrupt man as thought of in the past, but rather “regulate[s] anew our morals as well as political sentiments.” In other words, it could be said that Mr. Hume finds the basis for these “social virtues” in the market and, in fact, are promulgated and regulated by it. This is Mr. Hume’s so called: “moralizing market.”[1]

Moving back to the connection I hinted at in the beginning, Benjamin Franklin is another such thinker that sees virtues as subject to and finding purpose in industry and utility, even including industry and frugality in his list as virtues in and of themselves. “Nothing so likely to make a Man’s Fortune as Virtue.”[2] Though this may seem apparent already, the connection is cemented through a letter exchanged after a visit by Mr. Franklin to England.[3] Although the exchange is merely a cordial one, its confirmation makes one see Mr. Franklin’s ethics, a very American ethics, as Humian—all too Humian.[4]


[1] The major point to gather here, since it is somewhat of a sweeping summary, is that Mr. Hume believes that a free market, laissez faire, will actual moralize, that is, enforce morals upon the people. Although there is some truth here, for markets only function if the participants do act morally, yet Mr. Hume has inverted the relationship. The market is a tool by which moral people can regulate and distribute goods. In other words, moral people make the market work, not the market makes moral people. Pope Leo XIII speaks of this and its relation to a rising economical theory known as Marxism (Communism) in his encyclical Rerum Novarum. The Pope will speak in this document how both systems are improper materialistic reductions of the human person. A very good read.

[2] Franklin, Benjamin. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Ed. J. A. Leo Lemay and P. M. Zall. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, inc., 1986. Cited in footnote on page 74.

[3] Ibid 231; appears in the “Criticism” section of the edition.

[4] This is a play on words Nietzsche’s words, “human…all too human.” The important thing to note here is how this materialistic reduction of human morality has entered the American mindset. We must realize in this instance our own origins and ask ourselves if the way of thinking we have inherited is correct. We exalt men such Benjamin Franklin, yet do we know their mentors and idols? And do we agree with them?