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.

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