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The Mystery of the Supernatural (Milestones in Catholic Theology) Paperback – May 1, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Series: Milestones in Catholic Theology
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824516990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824516994
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this work Fr. DeLubac proposes to study what he posits to be one of the central paradoxes of Christianity; namely that man is disposed towards and deeply desires the Beatific Vision but, if left to his own means, is incapable of attaining this end. What Fr. DeLubac proceeds to do is work his way systematically through the history of this classical Christian idea, giving copious refrences, and subsequently showing that certain modern trends in theology, while trying to preserve the gratuitiousness of this great gift from God, acutally serve to undermind the integrity of the classical idea. This is not lightweight reading to be sure but this new edition is more suited to the english speaking reader in that all the quotes and footnotes have been translated from the original Latin and Greek into English. Furthermore the introduction gives a fine overview of the historical circumstances surrounding this monumental work.
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This book, which is one of the most important theological books of the 20th Century, is a difficult read. It is also worth the difficulty. Cardinal De Lubac speaks of the question that continues to cause controversy to this day: the question of the relation between the natural and supernatural, nature and grace. The book was more derivative (I don't use that pejoratively) than I was expecting. De Lubac covers much theological terrain, quoting from scads of theologians and philosophers in the tradition. He makes a persuasive case that Cardinal Cajetan and Suarez misread Aquinas and the tradition in their attempts to describe pure nature.

The most compelling part of De Lubac's argument is its rootedness in reality, in the anthropology of man as he is. I think this might be De Lubac's greatest contribution. Both explicitly and implicitly throughout the book he makes the case that in examining the question of man's natural desire and the object of that desire, one must look to man as he really is, not as he could have been, but as he exists. I saw some correspondence here between De Lubac and Msgr. Luigi Giussani's The Religious Sense, which speaks of man's desire for the infinite.

At the same time as he talks of man's natural desire or openness to the infinite, for supernatural beatitude, De Lubac maintains the gratuity of grace. That we have been made this way does not mean that God is required to fulfill our desire. I probably am making a hash of the book -- I know just enough to make myself sound stupid -- but I think it is worth the hard read.
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Format: Paperback
Lubac was without a doubt one of the giants of Catholic theology in the past century. This book is his seminal work: a defense of man's need for the supernatural grace of God. Such a need places man in the position of "an arid valley" in need of "rain(grace)" - this anthropological phenomenon forces God to send the Holy Spirit as the vessel of Grace, to the hearts of men. Written decades before Vatican II this book was perceived as heterodox by the Holy See, placing Lubac (together with Chenu, Congar and his fellow Jesuit Chardin) on the black list. Ironically, the current pontiff, no friend of radicalism, made Lubac a Cardinal in recognition of his theological contributions to the faith. The book remains a keystone of radical orthodoxy.
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This is a very deep and very complex and subtle book, but in many ways the apparent abstruse hair-splitting quality of the discussion - namely, whether man has a "natural" desire to see God, or whether that desire arises only after God's grace has elicited such a desire - is actually a matter of first and basic importance. Take the discussion out of the idiom of aristocratic French point-scoring and latin-based terms like "natura pura" and "donum perfectum," and we see a startling relevance to modern issues.

For example, for me, de Lubac pricks me on a weak spot. In conversations with atheists who play the "God is evil for sending good atheists to Hell" I tend to counter with the observation that Hell - per St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante - for the virtuous pagans might be a place of natural human contentment. So, God is not so mean and unfair, after all.

This certainly answers the "God is mean and unfair" objection, but it opens up a new can of worms. If human beings can be perfectly content with a natural end, an end that human beings would find perfectly satisfactory to their natural desires, then who cares that they do not know God? So, they are not caused to suffer because of God's plan, which seems fair since they are good people.

But as a Christian do we really want to say that it is possible to be really content without God, that the separation from God will not cause suffering of any kind, simply because man's final end is to be with God? De Lubac points out:

//It is said that a universe might have existed in which man, though without necessarily excluding any other desire, would have his rational ambitions limited to some lower, purely human beatitude. Certainly I do not deny it.
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