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The Graced Horizon: Nature and Grace in Modern Catholic Thought.

Duffy's purpose is to chronicle and interpret the nature/grace debate in Catholic theology during the middle decades of the 20th century, showing its crucial importance for Vatican Council II and the post-conciliar Church, and its implications for the larger issue of how God is related to the secular world and its history. He accomplishes his purpose admirably. His "major players" in the debate are Henri de Lubac (though a typo has him dying in 1919 before the play began) and Karl Rahner. Chapters are also devoted to other "representative voices:" Hans Urs von Balthasar, Edward Schillebeeckx, Juan Alfaro and Eulalio Baltazar. Before beginning his detailed study of these authors, D. clarifies the issues of the nature/grace debate and situates it in its 20th-century context, especially the problem of "extrinsicism."

Henri de Lubac did more than anyone to bring about a profound reexamination of the nature/grace issue, particularly in Surnaturel published in 1946. Against extrinsicism he situated the desire for God at the very heart of concrete, historical human nature, but he seemed thereby to some to deprive grace of any gratuity beyond that of creation. It was against this danger that Pius XII warned in his encyclical Humani generis in 1950. At this juncture Karl Rahner introduced the notion of the "supernatural existential" into the debate. By naming both the immanent presence of God's Spirit and call (uncreated grace) and the consequences of this for historical human nature and its desire (created grace) an "existential," Rahner situates this desire, with de Lubac, at the very heart of human existence. By calling this existential "supernatural," and therefore not necessarily given with human nature as such, he maintains with Pius XII its utter gratuity beyond that of creation.

Von Balthasar seems to D. to accept the notion of the supernatural existential but insists that we not think of God as facing a choice between a world order with or without grace. God created a graced world in the very act of conceiving it, and only in light of this actuality is another possibility thinkable. The gratuity of grace, then, must be understood primarily from the very nature and excellence of the actual gift, not from the abstract possibility of its absence. Alfaro deserves credit for insisting on the personal nature of grace and transposing the issue from that of nature/grace to person/grace. Schillebeeckx's contribution to the debate is examined in the context of his study of Max Seckler's retrieval of Aquinas's instinctus fidei, with whose interpretation of the latter he disagrees, as he does with Seckler's own questionable understanding of the supernatural existential. Finally, D. finds promise in Baltazar's effort to transpose the debate from the scholastic category of substance to those of process philosophy. In spite of their differences, all these authors share a common starting point wherein D. sees the real significance and fruit of the debate: against the counter-Reformation theology of gratuity, they all begin with the actual historical order of grace, indeed, the grace of Christ, rather than with an abstract notion of human nature, and they see all else in function of the primacy of grace.

D. sees two challenges still outstanding as the debate continues. One is to broaden the anthropocentric focus so as to include the whole realm of creation in the order of grace. The other comes from Mark Taylor's doctoral dissertation, published as God is Love, which argues in the name of process logic and coherence that to be truly Rahnerian Rahner must be a process theologian. Rahner's dialectical approach rejects any univocal logic, process or otherwise, which makes God part of the larger whole which God must both create and grace in order to be God. D.'s seeming attraction to process thought acknowledges its problems with the gratuity of grace and the sovereignly free God of Christian tradition. Whatever the outcome of the debate, his book has made a valuable contribution.
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Author:Dych, William V.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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