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Aquinas’s Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac

Not Everything is Grace

Series:

Fr. Bernard Mulcahy

Twentieth-century Catholic theology was strongly affected by Henri de Lubac’s claim that the western theological tradition went awry by allowing that one could have an adequate idea of human nature without reference to humanity’s supernatural end. According to de Lubac, the culprits were early modern scholastics, and their mistake was the idea of pure nature. Aquinas’s Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac: Not Everything Is Grace contributes to the current literature criticizing de Lubac’s thesis. Specifically, it offers an explanation for its enduring power and popularity with particular attention to the contemporary Radical Orthodoxy movement.

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4. Thomas Aquinas on Kingship, Natural Law, and the Sciences 79

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4. Thomas Aquinas on Kingship, Natural Law, and the Sciences HENRI DE LUBAC and John Milbank both argue that accounts of human life and nature must be integrally theological. In other words, they insist that pre- scinding from the supernatural distorts our understanding of what it is to be human, at least when this idea is being put to practical use—for example, in politics. They both contend that Thomas Aquinas would teach us to shun the idea of pure nature, and they both hold that today’s societies must be deliber- ately and theologically organised if we are to avoid inhumane polities. More profoundly and more consistently than de Lubac, Milbank objects to all recognition of the secular, averring that secularity is a modern invention and that the best remedy for modern ills includes the overcoming of belief in secu- lar (non-theological) spheres of political and intellectual life. In the present chapter we examine three more topics addressed by Thom- as Aquinas which should enlarge our sense of the history and meaning of pure nature, illustrating its place in authentic Thomism. These topics are kingship, natural law, and the epistemology of the sciences. We begin with kingship. Thomas Aquinas on Kingship St Thomas never developed a systematic political theory. But around 1267, while teaching at the Dominican studium in Rome, he had occasion to begin (but not to complete) a short treatise De Regno, addressed to the king of Cyprus.1 The intended recipient was probably the adolescent Hugh II of...

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