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

Not Everything is Grace


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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5. Pure Nature, Integralism, and Jansenism 123


5. Pure Nature, Integralism, and Jansenism JANSENISM AND its precursor, Baianism, are the subject of two-fifths of de Lubac’s Surnaturel, and of one third of his Augustinisme et théologie moderne. In both books, de Lubac develops an argument he first advanced in a two-part article which appeared in the Jesuit Recherches de sciences religieuses in 1931. That article was entitled “Deux Augustiniens fourvoyés: Baius et Jansenius,” and argued, as its title announces, that Baius and Jansen were two “Augustini- ans astray.” His point is that, although they had gone off the rails into heresy, they had nevertheless started from the sound and venerable Catholic tradition represented by St Augustine—who, according to de Lubac, never considered the concept of pure nature. The reason this history interests de Lubac is that it explains how a chasm opened between France (or, more broadly, the West) and Christianity. To examine de Lubac’s position in some detail, I will divide the following presentation into two sections: 1. De Lubac’s reading of the Jansenist Crisis 2. Jansenism: An Historical Perspective De Lubac’s Reading of the Jansenist Crisis At one level, de Lubac’s work on Jansen and Baius was a response to Protestant scholarship in the fields of patristics and church history. It was a counter-polemic meant to show that those claiming the support of Augustine’s authority—that is, Baius and Jansen, but also Luther and Calvin—were mistak- en in their reading of the great Catholic Doctor of the Western Church. More profoundly,...

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