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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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8. Toward a Resolution 201


8. Toward a Resolution THE TWO MAJOR questions that have emerged in the course of this investiga- tion of the theological notion of pure nature are, first, What is the provenance of the idea of pure nature?; and, second, To what extent may the idea of pure nature be a well-founded and a productive notion in theological discourse? Given that Catholic theology can never be removed from the larger tradition, not only of theology, but also of Church life and teaching, the answer to the properly theological, second question will depend to no small extent on the answer we can give to the question of provenance. Summary of Findings Chapter one, “Pure Nature and the Challenge of Integralism,” introduced our topic, its importance, and the method we proposed for examining it. We first focused our attention on the notion of pure nature itself, that is, on the idea of man in solis naturalibus constitutus. Pure nature thus refers to what de- fines us as human. The expression natura pura has been customary in modern scholasticism, and its popularisation has been largely attributed to Cajetan. Henri de Lubac contends that this concept of pure nature is not grounded in the theology of St Thomas Aquinas, and that it is utterly alien to the mind of St Augustine. In de Lubac’s judgement, the notion of pure nature was, in fact, an innovation of the 16 th century. De Lubac blames this innovation for mod- ern Europe’s atheistic humanism, which he deplores. In...

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