Wednesday, February 19, 2003

If Kevin can quote de Lubac at length….
In answer to Joe's inquiries about the relationship between human progress and our supernatural destiny in the comments boxes I have the following reflections taken, in part, from my dissertation. One of the authors that has helped me understand GS is Henri de Lubac. De Lubac’s vision, like that of GS, was based on three distinct, but necessarily interrelated orders, the cosmic, the human and the supernatural.

The word “order” is quite important when discussing the issues involved in de Lubac’s theology and GS. An order is a nexus of stable, mutual relationships which work toward a common end. The interactions between the various distinct elements in the nexus are predictable, conforming to norms. This leads, in natural sciences, to the possibility of accurate predictions. Precise predictions, however, cannot be made in an order in which free, rational beings are one of the elements because the nature of freedom is precisely a certain amount of freedom vis à vis the determinisms of any order.

Orders are not necessarily self-sufficient or independent. One order can be related to another. For instance, one order can exist wholly within another, as Newtonian mechanics functions within Einsteinian physics.

In de Lubac’s understanding, each of the first two of the three orders, the cosmic, the human and the supernatural, by their own perfection, prepares for and grounds, but does not cause, the perfection of the next higher.
The order of charity elevates and transfigures all that is human: it is incommensurable to it; but it draws on it, so to say, for its material. (Atheisme., 123.)
The goal of technical progress was, he thought, to ground not only improvement in material conditions, but even more growth in human consciousness and unity, which is the true progress on which grace builds. Material progress had importance inasmuch as it is a prerequisite for a growth in the unity of man which is a foundation, though not sole cause, of the unity which grace affords. This human progress, however, requires transformation and completion by the sovereign action of God. De Lubac affirmed with GS that
we know neither the time of this completion nor the mode of this transformation. (Atheisme, p. 126)

The unity in distinction between the various orders led to two interrelated affirmations in de Lubac's 1938 book, Catholicism, both the necessity and the insufficiency of human efforts to improve the temporal order. De Lubac adamantly affirmed both the insufficiency of man’s temporal efforts to achieve salvation or redemption and the necessity of the Church and her distinct activities to achieve the ultimate unity of the human race. (Catholicism, 110ff) He especially highlighted the unifying effect of the Eucharist. (ibid., 49)

In Catholicisme de Lubac maintained that only in Christ does man find his real meaning.
By revealing the Father and by being revealed by him, Christ completes the revelation of man to himself. (Catholicism, 185)
For de Lubac the meaning of creation was found in Christ. The order of nature was not parallel to the order of grace, but found within it. The world, in man, was intrinsically open to the supernatural. The circle of the cosmos was not closed, nor is its meaning completely accountable for by principles of its own order, within the time-space continuum. Nor, above all, is the meaning of man completely accounted for in terms of his relation to the cosmos or the temporal human order. The cosmos ceased to be a circle, but in fact had its terminus in a direction transcending all that is in this world.
The infernal circle [of the cosmos] is disrupted. (ibid., 70.)
There was no fulfillment for man in the world without Christ. The Christian mysteries, especially the Church, were absolutely necessary for man to understand and achieve the purpose for which he was created.
The rest of the world is bound up with us, and it cannot be saved without us. (ibid., 122)
The cosmos was created for and in Christ and therefore can only be completed or fulfilled in Christ, the new Adam.

On the other hand, in a historical-theological perspective, De Lubac affirmed the positive relationship between the temporal and the eschatological end of the cosmos. The Resurrection created a new order, but it
neither transformed the social nature of man nor cancelled out the temporal conditions of his existence. (Splendour of the Church, 119.)
Specifically, the development of the temporal order was a basis for the reception of the word of God and redemption. That was a form of human cooperation with God. He observed that,
God did not desire to save mankind as a wreck is salvaged; he meant to raise up within it a life, his own life. The law of redemption is here a reproduction of the law of creation: man’s co-operation was always necessary if his exalted destiny was to be reached, and his co-operation is necessary now for his redemption.(Catholicism, 113)
This cooperation, moreover, was social and corporate. One has only to remember that de Lubac conceived of “man” as a corporate as well as individual reality to see how the efforts at social unity in the world can be a prelude to the unification of man in Christ in the Church. In fact, chapter 9 of Catholicism was a sustained meditation on this very point. Grace transformed nature from within, not destructively from without.
Christianity transformed the old world by absorbing it. (Ibid., 146.)
This “elevation of culture” as described by de Lubac became influential at Vatican II, especially in GS, and is appealed to, quite legitimately, in support of postconciliar Christian efforts to improve the temporal order and inculturate the faith.

It also led de Lubac to be sympathetic with and to defend the theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., in the 1960s and 1970s. This, of course, will send all kinds of people into fits of apoplexy, but it can't be helped, I suppose. The best thing is to actually read what de Lubac said, rather than prejudge him based on notions of Teilhard acquired from his fierce critics. And pu-LEEZE, Joe, don't accuse de Lubac or GS of being Hegelian, except in a more general sense that they both take history seriously.

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