A Bite in de Lubac’s theory on Nature and Grace? Part 7

Ok, we have laid the laborious groundwork for assessing de Lubac’s thesis. How much labor this has required! How much thought! Not mere emotive guesswork. We are seeking the truth, not simply our (unformed, often ill-begotten) feelings about it. Let us now examine his thesis.

De Lubac says that we as human have but one meaningful end, beatific union with God. More precisely, he said that human nature as such has but one meaningful end, beatific union with God.

The theologians at the time were up in arms over this statement. Why? Because they realized that we need grace in order to attain vision. But whatever is required in a thing that it be able to attain its meaningful end is a (dynamical) debitum naturae. Ergo, they concluded, on de Lubac’s supposition, grace must be a debitum naturae.

In point of fact, de Lubac sometimes implies that grace is just such a required thing. Let us read his own words:

“As a result—at least so it seems—how could the just and good God frustrate me, if it were not I who by my own fault turned myself away from him freely?”[1]

De Lubac here implies that grace is a debitum naturae. Why? Because debitum pertains to justice. The rhetorical question “How could the just God frustrate me” implies that God in justice could not frustrate me, unless sin be brought into the picture. But remember, we are thinking precisely and scientifically here. We must abstract from all our personal traumas, desires, emotions, etc., in order in a manly way to think this through. We are considering human nature as such.

Now, if – abstracting from sin – God could not in justice frustrate me with regard to X, then the things requisite for X are debita naturae. De Lubac therefore asserts that grace, which is necessary for beatific union with God, is a debitum naturae. But to hold that grace is a debitum naturae is to contradict the faith of Holy Mother Church. This is why so many theologians criticized de Lubac, and severely.

Pius XII, of immortal memory, in his must-read encyclical, Humani generis, art. 26, (1950), had this to say:

“Others destroy the true ‘gratuity’ of the supernatural order when they say that God is not able to establish beings gifted with intellect without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.” (DS 3018).

[1] Le mystère, p. 80. See also “Le mystère du surnaturel,” 91.

2 thoughts on “A Bite in de Lubac’s theory on Nature and Grace? Part 7

  1. Did de Lubac ever respond directly to these criticisms ? So many people in the church nowadays don’t even bother !

    2nd – can the same set of circumstances be just and unjust at the same time but in different respects? Example – all of humanity suffers the Fall, though only our 1st parents commit an actual sin. Thus is just, as sin separates us from God – the just punishment.

    But is this also unjust, as the countless innocents in the world who suffer unfairly as a result of the Fall, as in abortion, never actually committed any sin? Could there be a much more limited but still true sense in which God “owes” these innocents a higher and better end than originally intended ? O Happy Fall, which merited so great a redemption – if I’m quoting it right.

    Christ’s promise to the Apostles of rewards in this life and in the next for having given up everything to follow Him seems to imply some kind of relative merit. Is this possibly what de Lubac meant ?

    1. He did. More posts to come on him. He actually had 2 strategies: (1) God would not have created men-as-he-has (abstracting from sin) except because he intended to give grace. As critics rightly retorted, this is no response. It collapses the gratuity of grace into that of creation. (2) Stay tuned….

      That any of us is exposed to suffer is due to original sin that all inherit. Thus, vis-a-vis divine justice, no suffering is unjust. However, that I without just cause injure another is an injustice. Abortion is always unjust.

      O Happy Fault! This is the beauty of God’s loving mercy. He allows us to fall, so as to bring greater good out of the fall. How much more zealous we are, how much more humble, when we see that we have acted badly, have sinned, shamefully even, and yet, there He stands – The Good Shepherd, having laid down his life, ready to pick us up. O Jesus, I have betrayed you so often and in such shameful ways. I trust in you. Desert me not; be the Good Shepherd to me. With your grace, I intend firmly not to sin again. — This doesn’t say that my sin merits grace; it says that God is merciful.

      To get to another core of your fine questions. I recommend getting ahold of Aquinas, DE MALO, q. 5. It is a highly nuanced text. He distinguishes two considerations of infants. (1) On the one hand, they are children of Adam, bearing Adam’s nature. They are part of the family. They are “human things” if you will. In this respect, they go as Adam goes. Since Adam was given a gift as steward of the race, his malice corrupts us all. Hence, we receive from him not bodily AND spiritual life, but only bodily life. But without the spirit, the body afflicts. Hence, we are thrown into concupiscence, etc. We are “stained” with the absence of grace. But to all such, there is due (debitum) a punishment, the eternal loss of God. Hence, unforgiven infants are condemned to the eternal loss of beatific union with God.

      (2) On the other hand, each infant is its own person. Each is free from personal sin. Although in the other respect (as human) each bears the “sin of nature”, in this respect each is without sin. Hence, none should be deprived of that to which they are ordered by their essence. The human essence as such is ordered to a natural fruition. Ergo, each infant should attain natural fruition. This is the “limbo” of the infants.

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