A Bite in de Lubac’s theory on Nature and Grace? Part 12

Question: What About Vatican II?

  • Vatican II teaches: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of him who was to come, namely, Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear,” Gaudium et spes, art. 22.
  • This is no explicit declaration, in unambiguous words, that human nature has an essential desire for beatific vision. Although some have taken it to be such, de Lubac knew better.
  • And, as is argued above at length, if it were such a declaration, then Vatican II would imply that a meaningless world is possible. This is hardly a likely outcome of Vatican II.
  • In fact, the Church has already condemned the notion that there is an exigence for beatific vision rooted in human nature itself (Pascendi, art. 37). Further, the Church teaching implies that affirming the gratuity of grace depends on affirming a merely natural order (Humani generis at DS 3018).
  • A key principle of magisterial interpretation is that clearer, unambiguous statements help us interpret unclear, ambiguous statements. The prior tradition is clear and unambiguous, and Vatican II is not. Ergo, we read Vatican II in light of the former clarity.
  • A few textual observations as well.
    • Vatican II is clearly speaking of the historical order of things: first Adam, last Adam. But this order includes not only nature but also grace.
    • I, the concrete man, am not just a bare essence, untouched by grace. Under God’s providential care, I am a resultant complexity. However, there are principles to that complexity. To assign a causal root in nature to the resultant complexity may be premature. For example: concrete me, I am a theology professor. This is indicate who I am. I am married to a lovely woman. This is indicate who I am. However, to say that I was born with an essential desire to be a theologian would be far fetched. In fact, there would lurk here a logical fallacy: If X is true of the whole, then X is true of the part. [Response: Not necessarily! Hence, not valid.] X is the team; therefore, I, who am part of the team, am the team. [Response: Nonsense.]
    • Concerning the issue at hand: Because God’s grace has so subtly penetrated every fiber of my being, arousing in me inevitably a desire that cannot be slaked unless I find Him, does not mean that my desire for beatific union with Him is an essential desire, that is, a desire caused simply by my nature. It lies deep within me. This is because his grace awakens it. He is capable of awakening love!
    • Vatican II is teaching an item of crucial existential import that has to do with my concrete existence now in all its complexity. It is not contradicting the Tradition.