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Natura Pura

On the Recovery of Nature in the Doctrine of Grace

Steven Long

Publication Year: 2010

From speculative theology to the exegesis of Aquinas, to contemporary North American philosophy and Catholic social and ethical thought, to the thought of Benedict XVI, this work argues the crucial importance of the proportionate natural end within the context of grace and supernatural beatitude. Long argues that, in the effort to avoid naturalism, Henri de Lubac unwittingly consummated the loss of nature as a normative principle within theology, both doctrinally and exegetically with respect to the teaching of Aquinas. The author argues that this constitutes an understandable but grave error. De Lubac's view of the matter was adopted and extended by Hans Urs von Balthasar in The Theology of Karl Barth, in which Balthasar argues that Aquinas could not even consider pure nature because it was impossible for him even to make the conceptual distinction implied by this problem,a view contradicted by Aquinas's text. Long argues that in The Theology of Karl Barth, Balthasar's account evacuates nature of its specific ontological density and treats it as mere createdness as such,a kind of dimensionless point terminating the line of grace. Given the loss of natura within theological method, its recovery requires philosophic instrumentalities. In its third chapter this book argues that by reason of its lack of any unified philosophy of nature or metaphysics, the analytic thought so widespread in Anglophone circles is merely a partial metaphilosophy and so cannot replace the role of classical Thomism within theology. The fourth chapter argues against those who construe affirmation of a proportionate natural end as equivalent to social Pelagianism or minimalism in the public square, engaging the work of Jacques Maritain, Jean Porter, and David Schindler, Sr. In an appendix, the author examines the early thought of Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, and its development toward the Regensburg Lecture.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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Title page, copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

First of all, I am profoundly thankful for the constant sympathy and support of my wife, Anna Maria, throughout the writing of this book, as I am for my children’s understanding of the role that writing plays in their father’s life and work....

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pp. 1-9

The following chapters converge on one central point: the crucial need to return to the actual teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas with respect to the distinction within unity of nature and grace.1 Never has the phrase of Jacques Maritain, ‘‘distinguish in order to unite,’’ been...

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1. On the Loss, and the Recovery, of Nature as a the Economic Principle: Reflections on the Nature/Grace Controversy

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pp. 10-51

Dr. Lawrence Feingold is to be thanked for the comprehensive, instructive, and irenic character of his work The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters.1 The doctrinal and historical intricacy, the sympathy, indeed, the sheer...

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2. A Criticism of Nature as Vacuole for Grace

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pp. 52-109

In chapter 1, I responded to the famed thesis of Henri de Lubac while attempting to situate the theological problematic within which that thesis could seem the sole intelligible strategy for preserving the truth of Christian revelation from naturalism. In this...

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3. On the Impropriety of Treating Theology's Handmaiden like an Analytic

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pp. 110-139

The essential role of natura in theological method, with all its ontological dynamism, density, and relative autonomy vis-a`-vis the revelata, raises the stakes with regard to the understanding of nature and being.1 Following upon the theological recovery of nature, a correct...

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4. Why Natura Pura is not the Theological Stalking Horse for Secularist Minimalism or Pelagianism

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pp. 140-199

We have argued that nature is neither a pure theological posit, a mere geometric point without magnitude terminating the line of grace, nor the preserve of logicism, Humean conventionalism, scientism, and the other ‘‘isms’’ with which contemporary analytic...

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5. Conclusion

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pp. 200-211

The preceding pages articulate how central will be our understanding of the relation of nature and grace for the proper contemplation and living of Christian life, and for the Christian’s participation in cultural and public life. It has considered the implications...

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pp. 212-222

It is essential to our argument in the preceding text that there is indeed a proportionate natural end from which the human species is derived, and that indeed the praeambula fidei are susceptible of apodictic speculative knowledge. Here, however, we clearly...


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pp. 223-272


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pp. 273-282

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248186
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823231058
Print-ISBN-10: 0823231054

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 647923416
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Natura Pura

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Subject Headings

  • Grace (Theology) -- History of doctrines.
  • Nature -- History of doctrines.
  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274. Summa theologica.
  • Catholic Church -- Doctrines.
  • Philosophical theology.
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