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  • Bound for Beatitude: A Thomistic Study in Eschatology and Ethics by Reinhard Hütter
  • Simon Francis Gaine, O.P.
Bound for Beatitude: A Thomistic Study in Eschatology and Ethics. By Reinhard Hütter. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019. Pp. xiv + 493. $65.00 (hard). ISBN: 978-0-8132-3181-5.

Consonant with its appearance in the "Thomistic Ressourcement Series," this book is an important exercise in retrieving Thomas Aquinas's theology of beatitude in today's postmodern context, where teleology and the transcendent have been excluded, as the author charges, from much contemporary philosophy and theology. Not only does Reinhard Hütter offer a positive assessment of Aquinas's philosophical and theological approach with its employment of teleology and openness to the transcendent, he also tackles a number of influential objections to it with roots he locates in Protestantism, modern philosophy, existentialism, and disability studies. In response to these objections he concludes that, while none of them is successful in defeating Aquinas's project, all of them in fact manifest the same critical neglect of teleology and the transcendent that haunts modernity. Aquinas's account, in contrast, enables us to view the crisis for what it is, while at the same time offering us resources for overcoming it.

Hütter's manifesto therefore is that today's impoverished theology of immanence requires for its enrichment the restoration of a transcendent teleological orientation, which in turn demands that philosophical metaphysics be theology's privileged partner and instrument. While sensitive to the role of narrative in theology, Hütter is determined to see philosophical argument restored to the central place it had in the work of Aquinas. In this way the author presents the overall argument of his book as a paradigmatic case study in recovering from Aquinas a "sacred doctrine" (sacra doctrina) that "teaches [End Page 163 ] God, is taught by God, and leads to God" (87), a truly metaphysical and argumentative theology that can bring real benefits to the theological task today. Hütter's aim is to show that, in this particular case, the impoverishment of contemporary theology can be met by the riches of a Thomistic theology of both beatitude and the virtuous journey to that beatitude, which he draws especially from Aquinas's Summa theologiae. Hence the introduction includes helpful commentary on the opening questions of the Second Part of the Summa, where Aquinas outlines the final end of all creatures, including the human being, and the objective and subjective dimensions of the essence of ultimate human happiness. With a strong but subtle sense of Aquinas's distinction between the supernatural and the natural, as well as between perfect and imperfect happiness, Hütter is well placed to explore the relationship between ultimate human happiness and the journey of the "sojourner" (viator) to that end.

Hütter's synthetic approach to beatitude and virtue is perhaps highlighted by the appearance of the terms "eschatology" and "ethics" in his subtitle. At first glance, one might say that Hütter deals with eschatology or beatitude itself in his lengthy introduction and lengthy postscript, and with ethics—or the moral journey to beatitude—in the chapters in the body of the book, with the first chapter easing the reader from eschatology towards ethics. Thus, while chapter 1 presents the case for restoring the teleological principle of finality to the heart of theology—since without it one cannot have the central tenets of Aquinas's theology of beatitude—it thereby treats the basic orientation of human nature to happiness through the finality of the created intellect for beatitude and the natural desire for the vision of God, and thus also humanity's basic need for making the moral journey there. Prolonging this metaphysical approach into consideration of the good, chapter 2 explores how one is naturally equipped to journey to beatitude through the natural law, prudence, and conscience, while chapter 3 turns to supernatural salvation from the obstacle of sin, which stands in the way of this journey's taking place, an obstacle removed by the Cross of Christ.

Since Hütter's book is by no means an attempt at a complete...


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pp. 163-167
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