Hans Urs von Balthasar's theology
of nature and grace is based on two affirmations. a) the priority
of God's intention in actual, historical created order, and b)
the necessity for a relatively independent, stable nature on
which grace can build. He then circumscribes the strength of
his assertion of a clear nature by making several qualifications.
- The notion of nature is abstract.
No one has ever experienced it, so one would have to derive it
- It is formal. Because its
content is unknown and unknowable, it serves as a kind of cipher.
- It is not necessary in a
perspective from above, especially since man can't know what
God might have done.
- It is useful from below to
protect the gratuity of grace, but only as a concession to the
weakness of man's capability
- Nature is necessary to provide
the "other" to whom God can communicate himself. Man's
nature is a permanent element common to all historical states.
- The grace-nature distinction
provides a subjectivity that can receive the offer of grace and
guarantees the gratuity.
- The essence of man is different
than the nature. It includes the actual finality. For Von Balthasar,
the essence is like Rahner's quiddity.
- Because God is creator and
we are creatures, the dynamics between freedom and necessity
are different than any other we know in this creation. Grace
is never intrinsically necessary. It is always freely presented.
- A graceless world is possible,
but unknowable, but unnecessary to assure the gratuity of grace.
We know too little about it for it to be of any use.
- Because Von Balthasar associates
nature with the cosmic order, he denies that the desire to see
God is natural. But he does affirm that the desire to see God
is essential to humanity. This means that man is created supernatural.
Von Balthasar's presentation
of de Lubac's position is more adequate than "D"s.
It is more sensitive to contemporary philosophical categories,
while at the same time sensitive to the limits of philosophical
thought. He avoids Rahner's extrinsicism. His appropriation of
Rahner's supernatural existential, while not precisely equivalent
to Rahner's own hypothesis, is sensitive to the need to protect
the gratuity and provides an understanding of the relative supernaturality
of the essence of humanity.
The thing that de Lubac and Von Balthasar keep in mind that Rahner
misses is the nature of the relationship between creator and
creature. As Fr. Burrell points out, we are absolutely dependent
on God even in our freedom. There is an intrinsic connection
between our essence and our finality.
This essay is based on
information found inStephen Duffy's The Graced Horizon: Nature
and Grace in Modern Catholic Thought. Collegeville: Liturgical
This article was taken from
the website: http://www.marquette.edu/lubac/Workallies.htm#balthasar