Reflections on Steven Long's "Natura Pura"

Andrew Greenwell (of the blog Lex Christianorum) has been reading Steven Long and offers a number of posts on Steven Long's Natura Pura: On the Recovery of Nature in the Doctrine of Grace (Fordham UP, 2010):
  • Natura Pura: Human Nature Unaided (02/16/11):
    Grace presupposes nature, and perfection supposes something that can be perfected."* So succinctly does St. Thomas distinguish grace and human nature so as to immediately recombine them. But there is a marked tendency among some contemporary theologians, those of la nouvelle théologie, to so emphasize grace as to virtually negate any meaning in the notion of human nature. Ultimately, this tendency is derived from a notion of "nature" which is bereft of any theonomic character,** and one far less ontologically dense than what St. Thomas had in mind by the concept of "nature." ...
  • Natura Pura: Misunderstanding St. Thomas: Source Texts (02/17/11):
    Renaissance or Cajetanian corruptions to the genuine teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas is how the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac interpreted the received Thomistic teaching on human nature and divine grace. In fact, it was not Renaissance or Cajetanian corruptions in the received teaching, but the "modern presumptions" in de Lubac's notions of nature that steered him wrong. ...
  • Natura Pura: St. Thomas in a Nutshell, Part I (02/18/11).

  • Natura Pura: St. Thomas in a Nutshell, Part II (02/19/11).

  • Balaam's Ass and Stained Glass: The Concept of Specific Obediential Potency:
    The notion of obendiential potency is a central concept to traditional Christian anthropology. Man's nature--that which defines him specifically--is in potency to supernatural grace, a potency which is actualized by the obedience of faith and all such obedience of faith entails (e.g., baptism). De Lubac appears to have limited his notion of obediential potency as "susceptibility to miracle," which is one manner in which the term was used by scholastics, including St. Thomas himself. But de Lubac seems to disregard, nay, in fact reject,* the concept in its other sense, that is as the conceptual carrier for "the fundamental question of the relation of nature to grace." Long, 28. (In this latter sense, to distinguish it from its former generic sense, it is often called "specific obediential potency.") According to Long, the same tendentiousness is found in the Thomist Etienne Gilson for whom the concept of obediential potency "was tantamount to the idea of a mere extrinsic and miraculous transmutation of nature." Long, 28.

    Restricted to the sense of susceptability to miracle, the concept of "obediential potentiality" is clearly deficient to explain the relationship between human nature and the supernatural life. There is a huge difference between Balaam's ass speaking (a miraculous transmutation of asinine nature) and man's capax Dei, his natural capacity to be receptive to, and elevated by the divine aid and "speak in tongues" so to speak. If kept to this denotation alone, it is an inadequate carrier of that relationship. If man were transmuted by grace, he would no longer be man. If man was not man until he was transmuted by grace, then he would not have been man before. But what is remarkable is the rejection of both Gilson and de Lubac of the term "obediential potency" as the concept of man's passive receptivity to divine grace. It was as if these two greats had never read St. Thomas!

  • The Plunder of Nature: Outside and Inside the Household (02/22/11).

  • Toward a Recapture of Nature in its Fullness (02/23/11).

  • Balthasar's Theological Vacuole, Part I (02/25/11). "Even the redoubtable Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar,* unquestionably one of the great Catholic theologians of the 20th century, shared in de Lubac's error on the distinction between nature and grace."

  • Balthasar's Theological Vacuole, Part II (02/26/11).
  • Balthasar's Theological Vacuole, Part III (02/27/11). "There is a tendency towards reductionism of nature in Hans Urs von Balthasar's understanding of nature within the greater question the nature/supernature complex."

  • Balthasar's Theological Vacuole, Part IV (02/28/11). "Hans Urs von Balthasar appears to have been convinced that the concept of pure nature had to be abandoned as an inadequate theological concept. In his book on the theology of Karl Barth, he sets forth his understanding of the Catholic position on the nature/supernature complex, but his understanding of it appears to deviate from the inherited Thomistic synthesis."

  • Balthasar's Theological Vacuole, Part V (03/01/11). Balthasar ranks himself within the historical range of prior efforts at defining the relationship between nature and grace. He views himself as a within the moderate wing, but what is really telling is that he puts the traditional Thomistic teaching at the extreme."

  • Pura Natura Persona Non Grata Est: Unwanted Nature (03/02/11).

1 comment:

  1. Reading H.v.B. was crucial in my entry into the Church. I was sincerely wanting to get a metaphysical & moral grip around the Nature/Grace question. Odd fellow, maybe, yet that's who I was (am). At first found it difficult when someone would point out a weakness, any thin tissue, in his thinking. But maturing in one's reading and reasoning cures that tilt towards unwarranted idolatry - with even Mr. v.B. nodding an amen, I am sure.

    Could you, on the side, direct me to a few good reviews of Jean Porter's "Nature as Reason". Thank you.