The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural

The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural

The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural

The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural

Synopsis

French Jesuit Henri de Lubac (1896-1991) was arguably the most revolutionary theologian of the twentieth century. He proposed that Western theology since the early modern period had lost sight of the key to integrating faith and reason -- the truth that all human beings are naturally oriented toward the supernatural. In this vital book John Milbank defends de Lubac's claim and pushes it to a more radical extreme. "The Suspended Middle" shows how such a claim entails a non-ontology' suspended between rational philosophy and revealed theology, interweaving the two while denying them any pure autonomy from each other. As de Lubac's writings on the supernatural implicitly dismantled the reigning Catholic (and perhaps Protestant) assumptions about Christian intellectual reflection, he met with opposition and even papal censure. Milbank's sophisticated account of de Lubac delineates the French theologian's relations with other proponents of the "nouvelle theologie," such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, and clarifies the subtle but crucial divisions within recent Roman Catholic theology. The most substantial treatment in English of de Lubac's as yet untranslated "Surnaturel" and the subsequent debate, Milbank's "Suspended Middle" lays down an energetic challenge that every serious student of theology and Christian philosophy will want to engage."

Excerpt

Henri de Lubac was a Jesuit theologian, educated at Jesuit centers in France and England before the First World War. (Unlike some of his confrères, he received no other formal academic training.) In that war he suffered a serious wound in the head, a wound which affected him somewhat throughout his long life. In the inter-war years, he was the central but sometimes shadowy figure of a diverse new theological movement in France which called for a rejection of neo-scholasticism and for a tempering of the scholastic stress upon speculation with a renewed interest in history, biblical exegesis, typology, art, literature, and mysticism.

1. For more information relevant to this chapter, see Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Theology of Henri de Lubac: An Overview (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1991), and Étienne Fouilloux, “Henri de Lubac au moment de la Publication de Surnaturel,” in Revue Thomiste, Surnaturel [hereafter RT Surnaturel], special edition, no. I–II (January–June 2001): 13–30; Aidan Nichols O.P., “Thomism and the Nouvelle Théologie,” in The Thomist (January 2000): 1–19; Fergus Kerr, After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 53–56, 128ff., 147, 208; Immortal Longings (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1997), pp. 158–85.

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