The Integrity of Nature in the Grace-Freedom Dynamic: Lonergan's Critique of Banezian Thomism
Brotherton, Joshua R., Theological Studies
Two of the hottest debates in theological anthropology today concern the precise nature of the relationship between the orders of grace and nature as exhibited in the "natural desire to see God," and the dynamic between the "helps of divine grace" and created freedom. But no one, to my knowledge, has spelled out the connection between these two issues. Henri de Lubac is famous for igniting the firestorm that is the first debate, and his primary target was the Scholastic commentator tradition, whose leading figures were Tommaso de Vio Cajetan, Domingo Banez, and Francisco Suarez. Lawrence Feingold's recent study on de Lubac's misinterpretations of Thomas Aquinas's thought and that of the commentators has received a hearty welcome from many. (1) Along with Feingold a host of so-called "neo-Thomists" have rushed to rescue the integrity of the natural order in the debate on the relationship between grace and nature. (2) More balanced approaches have also entered the debate, (3) which in any case runs deeper than what the great Doctor intended to convey on the matter (the natural desire to see God). Bernard Lonergan stands out not only as a premier interpreter of Aquinas but also as a somewhat neglected figure in this debate. (4)
On the question of how the intrinsic efficacy of grace plays out in the free enterprise of human moral action, few scholars have taken a stand against the Banezian neglect of the natural element in the dynamic, namely, created freedom. (5) The debate concerning grace and freedom is not quite as fierce now as it was in the early 20th and especially the 17th century (when Pope Clement VIII convened the congregatio de auxiliis divinae gratiae), but there is a steady return to the question. (6) The most prominent modern proponent of the (neo-) Banezian position, particularly on this second issue, is certainly "the sacred monster of Thomism," Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. (7) Francisco Suarez is probably still the most notable adherent of the Molinist position, which he revised amid his massive--many would say, disastrous--attempt to synthesize Thomistic thought with the Scotist school that dominated the Franciscan Order at the time.
Lonergan stands almost alone in defending the integrity of human nature in both debates. (8) Since "grace builds upon nature," not only does the agent intellect constitute the natural instrument through which the divine light of truth illumines the mind, but there is also in the human person a natural power or faculty (pertaining to its own nature or essence) with its own integrity by which the process of sanctification operates, namely, free will. While Banezian Thomism exhibits a tendency to overemphasize the autonomy of intellectual creatures with respect to the supernatural order--an emphasis manifest in undue speculation on "the state of natura pura"--it also undermines the dispositive role of the appetitus rationalis in the effective ordering of free creatures toward deification. Far from Pelagianism, Lonergan's position avoids the pitfalls of the two polar-opposite schools of thought in the de auxiliis controversy by his unparalleled analysis of Aquinas's developing positions on how grace and freedom interact in the intellective creature. (9) While this topic occupied his doctoral work, his subsequent De ente supernaturali also addressed the question of the relationship between grace and nature in general and in a way that again cuts a unique path between (or above) the diametrically opposed neo-Augustinianism of Henri de Lubac and the "extrinsicism" of the traditional Thomist commentators, much like his interpretation of Aquinas transcends the false dichotomy of Banezianism versus Molinism.
I do not intend here either to trace the development of Aquinas's thought regarding nature/grace and grace/freedom or to rehash the polemics surrounding de Lubac and Molina. Instead, I focus on how Lonergan's positions relate to Banezian Thomism as it stands today (i. …