Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Natural Desire to See God

A little while ago, I mentioned a couple of books that I had spotted concerned with the twentieth century controversy over Henri de Lubac’s thesis on the supernatural.

I couldn’t resist, and these books have now arrived from over the seas (unfortunately, Sapientia Press doesn’t appear to have a UK distributor, so they have to be ordered from the US). I have already thrown myself straight into the first one as it looks utterly fascinating.

Lawrence Feingold, "Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and His Interpreters" 2nd Edition. Sapientia Press.

The first edition of this book is already famous for the controversy that it has reignited. For example, John Millbank described it as “arch-reactionary” in his interesting, but sadly shallow, “The Suspended Middle

I don’t pretend to be qualified to offer an adequate review of this book, but I thought I might offer a few reflections on some of the themes it discusses as I come across them. Like the controversy de auxiliis of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the controversy over the supernatural is bound to run and run! I’ll start in the next post with a general introduction to what the controversy is about.


  1. Feingold's book was apparently trashed in Communio by Nick Healy. So says my co-blogger. All the recommendation you need, really!

  2. Thanks for the tip; a quick google and (presumably) this is it:

    In due course, I shall wade though it...

  3. Here's a review of Feingold's book in The Thomist.

    Gregory, I find it surprising Healy doesn't mention Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., in the article you cite. Perhaps he just wants to ignore Fr. G.-L.'s trenchant "Where is the New Theology Leading Us?"...

  4. I read Healy's article, and it was confusing. Healy, from what I gathered, is basically saying that St. Thomas was contradictory on this issue and only Fr. de Lubac was able to make sense of it all, yet Healy constantly insists along with Fr. de Lubac that man's end is supernatural, only occasionally qualifying it with "ultimate," whereas St. Thomas clearly taught that there is a natural and supernatural end to man. I have no idea how Fr. de Lubac and Healy schizophrenically insist on the two ends yet deny there can be a purely natural end for man because this would apparently mean a man would lack esse, "which, as St. Thomas says, 'actualizes all things ... even forms.'"

    In response to Hontheim's article on "Heaven" in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    it is clear that there is a twofold beatitude: the natural and the supernatural. As we have seen, man is by nature entitled to beatitude, provided he does not forfeit it by his own fault. We have also seen that beatitude is eternal and that it consists in the possession of God, for creatures cannot truly satisfy man. Again, as we have shown, the soul is to possess God by knowledge and love. But the knowledge to which man is entitled by nature is not an immediate vision, but an analogous perception of God in the mirror of creation, still a very perfect knowledge which really satisfies the heart. Hence the beatitude to which alone we have a natural claim consists in that perfect analogous knowledge and in the love corresponding to that knowledge. This natural beatitude is the lowest kind of felicity which God, in His goodness and wisdom, can grant to sinless man. But, instead of an analogous knowledge of His Essence He may grant to the blessed a direct intuition which includes all the excellence of natural beatitude and surpasses it beyond measure. It is this higher kind of beatitude that it has pleased God to grant us. And by granting it He not merely satisfies our natural desire for happiness but He satisfies it in superabundance.

    Healy says:
    If human beings can attain (are, in fact, “entitled” to attain), without the gift of grace, a natural “possession of God” which “really satisfies the heart,” why should anyone bother with a more excellent beatitude?

    I bet Healy and Fr. de Lubac deny analogia entis in knowing God—along with the arch-heretic Karl Barth who said that distinctly Catholic doctrine comes from the devil.

    From what I gather of Fr. de Lubac via Healy, he actually does believe that there are two ends for man (natural and supernatural) but he doesn't see any connection or overlap between them; so, he is basically forced to subsume the supernatural into the natural. This naturalism/Modernism must've been what influenced Vatican II never to use tho word "supernatural" once in its documents.

    Steven A. Long's The Thomist article that Healy refers to, "On the Possibility of a Purely Natural End for Man," seems much better.