The Revival of the Notion of Pure Nature in Recent Debates in English Speaking Theology

Summary: I. Introduction. II. De Lubac’s criticism of the system of pure nature. 1. The central thesis of Surnaturel (1946). 2. The gratuity of the supernatural in The Mystery of the Supernatural (1965). 3. The existence of a proportional natural end. 4. De Lubac’s understanding of human nature and the natural desire to see God. 5. The change of emphasis in the Petite Catechèse (1980). 6. The immediate reaction to Surnaturel. III. The response to de Lubac on the supernatural. Reception and critique of de Lubac’s thesis up until 2000. 1. Positive reception of de Lubac’s thesis. 2. Criticism of de Lubac’s thesis. 3. Other positions. IV. Lawrence Feingold and the natural desire to see God. 1. Elicited natural desire 2. Natural and supernatural love. 3. Twofold Beatitude. 4. Obediential potency. 5. Pure nature. V. Reactions to the thesis of Feingold. 1. Support for de Lubac’s thesis. 2. Support for Feingold’s thesis. 3. Alternative positions. VI. Three specific studies on pure nature. 1. Steven Long: Natura pura and the recovery of nature in the doctrine of grace. 2. Bernard Mulcahy: Aquinas’s notion of pure nature and the Christian integralism of Henri de Lubac. 3. Andrew Swafford: Nature and Grace. A New Approach to Th omistic Ressourcement. VII. Concluding remarks.

This study offers a status quaestionis of the recent debate on the notion of pure nature in English speaking publications. After a brief description of de Lubac’s position and the controversies around Surnaturel, from the years of its publication to the Toulouse Symposium in 2000, we examine then the rebirth of the debate in Feingold’s study, and the numerous reactions to this work. As this study deals specifically with the notion of pure nature, we concentrate our attention on three recent books (Long, Mulcahy, Swafford) on the topic. It seems to us that the present status quaestionis allows for the compatibility between a strong notion of the natural desire to see God and a right understanding of pure nature.