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Between Apocalypse and Eschaton

Between Apocalypse and Eschaton: History and Eternity in Henri de Lubac

Joseph S. Flipper
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Between Apocalypse and Eschaton
    Book Description:

    Between Apocalypse and Eschaton examines the systematic theology of Henri de Lubac, SJ, one of the most significant Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. While much of the recent work on de Lubac centers on the controversies surrounding his theology of the supernatural, Between Apocalypse and Eschaton argues that eschatology is the key to de Lubac’s theological project and critical to understanding the nouvelle théologie, the group of theologians with whom de Lubac was associated. At the time, intra-Catholic controversies arose around the nouvelle théologie as part of a broader anxiety over the loss of the eternal in twentieth-century Europe. The German occupation of France in World War II was the backdrop for a renewed apocalyptic and eschatological thinking among French Catholics. The nouvelle théologie generated a debate over the meaning of “the end” that was critical to understanding the theological, spiritual, and political fissures in the postwar period. After World War II, de Lubac’s writings increasingly focused on the theology of history and eschatology. The present work returns focus to this often neglected aspect of de Lubac’s work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9663-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Henri Sonier de Lubac, SJ (1896–1991) remains a puzzling figure for interpreters of twentieth-century Catholicism. In the twenty years since his death, interest in de Lubac has not faded. In part, this is because his scholarship had a considerable influence on the shape of Catholic theology prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). As the meaning of the Council has become contested, so has the interpretation of de Lubac’s theology and thenouvelle théologie, the loosely affiliated group of scholars with whom de Lubac associated.¹ Thenouvelle théologieremains critical for understanding the theological and pastoral shifts leading...

  5. Part I. Eschatology as the “Storm Center”

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      Part 1 narrates the rise of an eschatological consciousness within twentieth-century Catholic theology. While Catholic theology of an earlier period produced systematic eschatologies in the form of treatises on the last things—death, judgment, heaven, and hell—twentieth-century Catholic theology more explicitly articulated a consciousness of this present time as preceding and anticipating the end. By the early twentieth century, an eschatological renewal within Christian theology was already afoot, in part due to the rediscovery of the eschatological message of the Gospels by biblical scholars.¹ Soon, as Hans Urs von Balthasar claimed, these eschatological themes spread everywhere:

      Eschatology is the...

    • 1 An Eschatological Modernity
      (pp. 21-46)

      Eschatology—that is, a religious interpretation of the fulfillment of God’s plan (the eschaton)—reemerged as an important theme in twentieth-century European Christianity. Biblical studies led the way in the work of Johannes Weiss (1863–1914) and Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965). For Weiss, the predominant theme within the preaching of Jesus was the imminence of the “kingdom of God.” Schweitzer states that the earliest Christians believed in the impending end of the world and, as a result, in the urgency of responding to the gospel message. According to Joseph Ratzinger, the rediscovery of the eschatological character of Jesus’s preaching in...

    • 2 Time and Eternity in the Nouvelle Théologie
      (pp. 47-88)

      One of the most prominent characteristics of thenouvelle théologieauthors was that they faced the challenges of a modern historical consciousness, attempting to reconcile it with traditional sources of theological reflection.¹ Thenouveaux théologienscriticized the thendominant theological methodology, neoscholasticism, for its poor understanding of the relationship between theology and history. Neoscholastics tended to ignore the diachronic development of doctrine and, moreover, appeared stubbornly wedded to a medieval model of science and Aristotelian categories of thinking. It would be a simplification, however, to merely oppose the nouvelle théologie to neoscholasticism. There was significant continuity between them. Most of the...

  6. Part II. Temporal Ruptures

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 89-90)

      De Lubac recognized that all Christian theology hinged on the understanding of history because God’s word has intervened into history, changing it irrevocably. De Lubac looked to the patristic period to recover a theological understanding of history for the present day. Yet he chose the most unlikely figure as a model for a Christian understanding of history, namely Origen of Alexandria (185–254 CE). Origen was widely thought to be one of the most Neoplatonic thinkers in the early church. His “allegorical” interpretation of Scripture appeared to be similar to the Neoplatonists, for whom the stories about the gods were...

    • 3 Scripture and the Structure of History
      (pp. 91-128)

      Henri de Lubac devoted more of his writing to the history of the interpretation of Scripture than to any other theological topic, including nature and grace, atheism, and ecclesiology. Composed over several decades, his writings especially focused on the spiritual interpretation of the biblical text. Spiritual interpretation constituted a hermeneutic for interpretation of the Bible in the early church that endured until the modern period, informing both preaching and theology. Spiritual interpretation is, quite simply, the practice of reading the text for more than its literal, face-value meaning. One readsbeyondorthroughthe “letter” to reach the depth dimension...

    • 4 Christ is the Center of History
      (pp. 129-150)

      The spiritual interpretation of the fathers is based ultimately on a view of history as a dynamic, organic process. The theologians of the Tübingen School—particularly Johann Sebastian von Drey and Johann Adam Möhler—had pioneered the recovery of this patristic sense of history during the nineteenth century. The Romantic sense for history in the Tübingen School became the inheritance of thenouvelle théologiein the twentieth century. De Lubac’s recovery of this understanding of history as a unified—one might sayevolutionary—process from Origen had to be distinguished from its competitors, chiefly the dialectical materialism of Marx. Marxism...

    • 5 Between Apocalypse and Eschaton
      (pp. 151-204)

      Henri de Lubac never developed a discrete eschatology. The array of themes traditional to eschatology—death, the resurrection of the body, judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, the fulfillment of God’s promises, the end of history, the final coming of Christ, the unity of the cosmos with God, the beatific vision—are not gathered in a single place in de Lubac’s work or treated systematically. This is due, in part, to his tendency to view eschatology through corporate and communal lenses instead of prioritizing the fate of the individual soul. Eschatology concerns primarily the completion and resolution of God’s plan for the...

  7. Part III. The Eschatological Structure of De Lubac’s Thought

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 205-208)

      According to Jürgen Mettepenningen, thenouvelle théologiemovement of the 1930s to 1950s was primarily concerned with rediscovering the place of history in theology and the “positive” sources of theology, the “Bible, liturgy, and patristics.”¹ The first, rediscovering the place of history in theology, was the search for an alternative to the speculative and philosophical form of theology common to neoscholasticism. Yves Congar’s “Déficit de la théologie” (1934) called for the development of a theology attentive to the contemporary human condition. Marie-Dominique Chenu’sUne École de théologie: Le Saulchoir(1937) drafted an outline for a new curriculum for theological formation...

    • 6 Sacraments of the Eschaton
      (pp. 209-256)

      Henri de Lubac’s writings covered a vast range of theological topics over a career of almost seventy years. As a result, the unity of his work is difficult to characterize and its significance is hard to express. Hans Boersma identifies the unity of de Lubac’s writings with what he calls a “sacramental mindset” or “sacramental ontology,” a vision of the terrestrial world as a participation in the heavenly.Sacramentconstitutes the core of de Lubac’s various theological engagements. However, sacrament should be understood primarily within an historical-eschatological framework rather than primarily an ontological framework. Temporal realities are sacraments of the...

    • 7 Eschatology in the Theology of the Supernatural
      (pp. 257-300)

      Although almost seven decades have passed since the publication of Henri de Lubac’sSurnaturel(1946), his theology of supernatural remains at the center of an unsettled debate.¹ De Lubac’s most vehement critics claim that his insistence that human beings have a single “supernatural finality” compromises the gratuity of grace, endangers the intelligibility of the natural order, and construes grace as universally available through the natural. If God made humanity with a single supernatural end, and if humanity required grace to reach this end, then would not God then be under obligation to supply that needed grace? Moreover, if Godmust...

  8. Conclusion: Eternity in Time
    (pp. 301-310)

    Henri de Lubac’s theological contribution must be read against the backdrop of the crisis of temporality in modern Europe and the rediscovery of history as a theological category among Catholic theologians. The rediscovery of the eternal in time was at the heart of his theological project. He believed that secularization in modernity had resulted from the loss of the sacred and the loss of the spiritual imagination that enables us to recognize it. De Lubac responded to this loss by claiming the church fathers as a source for renewing our spiritual vision. His multiple volumes and articles on the “spiritual...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-326)
  10. Index
    (pp. 327-335)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 336-336)