Sunday, March 27, 2005

Blondel on Theosis?

Maurice Blondel is viewed by some as the father of contemporary Catholic philosophy, notably influencing such luminaries of Vatican II as Karol Wojtyla (now Pope John Paul II) and Henri de Lubac. Of particular significance was Blondel's critique of the idea of "pure nature" to which the supernatural was added. Blondel repeatedly emphasized the correlative working of the supernatural as an elevation and completion of the natural, and although he doesn't appear to have spoken in the terms of Eastern theology (being a philosopher rather than a historian), I think that he would have been quite comfortable with the idea of divinization. I wonder how many Catholics could echo the following statement from a footnote from 1930 commenting on his work The Letter on Apologetics:

Moreover it is not only our fallen state which explains the necessity for surmounting a spiritual crisis: even in man's original state a trial was imposed before he could be confirmed in the happiness of the supernatural state. Thus there is a fundamental condition which has to be accepted and fulfilled in any circumstances, and it becomes clear that this is a question not of arbitrary contingencies or decrees subsequently enacted but of an element which is essential to the destiny of a creature summoned to participation with the divine.

Suffice it to say that an anemic notion of "original justice" as a superadded metaphysical quality could hardly capture the depth of the sentiment that Blondel expresses here.


At 9:25 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

I think it's a crying shame that theosis is often spoken of entirely in Eastern terms or as if it is the proper domain of the East to speak of such things.

There are centers of theological thought elsewhere (such as in Roman and Reformed circles) that deserve serious attention quite apart from the Eastern witness.

Giving theosis to the East is like saying that Mary is the sole property of Rome in terms of theology.

I just don't buy it and I think we need to begin discussing these things in ways that are understandable and workable as much to the Western mind as some think that it is to those in the East.

Kevin D. Johnson

At 7:49 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I can't help but think that we've asked for it by insisting that Western theology be identified with obsolete metaphysical categories of late-medieval scholasticism and Reformation-era polemics. Resources like Blondel and the others to which you alluded (the Finnish interpretation of Luther is one that immediately comes to mind) are all but ignored because of such prejudice. The reason that theosis is described in Eastern terms is because Westerners are all to happy to let that situation persist.


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