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Sets a high standard for writing about theologians in this series

I have a copy of Splendor of the Church bought 35 years ago, when I thought I was going to do a lot more theological reading than I did, and never read, or only sampled. This makes me want to get it out. That long passage about what it means to be a man of the Church is really fine.

Very interesting and inspiring. It makes me want to read more of de Lubac. Thank you for the direction where to begin. I have only read a smattering of his work thus far. Reminds me very much of Kentenich. If you get a chance ask Tim for two short talks I gave him, one by J. Niehaus and another by Fr. K. I believe you would find both interesting.

De Lubac would have been sympathetic with Fr. Kentenich's critique of "mass man" and of "mechanistic thinking."

Yes - they were contemporaries and both had their differences with Church authorities but both remained loyal to their mission for the realization of Vatican II even before it began. Fr. K. also mentions Teilhard in the one talk I gave to Tim. It was a talk he gave when he was called back to Rome after his 14 years of exile. Very powerful. I think you would like it.

Darn it, Robert, you are apparently as sadistic as any of us.

Luckily for me, I actually have Splendor of the Church. Now to find time.


Wonderful! I'll have to read this over a few times at least.

But my initial question is what exactly is the distinction between soul and spirit? I've always wondered.

This was so lovely:

"Such a man will have fallen in love with the beauty of the House of God; the Church will have stolen his heart. She is his spiritual native country, his "mother and his brethren", and nothing which concerns her will leave him indifferent or detached; he will root himself in her soil, form himself in her likeness and make himself one with her experience. He will feel himself rich with her wealth; he will be aware that through her and her alone he participates in the unshakeableness of God. It will be from her that he learns how to live and die. Far from passing judgment on her, he will allow her to judge him, and he will agree gladly to all the sacrifices demanded by her unity."

I've only read The Drama of Atheist Humanism, but it's excellent and I will probably read it again at some point.

The long quote from The Mystery of the Supernatural is reminiscent of what many E.O. theologians have to say on that subject. As an Orthodox I often wonder about the sort of Catholic thought that he seems to be critiquing, the sort that appears to need every 'i' dotted and every 't' crossed. (Of course in my opinion, we Orthodox sometimes leave certain things undotted and uncrossed which should be, so the critique definitely cuts both ways.)

We are sure as well that there is no fundamental disagreement between the author and us. But if these and other analogous distinctions had been clarified, it seems to us that this would have dispelled completely the ambiguity in the atmosphere into which the reading of this little book plunges us

DeLubac's critique of this book reminds me a lot of what people say about Pope Francis.


Louise, You're right. That's so lovely.


According to de Lubac, the "soul" is the orientation of our interior life towards action and towards the moral life. It is the "Martha" principle of Christian existence. The "spirit" is the more interior aspect of our interior life (the double "interior" is intentional) where we can encounter and enter into a personal relationship with God because it is where the imago dei in us has the most direct contact with Him for whom we are made. It is the "Mary" principle. "Mary" in either sense. The "soul" (which is not a separate faculty or part) is practical, the "spirit" is contemplative. The exercise of the soul is oriented to the life of the spirit just as the moral life is a necessary preparation for contemplation or life in the Spirit, which is that for which we were made.

De Lubac was well versed in the Greek Fathers. In fact, later in the passage on the vir ecclesiasticus he says, speaking from the perspective of the Latin Churhes, that a man of the Church will immerse himself in the Eastern tradition as well as the Western. I suppose the same could be said, mutatis mutandis, of the vir ecclesiasticus in the Greek Churches.

By the way, if you are interested, I was able to read (or skim) the entire essay on "Tripartite Anthropology" from Theology in History on Google Books by searching for "Tripartite Anthropology de Lubac." It is over 40 pages long and goes into detail of the history of the interpretation of I Thess. 5:23. It is very rewarding and enlightening and inspirational. At least I find it so.

That always seemed like a somewhat difficult task to me, no matter which side you're coming from. The West has to try to read the Greek Fathers "outside" of Augustine, as it were, while the East has to attempt to read the Latin Fathers with its hesitation about him bracketed.

I've seen in some Orthodox a preference to using the word "odious" when referring to Augustine rather than "saint." I'm thinking of one monk I knew who could barely say the word "Augustine" without a barely-suppressed sneer.

Why odious? I mean, I don't just love everything Augustine says, but I'm curious as to what the Orthodox don't like.


What's not to like?

"The most important doctrinal controversy surrounding his name is the filioque. Other doctrines that were unacceptable to the Church are his view of original sin, the doctrine of grace, and predestination." -- Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou, "St. Augustine and the Orthodox Tradition."

I think the two things that the East has the biggest problems with w/r/t Augustine are his understanding of original sin, and his anti-Pelagianism, which in our view swings too far the other way. Some Orthodox will blame him for the filioque as well, although from what I can tell, both the Augustinian and the Cappadocian views of the Trinity were considered pious theologoumena until they later hardened into dogmatic expressions due to E/W conflict.

There is a certain sort of Orthodox thought that lays ALL the problems of Western theology at his feet, but fortunately that view is a minority one. Nevertheless, if there ever is to be a reunion, one of the issues addressed will have to be the Augustinian legacy. It appears to me to be a bit of a "wolf by the ears" issue for the West.

Thanks, Rob & Robert.

Paul if that question was addressed to me, briefly because I need to work, I just finished reading Book X of the Confessions and it seems rather scrupulous to me regarding food and music.


"It appears to me to be a bit of a 'wolf by the ears' issue for the West." Never heard that expression before. Very interesting.

Neither have I, and I'm not entirely sure what it means in this context. I would take it on its face to be something along the lines of "bit off more than you can chew," but I'm not sure how that interpretation fits into what Rob said.

Re Augustine as "odious" etc., there seems to be a certain sort of Orthodox believer who feels obliged to keep a really big chip on his shoulder regarding all things Latin. Not to say that there might not be genuine problems with Augustine (or Aquinas), and most certainly genuine limitations. But there's sometimes a truculence that seems excessive.

Rob, you said further back there: "As an Orthodox I often wonder about the sort of Catholic thought that he seems to be critiquing, the sort that appears to need every 'i' dotted and every 't' crossed." I know what you're talking about. It can be maddening. Often it's done in imitation of Aquinas, turning what was already a highly rational and analytic approach into something mechanistic. I've often thought that there's a temperamental similarity between a certain kind of Thomist and a libertarian or objectivist--a need to explain everything with a 100% logically consistent system.

In their defence, Aquinas made being Aquinas look easy...

de Lubac says that materialist rationality "makes itself the yardstick, and thinks that its own limits are the limits of being itself" - I don't think all rationalists do that; at least some merely object that a rational creature can have no way to tell the difference between "something beyond the limits of our rationality" and "total gibberish", nor - by definition - can we have any way of talking about it. (Quoth Wittgenstein: "Whereof we cannot speak, we must pass over in silence.")

On which subject, does de Lubac, or anyone else that anyone can suggest, address atheism and/or materialism from the starting point of having a clear and coherent idea of what reason is? I'm currently feeling the lack of having a "theory of reason", if you can call it that.

Also, while de Lubac sounds tempting to look at, like others I start to fear this series will enlarge my "to read" pile to mammoth proportions - not until it exceeds what I will feasibly be able to read in the foreseeable future (a bit late for that) but until its mass begins to affect the structural integrity of my apartment... (And of course I still need to finish the reading for my March post.)

"Wolf by the ears" comes from Jefferson, in some discussion or other of his about slavery. The idea is that you can't safely keep holding on, but neither can you safely let go. So it refers to a dilemma, but one in which either horn is "dangerous."

I mean it this way: Certain aspects of Augustine's theology have been accepted by Rome in a dogmatic sense. The East finds some of these erroneous. In considering reunion Rome cannot simply force Orthodoxy to accept as dogmas these theological points that it finds problematic, yet neither can she reject these herself nor "release" the East from holding to them without doing injury to her claims of infallibility and universality. A dogma is not a dogma if it doesn't apply to everyone.

The expression I'm more used to is "to have a tiger by its tail" - although "a wolf by the ears" puts it even better, I think.

It's a great phrase. Now I have to find someplace to use it--about somebody else. I don't particularly want to be in that position.


Oh, I see. And it's a much better phrase than "tiger by the tail", because having a tiger by the tail doesn't actually help you much in the effort not to be eaten.

And yes that is very much a dilemma.

The whole doctrine of infallibility is a big problem in some ways, whether it's applied to the Church as a whole or to the pope, and not just in the context of ecumenism. I think it's a reasonable inference from the "gates of hell" promise. But how do you know when it's operative? And if you don't know, what good is it, really? In theory the Church can always retreat from a non-infallible position

Oops, hit 'post' before I'd finished that last thought...but now I'm not sure what I was going to say...never mind.

I have an SSPX friend, and that's exactly what he says about Vatican I vs. Vatican II (they think the two are irreconciliable, because any backpedaling from Vat I is impossible, and that's what Vat II requires). But for some reason he won't give the East the same slack when it comes to schism as he gives his own crew. ;-)

This is really a bit of a sore subject for me. I think the Latin Church has often been, and still is, overly dogmatic about things that are not really part of the deposit of faith. To my mind it's only there that infallibility lies. Setting aside the efforts, which frankly sometimes seem tortured, to establish that the Church never really committed itself to doctrines that it now denies, it often seems to me an over-reach that actually undermines its authority on the core teachings. We saw that (apparently--I wasn't around) after VII, when people said "We can eat meat on Fridays? Great! And now I don't have to believe that Jesus-is-God stuff anymore."

I'm exaggerating, of course, but there was that tendency.

godescalc said: "Aquinas made being Aquinas look easy"

Heh. Yes, and I guess that constitutes a sort of temptation.

I think what de Lubac said about materialistic rationality only applies to *materialistic* rationality. There are other kinds, aren't there? (I've never read much philosophy, and don't plan to.)

at least some merely object that a rational creature can have no way to tell the difference between "something beyond the limits of our rationality" and "total gibberish", nor - by definition - can we have any way of talking about it.

This, of course, is the great dividing line between one who is agnostic and one who is able to assent to the existence of God.

As you point out, the issue is, what is reason and rationality? I think de Lubac may be using "rationality" in a more narrow sense than he actually allows. The classic distinction is between intellectus and ratio. Ratio is discursive reasoning starting with sense experience and move step-by-step using a logical method to come to certain conclusions, or, as Descartes would say, clear and distinct ideas. What de Lubac objects to is the idea that that is the only way human reason can become certain of a truth. Intellectus has a capacity for apprehension of reality that transcends the power of discursive reason. This is what Newman called the illative sense.

De Lubac follows Newman and Blondel in allowing that philosophy is capable of affirming that it is not irrational to assent to what de Lubac is calling "mystery." In fact, there is something which "calls" for it, so to speak, unless existence is absurd.

For Newman, in A Grammar of Assent, the convergence of evidence can make a final act of faith reasonable, if not mathematically certain. Once the act of assent occurs, all things that seemed "likely" fall into place and become "certain."

Blondel looked at the sense of the transcendent that is gained through human action.

De Lubac explores the way one can come to know God in the context of the limits of human reason in The Discovery of God.

Another book that deals with the question very well is Luigi Giussani's .

I'd start with these books to get an alternative understanding of "rationality."

The work of Lonergan on "conversion" may be related, but I'm no expert on Lonergan.

Once the act of assent occurs, all things that seemed "likely" fall into place and become "certain."

I read Grammar a good many years ago, and don't recall it very well, and I know I didn't understand it all by any means. But I really couldn't go as far as Newman does there. I never could see how any amount of "likely" in the realm of something so unusual as Christianity could ever get me to what I consider "certain." Maybe I'm just too rigorous in my use of the word, but when I say something is "certain" I mean that I think it's pretty much impossible for it to be wrong. Short of a direct visitation from God, I can't really imagine being that certain in my faith.

Mac, you should give The Religious Sense a shot. It isn't even that long or hard.

"you should give The Religious Sense a shot"

I may have a go at that one myself. The book that really helped put all of this reason/rationality/mystery stuff together for me is Discerning the Mystery by Patristics scholar Andrew Louth. I first read it seven or eight years ago, when I wrote a brief review of a reprint edition for Touchstone, but it's one of those books I wish I would have discovered long before. It too is not very long and not particularly difficult.


The Religious Sense is one of de Lubac's books, I take it?

Both of these sound worthwhile. I'm sure I read that review when it came out, Rob--I distinctly remember the cover of the issue--and the title rings a bell. "Not very long and not particularly difficult" is very appealing. I'm still a bit traumatized by my attempt to read D. B. Hart's Beauty of the Infinite.

I don't think my difficulty is so much that I'm locked into Enlightenment concepts of truth as that I have a scientific (aka Enlightenment) standard for what constitutes certainty.

"The Religious Sense is one of de Lubac's books, I take it?"

Assumed so, but when I googled it it's the one by Giussani that Robert mentioned.

Yes, I couldn't make heads or tails out of that Hart book either, although I did think that the chapter on deconstruction/post-modernism was excellent. That's the one section I understood.

The Religious Sense is by Luigi Giussani. I mentioned it in passing in my post above, but the actual title seems to have disappeared, maybe because I formatted it wrong.

"Mac, does your wife love you?"

"To the best of my knowledge "

Tevya, "Do you love me?"
Golda, "To the best of my knowledge."

What does she actually say? I assume it's not that.

But that's the other way around from your first instance. Golda does have certainty.

She says, "I suppose I do."

(Some people just ain't cultured.)

Thanks, Rob. I'll take a look at whichever of those I can find - "Grammar of Assent" is available for free on the internets, which makes for a convenient starting point.

Hi Maclin. I wanted to talk about my posts - I am working on them!

I have so far got 1000 words for my Belloc post and have said very little myself and have not exactly included a lot of remarks from Belloc himself and yet I'm already at the 1000 word mark. I don't want to bore people to death, but I do want to try and do the man justice. Same goes for Jane Austen, with whom I'll have the same problem and undoubtedly Chesterton, when I start his post.

Roughly how long have the posts been so far? I've enjoyed them all too.

The shortest was about 800, the longest about 2500. So carry on. There's no reasonable practical limit, it's just a matter of what you think people will read online. My suspicion has always been that a lot of people won't go past 1500 or 2000, but we may have an audience that will. From the amount of discussion it generated, it seems that 2500 was not too much--that was Robert's piece on de Lubac. I would certainly read 2-3000 words on Belloc or Austen.

Thanks Maclin. :)

A fellow I know, Rich Mattiussi, did his doctoral dissertation on the dialogue of East and West after Vatican II, later published as The Ratzinger Formula in 2010. He summarizes Ratzinger's proposal: "The Catholic Church must not require any more of an adherence to the Roman Primacy from the Orthodox Churches than existed in the first millennium. On the other hand, the Orthodox must not condemn as heretical the developments that took place in the Catholic Church during the second millennium."

This seems fine as far as it goes, but the problem is not so much with the RCC's doctrinal developments per se, but with that which it has declared to be dogma -- universally binding on all. How can, say, the Immaculate Conception be a dogma in the West and at the same time not a dogma in the East? To me this seems to be a sticking point in the Ratzinger proposal.

Yes, and Ratzinger being the very smart man that he is, it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't have seen that problem and had some kind of response. But it sounds like your friend must have explored it thoroughly.

The most recent Touchstone, if you haven't seen it, has a review of a book on the reception of Aquinas by the Orthodox. Haven't read it yet.

Yes, I think I saw a notice about that book somewhere. Haven't seen the actual book, though.

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