Scraps II

Just some bits from two of the most well-known representatives of the Nouvelle Théologie, namely, Fr. Louis Bouyer of the Oratory, and Henri cardinal de Lubac, S.J.

Fr. Bouyer, in his The Meaning of Sacred Scripture (p. 151) writes

“before examining this singular expression [see God only “from behind.”], let us notice how, in this page in which the divine transcendence finds one of its most exacting formulas, the antropomorphisms, far from disappearing, accumulate. This vision “from behind,” for the Christian Fathers, as for the Jewish rabbis, is a vision of God which is still mediate, still attained by its effects and not in its essence; but attained by effects which already surpass everything created to the point where their radiance can be called properly divine. We find here the starting -point for the rabbinical speculation about the Sephiroth, distinct from the En-Soph, the ineffable divinity, but nonetheless an authentic epiphany of It. This is also what corresponds to the divine energies, as distinguished from the essence in the theology of [St.] Gregory Palamas, the incontestable heir we believe, of the Cappadocians. But this is also the world of the lumen gratiae and the lumen gloriae of Latin theology, which, in introducing a divine quality into the world of the created, leads it to participate in the uncreated. . . . . This vision in the darkness had yet so completely united Moses to Yahweh that he came away from it, as we have said, himself shining with the uncreated light. This is another theme destined to similar developments. The Transfiguration of the Savior, in the Gospels, shows Him appearing to the eyes of the disciples as shining with the splendor of which a reflection had touched the prophet. Moses, furthermore, then appears beside Him. As a consequence, the contemplation of the light of Thabor, the transforming contemplation that even in this life imprints something of the divine radiance on the contemplative, became the goal of oriental mysticism.”

In de Lubac’s The Mystery of the Supernatural, page 5, he writes,

“What has happened to so many other theories may well happen to the theory of “pure nature” that has been developed, specified, and systematized in the West over the course of recent centuries. It has ruled uncontested among theologians and has been accepted as fact. We may note however that its reign appears short in the context of twenty centuries of Catholic tradition. We may also note that it is a theory that has never penetrated the theology of the East. . . . . The fact that “pure nature” in the modern sense of the word is something not considered at all in the eastern theology is explained by the fact that early Greek tradition contained no such idea. (I do not say that it therefore denies it.) Nor, I believe was it contained in Latin tradition till a very late date.”

Both Fr. Bouyer and Cardinal de Lubac cite Vladimir Lossky in their footnotes. It is a pity, I guess, that they did not get to read the world’s current leading Orthodox theologian (who once told me that Thomas Aquinas was a more true interpreter of the Cappadocians than St. Gregory Palamas) so that they could be informed what a poseur Lossky was. I guess. Yet upon reflection (all two seconds is what I think anyone needs) whatever problems de Lubac has, I don’t think it is ignorance of the matters involved, nor of Lossky’s apprehension of them. Nor do I think that Bouyer’s infirmity either. It is good to find such men, indeed such minds, who see beyond the neo-Thomism that still haunts us.


  1. If I were making a serious nomination for the world’s current leading Orthodox theologian, I’d choose Χρήστος Γιανναράς (Christos Yannaras). But Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos), Fr Andrew Louth, and Fr George Dragas would all be good choices also, IMO.

    I’m waiting for Cyril’s response. I have my suspicion….

  2. It’s almost like the Monty Python skit with the bishop driving around: “Wait, don’t say the baby’s name!!” BOOMMMM!!!

  3. Yes, it was sarcasm. It is a theologian whose consequence depends on whom you ask. Known to most, he has spent his time defaming St. Gregory Palamas as having no knowledge of metaphysics, and as a betrayer of the Cappadocians. His stock as a great Orthodox theologian tends to come from people who aren’t Orthodox. I tend not to mention his name as he always affects himself as “God’s older brother” whenever he deigns to treat with the lumpen proletariat that we are. Thus the opaque nature of the post. You can email me at heracles dot basileus at g mail dot com for more info.


  4. When you said:

    “It is a pity, I guess, that they did not get to read the world’s current leading Orthodox theologian…”

    was it sarcasm? Who is this person to whom you refer? Sorry, still learning the Orthodox ropes here.

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