Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Long, Stephen

Second Advisor

Johnson, Mark F.

Third Advisor

Zemler-Cizewski, Wanda


Henri de Lubac legitimately reacted against a nineteenth and twentieth century "neo-scholastic" theology of the nature-grace relationship. This theology tended to separate the realms of nature and grace extrinsically to the extent that nature had no intrinsic desire for the supernatural. Unfortunately, de Lubac's "extrinsicist" reproach against "neo-scholastic" theology included a rejection of both Suarezian and "Neo-Thomist" theologies. This critique, however, was too broad-sweeping and should be narrowed to include just the Suarezian theology. The Suarezian theology assumes a flawed philosophy of act and potency, whereby potency is considered to be an imperfect act and therefore belongs to the logical order of mental being. De Lubac's negative appraisal cannot be leveled against a strict Thomistic theology which holds there to be a real, intrinsic capacity for the supernatural in the human person, a capacity which is based upon an obediential potency in the Thomistic sense. Using the theologies of Pedro Descoqs and Garrigou-Lagrange, this study provides evidence that there is a real difference between the Suarezian and Thomistic notions of potency in general, and obediential potency in particular, which influences the notion of human nature as either "self-enclosed" within the physical order (Suarezian) or "dissertation" to infinite being (Thomistic). De Lubac's misplaced criticism of this Thomistic theology arose because he did not identify the root problem in the debate over the nature-grace relationship: a mistaken notion of passive potency, particularly obediential potency as mere "non-repugnance." This rendered de Lubac's solution to the nature-grace relationship problematic insofar as he lacked a due appreciation for the metaphysics and intellective psychology at root in the Thomistic thesis on the natural desire for seeing God. The Australian Thomist, Austin Woodbury, offers a correct interpretation of St Thomas's teaching on the natural desire for the vision of God. This interpretation requires the approach of intellective psychology which maintains a twofold end of human nature (in the Thomistic sense, not the Suarezian), and a capacity for the divine vision - based upon an obediential potency - which is a real capacity naturally within the created spirit for elevation to the divine "existential" order.

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