Henri de Lubac is surely one of the most eminent Catholic theological thinkers of the twentieth century. His work as a historical theologian addressed a plethora of seemingly disparate ideas and personages, some obscure and time-bound at first glance. Nevertheless, de Lubac found himself contributing to, if not also setting the trajectory for, fundamental theological developments including the relation between nature and grace, the Church as mystery and sacrament, the relation between Church and world, traditional scriptural exegesis vis-ŗ-vis the rise of historical criticism, and the Churchís fundamental locus in the Eucharist. As is well-known, some of this work led him into trouble with particular circles in the Catholic Church. De Lubacís obedience and integrity were eventually rewarded, and he was made an expert at the Second Vatican Council and later a cardinal. Interestingly, while stifled a decade before the Council for being a progressive exponent of ďnew theology,Ē shortly after the Council and to the end of his life he would sometimes be associated with an outdated conservatism blind to the new steps of progress. Banal characterizations never quite grasp the uniqueness of a truly great thinker. Despite his own admission of the particularly contingent nature of his work as a historical theologian, the enduring relevance of his thought invites continual reflection.
In this book, part of a larger Guides for the Perplexed series, David Grumett fashions a unique window through which the reader can peer over the landscape of Henri de Lubacís theology. As Avery Dulles notes in his foreword, Grumett has written the first book in English that presents in thematic fashion a general survey of many of the questions de Lubac treated over the course of his lifetime. Topics include de Lubacís (in)famous work against the idea of a pure nature, his political writings in light of his resistance to Nazism, his contributions to ecclesiology, his extensive treatment of traditional exegesis and the four senses, the tripartite nature of the human person and true Christian humanism, issues of faith and reason, and his writings on Buddhism. To Grumettís credit, it is worth mentioning that de Lubacís political writings as well as his encounter with Amidism are often overlooked in summary treatments of his thought. While Grumett devotes the larger portion of the book to a lucid presentation of key themes in de Lubac, he intersperses historical data and background suitable to the purpose of the book, which is to serve as an introduction to de Lubac as a thinker. Grumett concludes the book with an epilogue and offers some positive thoughts as to de Lubacís relevance today.
Refreshingly absent from this introduction is any sort of theological critique of de Lubac. Some might see this as a weakness of the text, and certainly there is always an important place for criticism. De Lubac himself does not rise above all criticism. For instance, the nature-grace relation is still a pertinent question, and there is room to argue with de Lubacís historical and theological treatment here. However, so often the move to criticize comes more quickly and readily than the move to understand profoundly, which normally results in a shallow critique. Grumett avoids this temptation and sketches a positive and clear introductory synthesis of de Lubacóthe fruits of his time spent with de Lubacís writings. The reader is encouraged first to become familiar with the important themes of the French Jesuitís corpus. If anything, this approach opens the door for further study and appropriation of de Lubac by interested readers and leaves the task of criticism to them for a later time.
This book is a fine introduction for anyone interested in de Lubac or twentieth-century theology in general. It could be used on the advanced undergraduate level but would be most appropriate as a secondary text in a course on de Lubac at the graduate level. The book includes endnotes, a helpful bibliography with a topical list of secondary sources, and an index.