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The Sense of the Supernatural

, 1998
ISBN: 9780567086624

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Jean Borella explores the modernist crisis in Catholic theology, its causes and implications, and offers a solution to the fundamental dilemma of the Western Christian mind and a path to the recovery of the sense of the sacred. For three centuries, philosophers and theologians tried to preserve God's transcendence by denying continuity between the natural and the supernatural. This prolonged division allowed an illusory autonomy and an inclination towards totalitarian humanism. The writings of Henri de Lubac, referring to ancient and Eastern sources, were instrumental in dispelling this illusion. In this remarkable book, Jean Borella lays the foundations for a theology of culture in the tradition of Newman and de Lubac, and recalls us to the adventure of the Christian vocation to holiness, re-opening “the place in us where God awaits our waiting on him.”

Top Highlights

“In making use of reason for theological work, St Thomas subjects it to faith and supernaturalises it.” (Pages 148–149)

“It is not the same for the truths of faith: no intellect discovers them within itself; it receives them from elsewhere. Hence the need for an unconditional authority.” (Page 2)

“If the primary reason for faith is the authority of God revealing what should be believed, and what could not be grasped by our reason acting alone, then it follows that the effect of this unique and divine origin is the formation of an ensemble of truths which are organically linked to one another, a unified body of teachings whose intrinsic coherence is constantly verified. Theological effort, the exercise of reason, could not by itself demonstrate any of these truths received from revelation, but this effort can show their internal and mutual coherence. This very coherence is the basis for the solidity of the dogmatic corpus, and has allowed Catholic doctrine to triumph over every attempt to reduce or fragment it in the first part of its history.” (Page 7)

“For the sense of the supernatural must primarily and essentially result in the supernatural making sense to me. The intellect can indeed apply itself to the knowledge of faith; the will can indeed want, by a kind of desperate tension, to believe in revelation. But if all this no longer has any significance for the believing being, the act of faith is no longer possible.” (Pages 15–16)

“The Christian soul has lived by these truths, not as one kind of nourishment that might eventually be replaced by another, but as the only food suited to its Christian nature, since in fact God made it to be so.” (Page 5)

In this book, Jean Borella bravely seeks to undo the damage caused by the papal condemnation of Henri de Lubac’s thesis concerning the inherent supernatural ordination of human nature… his book deserves attention from a wide readership.

—Catherine Pickstock, University of Cambridge

  • Title: The Sense of the Supernatural
  • Author: Jean Borella
  • Series: Christian Approaches to Contemporary Thinking Collection
  • Publisher: Continuum International
  • Publication Date: 2001
  • Pages: 176

Jean Borella teaches at the University of Nancy II, France. He has written extensively on theology, religious ideas and symbolism.


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    About the author,Jean Borella is a Christian philosopher and theologian. Borella's works are deeply inspired by Ancient and Christian Neoplatonism, but also by the Traditionalist School of René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon. In 1946 Henri de Lubac's book Surnaturel caused an acrimonious debate within Roman Catholic theology, Jean Borella insists that de Lubac was right by showing that the reception of divine grace is impossible without some acknowledgement of the desire in human nature for the divine gift. He refers to Thomas Aquinas with the patristic tradition, nature and grace never were two completely heteronomous realities, there is a natural desire for the vision of God in every human being. While de Lubac sought to overcome a grace/nature dualism that legitmated hostility to the modern world on the part of the Roman Catholic Church, Borella believes the effect of the Second Vatican Council has been to unfold the Modernism that, though declared heretical in 1907, has remained latent ever since grace and nature have collapsed into one another, the sacred has been swallowed up in the secular.
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