Recognizing the gift: Towards a renewed theology of nature and grace

Daniel Arthur Rober, Fordham University


The question of nature and grace was one of the most disputed topics in Catholic theology from the beginning of the twentieth century until the Second Vatican Council, but focus on it has declined in subsequent years. This dissertation seeks to explore the question of nature and grace by putting it dialogue with the Continental philosophies of gift and recognition, particularly as found in the work of Jean-Luc Marion and Paul Ricoeur respectively. It ultimately argues that viewing nature and grace in terms of gift of recognition can be of value to theology, and particularly in the formulation of a political theology. The first chapter explores the question of nature and grace from the Modernist controversy at the beginning of the twentieth century until the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council. It centers particularly on Henri de Lubac, whose work on nature and grace drew on the tradition while strongly challenging the status quo. It puts his work into dialogue with that of Karl Rahner. The second chapter continues this inquiry into twentieth-century thought by engaging the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar and three liberation theologians on nature and grace. The third chapter turns to the work of Jean-Luc Marion, whose philosophy of gift and recognition contains thinly-veild references to theology. It seeks to demonstrate how Marion's work implicitly references nature and grace, and seeks to draw out these implications. At the same time, it criticizes Marion for failing to have an adequate sense of recognition and for denying that reciprocal gift-giving is possible. For this reason, the fourth chapter turns to Paul Ricoeur as a corrective to Marion on these terms of recognition and reciprocity. The dissertation concludes by arguing for a political theology of nature and grace as recognition of the gift. It does so in dialogue with the work of Kathryn Tanner and John Milbank, two Anglican theologians whose work has extensively dealt with nature and grace. The final chapter ends with an exploration of some concrete ways of living the gift of grace under the themes of prayer, praxis, and politics.

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Recommended Citation

Rober, Daniel Arthur, "Recognizing the gift: Towards a renewed theology of nature and grace" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3563434.