One of the most exhilarating and frustrating aspects of studying Henri de Lubac is that so many different interpreters can, and often times do, claim him as one of their own.  On the one hand, he can seem incredibly radical; writing extensively on figures like Origen or Teilhard de Chardin.  On the other, his thought can square nicely with Pope Benedict or Hans Urs von Balthasar.  He is known for speaking through quotations rather than simply offering his own interpretations or comments, offering then a whole new set of problems.  Is de Lubac hiding behind the voices of others, or is he asking the reader to dig deeper?  He is also notoriously silent when it comes to drawing the political conclusions of his work, opting instead, it seems, to bring his readers to the precipice and then to withdraw at the critical moment.  Yet his very life and entire milieu is radically bound up with political theology.

This thought struck when reading the forward to Theology in History by Michel Sales.  When describing the critical importance and support de Lubac offered his friend, Teilhard de Chardin, Sales felt it necessary to note von Balthasar’s own provocative take on this matter.  Sales states: “In his little work The Theology of Henri de Lubac: An Overview…Hans Urs von Balthasar has mischievously indexed all the passages from books where Father de Lubac expressed reservations regarding Teilhard’s work” (17).  Sales of course is being charitable with his use of the word “mischievously.”  He could have just as well have said “in a suspect manner.”  Looking back over von Balthasar’s “index” and being in the midst of de Lubac’s editorial comments on de Chardin and Blondel’s Correspondence, I have to side with Sales.  De Lubac appears much more concerned to defend de Chardin and is at pains to show how his thought can fit, with a few modifications, squarely within orthodoxy.

Why would de Lubac go to such lengths to defend de Chardin?  Wasn’t he already in enough trouble?  Ironically enough, von Balthasar provides a clue.  As he states, de Lubac’s “problematic of the ‘desiderium naturale’ appears in radical form with Teilhard” (88).  In defending de Chardin, de Lubac might in some way be defending his own position.

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