The Continuing Significance of de Lubac’s Surnaturel for Contemporary Theology

Karen Kilby

University of Durham

This paper explores Henri de Lubac’s Surnaturel and the way his thinking has been received and modified by two more speculatively inclined thinkers, John Milbank and Karl Rahner. It argues that one of these preserves, clarifies and strengthens the paradox at the heart of de Lubac’s contribution, while the other unhelpfully dissolves it. Discussions of nature and grace can take on the appearance of self-perpetuating debates spun loose from anything relevant to the Christian life. This paper tries to counter this tendency by exploring the significance of a (properly paradoxical) nature/grace framework for our demeanor towards our own death and the death of those we love.

This lecture was originally livestreamed on December 4, 2021 as part of the Grace & Nature: Contemporary Controversies Conference held at the Angelicum in Rome. All of the talks for this conference are available on our YouTube page in this playlist.

Karen Kilby is Bede Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. She studied Mathematics and Theology at Yale and Cambridge Universities, and did her doctorate under Kathryn Tanner and George Lindbeck. Kilby has published books on Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, and on a range of themes in systematic theology, including the doctrine of the Trinity, evil, suffering and the place of mystery in theology. Her most recent book is “God, Evil and the Limits of Theology”.