Book 3 of Matthias Joseph Scheeben’s Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics contains his fullest treatments of the divine act of creation and of the created order as a whole, inclusive of both the visible cosmos and the invisible angelic hierarchies. Especially notable is his richly developed account of the nature of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God.
It is in Book 3 that Scheeben provides his most detailed study of grace as the supernatural, considered both in the abstract in its nature and in its actual instantiation in the human and angelic worlds. Scheeben carefully defines and lays out his distinctive doctrine of grace as a “supernature” that elevates and divinizes human beings so that they can partake of the Triune God in the beatific vision as their supernatural final end. He offers a detailed treatment of the relation of grace to created freedom, he clarifies the nature of human receptivity for grace as obediential potency, and he gives his most sustained rendering of man’s natural desire to see God. This book also contains Scheeben’s fullest account of his controversial teaching on the substantial indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the just.
Matthias Joseph Scheeben (1835–1888) was a German priest and scholar whose theology points to the inner coherence of the Christian faith and its supernatural mysteries. Notable in his own time, Scheeben later received praise from Pope Pius XI, who in 1935 encouraged study of the late theologian’s works, reflecting: “The entire theology of Scheeben bears the stamp of a pious ascetical theology.” Hans Urs von Balthasar credited Scheeben as “the greatest German theologian to date.” Scheeben’s works include Nature and Grace, The Mysteries of Christianity, and the unfinished Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics.
“Since the Council of Trent, Catholic theology has been preoccupied with the relationship between nature and grace. Scheeben’s beautifully rigorous discussion of this problem—not least his insight that it ought to be treated within the doctrine of creation—shows how successfully post-Tridentine theology came to grips with the twin commitments to the necessity of grace and the completely free donation by God of that same grace. This is perhaps the most demanding volume of Scheeben’s dogmatic theology, and it may also be the most rewarding.”
—Bruce D. Marshall—
Southern Methodist University
“Michael Miller’s monumental effort to translate Scheeben’s Dogmatics is one of the most important theological undertakings of recent years, and a real gift to the universal Church. In this volume, Scheeben offers his most mature treatment of the topic of nature and grace, which inspired his theology from the beginning. For Scheeben, the relationship between nature and grace is no minor point of Catholic doctrine but frames the whole of God’s purpose for creation: to elevate human beings through Christ to the status of supernatural participation in the divine nature, indeed, to the status of adoptive sons and daughters who, by the grace of the Spirit, become true likenesses of God, analogically imaging the Son’s own eternal filiation from the Father.”
—John R. Betz—
University of Notre Dame
“If grace often appears as arbitrary and unintelligible in the modern world, it is because we have lost the meaning of nature and creation. Scheeben’s profound treatment of nature and the supernatural in the context of the doctrine of creation in this third volume was foundational for the twentieth century debate on nature and grace. With this translation, Michael J. Miller has ensured that Scheeben will once again prove foundational to any hoped for renewal of Catholic thought on these essential—and now urgent—questions.”
John Paul II Institute,
Catholic University of America
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