Christian theology in recent decades has seen an explosion in the number of books published seeking a renewal of Trinitarian ontology. There has also been a proliferation of studies dedicated to the theology of Wisdom. Few if any of these books on the Trinity or on Wisdom have drawn for inspiration on the comprehensive vision of French Oratorian priest Louis Bouyer (1913–2004), one of the greatest theologians of the modern age. Bouyer produced a comprehensive work of theology that integrated these two seminal concerns based on a vast “re-sourcing” of the Christian tradition.
Dr. Keith Lemna explores Bouyer’s achievement in depth, showing that at the heart of his venture was a deep, contemplative penetration into God’s mediation to the world—his creation, sustenance, and redemption of creation in the Wisdom of the Eternal Son. Bouyer is a decisive resource for theologians wanting to develop the Christian understanding of the Trinity and creation based on tradition but in dialogue with modern cosmological thought.
The Trinitarian Wisdom of God: Louis Bouyer’s Theology of the God-World Relationship gets to the heart of Louis Bouyer’s theology of the God-World relationship more deeply than any other has done before. In doing so, Lemna recovers a great theologian at his best.
Keith Lemna, PhD, is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. He is the author of The Apocalypse of Wisdom (Angelico Press, 2019), a study of Louis Bouyer’s cosmology. He has published scholarly articles in numerous journals, including The Heythrop Journal, Nova et Vetera, Communio: International Catholic Review, International Philosophical Quarterly, Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, The Gregorianum, and Antiphon. Dr. Lemna has contributed to the revised edition of The New Catholic Encyclopedia and to The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy, and has contributed a chapter to Jesus Christ: The New Face of Social Progress (Eerdman’s, 2014).
“Dr. Keith Lemna’s new book on the theology of Louis Bouyer only underscores the fact that he is currently the preeminent expositor of the thought of Bouyer in the anglophone world. This latest text fills an enormous void in English-language Bouyer scholarship since nobody has taken up the task of developing the theology in Bouyer’s massive trilogy of systematic theology until now. Lemna not only takes up this task but gives us a hermeneutic for interpreting Bouyer as metaxalogical figure concerned with the classical question of the mediation of God’s Absolute Being within the created being of the world. To that end, Lemna deftly demonstrates both Bouyer’s orthodoxy and his creativity as he develops the related theological themes of Christology, Trinitarian theology, and Sophiology in an attempt to overcome the endless vacillations in the history of thought between an equivocal and a univocal concept of the relation between God’s Being and our own. Does the Incarnation annihilate us by absorbing us? Lemna shows how Bouyer’s Christocentric Sophiology mediates the world to God in a manner that neither annihilates the world precisely as world nor compromises God’s Transcendence. This text is a must-read for anyone interested in Bouyer and the deeper issues his theology addresses.”
Former Professor of Theology
“I am happy to recommend this book warmly. I found it an absorbing work, and among its excellences was the manner it greatly expanded my knowledge of the theology of Louis Bouyer. The writing was very engaging and I was drawn into its well-ordered unfolding. I found myself especially illuminated on the way it deploys the idea of the metaxu, the between, in Trinitarian and Sophiological registers in particular, and in general in relation to the central theological importance of mediation. I am impressed by the scholarly range of Keith Lemna, as well as the quality of the insights communicated, and indeed the lucidity with which they are offered for consideration. Warmly recommended.”
David Cook Chair in Philosophy
“By definition, theology is talk (logos) about God (Theos). It usually provides theoretical guidelines for personal, social, and Church life. But it reaches out much farther and deeper, because it does not simply tell about a Being that rules everything from outside, and actually invites to make out how he is also present and active in this world, as the Creator of time, space, matter, and even liberties tempted by autonomy. As one of the major twentieth-century French theologians, Louis Bouyer did not only play a key role in both the liturgical revival and the restoration of theology on biblical rather than philosophical bases. He also looked into the fundamentally cosmic and eschatological dimensions of the Christian faith. In his comprehensive study, Dr. Keith Lemna convincingly shows how this virtually unlimited scope allows Bouyer to combine into a coherent, stimulating whole such different major aspects as the Trinity, the Eucharist, creation, Mariology, man’s vocation in the universe (not just history), and ecumenism (since the understanding of God’s Wisdom bridges the gap between the Eastern and Western Christendoms).”
Literary Executor to Louis Bouyer
“The French Oratorian Louis Bouyer (1913–2004) stands at the intersection of the most significant developments within twentieth-century Catholic theology—the liturgical movement, Ressourcement theology, and the encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy. The central question at the heart of Bouyer’s life and work is the mystery of the plan of God to unite all things in Christ: how can creation ‘be fully united to God, with God being all in all, yet without creation being thereby absorbed without remainder into absolute divinity?’ Drawing on the entirety of Bouyer’s corpus, especially his untranslated works on Sophiology, Keith Edward Lemna explores this question in its Christological, pneumatological, and sacramental dimensions. The result is an invaluable introduction to the figure of Bouyer and a compelling argument for Bouyer’s enduring importance—highly recommended.”
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Culture
Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
Catholic University of America
“Keith Lemna has written a marvelous book on Louis Bouyer, who vies with Erich Przywara for the status of being the forgotten giant of twentieth- century Catholic theology. In what is an oeuvre that rivals that of Hans Urs von Balthasar in size, Lemna brings textual focus by concentrating mainly on Bouyer’s three trilogies. Correlatively, he brings thematic focus by pursuing Bouyer’s reflection on the God-world relation which is nothing less than the red thread that links Bouyer’s reflections on the Trinity with his explications of creation, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and each with reflections on the destined end of humanity and the cosmos and Mary as archetype of the Church and even the cosmos. This work is magisterial in its display of erudition, comprehensiveness, and lucidity. In terms of English study on Bouyer it is unrivalled and will be the measure of all future studies in English of the French Oratorian. The book is also a marvelously timely book given the return into favor of Sophiology with respect to which Bouyer is at once the plenary Catholic instance and at the same time the Catholic answer to the tendencies of Sophiology to become unhinged from the magisterial tradition and to compromise doctrine. Finally, while this is a superb work of scholarship, it is also a display of deep and expansive theological thinking. Lemna does much more than report and organize what Bouyer said. He also thinks with Bouyer, excavates his problematique, and encourages us to see what questions he asked concerning the God-world relation, what questions he answered successfully, and what questions need to be asked now in his wake.”
Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology
University of Notre Dame