Destiny, Supernatural

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The final goal or end that God establishes for men (and angels) and to which He leads them; in that this destiny surpasses the powers and exigencies of their natures, it is supernatural.

Scripture. The rich and varied biblical vision of man's destiny implies that this destiny is supernatural. God Himself, alpha and omega, is the beginning and end of all (Rv 21.56; Heb 2.10). At the origin of man's destiny is God's plan, or mystery (Eph 1.910), hidden since the foundation of the world (Mt 13.3435), the mystery of the kingdom of god (Mk 4.11), the mystery of Christ, revealed in the Spirit (Eph 3.45). God's mysterious, hidden wisdom (1 Cor 2.7), grace (Eph 1.69), love (Rom8.3739), and justice (Rom 3.2122) establish and accomplish this destiny in a measure far beyond what man can ask or conceive (Eph 3.20): those whom God has foreknown He pre-destines, calls and justifies (Rom8.2930); these gifts are gratuitous and undeserved (Rom 11.6; Gal 2.21). Man cannot conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him, but He reveals it through His Spirit (1 Cor 2.910). This destiny is both personal and social: men are destined to holiness in Christ (Eph1.45); the Church is to be holy and glorious through Christ (Eph 5.27). In Christ men are to be perfect (Col1.28), to be a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). The whole of creation will share this renewal in Christ (cf. Eph 1.910; Col 1.1520; 1 Cor 15.2528) and will become a new heaven and a new earth (Rv 21.1, 5; 2 Pt 3.13; cf. Rom8.1922). God destines men to glory (Rom 8.18, 30; 1 Pt5.10), a glory now unseen but eternal (2 Cor 4.1718); this is a sharing in Christ's glory (Rom 8.17; Col 3.4; cf. Jn 17.10, 24), in His reign (2 Tm 2.12), His heavenly state (Eph 2.6), His divine sonship and inheritance (Rom8.1417, 29). In the New Jerusalem God will dwell with men (Rv 21.23; cf. 1 Thes 4.17), who will know Him as He knows them, seeing Him face to face (1 Cor 13.12; Ap 22.4) just as He is (1 Jn 3.2; cf. Mt 5.8). In this everlasting life (Jn 17.23) God will be all in all (1 Cor 15.28), and in the liturgy of the heavenly temple (Rv 21.2227) all creation will join in the praise of the glory that is to be revealed in time to come (Eph 1.6; cf. 1.12, 14; 1 Pt 5.1).

Magisterium. The biblical teaching on man's destiny has been gradually made explicit in the Church's teaching. Although the second Council of Orange's assertion that eternal life is open to man only through the Holy Spirit's influence (Denz 377) can be strictly referred only to man's historical state, the later condemnations of the beguines and beghards (Denz 895) and of the Ontologists (Denz 2841, 2844) show that man's destiny is above the powers of his nature in any state, while the condemnations of baius, Quesnel, and the Jansenists (Denz 1921, 1923, 1926, 2435, 2616) make it further clear that man's elevation is also not due to his nature in any state and so surpasses its exigencies; thus his destiny appears as supernatural. Vatican Council I made it explicit: "God ordained man to a supernatural end" or destiny (Denz 3005; cf. 2854); the Council also stated the possibility of man's being raised by God "to a knowledge and perfection surpassing the natural" (Denz 3028; cf. Denz31 2103). Successive papal statements have reaffirmed this supernatural destiny of all men, e.g., John XXIII's in Pacem in terris [Acta Apostolicae Sedis 55 (Rome 1963) 289].

Theological Debates. Several doctrinal currents led theologians in the last few centuries to contrast man's supernatural destiny with a natural destiny thought of as corresponding to man's nature in a hypothetical state of pure nature. Also, in reply to 19th-century rational ism and naturalism, great stress was laid on a sharp distinction between the natural order and the supernatural order. More recently, however, fears arose that such views made man's supernatural destiny appear to be extrinsic and without resonance in man's being. To counteract this, some authors sought to show that man's supernatural destiny is so inscribed in his nature that he can have no other destiny or end. Thus H. de Lubac, in his influential study Surnaturel, held that God's creation of intellectual beings with a natural desire to see Him is itself a destination of them to the beatific vision, which alone can fulfill them. In this view man neither has nor could have any other end, so that a state of pure nature is impossible in fact and is theologically misleading as a concept; man's destiny would nevertheless be gratuitous and supernatural because, like creation, it is an undeserved, unexacted gift of God's free love and because the one so destined needs God's grace as means to reach it. Many theologians objected that such a theory fails to guarantee the gratuity and supernaturality of man's destiny: it would, they said, reduce man's supernatural destiny to the same order as creation, make it an exigency of his nature, and make only the means supernatural but not the destiny itself. Amid the ensuing debates Pius XII warned against destroying the gratuity of the supernatural order through holding that God could not create intellectual creatures without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision (Denz 3891). Many theologians exaggerated the force of this statement, saying it implies necessarily that another destiny than the beatific vision was possible for men and angels: this possibility they held to be the only way to maintain the distinction of the natural and the supernatural. Most modern theologians nevertheless agree in rejecting views that make the supernatural appear extrinsic and juxtaposed to nature and in insisting on the positive openness of intellectual creatures to a supernatural destiny. Many would say further that, although men and angels could either have received another destiny or have been left with no truly final destiny at all, God actually created them only for the sake of the supernatural destiny He freely gives them. For the various attempts within such positions to relate man's nature positively to his supernatural destiny, see obediential potency.

In two later volumes [Augustinisme et théologie moderne (Paris 1965) and Le Mystère du surnaturel (Paris 1965)] De Lubac greatly clarifies the conclusion of his Surnaturel (admittedly an "esquissetrop rapide": Mystère 76): he clearly states that God could have created men and still not called them to see Him (ibid. 110; cf. 289, 252); he also modifies other earlier judgments, such as that concerning Thomas Aquinas's role in this question. At the same time he points out certain misrepresentations of his own thought made by others and reaffirms with new developments several of his basic positions. Thus he insists, with abundant appeals to patristic and theological tradition, that the truly final destiny of actually existing men is and should be conceived to be only the beatific vision (had God not called man to this, as He was free not to do even after creating him, man would have had no truly final destiny but only an unconscious natural attraction for God: ibid. 252; cf. 247248); the sign or expression of this unique supernatural destiny is man's natural and absolute desire to see God, a desire itself clearly known only in the light of faith; the hypothesis of a state of pure nature and a natural final end, however useful it may have been for its relatively recent originators, betrays the sound tradition of the Fathers and great medieval theologians and fails, moreover, to account for the supernatural character of the destiny and vocation actually given the men we are in our concrete historical situation. These volumes and the views they express undoubtedly provide a starting point for renewed debates on the topic.

Society, Evolution, and Supernatural Destiny. According to papal social theology, the supernatural destiny of individuals is one important source of their personal rights and the most fundamental guarantee of their freedom from total subjection to civil society. As for the Church as a whole, its supernatural destiny gives it both rights and apostolic duties in human society and history. Because of the harmony between the natural and the supernatural, the Church's insistence on and concern for man's supernatural destiny contribute to the progress of society itself without interfering with its legitimate ends.

In the theology of temporal values and in escha tology theologians are examining the interrelationship between the natural evolution of the universe (including man) and man's supernatural destiny. Material creation is seen as somehow involved in man's supernatural destiny.

See Also: grace, articles on; jansenism; man; mystery (in the bible); ontologism; salvation; secularism; supernatural existential.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek, esp. "Eschatology," 677686;"Glory," 867871; "Grace," 897903; "Mystery," 157884; "Predestination," 190910. x. lÉon-dufour, ed., Vocabulaire de théologie biblique (Paris 1962), esp. "Dessein de Dieu," 208215; "Gloire," 412419; "Grâce," 420424; "Mystère," 664670. r. follet and k. prÜmm, Dictionaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 6:1225, esp. 173225. Vatican Council II, Lumen gentium, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 57 (Rome 1965) 567, esp. ch. 1, 2, 7. john xxiii, "Mater et Magistra," Acta Apostolicae Sedis 53 (1961) 401464 encyclical. paul vi, "Ecclesiam suam" (encyclical, Aug. 6, 1964) in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 56 (1964) 609659. h. de lubac, Surnaturel: Études historiques (Paris 1946); "Le Mystère du surnaturel," Rechershes de science religieuse 36 (Rome 1949) 80121. j. maritain, True Humanism, tr. m. r. adamson (6th ed. New York 1954). m. seckler, Instinkt und Glaubenswille nach Thomas von Aquin (Mainz 1961). p. j. donnelly, "Discussions on the Supernatural Order," Theological Studies 9 (1948) 213249; "The Gratuity of the Beatific Vision and the Possibility of a Natural Destiny," Theological Studies 11 (1950) 374404. É. h. gilson, "Sur la problématique thomiste de la vision béatifique," Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyenâge 31 (Paris 1964) 6788. a. michel, "Nature et surnaturel," Ami du Clergé 67 (Langres 1957) 435440, doctrine of Pius XII. t. j. motherway, "Supernatural Existential," Chicago Studies 4 (1965) 79103. l. renwart, "La 'Nature pure' à la lumière de l'encyclique Humani generis, " Nouvelle revue théologique 74 (Tournai-Louvain-Paris 1952) 337354. e. schillebeeckx, "L'Instinct de la foi selon S. Thomas d'Aquin," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 48 (Paris 1964) 377408.

[w. h. principe]