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Supernatural Existential


According to some theologians, something supernatural lodged in man anticipating the subjective Redemption of grace. In this concrete, supernatural order, even prior to his first grace, man is different from a sinner in a state of pure nature. Before Baptism or the free self-surrender to Christ of faith, man is driven by a positive, unconditional, internal, sheerly gratuitous and strictly supernatural orientation to the beatific vision. Supernatural existential may be commended as a postulate that enables one to avoid nominalism while doing justice to such converging considerations as the following:

  1. God has summoned man to vision as to his sole and obligatory last end. This divine call runs the risk of being an empty fiction unless it affects man through and through, awakening some real response within him even before his first gift of grace. At God's command something springs into being: "For he spoke, and it was made" [Ps 32 (33) 9].
  2. Man enters this world having original sin within him ["omnibus inest unicuique proprium" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer, 1513)]. This inwardness of sin seems to imply the thwarting of some intrinsic orientation to vision.
  3. The punishment of loss, the capital catastrophe of hell, is best interpreted as a disjointedness within the damned springing from the deathless, supernatural dynamism planted in his soul and driving him toward a vision of God that forever eludes his grasp.
  4. Although the individual cannot be saved except through a personal appropriation of Christ's grace either within or without the Sacrament, it is nevertheless true that all men are redeemed by the death of Christ. The reality of this objective Redemption seems to demand something supernatural in man anticipating the subjective redemption of grace.
  5. Hence the efficacy of God's universal salvific will means more than a salvific intention locked away in God's bosom, more than the fact that every man will eventually get a chance of salvation. Even before grace comes, each man is conditioned by God's salvific will.
  6. Man, even when stripped of grace, shows signs of some real and absolute orientation toward vision. To construe this as a natural exigency is forbidden by the doctrine of the gratuity of the supernaturalwhich is wholly safeguarded if the orientation is itself supernatural.
  7. Had God not been born as man, man would have had a different self-experience, even inwardly (K. Rahner).

See Also: anima naturaliter christiana; desire to see god, natural; destiny, supernatural; elevation of man; faith, beginning of; man, 3; natural order; obediential potency.

Bibliography: k. rahner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 3:1301; Schriften zur Theologie (Einsiedeln 1954) 1:323345; 3:3546; v.1 tr. c. ernst, Theological Investigations (Baltimore 1961) 297317. h. kÜng, Rechtfertigung: Die Lehre Karl Barths und eine katholische Besinnung (Einsiedeln 1957). j. p. kenny, "Reflections on Human Nature and the Supernatural," Theological Studies 14 (1953) 280287.

[j. p. kenny]

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