Grace and Emergence
Taking as its mandate the expansive vision suggested by the integral ecology of Laudato Si’, in conjunction with the insights of contemporary ecological and evolutionary theologians, this dissertation proposes a framework for an integral, planetary, and cosmic theology of grace. It draws from and builds upon many of the insights of the leading Catholic contributors to ecological and evolutionary theologies, including especially John Haught, Elizabeth Johnson, Denis Edwards, and Celia Deane-Drummond. Through their various approaches, each emphasizes the created, cosmic effects of both the universal invisible mission of Holy Spirit and the visible mission of Christ’s Incarnation, intended from all eternity and culminating in his passion death and resurrection. Noting the strong resonances with traditional accounts of the economy of grace in human redemption, this dissertation seeks to provide a unitive account of God’s healing and elevation of all of creation through a creative and redemptive economy of grace. This project is also carried out in intentional dialogue with both with traditional understandings of grace, especially as articulated in the speculative and systematic synthesis of St. Thomas Aquinas, and with contemporary scientific understandings of world process. To facilitate this larger conversation, this dissertation also explores Bernard Lonergan’s transposition of grace, nature, and sin from the Medieval theoretical framework into a framework based on interiority, and it relies especially on Lonergan’s explanatory account of the dynamic orientation of nature as “upwardly but indeterminately directed,” as laid out in his generalized emergent probability. However, as Lonergan and his students have only attended to grace in relation to human contexts, the constructive part of this dissertation lays out an understanding of grace as “God’s created relationship of transformative love and care for all creatures that opens them up to ever deeper relationships with God and with each other.” This broad definition makes possible the identification of God’s grace throughout all of creation: humans, other animals, plants, and even “inanimate” matter are caught up in the networks of grace that bring them to greater perfection along three axes: According to their absolute finality, all creation may be observed as existing in a state of ontological praise of its Creator and Redeemer and in a state of eschatological expectation. According to their horizontal finality, each creature is empowered to realize its particular, fleshly excellences in line with its dynamically conceived nature, the account of which nature is described by the vast array of modern sciences. According to their vertical finality, each creature exists in networks of interconnection that undergird the possibility and, sometimes, the reality of surprising and irreducible inbreaking of renewal and emergence. At the same time, this framework also recognizes the elevation of human beings to not only these forms of relative supernaturality, but also to the absolute supernaturality of sanctifying grace and the habit of charity in which we are adopted into the intra-trinitarian life of friendship. By situating this theology of grace in relation to Lonergan’s transposition of nature in the form of his account of generalized emergent probability, the specifically theological character of this account of world process is both distinguished from and related to the other explanatory accounts offered by the whole range of the human, social, and natural sciences. To clarify these relationships and the particular role of theology in dialogue with these other sciences, the final chapters explore the hermeneutical and heuristic value of this theology of grace in relation to the larger conversations around emergence, convergence, and cooperation in evolutionary theory.