Friday, September 15, 2006
De Lubac on "The Role of Unbelievers"
...For since a necessary function in the history of our salvation was fulfilled by so great a mass of "unbelievers" -- not indeed in that they were in formal error or in a state of degradation, but in that there is to be found in their beliefs and consciences a certain groping after the truth, its painful preparation or its partial anticipation, discoveries of the natural reason and tentative solutions - so these unbelievers have an inevitable place in our humanity, a humanity such as the fall and the promise of a Redeemer have made it.
There is no comparison between their role and that of the scaffolding which, necessary as it is in the construction of a building, is discarded once the building is complete without further thought of what will become of it. For if the heavenly Jerusalem is built of living stones, it is also living beings that go to make its scaffolding. In other words, humanity is made up of persons who have all the same one eternal destiny, in whatever category or century their birth has placed them; their relationships cannot be envisaged, then, as just external ones, as if some existed only to prepare suitable conditions for the development of others, as in Renan's paradox of the coming of a superman. In spite of great differences of understanding and function, all members of the human race enjoy the same essential equality before God.
As "unbelievers" are, in the design of Providence, indispensable for building the Body of Christ, they must in their own way profit from their vital connection with this same Body. By an extension of the dogma of the communion of saints, it seems right to think that though they themselves are not in the normal way of salvation, they will be able nevertheless to obtain salvation by virtue of those mysterious bonds which unite them to the faithful. In short, they can be saved because they are an integral part of the humanity which is to be saved.
--Henri de Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man, pp. 232-233