Is humanity constituted by a natural desire for God? This may seem a recondite question, yet it takes us to the heart of Christian soteriology, sin, perdition, and the universalist hope. If God has so constituted men and women to find their ultimate happiness only in Him, how is it that human beings refuse the Good that is God and instead prefer the misery that is sin? If God has bestowed upon man a natural desire to enjoy the Beatific Vision, does this mean that God is obligated to fulfill that desire?
Latin theologians devoted tens of thousands of hours of reflection to this question in the second millennium, concluding with the famous controversy initiated by Henri de Lubac with the publication of his book Surnaturel. Lawrence Feingold and David Bentley Hart explore aspects of this controversy in this YouTube conversation.
Benjamin Winter provides a summary of their discussion in “The Natural Desire to See God?”
Feingold is the author of The Natural Desire to See God According to St Thomas Aquinas and his Interpreters. For interesting takes on the question, see Louis Dupré, “On the Natural Desire of Seeing God,” and Ian MacFarland, “Maximus the Confessor on the Operation of the Will.” C. S. Lewis famously argued that humanity’s inability to find happiness in this world demonstrates the existence of God: “Argument From Desire.” I have not read extensively on the question posed, but the best book I have read so far is The Graced Horizon by Stephen J. Duffy.
What I have not been able to find so far is a solid scholarly presentation of how the Church Fathers addressed, to the extent that they did, the question of humanity’s natural desire for God.
John Milbank briefly talks about the significance of the theology of Henri de Lubac in this YouTube interview:
Milbank advances a controversial and controverted reading of de Lubac and the natural desire for God in his book The Suspended Middle, which I have not read. Have you read it? What is your assessment of it?