Me: The thing is, I feel like I could prepare and teach an adequate grad class in biblical or historical theology now, but teaching this stuff... trying to get it all straight in my head: Rahner's understanding of grace and nature, von Balthasar's position, de Lubac, and the rest... well, it's just embarrassing that I won't even be able to have an adequate conversation with you on this material for another twenty years!
Coffey: Michael, not so! Ten, I should think.
We just had a very good seminar, in fact, and I realized today that part of my difficulty--the idea I've been more-or-less maintaining that there can be in humanity a natural desire for God in Himself; a desire that is not a grace itself (what Rahner calls the supernatural existential)--comes from all my reading in the patristic and medieval writers, and even up to the 20th century. They had not yet come to make this distinction theologically and so all of their language legitimately uses this sort of perspective: the Platonic longing leading all the way to God whether in Origen, Augustine, Bonaventure, or Lewis. But having now realized since 1950 or so the importance of the distinction between a concept of "pure nature" in humanity, and the actual quiddity or de facto reality of human nature having added to it a supernatural existential--a grace that orients all humanity to a personal, divine end in God Himself--we have to come up with some kind of language that isn't über-complicated like the crap I've just written (which really does make sense), and connects more directly and accessibly to the spiritual lives of people. Hmmm.....