Boersma on Nouvelle Theologie's "Sacramental Ontology"
Contemporary debates in “postmodern” theology often return to ground covered by a mid-twentieth century Catholic theological “sensibility” described as la nouvelle théologie (particularly questions of nature and grace, immanence and transcendence). A movement of ressourcement, these nouvelle theologians looked to the ancient fathers as a resource for engaging contemporary culture. And it is just this sort of constructive retrieval that characterizes much of the best work now being done in theology, which is why Hans Boersma's new book, Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery (Oxford UP, 2009) is such a gift. Boersma’s comprehensive, carefully-researched monograph will now stand as a classic study of this movement. Immersed in the primary documents, but with one eye on contemporary debates, Boersma especially shows that what was at stake in nouvelle théologie was a comprehensive vision of culture. These were not just intramural debates in ecclesiology or liturgical theology; nouvelle théologie was concerned with nothing short of a sacramental ontology—a theological account of the nature of reality per se. It is this ontology that unifies a coherent theological “sensibility” associated with a diverse array of theologians. Boersma also provides a reading which sees the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as extensions of the ressourcement vision rather than a derailing of it. Indispensible.