Hans Boersma


Nouvelle Théologie & Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery


In the decades leading up to the Second Vatican Council, the movement of nouvelle théologie caused great controversy in the Catholic Church and remains a subject of vigorous scholarly debate today. In Nouvelle théologie and Sacramental Ontology Hans Boersma argues that a return to mystery was the movement's deepest motivation.

Countering the modern intellectualism of the neo-Thomist establishment, the nouvelle theologians were convinced that a ressourcement of the Church Fathers and of medieval theology would point the way to a sacramental reintegration of nature and the supernatural. In the context of the loss suffered by both Catholics and Protestants in the de-sacramentalizing of modernity, Boersma shows how the sacramental ontology of nouvelle théologie offers a solid entry-point into ecumenical dialogue.

The volume begins by setting the historical context for nouvelle théologie with discussions of the influence of significant theologians and philosophers like Möhler, Blondel, Maréchal, and Rousselot. The exposition then moves to the writings of key thinkers of the ressourcement movement including de Lubac, Bouillard, Balthasar, Chenu, Daniélou, Charlier, and Congar. Boersma analyses the most characteristic elements of the movement: its reintegration of nature and the supernatural, its reintroduction of the spiritual interpretation of Scripture, its approach to Tradition as organically developing in history, and its communion ecclesiology that regarded the Church as sacrament of Christ. In each of these areas, Boersma demonstrates how the nouvelle theologians advocated a return to mystery by means of a sacramental ontology.



...provides enough background and references related to the ideas and disputes surrounding the nouvelle théologie that the interested reader can easily pursue a given issue more deeply...Specialists as well as those with a more general interest in theology should find the author’s insights and overarching thesis worth engaging.
— Bryan Kromholtz, O.P. The Thomist 29/11/2011
..very instructive and meticulously researched...a very welcome and much-needed first treatment of a group of figures as a group, and will no doubt bear fruit in the further research it inspires.
— Peter M. Candler Jr., The Journal of Theological Studies Vol 62 Part 2 Oct 2011 29/11/11
this is a must read book... It is for those that are hungry and hunger for a more meaningful faith.
— Ron Dart, Clarion Journal
Uniting a breadth of theological themes with its exploration of sacramental depths, B.’s book is one of the best introductions to the Nouvelle Théologie.
— Joseph S. Flipper, Theological Studies 09/05/12
This scrupulously well-documented book is the fruit of a labour of love.
— Philip Kennedy, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 09/05/12
I have rarely, if ever, encountered such an assured and reliable penetration of a Catholic mindset from someone outside that tradition as that achieved here by Boersma.
— John Sullivan, Heythrop Journal 09/05/12
The author is to be warmly congratulated on a book that is both thoroughly researched and pleasingly written, an exercise in good, solid, purposeful scholarship, which sustains the reader’s interest.
— Stephen N. Williams, Themelios 09/05/12
Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery is a true contribution to ecumenical theology. It should be essential reading for ministerial students in the Protestant tradition and for Catholic seminarians, as well as students in faculties of education, religious studies and theology.
— Gabriel Flynn, Irish Theological Quarterly 09/05/12


1. Introduction: The Rupture between Theology and Life
2. Eyes of Faith: Precursors to a Sacramental Ontology
3. The Mystery of Faith: De Lubac and Bouillard on Nature and the Supernatural
4. The Law of the Incarnation: Balthasar and Chenu on Nature and the Supernatural
5. A Wheel Within a Wheel: Spiritual Interpretation in De Lubac and Daniélou
6. Living Tradition: Recovering History for the Church
7. The Church as Sacrament: The Ecclesiology of De Lubac and Congar
8. Conclusion: The Future of Ressourcement