Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (School of Philosophy and Theology)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Professor Tracey Rowland

Second Supervisor

Professor Renée Köhler-Ryan

Third Supervisor

Doctor Paul Morrissey


The hope and history debate in twentieth century Catholic theology concerned to what extent the object(s) of eschatological hope could be realised within history. Its context was the ‘secularisation of Christian eschatology’. On the one hand, Joseph Ratzinger, who was indebted to the philosophical work of Josef Pieper, considered hope’s object to belong to the realm of gift. He was sceptical of the extent to which hope could be manufactured by human means within history. On the other, Edward Schillebeeckx, Johann Baptist Metz and Gustavo Gutiérrez presented theologies of futurity, including political theology and liberation theology, in which the realisation of eschatological goals in the historical future became an important object of hope.

The protagonists’ positions depended upon the decisions they took in fundamental theology. They are aligned in broad terms to the Communio and Concilium ‘schools’ of post-conciliar Catholic theology. These ‘schools’ embody importantly different presentations of fundamental theology still at large today. The different areas of fundamental theology engaged by the hope-history debate include metaphysics and the philosophy of history, Christology, the nature-grace debate and soteriology. The Communio perspective on fundamental theology, represented by Ratzinger, adopts an analogical metaphysics and a theology of history aware of the limits of any philosophy of history and its claims to exhaustive knowledge of history’s progress. It privileges the place of Christ, understood in Chalcedonian terms, in the understanding of hope and salvation history, his novelty in relation to nature and his centrality to the redemption. The Concilium interpretation, represented by Schillebeeckx, Metz and Gutiérrez, incorporate elements of Hegelian-Marxist philosophy, view Christ through politico-historical lens and adopt a Rahnerian theology of grace, in which Christ’s novelty and centrality to nature, grace and the redemption are downplayed, and the redemption is understood as involving the integration of historical and eschatological reality.

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