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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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The concepts of faith, hope, and charity are pro-
foundly interrelated and in reality not clearly distin-
guishable. The object of this article is not to detail their
history—a process which would be impossible in so
short a space. Rather, the article will attempt to il-
lumine some of the points of interrelatedness frequently
overlooked in historical surveys—interrelatedness
among these concepts themselves in their development
and between them and other phenomena—political,
social, and psychological.

The connections among the ideas of faith, hope, and
charity are problematic to many scholars. The problem
can be seen as rooted to some extent in the conflict
between two distinct conceptions of love—eros and
agapē—which were united in the Christian conception
of charity.

The idea of eros was derived largely from the phi-
losophy of Plato, for whom it meant a love of man
for the divine, a desire by which man seeks a contem-
plation which will be wholly satisfying (Symposium
210A-E). The contemplation or possession of the Good,
according to Plato, is attained by a difficult ascent
above the transient things of the world. Eros, then, is
an appetite for the Good, which is sought not for its
own sake but in order to satisfy spiritual desire. Since
this yearning is basically for the extension of one's own
being, it may in this sense be called egocentric.

In the New Testament eros is largely overlooked in
favor of agapē. The latter is not simply another Greek
term for love. What is being conveyed is a very distinct
attitude. In the fullest sense agapē is God's love. It
is generous love, not appetitive in the sense that there
is need to satisfy that in oneself which is incomplete,
not stimulated by or dependent upon that which is
loved. It is indifferent to value, seeking to confer good,
rather than to obtain it. It is therefore spontaneous and
creative, and it is rooted in abundance rather than in


poverty. In this sense God himself is called love (I John
4:8). The use of the agapē idea to convey the Christian's
attitude toward God is therefore problematic. There
are a few passages in the Pauline epistles in which
agapē is used in the sense of love toward God (e.g.,
Romans 8:28; I Corinthians 2:9; 8:3; Ephesians 6:24).
Nevertheless, the use of the term in this sense is infre-
quent in Paul. He does use it frequently to denote the
Christian attitude to one's neighbor, however.

Recognizing the problem involved in describing the
Christian's attitude toward God by the term “agapē,
a controversial scholar argued that in the epistles of
Paul, especially, man's attitude of response to God is
more clearly expressed by the word “faith.” “Faith
includes in itself the whole devotion of love, while
emphasizing that it has the character of a response,
that it is reciprocated love” (Nygren [1953], p. 127).
While this interpretation can be and has been debated,
it indicates the inseparability of the ideas of faith and
love and the futility of divisions and distinctions which
are too neat and simplified.

In the writings of the Church Fathers new develop-
ments can be seen. In some of these writings eros seems
to come to the fore in the interpretation of Christian
love of God. That is, there is a tendency to speak
primarily in terms of possession of God. Related to this
is a tendency to distinguish between “mere faith” and
Christian “gnosis.” Within this frame of reference, the
mere believer is understood to have what is essentially
necessary for salvation, that is, he has been brought
into relationship with God, but his understanding is
superficial. In contrast to this, gnosis implies a kind
of possession, that is, true knowledge of God. Thus
Clement of Alexandria wrote that faith points beyond
itself to a higher and more perfect stage, that is, gnosis
(Stromata VII, Ch. x. 55, 3). According to this view,
then, there are two stages of development, and the true
Gnostic is the Christian who has reached a higher plane
of vision. Since he has true insight into Scripture, he
does not depend upon external authority as does the
mere believer. This pattern of thinking is strongly
reflected also in Origen, whose notion of Christian love
is developed in terms of eros. Characteristically he also
described two levels of the Christian life, that of mere
faith and that of gnosis.

A synthesis of the eros theme and the agapē theme
was achieved by Augustine in his development of the
conception of Christian charity. The combination of
these two themes is suggested by the fact that he was
able to write of an “ascent” of the soul toward a
“vision” of God (by a “ladder” of virtue, speculation,
and mysticism) and yet also to affirm the utter sover-
eignty, gratuitousness, and spontaneity of divine love
and grace. There is rich content in Augustine's view
of love—God's love, love of God, love of neighbor—
but the most usual meaning of charity for him is man's
love of God. This charity is absolutely central to the
Christian life. Without it, faith and hope cannot estab-
lish the right relationship to God. The following state-
ment is significant: “When it is asked whether a man
is good, one does not ask what he believes or hopes,
but what he loves” (Enchiridion, Ch. cxvii. 31).

Augustine's problematic synthesis was the major
source of medieval speculation on faith, hope, and
charity. While this is generally recognized, it would
be misleading to assume that there were not other
influences upon medieval thought. One of the most
important was an author known as “Pseudo-Dionysius,”
who wrote about the year 500 A.D. What comes
through most strongly in the works of this author is
the idea of love (eros) as a unifying and cohesive force
pervading the whole universe (De divinis nominibus,
Ch. iv, n. xv). He strongly emphasizes the symbolism
of ascent to God by the ladder of virtue, speculation,
and mysticism. The ideas of Dionysius began to have
impact upon the West in the ninth century, largely
through the work of John Scotus Erigena, who stresses
the idea that God is eros to himself, and when we
love God it is really God loving himself through us.

In the Middle Ages the most cohesive and original
synthesis of Christian thought on the virtues of faith,
hope, and charity is most probably that of Thomas
Aquinas, who conceptualizes them as three distinct but
interdependent supernatural, infused, “theological”
virtues directing man to God. Thomas's doctrine later
became officially accepted in Roman Catholicism. Like
Bonaventure and the medieval Augustinians he con-
sidered himself a disciple of Augustine, but Aquinas
is too complex a thinker to be classified simply in this
manner. What is radically different in his thought stems
from a conscious choice to adopt Aristotelianism into
his synthesis, and this marriage of Aristotelian philoso-
phy with Augustinian Platonism profoundly affected
the course of Christian thought for centuries to come.
Although Thomas treats of faith, hope, and charity in
that order, there is some point in focusing first upon
what he does with the idea of charity and then seeing
the other concepts in relation to this.

In his analysis of charity, Thomas follows Aristotle's
distinction between love of concupiscence, which he
takes to mean desire of the other's good for oneself,
and love of benevolence, according to which the other's
good is willed for his own (the other's) sake. Within
this context, friendship is understood as mutual love
of benevolence. Friendship, however, does not pre-
cisely exclude concupiscence. Rather, because of a
similarity perceived between the self and the other,
one is able to expand his “selfish” love, the benevolence


that he has for himself, to the other. In his doctrine
on charity, what Thomas does is to extend the Aris-
totelian notion of friendship into the “supernatural”
order, so that charity is seen as friendship of man for
God. He does not intend to minimize the infinite dis-
tance between man and God. Indeed, the charity of
which he speaks is the result of grace; it is infused
with sanctifying grace, a totally gratuitous gift of God
by which man is enabled supernaturally to participate
in the divine life. As a result of this divine self-
communication man is “to the likeness of God” in a
special way. He is raised to a state of friendship with
God and is supernaturally united to God (Summa The-
II-II, q. 23, a. 1 and 2).

For Thomas, charity is not only the most excellent
of the virtues but also the “form” of all the others,
so that without charity they cannot be strictly true
virtues (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 23, a. 7 and 8).
It exists in the will of those who have sanctifying grace
(“will” is understood as a faculty of the soul distinct
from the intellect) and it extends to one's neighbor as
well as to God, since what one wills to one's neighbor
is that he may be in God. Although Thomas has been
criticized for his insertion of charity into the seemingly
mundane category of friendship, it is evident that there
was no intent to detract from the absolute sovereignty
of God's grace but rather to cope with the difficult
problem of reconciling man's basic drive for self-
fulfillment with the traditional doctrine of the to-
tally gratuitous quality of God's gift of grace and the

The inherent difficulties in Thomas's treatment of
the theological virtues show up more clearly in his
handling of faith and hope. Since for him the basic
thrust of the will toward God made possible by grace
is charity, faith is understood as a virtue in the intellect.
However, since there is a lack of evidence, since the
object of faith is unseen, the act of faith requires also
a will act. Thus he can say that “to believe is to think
with assent” (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 2, a. 1).
Although Thomas's thought is far more subtle and
complex than that of most of his disciples and of the
great body of Catholic theologians in recent centuries,
it is undeniable that this notion of faith invites deterio-
ration into what has rightly been called a distortion
of faith—“the will to believe.” The distortion has been
aptly described by theologian Paul Tillich:

In classical Roman Catholic theology the “will to believe”
is not an act which originates in man's striving, but it is
given by grace to him whose will is moved by God to accept
the truth of what the Church teaches.... This kind of
interpretation agrees with the authoritarian attitude of the
Roman Church

(Tillich [1957], p. 36).

This tendency to deterioration from a profound and
authentic inner commitment of the personality into a
“thinking with assent” to certain propositions on au-
thority involves a surrender of autonomy, a descent
into a heteronomous, or “other-directed” situation. At
its worst, this means that the capacity for intellectual
honesty as well as for religious experience is profoundly
damaged and psychic infantilism in religious matters
is encouraged. It means also that the sense of relativity
is lost and that religious symbols cannot be appreciated
as such. Then dogmatic literalism or verbal funda-
mentalism becomes the believer's surrogate for deep
religious awareness.

Closely related to the idea of the act of faith as
thinking with assent is the distinction between explicit
and implicit faith. It is not surprising that Thomas
keeps this distinction, maintaining that “men of higher
degree, whose business is to teach others, are under
obligation to have fuller knowledge of matters of faith,
and to believe them more explicitly” (Summa Theolog-
II-II, q. 2, a. 6). This distinction has been charac-
teristic of Roman Catholic theology ever since, and
it implies that for the masses of people subjection of
personal judgment to religious authority is necessary.
As Max Weber pointed out, fides implicita really in-
volves a placing of confidence in and dedication to a
prophet or to the authority of a structured institution.
Weber maintains that the faith of Abraham, Jesus, and
Paul had the central significance of reliance upon the
promises of God, and was no intellectual assertion of
dogmas. When it becomes an assertion of dogmas and
when the distinction between explicit and implicit faith
is made, it works out that the institutional church, with
its hierarchy of priests and preachers, gains great

Also interrelated with Thomas's conception of the
act of faith, and with his distinction between explicit
and implicit faith, is his handling of the problem of
man's knowledge of God. Whereas in the Augustinian-
Anselmian tradition God's existence was considered to
be self-evident, Thomas rejected this idea of God's
self-evidence to us and proposed elaborate demon-
strations based in large measure upon Aristotelian
principles. Because of this complexity, it was natural
to conclude that “the truth about God such as reason
could discover would only be known by a few, and
that after a long time, and with the admixture of many
errors” (Summa Theologica, I, q. 1, a. 1). This meant
that for most men, incapable of such mediating dis-
course, ecclesiastical authority came to be judged nec-
essary for knowledge even of God's existence.

Thomas's idea of hope as a supernaturally infused
virtue in the will is also problematic. For him, the
proper and principal object of this virtue is eternal


happiness, seen as attainable through divine assistance,
although we may hope for other things secondarily and
as related to eternal happiness (Summa Theologica,
II-II, q. 17, a. 2). Although many Christians have found
this idea meaningful in itself, there are basic difficulties
which are attached more to what is not said than to
what is actually said. This presentation of hope reflects
the fundamentally otherworldly mentality of the Mid-
dle Ages—a mentality which was insensitive to the
facts of social injustice and of human suffering because
it saw these facts as universal and unchangeable. The
medieval mind tended to view this world essentially
as a vale of tears, the injustices of which would be
remedied in the life to come. It saw the universe and
society as hierarchical. Each person, whether he was
noble or peasant, cleric or layman, had his state of life
assigned to him by divine providence, and everything
would be satisfactorily explained at the Last Judgment.
There was little experience or conception of social
mobility and basically no conception of radical social
reform. This general outlook helped to form Thomas's
view of hope.

It would not be farfetched to infer that there are
psychological connections between this otherworldly
conception of hope and the idea of faith as an assent
to propositions, with its subsequent distinction into
explicit and implicit faith. Both ideas reflect and rein-
force a conditioning process by which subjection to
authority, particularly to ecclesiastical authority, is
made acceptable. Moreover, this conception of hope
is related to the stress on union with God in the
Thomistic idea of charity. On the whole, then, it must
be concluded that in the Thomistic synthesis human
transcendence is seen primarily in terms of reaching
out toward attainment of infinite Good, rather than
in terms of creative effort to transform the human
situation in this world.

The Protestant Reformation, of course, brought a
strong reaction against medieval thought. Luther ob-
jected violently to what appeared to him to be the
egocentric character of the medieval ideas of the theo-
logical virtues. He was repulsed by the idea, so strongly
expressed in Thomas, of friendship with God on God's
level made possible by transforming grace. Luther's
basic objection was to any implication that man is
loved by God because of man's own worth. He wished
above all to stress the unmotivated character of God's
love and the continued sinfulness of the justified sinner.
He therefore struggled against the “ladder” symbolism
of medieval piety. For Luther, the Christian receives
God's love by faith and then mediates this to his neigh-
bor. When he insisted upon justification by faith alone
he wished to stress that God's love for man is com-
pletely unmerited.

The problems raised by the medieval synthesis of
the virtues of faith, hope, and charity and by Luther's
critique are complex and have wide ramifications for
ethics and politics as well as for theology.

First of all, there is the problem of moral insensitivity
in relation to social structures. The Catholic stress upon
faith as thinking with assent, and upon the distinction
between explicit and implicit faith, although it was
hardly conducive to revolutionary activity as regards
the church's structures, could induce a certain inde-
pendence of the secular power, particularly if that
power were not supported by the church. An acute
observer of this phenomenon, the seventeenth-century
philosopher Thomas Hobbes, wrote, in regard to the
doctrines of infused virtue and of transubstantiation:
“For who will endeavor to obey the laws, if he expect
obedience to be poured or blown into him? Or who
will not obey a priest, that can make God, rather than
his sovereign; nay than God himself?” (Leviathan, IV,
46). However, basically this idea of faith worked for
the established order insofar as that order was sup-
ported by the church. The medieval church and
Catholicism for centuries afterward saw social and
political reform as superfluous.

On the other hand, critical analysis of Luther's doc-
trine also uncovers serious problems of ethical motiva-
tion, since stress is placed upon salvation by faith alone.
Max Weber points out that, given this frame of refer-
ence, “every rational and planned procedure for
achieving salvation, every reliance on good works, and
above all every effort to surpass normal ethical behav-
ior by ascetic achievement, is regarded by religion
based on faith as a wicked preoccupation with purely
human powers” (Weber [1963], p. 198). According to
Weber's analysis what happens is a complicated series
of phenomena. Transworldly asceticism and monasti-
cism tend to be rejected when salvation by faith is
stressed, and as a result there may be an increased
emphasis upon vocational activity within the world.
However, the emphasis upon personal religious rela-
tionship to God tends to be accompanied by an attitude
of individualism in pursuit of such worldly vocational
activity. The consequence is an attitude of patient
resignation regarding institutional structures, both
worldly and churchly. Thus Lutheranism too lacked
motivation toward revolutionary activity in society.

A second serious difficulty closely related to this, and
inherent both in the medieval synthesis and in the
Protestant ethic is the deterioration of the meaning
of charity into the sense it may have in such expressions
as “charity bazaar” or “charity case.” What is involved
in this deterioration, aside from a delusory idealizing
of selflessness vis-à-vis less fortunate neighbors, is a
lack of concern for the transformation of the alienating


structures themselves which are at the root of social
injustice. It is noteworthy that both Augustine and
Thomas accepted the institution of slavery, and that
Thomas, in the same work in which he developed his
long treatise on charity, upheld the idea that slavery
is in some way natural, and that the master has a special
right of domination, including the right to beat his
slave (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 57, a. 3 and 4; q.
65, a. 2). “Charity” then becomes a substitute for
political, economic, and social reform, and the church
functions as a distraction from commitment to such

A third difficulty, also closely interrelated with the
others has to do with the exclusiveness which is in-
herent in a notion of faith which is somehow reducible
to a “will to believe,” whether it be the idea of faith
as assent to propositions mediated by the church's
authority, which was the distortion growing out of
medieval catholicism, or whether it be the Protestant
version of “will to believe,” characteristic of the notion
of faith found in Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. The
most scathing criticism of the latter was expressed by
philosopher Karl Jaspers, who wrote of Bultmann's idea
of justification by faith in the redemptive history: “For
a philosopher this is the most alienating, the most
outlandish of beliefs—this Lutheran dogma with its
terrible consequences scarcely seems any longer even
denotative existentially” (Jaspers [1958], p. 50). The
basic reason for Jaspers' objection to this idea of faith
is its lack of universality. He sees this chiefly in terms
of the fact that the doctrine as presented does not
correspond to universal human experience, and in
terms of the fact that it excludes the possibility of faith
or revelation for those who have not received the
biblical message. This exclusiveness has been noted
with alarm by others as well. Indeed, so widespread
is the conception of Christianity as exclusive that a
historian of the stature of Arnold Toynbee has seen
intolerance as one of the outstanding characteristics
of Christianity.

It is not surprising, then, that in modern times there
have been violent reactions to Christian belief. Modern
atheism has in large measure been a revolt against the
distortions of faith, hope, and charity in traditional
Christianity. When in the nineteenth century Nietzsche
proclaimed the “death of God” he was not merely
declaring that the age of unbelief in an entity named
“God” had arrived. Rather, the “death of God” served
as a symbolic means of conveying the impending death
of an entire world view, of a static, otherworldly vision
of reality. Included in that vision which Nietzsche so
violently rejected was the hypocrisy of traditional
Christian morality—which he labeled “slave morality.”
Other major thinkers of modern and contemporary
times, such as Feuerbach, Freud, Camus, and Sartre,
have rejected Christianity for a variety of reasons, but
all share a fundamental antipathy to a world view
which they have seen as basically at odds with man's
deepest striving toward a validly human realization of
faith, hope, and love. Many Christians too, while re-
taining their identity as such, have shared to some
extent this widespread disillusionment. Theologian
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, declared that he
considered the attack of Christianity upon the adult-
hood of the world to be in the first place pointless,
in the second ignoble, and in the third un-Christian.
Of all modern critiques of Christianity, however, prob-
ably that which is most directly relevant to the ideas
of faith, hope, and charity is that which has developed
out of Marxism. This is particularly important in view
of the cross-fertilization process which is now taking
place through Christian-Marxist dialogue, and which
has contributed to the development of a new theology
of hope.

Marxism has atheism as a presupposition; its primary
concern is man. It defines man as a working being who
enters into his humanity by transforming the world.
The Marxist does not see transcendence as an act of
God calling man; rather he sees it as a dimension of
man's own activity reaching out beyond itself. Con-
temporary Marxist theoreticians such as Roger
Garaudy are concerned to maintain an absolute open-
ness to the future. Their attitude is one of creative
hope, but it is a purely human hope, not utopian or
content with the world as it is, but bent upon trans-
formation of the world, and upon the liberation of man
from all alienation, material and moral. One might ask
why atheism appears to them to be necessary for the
attainment of this goal. Garaudy, one of those Marxists
who are most able to communicate with progressive
Christian theologians, suggests the answer:

If we reject the very name of God, it is because the name
implies a presence, a reality, whereas it is only an exigency
which we live, a never-satisfied exigency of totality and
absoluteness, of omnipotence as to nature and of perfect
loving reciprocity of consciousness

(Garaudy [1966], p. 94).

In effect, Garaudy distinguishes his position on man's
hope from that of even the most progressive Christian
thinkers by saying that the exigency of the Christian
for the infinite is experienced or expressed as presence,
whereas for him it is absence. This philosophical atti-
tude is similar to that of another influential Marxist,
Ernst Bloch, who also rejects the Christian tendency
to hypostatize the future into an already existing God.

Aside from this metaphysical difference, there is also
an undisguised distrust for Christianity because of its
historical record of teaching resignation in the face of


exploitation and oppression. The support given in the
past and still given by the churches to the forces that
exploit and oppress human beings is an acknowledged
obstacle even for the more open Marxists to acceptance
of the Christian contribution to human progress. Some
of them, however, have overcome confusion between
the deep nature of faith as commitment to transcend-
ence and the transitory expressions and ideologies in
which it is encased. These few avant-garde Marxists,
such as Bloch and Garaudy, may have been helped in
this respect by dialogue with some avant-garde theolo-
gians. In any case they are in advance of the vast body
both of Christians and of Marxists.

The criticisms of modern secular humanists and in
particular of modern day Marxists have not been lost
upon some Christian thinkers, who have taken upon
themselves the task of rethinking the Christian tradi-
tion for those living in the age of “the death of God.”
It is not by accident that the most powerful recent
trend in theology has been a new “theology of hope,”
rather than a “theology of faith” or of charity. This
does not by any means signify a minimizing of these
latter ideas; rather, it indicates the central focus of
interest in contemporary theology and in the contem-
porary consciousness: the future.

One of the first Christian thinkers to confront the
Marxist criticism was the Jesuit scientist, poet, philoso-
pher, and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Teilhard proclaimed almost poetically his sense of
belonging to that half of mankind which sees the seem-
ingly fixed and random universe as moving forward,
and expressed his anguish at the failure of traditional
Christianity to proclaim this evolutionary vision. At
the heart of the modern religious crisis he saw a conflict
within faith between the “forward” impulse toward
progress in humanization of this planet and the tradi-
tional “upward” impulse of religious worship. He saw
this conflict as an apparent rather than a real contra-
diction because it is the inherent task and function of
the church to Christianize all that is human in man.
Yet since church authority has in fact failed to embrace
everything that is human on earth, the unity of which
we dream seems to beckon us in two different direc-
tions. Thus “we see the dramatic growth of a whole
race of 'spiritual expatriates'—human beings torn be-
tween a Marxism whose depersonalizing effect revolts
them and a Christianity so lukewarm in human terms
that it sickens them” (Teilhard de Chardin [1964], p.
268). Teilhard's prophetic vision reached out toward
a synthesis to be attained in the future through the
interaction of Marxism and Christianity—toward the
birth of a faith that would embrace total commitment
both to the world and to God.

In the 1960's the theologians of hope began to for
mulate in a more precise way the implications of such
insights. Johannes Metz—a German theologian who
communicates well with American intellectuals—
stresses the character of Christian hope as creative
rather than passive wishful thinking. This hope is by
no means utopian; in its attempt to reform the world
it recognizes the inseparability of the cross and the
resurrection. It recognizes the reality of human aliena-
tion, of the pain of finiteness, of death. It strives to
look steadily at these realities and to work through
them; hence its characteristic of being a hope-against-
hope. Rather than being a purely individualistic hope
for personal salvation abstracted from the realities of
this world, it is of a radically social and political nature,
attempting to reach out toward the “God of
Abraham”—the “God before us”—through commit-
ment to transformation of the alienating structures of
this world. For Metz, the responsibility of Christian
hope towards the world, then, implies the idea of a
“political theology” and of “creative eschatology.”

Another important voice among the future-oriented
theologians is Wolfgang Pannenberg, whose highly
speculative work reconsiders some of the basic as-
sumptions of Hellenized theological tradition. The list
of ground-breaking thinkers also includes Leslie
Dewart and Harvey Cox. However, there is no major
theologian in this area to whom indebtedness is more
universally acknowledged than Jürgen Moltmann, au-
thor of Theologie der Hoffnung. While it would be
impossible to summarize here the wealth of his
thought, a few points can be made. For Moltmann,
the eschatological is the medium of the Christian faith
as such, the key in which everything in it is set. Since
Christian faith lives in hope, there is only one real
problem in Christian theology—the problem of the
future—and hope is the foundation of theological
thinking as such. Moltmann takes a strong stand against
the mysticism of being because he thinks it presupposes
an immediacy to God which the faith that believes
in God on the ground of Christ cannot validly adopt.
Future-oriented, he rejects much of the Hellenic world
view. For him, all knowledge in faith is anticipatory
and fragmentary; its mobilizing force is hope, through
the medium of which all theological judgments func-
tion as showing reality its future possibilities. More-
over, “creative action springing from faith is impossible
without new thinking and planning that springs from
hope” (Moltmann [1967], p. 35). Moltmann's theology
of hope understands history as a reality instituted by
promise. That is, there is a relation between promissio
and missio such that the Christian consciousness of
history is a consciousness of mission. In this view, then,
the reality of man is historic and progressive, and
revelation too is progressive in that it creates progress.


However promising may be the work of the theolo-
gians of hope, however, it should be recognized that
the number of people alienated from Christianity is
enormous. To countless educated persons the various
forms of secular humanism—scientific, ethical, and
political—continue to seem more authentic than even
the most enlightened manifestations of Christianity.
Indeed, the quest for authenticity in faith, hope, and
love is a notable characteristic of the contemporary
attitude, particularly among the young. It is perhaps
for this reason that a thinker such as Albert Camus
continues to have such influence. In The Myth of
he sets forth a powerful symbol in the figure
of Sisyphus the absurd hero, doomed for eternity to
push a rock up a hill, only to have it roll down again,
and who yet is greater than his fate because he is
conscious of it, conscious that he has no hope of suc-
ceeding. When Camus claims that there is but one
serious philosophical problem, namely suicide, his in-
tention is to face up to the hopelessness of finitude.
Philosophical suicide, the irrationalist's leap of faith,
is rejected as an inadequate response to the problem
of the absurd. The only adequate response is to live
in the face of the absurd, refusing to escape.

The theologians of hope are attempting to take into
account this modern demand for utter honesty and
authenticity. Hence the repeated insistence that Chris-
tian hope is not utopian, that it is hope “in spite of,”
that it is hope-against-hope. Having absorbed into its
consciousness the full weight of modern man's sense
of ambiguity and having proclaimed that all religious
understanding is fragmentary and anticipatory, crea-
tive modern theology appears to have made a qualita-
tive leap beyond the dogmatism of the past. However,
there is room for serious doubt about whether institu-
tional religion will be able to meet the challenge of

A central difficulty lies in the fact that institutional
religion is subject to a process of routinization, by
which structures, persons, places, and things become
sacralized and faith itself becomes transformed into a
thing or object. One author notes with amazement the
way in which this objectification has occurred in
Christianity: “The peculiarity of the place given to
belief in Christian history is a monumental matter
whose importance and whose relative uniqueness must
be appreciated” (Smith [1963], p. 180). In fact, most
Westerners are unsuspecting about this and tend to
think of the question of belief as a primary one. In
any event, institutionalized Christianity has tended to
lose sight of the original revelatory experience which
gave it its being and to focus upon transitory ideologies
and structures as if these were ultimate.

Catholicism especially has in recent centuries re
acted against modernity in a manner typical of severely
threatened communities. The Roman Index of Forbid-
den Books, the Syllabus of Errors, the Anti-Modernist
Oath, all reflected this sense of threat. Its defensiveness
expressed itself in a kind of hyper-rationalism and a
verbal fundamentalism which functioned to separate
true believers from heretics, the sheep from the goats.
Yet if Catholicism has displayed a marked tendency
toward ossification, it has also managed to preserve the
Christian symbols. By contrast, Protestantism, which
to a greater extent has sustained a spirit of self-
criticism, has tended to experience the death of reli-
gious symbols and fatal acculturation. Indeed, since
the Reformation, Catholicism and Protestantism have
functioned as separate historical embodiments of
different and complementary aspects of Christian faith.
It is coming to be recognized that continued reactuali-
zation of this faith, motivated by creative hope, will
require a meeting of these opposites in striving toward
a qualitatively higher union than has existed in the past,
in order that those who still call themselves Christians
may dare to speak to the modern world again about


The principal biblical and patristic texts are discussed
in A. Nygren, Den kristna kärlekstanden genom tiderna
(Stockholm, 1936); trans. P. S. Watson as Agape and Eros
(Philadelphia, 1953). See also especially P. Berger, The
Sacred Canopy
(New York, 1967); E. Bloch, Das Princip
(Frankfurt, 1959); A. Camus, le mythe de Sisyphe
(Paris, 1942), trans. as The Myth of Sisyphus & Other Essays
(New York, 1955; and repr.); Cross Currents, 18, 3 (1968); R.
Garaudy, De l'anathème au dialogue (Paris, 1965), trans. L.
O'Neill as From Anathema to Dialogue (New York, 1966);
K. Jaspers and R. Bultmann, DieFrage der Entmytholog-
(Munich, 1954), trans. as Myth and Christianity
(New York, 1958); M. Marty and D. Peerman, eds., New
Theology No. 5
(New York, 1968); J. Moltmann, Theologie
der Hoffnung
(Munich, 1965), trans. J. Leitch as Theology
of Hope
(New York, 1967); T. O'Dea, The Catholic Crisis
(Boston, 1968); W. C. Smith, The Meaning and End of
Religion. A New Approach to the Religious Tradition of
(New York, 1963); T. Steeman, “The Underground
Church: The Forms and Dynamics of Change in Contem-
porary Catholicism,” The Religious Situation: 1969, ed. D.
Cutler (Boston, 1969), pp. 713-48; P. Teilhard de Chardin,
L'avenir de l'homme (Paris, 1959), trans. N. Denny as The
Future of Man
(New York, 1964); P. Tillich, The Courage
to Be
(New Haven, 1952); idem, Dynamics of Faith (New
York, 1957); idem, The Protestant Era, trans. J. L. Adams
(Chicago, 1948); A. Toynbee, Christianity among the Reli-
gions of the World
(New York, 1957); E. Troeltsch, Die
Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen

(Tübingen, 1911), trans. O. Wyon as The Social Teaching


of the Christian Churches, 2 vols. (1931; reprint New York,
1960); M. Weber, “Religionssoziologie,” Wirtschaft und
(Tübingen, 1922; 1956), trans. E. Fischoff as
Sociology of Religion (Boston, 1963).


[See also Authority; Church as an Institution; Gnosticism;
God; Love; Reformation; Socialism; Women.]