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Icons of Hope

The "Last Things" in Catholic Imagination

John E. Thiel

Publication Year: 2013

In Icons of Hope: The "Last Things" in Catholic Imagination, John Thiel, one of the most influential Catholic theologians today, argues that modern theologians have been unduly reticent in their writing about "last things": death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Beholden to a historical-critical standard of interpretation, they often have been reluctant to engage in eschatological reflection that takes the doctrine of the "last things" seriously as real events that Christians are obliged to imagine meaningfully and to describe with some measure of faithful coherence. Modern theology's religious pluralism leaves room for a speculative style of interpretation that issues in icons of hope—theological portraits of resurrected life that can inform and inspire the life of faith. Icons of Hope presents an interpretation of heavenly life, the Last Judgment, and the communion of the saints that is shaped by a view of the activity of the blessed dead consistent with Christian belief in the resurrection of the body, namely, the view that the blessed dead in heaven continue to be eschatologically engaged in the redemptive task of forgiveness.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

Once again, I have been fortunate to have the experience of just how communal a project writing a book is. So much of it seems to be a solitary exercise, and so much of it is. But all the hours of reading and writing alone would be so much less productive—if they could be productive at all—were they not informed by insights gained through ...

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Chapter 1: For What May We Hope?

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pp. 1-23

In an essay entitled “Last Things First? The Century of Eschatology in Retrospect,” Christoph Schwöbel observes that the twentieth century “could correctly be called the century of eschatology.”1 In the first years of the century, Albert Schweitzer’s groundbreaking work The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906) highlighted the eschatological ...

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Chapter 2: Imagining the Life of the Blessed Dead

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pp. 25-55

If meaningful speculation about the last things is a legitimate option for contemporary theologians, then what exactly should they take as their subject matter? And how should their imaginations go about the task of representing the claims of Christian hope? There is no circumscribed answer to the first question. Theologians, and all ...

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Chapter 3: Time, Judgment, and Competitive Spirituality

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pp. 57-105

Speculation about the life of the blessed dead brought us to the tentative conclusion that all of the saints, extraordinary and ordinary, are busy in the afterlife at the ongoing work of forgiveness, and that this eschatological activity is a realized norm for Christian virtue in all the dimensions of the communion of the saints. As the previous ...

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Chapter 4: Imagining the Last Judgment

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pp. 107-152

Purgatorial time was imagined to extend, and so to equalize to some degree, the duration of spiritual competition for heavenly reward in the otherwise unequal hierarchy of discipleship shared by martyrs, ascetical saints, ascetics, and laypeople. In order to serve this purpose, though, purgatorial time was imagined to be an odd sort of time. Like ...

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Chapter 5: Forgiveness in the Communion of the Saints

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pp. 153-188

As much as the saints have served as paradigms of discipleship, asinspiring role models for Christic imitation, and as eschatological bea-cons for the Christian journey to the fullness of God’s kingdom, theirpowerful presence in the tradition also has created an effect that I havecalled the hierarchy of discipleship. Hierarchy, of course, is one of the...


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pp. P1-P16


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pp. 189-215


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pp. 217-223

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About the Author

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p. 224-224

John E. Thiel is professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University and past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. He is the author of several books, among which are Senses of Tradition: ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780268093785
E-ISBN-10: 0268093784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268042394
Print-ISBN-10: 026804239X

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 11 halftones
Publication Year: 2013