What is the Hope in Radical Theology?

Not what are my hopes for radical theology, but what is the hope proclaimed or articulated, espoused or empowered by radical theology? Jack Caputo recently said that hope might be the quintessential postmodern virtue. So, radical theology, as a postmodern Christianity, as a deconstructive Christianity, should revel in hope – which I believe it does. Therefore what is the hope articulated in radical theology?


Hope when it might be hopeless. I’ve explored this more here, but for me radical theology espouses a hope that differs from expectation (or prediction). Because, as Caputo says, “radical theology doesn’t have the traditional metaphysical groundwork for hope”. Radical theology holds out hope when the situation may indeed be hopeless, indeed the hopelessness of a situation is almost a predicate. Is not this the kind of hope we are in most need of? A hope still standing when the ground beneath it breaks. A hope that is realistic about the odds and proceeds anyway. Isn’t this the hope we need when we realise the catastrophic nature of our climate, when we face the seemingly insurmountable challenge that is our global capitalist system, when we are bombarded night after night with stories of tragedy and statistics of woe? Is this not also the hope we need to ward of the obtuseness of religious certainty, the arrogance of extremism, the blockheadedness of fundamentalism? A hope in the assurance of the resurrection, which yields that there is no assurance at all, only a promise, only a hope, is what I feel will lead to a more open, understanding, and active faith (faith as mode of being in the world).

The Hope of God. God’s hope is in us, in our answering of the call, in our embodying of the call to love, to do justice, to extend hospitality and forgiveness – the call beyond ourselves. God’s hope is in us (to speak as Caputo might) giving existence to God’s insistence.

Hope leads us into life. Caputo again, deconstruction is “the affirmation of the possibility of the impossible”. Hope is an excessive force, a weak force to be true, but one of excess, one which goes beyond, calls us beyond (or over and above as some might say) the usual, the run-of-the-mill, the well-laid plans of mice and men (and women). Hope holds out for the impossibility of a break in the ordinary procession of time; that d will not always, by necessity, follow a-b-c. Hope looks for, searches out for, the best in others (and ourselves) the best in the situation (but not the predicted best, not ‘we budgeted to make 100, but made 150’, but the unforeseen best) – radical theology, like deconstruction, hopes in the potential of the impossible, the potential for an event, a rupture, a moment of grace, love, hospitality in a world of calculated economies of exchange. 

Hope is a risk. This, in part, loops back to the opening point – for radical theology, not only is there are chance that all this hope might be for nothing, but all this hope might blow up in our face. We hope, we hope in the face of the unknown, we hope not knowing what may come, we hope come what may. We do not know whether our hope in technologies to improve disaster relief will lead to discoveries which grant new powers to those more militaristically minded. We pray and hope for opportunities to extend hospitality, to be drawn beyond ourselves into encounters with the other (knowing that is the locality of the Divine), but, as Caputo says – how do we know all this hospitality won’t end with having our throats slit in the night? As the Hebrew prophets warned, to not be too eager to hope in the day of the Lord, it could prove to be a dark day indeed – the coming kingdom, the rupture of our present order by the call of God, might be more disruptive than we had hoped, despite all that, we continue to hope.  

Hope deconstructs. The hope of radical theology calls us to remain open to the event astir/within in the structures and traditions of the world, not to the traditions/structures themselves. We hope for justice, knowing justice needs laws to give it a body in the world. However we do not place our hope in the law, for this reason justice must forever deconstruct and construct the law – justice is not fixed, it has not arrived, it is to come, it is to be hoped for. So to we hope for the event contained within (not by) Christianity – remaining open and faithful not to the tradition but to what is called for by the event within the tradition, faithful to what is called for/promised in the name of God; love, mercy, hospitality, forgiveness, gift, and grace. We hope in God, to come – the possibility of the impossible, the possibility of the event