History, salvation and the Reign of God: Ignacio Ellacuria reading El Salvador through Xavier Zubiri
Dornan, Geoffrey James
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This thesis examines the thought of the Spanish philosopher-theologian Ignacio Ellacuría, one of the so-called second generation of Latin-American liberation theologians. The focus is on Ellacuría's intention to construct a Christian interpretation of salvation that is conceptually relevant to, and capable of making a practical difference in, our challenging historical and political realities. This intention was formed in the wake of the Vatican's 1984 "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation" (Libertatis nuntius), in which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged that liberation theology eliminates the transcendent aspects of salvation by falling prey to an exclusively this-worldly (and often Marxist class-struggle) account of liberation. Ellacuría confronted this challenge in a comprehensive way through an analysis of the philosophy of his mentor, philosopher Xavier Zubiri. In this way, Ellacuría interpreted transcendence as being within historical reality not just beyond it. This then forges a direct link between transcendence, understood intra-historically, and the struggle for social justice for the poor majorities in contexts of systemic oppression. For Ellacuría, this struggle is the historical manifestation and proper meaning of the Reign of God. This dissertation begins by locating Ellacuría's intellectual work in the dual context of El Salvador and his own biography. It then expounds Zubiri's philosophy of historical reality before explaining Ellacuría's deployment of it to reinterpret salvation and liberation. It concludes with an analysis of the ethical implications of Ellacuría's approach. The three-fold thesis of the dissertation is that (1) Zubiri's philosophy of historical realism is coherent and relevant to the Christian understanding of salvation and liberation, (2) Ellacuría's adaptation of Zubiri's philosophy is a creative and intellectually compelling solution to an exceptionally difficult conceptual problem, and (3) Ellacuría's theological achievement has precisely the ethical implications that he believed it did, namely, that there can be no separation between the Kingdom of God and this-world liberative movements on behalf of the poor and oppressed.