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Theses for Evanston

Karl Thieme prepared the following for the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which met in Evanston, IL from August 15-31, 1954. The theme of the assembly was "Christ - the Hope of the World."  Thieme's "Theses for Evanston" were published in the Freiburger Rundbrief, nos. 25-28 (1954), pp. 26-28 and are translated here by Victoria Barnett. 


“The Hope of the World: God's Redemptive Action in Unity with his Anointed”

Prologue: The theses below were initially prepared as a draft in light of the theme of the Evanston "ecumenical conference," "Jesus Christ, the Hope of the World," because from the Catholic side there was not only to be a conversation with the Protestant brothers but also with the Jewish brothers. The draft was then discussed, either through correspondence or in direct conversation, with Catholic theologians from different countries, namely H. H. P. Démann, NDS (Belgium), H. Bévénot, SJ (England), J. Hamer, OP (France), R. Grosche (Germany), C. F. Pauwels, OP and F. Thijssen (Holland), and O. Karrer (Switzerland). After the viewpoints of these people had been taken into consideration, the draft took the form below, in which the theses have been published as a supplement to the publication of the Catholic Study Center ISTINA (Boulogne-sur-Seine), along with those Evanston themes that PP. Congar, OP and Dumont, OP posed for Protestants and which similarly were discussed internationally. In the meantime they have received the imprimatur of the Church.


The theme of Christian hope cannot be discussed without specific reference to the Jewish people, in an era in which for the first time in history Christians and Jews were and in some cases still are persecuted together, in which then however a significant part of the Jewish people was allowed to return to the land of their fathers, and in which the question of the mutual relationship between church and synagogue has broken out with an utterly new urgency.

Through the power of the divine commission to the service of love1 that has been imparted to us "who have become believers from among the peoples of the world" through the messengers God sent to us—the promised Messiah’s apostles and their successors, our bishops—we therefore bear witness, before our separated elder brothers from Abraham's line and Jacob's house, to that which we have learned about the redemption of the world through their works and God's, in the most complete unity with the "star of Jacob," and therefore are certain that we are to believe just as we may hope. For our only hope is the ONE "hope of Israel" (Jer. 17:13), the eternal God, who did not wish to redeem his world without the participation of his image and who will be revealed to all people as their redeemer on the day of the beginning of his kingdom, which will no longer be limited or obscure.

  1. We hope:

    1. together with our separated elder brothers:

      1. that this earth will be completely illuminated by the day of the Lord, on which “the times of restitution of all things” as God wishes will be unmistakable, even for those of evil will (Mal. 3:22ff; Mark 9:11; Acts 3:21)

      2. and with some of them, that THE ONE who has subordinated all things to his beloved son, “then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1. Cor. 15:28). 

    1. In a still temporarily irresolvable contrast to the elder brothers:

      1. that on that day the “beginning of God’s rule” will be manifest in the person of the one who already 1924 years ago began his reign in the hiddenness of the cross and resurrection, the one who comes again, Jehoshua Nosri, Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s son of the house of David.

      2. that on that day, as gradually even some of our separated brothers have learned to acknowledge, we will not be resurrected from the underworld but rather that if we “die in the Lord” (Acts 14:13) we will already be with him (Phil. 1:23; cf. John 11:23ff).

  2. We believe:

    1. together with our separated brothers:

      1. that apart from the philosophical inference of the divine creator from his works, by which God's grace enlightens all unspoiled reason (Wisdom of Solomon 13:1ff; Rom. 1:20), the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob already revealed himself to the forefathers and then at Sinai to the entire holy priestly people whom he had chosen, and gave them the legacy of the covenant of his law, the fulfillment of which guarantees life.

      2. that God's will to be merciful to this people is indestructible, and even though (this people) is beset, especially when they follow false paths, and indeed is allowed to sink even into the unrecognizable state of a "non-people," they can never be definitively outcast because God keeps his word (Hos. 11:8f; Rom. 9-11) and will still fulfill all that which, according to the witness of his apostles, is still awaited (Acts 3:21).

    2. in temporarily irresolvable contrast to the elder brothers:
      1. that God, as was called and promised through the law and the prophets, found his irreproachable human counterpart not only in Jesus and Mary as the genuine, real, complete human beings among human beings, but actually himself became human in this Jesus, because only in this way could the redemption of fallen humanity be simultaneously his exclusive work and a genuine human work, as it had to be if the fulfillment according to proclamation is to guarantee our life.

      2. that therefore each of us can achieve the goal of his hope only in the (sacramentally established) participation in the divine human action, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus; i.e. as a member of the new covenant, whether he is aware of this or not (Matt. 25:37ff).

  3. God's love, poured out from the Spirit into our hearts (Rom. 5),
    1. has insolubly bound us with the "elder brothers":

      1. through our common belief in the revealed truth (even if differently understood) of the Tenach, i.e., in our language: the Holy Scripture of the old covenant;

      2. through faithful confidence in its future "reconciliation" (Rom. 11:15) and our unification with them, "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26)

    2. keeps us however still divided from our brothers to the extent that we:

      1. must regard Simon Bar Jona2 and his apostolic descendants as the cornerstone of “the people of God in the people of God,” the Qahal (i.e., ecclesia) renewed by Jesus, that we constitute, according to which the holder of the Chair of St. Peter is endowed with the same authoritative infallibility that Jesus even acknowledged in the holders of the Chair of Moses (Matt. 23:2ff; which Pope Leo the Great already transferred to church authorities! Ep ad Eutech 14:8), so that a transfer of authority at Pentecost can be assumed, whereupon the apostasy of the “post-Tannaitic” synagogue from the true Judaism that had gone over to the church (Rom. 2:23ff; Rev. 2:9; 3:9) would have occurred during the period in which the wait-and-see attitude of Gamaliel I (Acts 5:38f; cf. 17:10ff) was gradually confused on the part of the temple authorities with the excommunicating attitude of Gamaliel II.3

      2. owe it to our separated brothers to speak with them in a brotherly exchange, rather than making an issue of the existing differences and their significance for salvation history, wherever this may occur without tactlessness—until the day arrives where “there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16), where “all the peoples …may serve him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zeph. 3:9)

Bound by the love to which we have testified, illuminated by faith and strengthened through hope we confess before our separated brothers that we Catholic Christians have violated our obligations that grow out of this in manifold ways, and instead of patient, searching love and meekness unto self-denial, according to the example of their and our Lord and some of his greatest saints such as Paul, Gregory the Great and Ignatius of Loyola, that far more often we have met them with predominantly impatient incomprehension or far worse.

We may however also emphasize that the church itself for almost 2000 years has not tired of praying for them, and that with them we pray the psalms: God’s song of praise and our entreaty for his triumph.

This triumph, which we, like they, await with unshakable confidence, is at the same time the becoming visible of the redemption of all humanity from all evil (Is. 24:8; Acts 21:4) and of the entire cosmos from all deficiency that has been inherent since humanity’s Fall (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:19ff). We hope for this in the moment where the complete and unclouded unity of the will of Creation with the will of the Creator – as once in Paradise, before the Fall – will be re-established; just as we believe through the power of the “redeeming” portion of redeemed humanity or the consummated Church, out of Jews and Gentiles in the flesh in the suffering, death and resurrection of its Head, the one anointed by God from the house of David, Jehoshua, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), who is one with the Father in the never destroyed unity of nature, and in whom we too, out of the pagan darkness, have been called by his apostle to a wondrous light (1 Peter 2:9; cf. Eph. 2:11ff) to praise the God of Israel (Matt. 15:13), as he has promised (Is. 2:2).


1. Rom. 11:13f; 13:23ff; 2 Cor. 9:12ff; Gal. 2:10; cf. Acts 20:24 – original text! – 24:17: interpreted in the study “Original Diakonie as a means of salvation of the original schism”, Freiburger Rundbrief VI, pp. 13ff. as well as “The Living God”, 26, pp. 103ff.

2. [Translator’s note: i.e., Saint Peter.]

3. Jewish scholars have drawn our attention to the fact that nonetheless a ban was never articulated against the (Jewish-) Christians (as in the case of the Cuthim, i.e., Samaritans, and the Karaites ), it was much more the case that the curse of the Nosrim under Gamaliel II was only directed toward eliminating secret Christians from leading prayers in the synagogue, but it is reported of the later patriarch Jehuda-Ha-Nassi (last half of the 2nd century), the scribe of the Mishnah, that he allowed Nosrim to lead prayers.