Hope, Messianism, and Atheism in Ernst Bloch and Jürgen Moltmann

In the 1960s, several young Christian theologians seeking a Christian dialogue with Marxism met the German-Jewish thinker Ernst Bloch. Among them was the Lutheran Jürgen Moltmann, who believed that the Jewish perspectives on hope, messianism, and eschatology in general, and Bloch’s philosophy in particular, would open up new paths for Christian theology. Bloch attempted to refashion the Judeo-Christian legacy into radical atheism, as expressed in his famous phrase “only an atheist can be a good Christian; only a Christian can be a good atheist.” Moltmann later claimed that Bloch borrowed the second part of this phrase from him. However, both thinkers have a quite different understanding of the concept of atheism. The analysis of this difference will shed a broader light on the different conceptions of theological terms, and the cosmovision of the modern world, within Jewish and Christian contexts.