Hope, virtue, and politics in Reinhold Niebuhr’s works
Niebuhr’s understanding of hope provides an important connection between his theology and his political thought. His well-known aphorism, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope,” speaks to the motivation for political action in secular terms, but it also locates hope in the framework of the theological virtues. We must be saved by hope, because it is a gift of grace that cannot be secured by our own efforts. In contrast to a simple optimism about historical progress, hope rests on a judgment on history from beyond history. The tradition of the theological virtues allows us to understand this judgment as the fulfillment, rather than as the negation, of human achievements.