Transforming Realities: Christian Discipleship in the Soteriology of Ignacio Ellacura

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation argues for the valuable contribution and ongoing relevance of Latin American liberation theology by exploring the work of Ignacio Ellacura. Ellacura articulated the Christian message of salvation with an emphasis on a discipleship that entails a creative and mutually-transformative engagement with historical reality. This dissertation contends that Ellacura’s account of Christian discipleship must be understood within a philosophical, Christological, and ecclesiological framework that coherently integrates consideration of transcendent and historical reality. After a brief biographical summary, the dissertation unfolds (chapter 1) by locating Ellacura within the debate over Latin American liberation theology. It characterizes this debate as soteriological; that is, a debate over the manner to proclaim Christian salvation and its implications for discipleship. Three themes (the link between salvation-liberation, the option for the poor, and the emphasis on praxis) will serve to identify the major contours of liberation thought in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the critiques levied against them by the Vatican, and a preliminary outline of Ellacura’s thought.
After locating Ellacura’s thought historically, the dissertation will turn to its central descriptive task: exploring Ellacura’s soteriology and account of ecclesial praxis (chapters 2-4). The methodological guide for considering Ellacura’s theology comes from his own proposal for Latin American theology; an integrated, threefold (noetic, ethical, praxis-oriented) method characterizing the human confrontation with reality. This allows for the central components of his soteriology" its philosophical underpinnings, its Christological account of Jesus Christ as principle of salvation, and its ecclesial proposal for Christian action" to be illumined and to be understood as interdependent. The dissertation concludes (chapter 5) with an analysis of thinkers of the so-called “radical orthodoxy". Since their work positions itself as an alternative to liberation theology in offering a critique of the modern capitalist order and advocating a distinctive form of Christian practice, recourse to radical orthodoxy thinkers offers a critical foil against which the continuing value of Ellacura’s thought might be construed. Ellacura’s hope and call for Christian engagement in historical reality provides a sober, integrated vision of the church that seems lacking in the exalted ecclesiologies of other contemporary theologians.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-11042005-130703

Author Michael Edward Lee
Advisor J. Matthew Ashley
Contributor J. Matthew Ashley, Committee Chair
Contributor David B. Burrell, Committee Member
Contributor Mary Catherine Hilkert, Committee Member
Contributor Gustavo Gutierrez, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2005-08-18

Submission Date 2005-11-04
  • United States of America

  • soteriology

  • radical orthodoxy

  • liberation theology

  • El Salvador

  • Ellacuria

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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