It is above all at times of greatest crisis in human history that we find men concerned with the theology of history. The first great Christian theology of history, Augustine's De Civitate Dei contra paganos, emerged from the crisis of the Roman empire, in which the life of that age had found an orderly and apparently definitive form. Since that time, the attempt to come to terms with history theologically has never been foreign to Western theology. [Introduction to The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, v.]Ricardo Quinones parallels Ratzinger's remark about the correlation of great crises and concern for the theology of history by paraphrasing Hamlet: “Disaster does make historians of us all.” If the disasters are ominous enough, they make theologians of those most aware of how rooted in persistent and perennial human sin these crises are.
How seriously one comes to grips with historical crises will largely depend, it seems to me, on whether or not one recognizes the fallen condition of humanity, on one hand, and our eschatological destiny, on the other. Those who fail to fully appreciate either of these things tend to find hope in ideologies of one sort or another and the utopian mirages they imagine possible, all of which shimmer like shook foil for a day or so and then are blown away by the cold winds of the disaster they made it their secret business to ignore.
The Christian alternative to such chimerical idealisms is a moral realism set against an eschatological horizon. We are fallen creatures, and our fallen condition will not be appreciably mitigated, and never eliminated, by the sundry social, cultural, moral or pedagogical programs in which we tend place our hope. But we are called (by name) to grow toward a spiritual fulfillment which we can at best only very imperfectly approximate in this life -- "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Any and every historical and cultural approximation of that "kingdom not of this world" -- however inevitably clumsy -- will be but the aggregated effect of countless personal efforts to approximate it.
Those who are making these efforts, be they ever so unnoticed and unsung, are doing more with their lives than the world in its standard worldliness could ever fathom.